The Gold Bug & Contracted Intimacy: wet cows, glass castles full of books, Vulcan field trips-Ep.5

Show Notes

A 60-minute episode in which we discuss commonplace journals (and Kelsey’s random note-taking), a dream bookstore that presents you with your writing needs and looks like a forest, naughty Renaissance literature, the Enlightenment as told through Spock, and Poe’s “The Gold Bug.”

Welcome to Read.Write.Repeat.

This month we will be giving away a copy of The Queen of Blood by Sarah Beth Durst and a bunch of adorable succulent bookmarks  – we explain how to enter toward the end of the show notes. You can find other Giveaways on the giveaways tab and in the Give us a Shout tab. Be sure to check those out. We ship worldwide, so don’t hesitate to enter our giveaway.


Author Rants

Kaisha asks me about my latest inspiration for writing.

  • I’ve been playing a lot with Lyric Essays
  • The Lyric Essay plays with structure as a means of conveying a theme. Here’s a great article that expands on this definition. In short, it is experimental and often nonlinear.
  • I have been incorporating a blend of fiction and nonfiction in these
    • Drawing from whatever I need to convey the message I am trying to get across
  • I have been reading similar essays. Recently “Shrikes” by Lisa O’Neill
  • Do you read while you are writing? I do.
    • I am looking at how the author uses structure
    • O’Neill does a fantastic job of combining fragments to get at the heart of violence and where it comes from.
  • The human mind has a huge capacity for finding similarities and making sense of fragmented things. This draws upon its ability to make connections.
  • As I prepare for writing an essay, I collect lines from what I’m reading, situations from life, memories, relevant media, and anything that sparks my mind. I keep this in a commonplace until I am ready to write the essay. Here is a bit more information about keeping a commonplace journal.
    • This is great because it makes you more aware of all the things you are consuming throughout the day.
    • Sometimes I have a theme in mind, other times a situation. But my starting fascination might be a quote, a person, a type of weather (like Kaisha’s fascination with rain), or anything that spikes your interests.
    • It doesn’t matter what your initial spark or starting point is. Sometimes a theme emerges because your fascination with that thing has some subconscious cause that reveals itself as you write.
  • Because we read a bit of Mr. Poe, I thought I would throw in some bonus links to his advice on writing. I don’t agree with all of his mandates. For example, a thorough denouement is not a critical element in literature, and a piece can be compelling and more impactful because of a lack of denouement. What do you guys think? What parts of his advice do you agree with and what parts do you disagree with? Let us know in the comments.

I asked you guys what you do to find inspiration. Here’s what you said:

Craig says: Something at the core of my being keeps whispering ideas. I jot them down, develop them, and eventually write the draft. Magic is our gift.

Kristy said that her daughter was the inspiration for her first published book.

Prompt Up

We forgot to do our prompt in the show, whoops! Here it is. I found this stellar first line generator and used it to generate the first line of a potential story. The first line is:

  • Half the names on the list had already been crossed off.

Now your job is to write the rest of the story! Good luck and good writing!

Bookish rants

I asked Kaisha about her dream bookstore. Does it have beds for lounging in? What does it have?

  • If she won the lottery, she would use all her funds to make a bookstore that includes the following:
    • She would model it on the Persephone Bookstore in London with specially curated books (IE: all the books Kaisha loves)
    • It would be a conservatory with lots of windows, big trees, beautiful wooden bookshelves, and lots of nooks and crannies to hide away and read.
    • The books would be lots of British literature, nature writing, and philosophy.
    • It would have this feel. You know the one, that Oh-my-god-I-don’t-ever-want-to-leave feeling.
    • She wants a bookstore that operates like the store in Crime and Poetry (A Magical Bookshop Mystery) by Amanda Flower. Kaisha’s bookstore would know your reading needs and present the books you need to you.
    • She wants a store that makes you feel like you are walking in a forest.
    • This store would have a “no electronics” policy.
    • You may write, but only with pen and paper.
  • She’s more than a little inspired by a new book she found and wants to read, In Pursuit of Silence Listening for Meaning in a World of Noise by George Prochnik.
    • What do we lose when we don’t have silence?
    • Kaisha’s friend rents a house with a group of gals and from morning until 5 pm each day they spend in silence (in community), and at 5 they talk about what rises to the top when you aren’t trying to drown everything out.
  • Some other inclusions for Kaisha’s store
    • Tea
    • Yummy bread
    • Martinis
  • She will always have stocked and prominently displayed at the front of the store
  • P.S. Gathering Moss is AMAZING. The author’s depth of knowledge and incredible writing makes this common thing foreign and gives you new eyes to see the world. Add it to your TBR list!!

This last week I asked you guys what your dream bookstore looks like. Mine would have coffee, a bar, cozy seats, and the employees would give foot massages. Here’s what you said:

Desiree agreed with me on the foot massages.

Kristine says: Mine would be open at night with a roaring fire and little shadowy flickering corners and space for curious people to have intense and passionate debate about life and science and all they have read.

Short Story Pow-wow

Today’s story is story number 7 in the Teller of Tales collection because Kaisha got a little excited last time and accidentally skipped a few. Worry not! We will go back and read the ones we skipped!

  • Today’s story is “The Gold Bug” by Edgar Allan Poe
    • Here is a great article, On Edgar Allan Poe. He was a fascinating character with more than a little heartache to draw upon.

We had never heard of this story before reading it, even though both Kaisha and I love Poe. We asked you guys what your favorite Poe stories or poems. Here are the titles you gave us:

  • Summary
    • The narrator befriends William Legrand, an eccentric old man. Legrand leads the narrator on a treasure hunt, all the while the narrator believes that Legrand might have gone insane. It turns out that Legrand is not crazy, but has discovered a cryptograph and has deciphered the message.
  • context-brief
    • published in 1843
    • He took advantage of the popularity of cryptography as he was writing “The Gold-Bug.”
      • The story was entered in a competition and won $100, the most that Poe ever earned in a lump sum for his writing.
    • “The Gold-Bug” was the most popular and most widely read of Poe’s works during his lifetime.
      • Clearly, this book did not stand the test of time. We were not a huge fan of it. Our favorites by Poe include:
    • It also helped popularize cryptograms and secret writing.
  • More about the story:
    • “Many years ago I contracted an intimacy with a Mr. William Legrand.”
      • I love this quote. I’m going to start using this phrase on my friends.
    • The actual “gold-bug” in the story is not real but is a combination of the Callichroma Splendidum and the Alaus Oculatus.
    • “The Gold-Bug” inspired Robert Louis Stevenson in Treasure Island. Stevenson acknowledged this influence in a preface to the story.
  • Our discussion points:
    • Poe’s portrayal of Jupiter is off putting and racist. The dialect Poe chose was not a dialect that an African American man would use in Carolina during the time period. To top that off, we hated the way Jupiter is portrayed as unintelligent and used as comic relief. This made it hard for both of us to get into the story.
    • We did like the fact that Jupiter gets so angry at Legrand for wandering off that he finds a big stick to spank him (like one might punish an out of control child). Their dynamic reminded Kaisha of one that might arise between two old and ornery bachelors.
    • The second half of the book is all just describing how Legrand solved the encrypted message. It was dull and blech.
    • This story is not usually included in a “best of” Poe anthology, and we agree with this decision. Another story that often isn’t included is “Angle of the Odd,” but this goofy story is worth the read, just because it is so bizarre.
    • Note–it’s a horrible idea to listen to audio books of Poe whilst in the car with your 12-year-old son. You might crash trying to turn off an inappropriate story. However, this is a pretty excellent audiobook!
    • “The Gold Bug” is compared to some of his excellent detective novels
    • “The Gold Bug” is an example of writing to the market. There’s nothing wrong with that, but keep in mind that such stories don’t generally stand the test of time.
      • In an upcoming Tangent, we talk about what makes something a classic. This is a great example of something that wouldn’t become a classic because it is relevant only to the audience of the time period.
  • Next week’s reading in case you want to read along “The Gray Champion” by Nathaniel Hawthorne. This just in: The Gray Champion is really short and a tad lackluster, so we have decided to read “Young Goodman Brown“(also by Hawthorne) as well.

Nerd Girl Lit

Today’s nerd girl lit is brought to you by logic and my Spock obsession: Spock and the Enlightenment.

  • Vulcans are known for their logical thinking and repression of their emotions.
    • They have control over themselves, including their bodies. They use meditation to accomplish this and can put themselves into trances.
    • They have some awesome psychic powers like the mind probe and mind control. In fact, my message tone on my phone is Spock saying, “Captain, may I suggest the Vulcan Mind Probe.”
    • I use the Vulcan Nerve Pinch on my husband all the time. It hasn’t worked for me yet.
    • They have super cool meditation practices
    • Kaisha wants to be a Vulcan now (We are planning a road trip to Vulcan if you’d like to come)
    • The only time-ish that Spock shows emotion is during Pon Farr (this is when Vulcan’s feel the need to spawn, kind of like Salmon).
  • The age of reason (this is the epitome of Spock. They were made for each other).
    • Skepticism–being a critical thinker.
    • Importance of Education
    • Deliberate action and scientific methodology. Like Spock, the people of the enlightenment are all about thinking things through, disregarding emotion, and making well thought out choices.
    • Master your emotions and go off of reason and logic.
    • Egalitarianism–fair treatment for all. “A Modest Proposal” is an example of this in literature (It’s written by Jonathan Swift, the same guy that wrote Gulliver’s Travels. It is also an example of the satire common during the time.
    • Empiricism–using data to inform your decisions.
    • Wit and sarcasm were used to make arguments for reform and social change. Saturday Night Live would have done very well. If you haven’t read “The Rape of the Lock,” you should. Here’s a great review of the piece called “Hair apparent: Alexander Pope described The Rape of the Lock as ‘very like tickling.’ Peter Ackroyd celebrates a brilliant artifice.”
  • Some awesome Spockisms–
  • Here are a few great articles on the Enlightenment:
    • In “The Enlightenment: Those Who Dare to Know,” Avi Lifschitz considers the changing meanings of the Enlightenment, both to those who created it and those historians who have since attempted to define it.
    • John V. Fleming, emeritus professor of literature at Princeton University was asked by The American Scholar to pose questions about what’s to be gained today by studying the Age of Reason. Check out four culled from a longer list in “In Light of the Enlightenment.” Fleming’s points and questions are incredibly thought provoking.

Books, quirks, and intrigues, oh my!

    • Things were racy before the repression of the Victorian times, which is always a surprise to people.
    • Some other great Enlightenment reading:
      • Paradise Lost–The key to this one is finding a great audio version. This helps when reading any poetry.
        • The devil is interesting in this piece; you end up rooting for him. He’s a classic anti-hero.
        • It takes a little bit to get into the rhythm of the book, but it is worth it. The story is delightful.
        • If you like Frankenstein, you should read Paradise Lost so that you get the allusion.
      • Daniel Defoe wrote some of Kaisha’s favorites:
    • Henry Fielding–We haven’t read any of his, but Kaisha loves the BBC series of Tom Jones.
    • Candide by Voltaire–Parodies some of the Romanticism tropes. It is a quick, engaging read.
      • Check out “A candid view of Candide,” in which Julian Barnes pays tribute to Voltaire’s Candide, a satire that remains as fresh and pertinent today as when it was written in the 18th century.
  • Some Enlightenment literature is much loved by many postmodern authors.
    • Tristam Shandy–This is a difficult read but has a lot of different features that are very postmodern-esque. This has many elements that make it a novel that could have been written in the fifties and sixties.
      • It made number 6 on The Guardian’s list of the 100 best stories. This article also references the movie Kaisha was talking about, A Cock and Bull Story.
    • This is an interesting link because Postmodernism rejects many of the values that were prevalent in the enlightenment, yet they were aesthetically similar.
    • In many ways, Postmodernism is a reaction to what happened when humans took the ideals of the enlightenment (logic and reason over emotion) too far.
      • The Atom Bomb and the possibility of global annihilation were made possible by the tenants of the enlightenment.
    • Perhaps these movement-parallels are some of the patterns that led Friedrich Nietzsche to voice the idea of eternal recurrence. P.S. The Unbearable Lightness of Being challenges this concept in such a fabulous way. You should read it!
    • In many ways, the Romantic Era is the brother of Postmodernism, though the aesthetics are quite different. The Romantics saw the limits of logic and reason, and there was this fear that they were losing touch with what was important. Wordsworth’s poem, “The World is Too Much With Us,” is an excellent example of this and could have been written in our day. Its modern relevance is chilling.

Connect and Win!!

  • If you want to read along with our next short story, we are reading “The Gray Champion” and  “Young Goodman Brown.” Hawthorn is best known for The Scarlet Letter. He’s on Kaisha’s and my list of authors we’ve meant to read.
  • Don’t forget to enter our giveaway for July. This month we will be giving away The Queen of Blood by Sarah Beth Durst and some adorable succulent bookmarks! To enter, rate us and leave a review on Itunes, and then go to the Giveaways tab on our website and let us know how to get in touch with you if you win. A winner will be drawn at random on August first.
  • If anything sparked an idea for you, or you have thoughts or ideas about what we should discuss next. Let us know.  Fill out our survey for a chance to win cool prizes!

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Thanks for joining us for Read.Write.Repeat! Talk with you next time!