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literature

What should we do when artists misbehave? In other words, when an author, actor, director, or artist does something offensive, acts inappropriately, or steps over the line in some way, should we stop consuming their art? When do we give them a pass?

The founder of Writers & Books, Joe Flaherty, dealt with this question when he was arranging for Philip Roth to visit Rochester. The late writer was considered a misogynist by many readers. But, as Flaherty wrote in an essay on the incident, “you have to separate the writer from his characters.”

What do you think? Should we consume and share the work of Louis C.K., Aziz Ansari, Harvey Weinstein, Philip Roth, and others? Should the work of artists in question stand on its own? Where do we draw the line? Our panel discusses those questions. Our guests:

  • Joe Flaherty, founder of Writers & Books
  • Patti Lewis, local actor, director, and teaching artist
  • Jonathan Ntheketha, senior assistant director of student success and outreach in the Multicultural Center for Academic Success at RIT
  • Bob Thompson, director of the Bleier Center for Television and Popular Culture at the Newhouse School at Syracuse University

Two British newspapers expressed their shock over “thin-skinned, liberal foot-stomping millennials” sympathizing with the monster in Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein. The newspapers say these “snowflakes” claiming the monster was a misunderstood victim shows how idealistic today’s students can be. It’s just one example in a list of classic works that the newspapers say millennials are misinterpreting. The other titles include “Animal Farm,” “Lolita,” “Lord of the Flies,” and more.

What do you think? Do you agree with the newspapers that these millennials are just “too touchy?” Or are they right, and do their perceptions serve as a Rorschach test for how they view criminal justice, the #MeToo movement, and more? Our guests discuss these questions and the role of classic literature. In studio:

  • Lester Friedman, retired professor and former chair of the Media and Society Program at Hobart and William Smith Colleges, and co-author of “Monstrous Progeny”
  • Karen van Meenen, senior lecturer in the Department of English at RIT, and coordinator of the Rochester Reads and Debut Novel Series programs at Writers & Books
  • Jamie Rudd, AmericaCorps volunteer for the Gandhi Institute for Nonviolence
  • Katherine Varga, playwright and SummerWrite coordinator for Writers & Books

If you've ever wanted to publish a book, an upcoming conference hopes to help you move from concept to print. Writers & Books' upcoming Ladder Literary Conference will focus on four rungs of the publishing ladder: writing, editing, connecting, and publishing.

Our guests help us preview the conference and answer your questions. Our guests:

  • Kyle Semmel, executive director of Writers & Books
  • Tokeya Graham, writer, and professor of English and philosophy at Monroe Community College
  • Mark Costello, attorney in entertainment law with Boylan Code LLP
  • Amy Bishop, literary agent with Dystel, Goderich & Bourret

Halloween is the perfect day to focus on one of the most controversial book series of all time -- and perhaps the most banned. Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark turns 35 years old.

The books remain heavily debated, targeted by parents and religious groups, and beloved by many young readers. Why are we drawn to gore and the macabre? Are the stories harmless fun, or do the protesters have a point? Our panel dives in:

  • Chris Fanning, public relations associate for Writers & Books
  • Xandi DiMatteo, teen librarian for the Rochester Public Library, Central
  • Christine Green, literary arts columnist for the Democrat and Chronicle
  • Ethan Green, Scary Stories to Read in the Dark fan; 12 years old

Bob Dylan was awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature. That has set off a debate about whether music lyrics can be literature.

Our guests tangle over the Dylan selection; we also evaluate his work for the best examples of music as literature. And if Dylan can win, who else from his industry? Joni Mitchell? Justin Timberlake? Okay, maybe not Joni Mitchell. Our guests:

  • John Covach, director of the Institute for Popular Music at the University of Rochester
  • James McCorkle, assistant professor of Africana studies at Hobart and William Smith Colleges
  • Chad Post, publisher, Open Letter Books
  • Roy Stein, director of the music business program at Nazareth College

Connections: Read Local

Sep 23, 2016

Like the local food movement, Read Local is a program that seeks to get readers to enjoy books grown right in their own back yard. It is a book club and event series, highlighting books published by publishing houses based right here in Rochester. The idea is to read the book, meet the author, and support local businesses along the way. 

We meet author Josefine Klougart, and we discuss a range of issues, including translations and foreign books, the health of publishing, and more. Our guests:

David Denby is a writer and a lover of classic literature who wanted to know if modern students could be taught to love and value great books. Maybe it's a question that's been around for centuries: How can we make kids love books? But it's more challenging, seemingly intractable now. Kids read texts. They rarely read books.

Denby set out to know whether it's possible to bring the classics into the hearts and minds of students in Manhattan, and Westchester, and an impoverished district in Connecticut. He found inspiring teachers, and he found students slowly unlocking the mysteries in books like The Scarlet Letter. He's our guest for the hour, discussing his book, Lit Up, with a focus on how to preserve literature in the digital age.

Born In the USA is perhaps one of the most misunderstood songs in American history. This week, we've heard several radio stations play it as an homage to American greatness at the Olympics. Someone should tell them the song is about how awful our country was to Vietnam veterans.

But that has us wondering: what are the most mistaken or misunderstood pieces of art across the genres? From music to painting to poetry to literature, our panel tells us where we're routinely going wrong. (We're looking at you, Guy With the Road Not Taken Poster.) Our guests: