111 Works

The Romance of Recovery

John Plotz, Aarthi Vadde, Shola van Reinhold & Ben Bateman
Shola von Reinhold is the author of LOTE, a novel about getting lost in the archives and finding what the archives have lost. LOTE won the 2021 James Tait Black prize so who better to join Shola on Novel Dialogue than Ben Bateman of Edinburgh University, lead judge of the prize committee? This conversation takes listeners back to all yesterday's parties as Shola, Ben, and Aarthi time travel to the Harlem Renaissance and the interwar...

Underwater Eye

John Plotz & Margaret Cohen
Margaret Cohen joins John to discuss The Underwater Eye, which explores "How the Movie Camera Opened the Depths and Unleashed New Realms of Fantasy." Margaret's earlier prizewinning books include The Novel and the Sea and The Sentimental Education of the Novel, but this project brings her places even her frequent surfing forays hadn't yet reached. She charts the rise of "wet for wet" filming both in the ocean itself and in various surrogates, exploring the...

Dana Stevens on Buster Keaton (JP EF)

John Plotz, Elizabeth Ferry & Dana Stevens
Dana Stevens joins Elizabeth and John to discuss Camera Man: Buster Keaton, the Dawn of Cinema and the Invention of the Twentieth Century. Her fantastic new book serves as occasion to revel in the work and working world of Buster Keaton, that "solemn, beautiful, perpetually airborne man." Although packed with fascinating tidbits from Keaton's life, Camera Man is much more than just a biography. It performs its own airborne magic, lightly traversing topics like the...

Virtual Reality as Immersive Enclosure, with Paul Roquet (EF, JP)

Elizabeth Ferry, Paul Roquet & John Plotz
Paul Roquet is an MIT associate professor in media studies and Japan studies; his earlier work includes Ambient Media. It was his recent mind-bending The Immersive Enclosure that prompted John and Elizabeth to invite him to discuss the history of "head-mounted media" and the perceptual implications of virtual reality. Paul, Elizabeth and John discuss the appeal of leaving actuality aside and how the desire to shut off immediate surroundings shapes VR's rollout in Japan. The...

Elizabeth Ferry and John Plotz on Zadie Smith

John Plotz & Elizabeth Ferry
John and Elizabeth look back at Recall This Book s 2019 conversation with Zadie Smith, so you may want to listen to that again before proceeding. Elizabeth and John try their best to unpack Zadie Smith s take on sincerity, authenticity and human sacredness; the golden ticket dirty secret behind our hypocritical academic meritocracy; surveillance capitalism as the biggest capital grab of human experience in history; and her genealogy of the novel. If we had...

Life, Writing, and Life Writing with Helena DeBres

John Plotz, Elizabeth Ferry & Helena DeBres
How does the past live on within our experience of the present? And how does our decision to speak about or write down our recollections of how things were change our understanding of those memories-how does it change us in the present? Asking those questions brings RTB into the company of memory-obsessed writers like Virginia Woolf and Marcel Proust. But it also takes up into the modern phenomenon of "autofiction," a term which, if you've...

Afterthoughts about the Cixin Liu interview

John Plotz, Elizabeth Ferry, Pu Wang & Cixin Liu
In May, John and Pu interviewed SF superstar Cixin Liu (you will want to listen to that episode before this one). In August they entered the studio again to work on the final edits for that interview in both its Chinese and English versions. While they were there, they took some time to reflect on the most significant things that Liu had said, and to ponder the political situation for contemporary Chinese writers who come...

On Distraction

John Plotz, Elizabeth Ferry & Marina Van Zuylen
We frequently worry that we live in a "distracted age." But perhaps the human condition is always to live "almost always in one place with our minds somewhere quite another" (Ford Madox Ford, On Impressionism). Join John's conversation with Marina Van Zuylen of Bard College. Van Zuylen, the author of The Plenitude of Distraction, makes the case that some aspects of distraction that are far more positive than they initially appear. Kierkegaard's image of saving...

Polynesia, Sea of Islands

John Plotz, Elizabeth Ferry & Christina Thompson
John and Elizabeth talk cultural renewal with Christina Thompson, author of Sea People: The Puzzle of Polynesia, a book that both tells a part of the history of Polynesia, and tells how histories of Polynesia are constructed. The discussion also ranges to consider different moments of cultural contact between Polynesian and European thinkers and doers. Those range from the chart Tupaia drew for Captain Cook during the "first contact" era to the Hokule'a's triumphant reconstuction...

Ajantha Subramanian on Meritocracy, Caste, and Class

John Plotz, Elizabeth Ferry & Ajantha Subramanian
Ajantha Subramanian's new book The Caste of Merit: Engineering Education in India is much more than simply an historical and ethnographic study of the elite Indian Institutes of Technology. John and Elizabeth speak with Ajantha about the language of "merit" and the ways in which it can conceal the continuing relevance of caste (and class, and race) privilege-in India, yes, but also in American and other meritocratic democracies as well. Our wide-ranging discussion explored how...

George Kalogeris on Words and Places

John Plotz, Elizabeth Ferry & George Kalogeris
John and Elizabeth had the marvelous fortune to talk with George Kalogeris about his new book Winthropos (LSU Press, 2021). The title comes from the "Greek-ified" name that George's father gave to their town, Winthrop, MA. George's poems are soaked in memories and tacit, deep affection, communicated through the language of the lines and especially through certain Janus-faced words that reflect the old country and the new at once.

Daniel Souleles on Private Equity

John Plotz, Elizabeth Ferry & Daniel Souleles
In this installment of our Recall this Buck series (check out our earlier conversations with Thomas Piketty, Peter Brown and Christine Desan), John and Elizabeth talk with Daniel Souleles, anthropologist at the Copenhagen Business School and author of Songs of Profit, Songs of Loss: Private Equity, Wealth, and Inequality (Lincoln : University of Nebraska Press 2019). Dan's work explores the world of private equity "guys" (who are indeed mostly guys) and the ways they are...

A Conversation with Ben Fountain

John Plotz, Elizabeth Ferry & Ben Fountain
Ben Fountain is far more than just the author of Billy Lynn's Long Halftime Walk, which won RTB hearts and minds (and the National Book Award) long before it became a weird Ang Lee movie. What is consoling and engaging the author of the best novel about America's dismal experience in Iraq? American novels, especially those about Americans abroad (Joan Didion. say) have always done something special for him. Marilynne Robinson's and James Baldwin's work...

A Conversation with Arlie Hochschild

John Plotz & Arlie Hochschild
We might call today's episode a tale of the Brahmin Left and the Tea Party Right-since we are interested not just in the movement of educated upper middle class people towards traditional left parties like the Democrats, but also in the movement of working class and less educated citizens towards the Right and the Republican party. We could imagine no better companion for that aspect of the series than renowned sociologist Arlie Hochschild, distinguished emerita...

Adaner and John wrap up with Elizabeth

John Plotz, Elizabeth Ferry & Adener Usmani
Adaner, Elizabeth and John come together for a "wrap" conversation: what unites our three guests, and what divides them? Elizabeth ponders the series as a whole, wondering: what exactly do we mean by "the left" anyway, let alone the Brahmin Left?

A Conversation with Elizabeth Bradfield

John Plotz, Elizabeth Bradfield & Elizabeth Ferry
Elizabeth Bradfied is editor of Broadsided Press, professor of creative writing at Brandeis, naturalist, photographer-and most of all an amazing poet ("Touchy" for example just appeared in The Atlantic). Her books include Interpretive Work, Approaching Ice, Once Removed, and Toward Antarctica. She lives on Cape Cod, travels north every summer to guide people into Arctic climes, birdwatches. She is in and of and for our whole natural world. So, is it poetry sustaining her now?...

A Conversation with Samuel Delany

John Plotz, Elizabeth Ferry & Samuel Delany
Fresh on the heels of our conversation with Madeline Miller, author of Circe, John Plotz has a talk with Samuel Delany, living legend of science fiction and fantasy. You probably know him best for breakthrough novels like Dhalgren and Trouble on Triton, which went beyond "New Wave" SF to introduce an intense and utterly idiosyncratic form of theory-rich and avant-garde stylistics to the genre. Reading him means leaving Earth, but also returning to the heady...

The Drama of Celebrity with Sharon Marcus

John Plotz, Elizabeth Ferry & Sharon Marcus
John sits down with Columbia University professor Sharon Marcus to discuss her latest book, The Drama of Celebrity, a tour-de-force argument about how stars are born, publicized, and in time devoutly scrapbooked by adoring fans. They tackle a question at least as old as Sarah Bernhardt: who or what makes a star? Rather than crediting star making to the culture industry, to fans, or to star themselves, Sharon makes the case that all three forces...

Rita Felski and Namwali Serpell on Fictional Empathy

John Plotz, Elizabeth Ferry, Rita Felski & Namwali Serpell
John travelled to Odense, Denmark for a conference called "Love Etc." (RTB is for it...) and fell into this conversation about empathy, identification and "uncritical reading" with the novelist Namwali Serpell and literary theorist Rita Felski. Hannah Arendt's distrust of too much feeling, not enough thinking loomed large; so did Zadie Smith's recent article in defense of empathy. The room was unexpectedly resonant-but so were Serpell and Felski's insights.

Thomas Piketty on Inequality and Ideology

John Plotz, Elizabeth Ferry & Thomas Piketty
Is Thomas Piketty the world's most famous economic historian? A superstar enemy of plutocratic capitalism who wrote a pathbreaking bestseller, Capital in the 21st Century? Or simply a debonair and generous French intellectual happy to talk redistributive justice? Join John and Adaner Usmani (star of RTB's episode 44: Racism as idea, Racism as Power Relation) to find out. Why did we invite him? John thinks nobody is better than Piketty at mapping and explaining the...

Peter Brown on Wealth, Charity and Managerial Bishops in Early Christianity

Elizabeth Ferry, Peter Brown & John Plotz
Our Recall This Buck series began by speaking with Christine Desan of Harvard Law School about how key ideas-and the actual currency, physical coins and bills- underlying the modern monetary system get "invisibilized" with that system's success, so that seeing money clearly is both harder and more vital. Today, illustrious Princeton historian Peter Brown narrates the emergence, in the 3rd and 4th century AD, of striking new ideas about charity and how to include the...

Policing and White Power

John Plotz, Elizabeth Ferry, David Cunningham & Daniel Thomas Kryder
Black lives matter. Yet for decades or centuries in America that basic truth has been ignored, denied, violently suppressed. Many of the mechanisms that create an oppressed and subordinated American community of color can seem subtle and indirect, despite the insidious ways they pervade housing law (The Color of Law), education (Why Are All the Black Kids Sitting Together, Savage Inequalities) and the carceral state (The Condemnation of Blackness, The New Jim Crow, Locking Up...

The Nature of the Future

Elizabeth Kolbert & John Plotz
How should humans respond to our ongoing human-made climate catastrophe? To answer that question, Recall this Book turned to prize-winning climate reporter Elizabeth Kolbert, who visited Brandeis this Fall. The topic was Under a White Sky, her recent book that documents the responses to the climate crisis ranging from a form of climate engineering that shoots reflective particles into the air to cool the atmosphere, to negative emission technologies that capture and inject carbon dioxide...

A Conversation with Cixin Liu

Elizabeth Ferry, Pu Wang, Cixin Liu & John Plotz
In this episode, John and Brandeis professor Pu Wang talk with the bestselling science fiction author Cixin Liu. Mr. Liu is the author of The Three Body Problem, The Dark Forest, Death's End, and other works. When he visited Brandeis to receive an honorary degree, Liu paid a visit to the RTB lair to record this interview. He spoke in Chinese and Pu translated his remarks in this English version of the interview: if you...

A Conversation with Alex Star

John Plotz, Elizabeth Ferry & Alex Star
Books In Dark Times takes its inspiration from Hannah Arendt's Men in Dark Times, which proposes "That even in the darkest of times we have the right to expect some illumination, and that such illumination may well come less from theories and concepts than from the uncertain, flickering, and often weak light that some men and women, in their lives and their works, will kindle under almost all circumstances and shed over the time span...

Registration Year

  • 2022

Resource Types

  • Interactive Resource