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How To Love Lit Podcast

Christy and Garry Shriver

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A look at all of the literature you read in high school and college and wished you had paid more attention to.

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Animal Farm - Episode #1 - Meet George Orwell and the array of world forces that produced this classic work!

Hi, I’m Christy Shriver.

And I’m Garry Shriver, and this is the How to Love Lit Podcast. Today we start another political tale- this time instead of a play written two-thousand years, ago, we will discuss a novel, well officially it’s a novel, but its author called it a fairy-tale, albeit without the prince charming, beautiful princess and the happily ever after ending. I’m not sure how it’s a fairy tale at all, actually.

HA! Yes, Orwell was very careful with his words and that bit of satirical language sets the tone for what’s to come in this strangely inspirational scary yet playful warning about the dangers of power and totalitarianism. And speaking about Orwell calling it a fairy tale- the American publisher omitted that title in the American edition a year after it was written and after that so did everyone else- I’m really not sure why. ,It’s an obvious fable that works on several levels. First, it’s a charming story about talking animals- and it works so well on that level and written so simply that there are libraries who mistakenly put it in the juvenile section of the library. And in some sense it is simple and that makes it a relief to read. I saw in a survey done by the Independent newspaper of Great Britain that it is THE most popular book adults remember from their school days- even beats out The Great Gatsby, Charlottes’s Webb and lord of the flies- and if I were to guess, and I will, I have a feeling, that’s because most of the books we make kids read have complicated vocabulary, old fashioned syntax and are just exhausting. Animal Farm is none of that. It has a simplicity of form that makes it simple to navigate- but if you read it ONLY in that way- you are making a grave mistake. It’s not the same as the jungle book or Beatrix Potter. It’s a biting satire about Soviet Totalitarianism as well as an important allegory on basic human nature- what people are really like- and exposing complicated people as simply as he did is where the genius rests- We should never mistake simplicity of form with simplicity of ideas- and an oversimplification of this story makes you the gullible fools he’s writing about and warning you not to be.

Another point mentioning is that this book has been controversial from before it was published. Orwell finished the manuscript to Animal Farm in 1943 but it wasn’t published until August 1945 by a company called Secker & Warburg. Frederic Warburg published the book despite his wife threatening to leave him if he did publish it. It was horrifying to publish a book so openly mocking the Russians who were our allies in WW2 and had lost so many men in the fight against Hitler. The book came out literally the same month in which the atomic bomb hit Hiroshima and Nagasaki- and although no one would have known it at the time- there’s a bit or irony to think about the fact that the Manhattan Project, an effort basically committed to figuring out how to blow up the world, was literally going on at the exact same time Orwell was writing this warning about the political scenario that would lead to such a disaster- anyway- despite his wife’s protestations, Warburg published the book and the 4,500 copies he printed sold out in just a few days. Nine million copies were sold by 1973 and Warburg gained popularity from his connection to Animal Farm. The fact that the everyone knew the book would be controversial only made them want to read it more.

Even after WWII and the book’s obvious success there has still been some opposition to it in the classroom, although nothing like of mice and men or Huck Finn. In the sixties in Wisconsin the book was challenged because of its phrases about revolution, and people were afraid this would cause public revolt .At the same time in New York, there was opposition because Orwell was a socialist and they did not want to teach a book thought to be written by a communist. But in the end, it has been hailed in free countries as a great exposition of communism, and it’s banned in countries where control of free thought is government policy. Animal Farm is still banned in Cuba, Kenya, and the United Arab Emirates according to the American Library Association. Only a censored version is read in China and the book was banned in Russia from 1945 until the 1980’s. Of course, on the other side of this issue, and this is kind of funny- Animal Farm is the only book I know of that the CIA actually funded, In the 1950s, the CIA actually paid to have an animated version of this book distributed around the world.

It does seem that that this unassuming “fairy tale”does ruffle feathers- it can’t be ignored. There is a lot to say about the different ways to approach this book. First we must look at it in its original historical context, the politics of Russia, Spain, the 1940s, etc...this is how Orwell intende...

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The Crucible - Arthur Miller - Episode 2 - The Witch Hunt and Hysteria Begins!

The Crucible- Episode 2

HI, I’m Christy Shriver and we’re here to discuss books that have changed the world and have changed us.

And I’m Garry Shriver and this is the How to Love lit Podcast. Thank you for listening, and please, if you don’t mind, take a minute right now to forward an episode of our show to a friend who may enjoy it. As you know, it’s hard to grow a podcast, and we rely on you to help us. So, if you enjoy what we do, please share the word. Having said that, today is episode 2 of our discussion of the Crucible, Arthur Miller’s allegorical play about two great American hysteria’s – and no- this not about any current moment- this book is about the Salem Witch Hunt of 1692, written to parallel the Red and Lavender Scare of the 1950s. Last week, we got into the background of the early American settlements and set the stage for what is to come in the play- the brutal murder of 25 innocent people- 19 hung, 5 died in jail, and one crushed- literally. What we tried to impart if nothing else is that the social causes of the events of Salem Village are considerably more complex than Miller could have imagined when he started his investigation or any of us probably think of when we think of this incident.

For sure, I think most of us think of it quite one-dimensionally-,a very religious and chauvinistic people scared of females they call witches target and kill underprivileged innocent powerless victims because of paranoia, fear, superstition simple-mindedness and prejudice- things we modern people know better than to do.

Exactly, and what we discussed last week is that that’s not even the beginning. There are family feuds, bitter rivalries, financial interests as stake, and yes- there is also a fear-but it’s not a ridiculous fear- there is a lot of death in the new world, and fear of death is driving a fear of the devil, of the frontier, of the woods and of the the Native Americans who live here- all of this contributes.

Which is why when commenting on the historical accuracy of the play, Miller wrote, “The play is not history in the sense in which the words is used by a historian...however, I believe that the reader will discover here the essential nature of the events..” And what he means by that is that he wants to get to the heart of the trials- which is not the chronology of names and dates- the heart of the nature of the events- something good artists are always trying to do is in looking at the causes, the humanity, the spirit of the main people- so to speak. Miller said that if you don’t have a very strong moral compass of some kind- you cannot create art. I found that interesting because I have never thought of artists in that way- and maybe it’s dependent on the kind of art you practice- but in his case- He wanted, with his art, for his audience to ask questions about our own individual basic humanity - we are these people – they aren’t so primitive- we are not so evolved- we are them- humans- and as such we too- are capable of great things- great love and sacrifice but also great evil. So, this week, what we’re going to do is step away from the history side of this completely and look at this play- because he is going to juxtapose great love and sacrifice with great evil- and to do this he deviates almost entirely from the facts of history- so today, Garry, we drop history entirely and look at the crucible from the literary perspective- this play is a tragedy with a focus on a single main character, a very traditional tragic hero- John Proctor. This play centers around John Proctor- not because he’s the most influential villager to be hung historically- not because he’s the most innocent- they’re all innocent. In fact, the John Proctor in the play is not at all the John Proctor of history- the historical John Proctor is a 60 year old man who is wealthy; he owns a farm but also several businesses including a tavern, he’s a landlord; he’s an heir to money. Elizabeth, his wife, is his much younger 3rd wife. She’s a working woman, an herbalist. These are not the two we see talking in Act 2- In the play John Proctor is a struggling farmer in his mid thirties, his wife is sickly, but what is most highlighted by Miller is that the John Proctor of the play has committed adultery.

And this twist in the truth has really galled many historians- because that isn’t true- some say it discredits John’s memory, others think it reduces the truth of the hysteria to an oversimplification of revenge instead of the actual complex reality. From a historical standpoint, the arguments make sense, but from a psychological perspective, making Proctor transgress sexually is extremely interesting.

Well, of course those historical points are good points. And I doubt Miller would even argue with that. But by layering the story where it speaks to more than one issue makes the a...

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How To Love Lit Podcast


02/12/21 • 1 min

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The Crucible - Arthur Miller - Episode 4 - My Name! The Disintegration And Reintegration Of John Proctor!

Hi, I’m Christy Shriver, and we’re here to discuss books that have changed the world and have changed us.

Hi, I’m Garry Shriver and this is the How to Love Lit Podcast. This is our final week to discuss Arthur Miller’s timeless allegory, The Crucible and wow have we covered a lot of topics. Week 1, we went back to the 1690s and visited Salem, the setting for this disturbing drama. We learned the real story of Salem village and the back story that led to America’s first and perhaps most famous incident of mass hysteria. On week two, we put history aside and spent a little time discussing tragedy and some of the literary aspects of this play. Last week, we jumped into the 1950s, and presented the play as allegory. We told, or at least visited in part, the story of the Red Scare and the Lavender Scare and we introduced the man whose name is synonymous with it: Senator Joseph McCarthy. This week, we will circle back to the literary, except this time we will explore the story of The Crucible as a Love Story, as well as introduce a little psychology. But before we do any of that, Christy, you want to take a little detour and drop back into Miller’s life and talk about Miller’s love life- specifically Marilyn Monroe.

That’s right- Miller’s personal love story was a little bumpy- and some say there is a little of Miller in Proctor- maybe that’s true- there’s likely a little bit of Miller in all of his characters, but unlike Proctor’s love story, Miller’s did have a happy ending. I do want to say that looking at the Crucible as a love story is a wonderful way to read the play. In spite of it all, There is a lot of love here, and the lines between Elizabeth and John Proctor in this act are so compelling and beautiful- Elizabeth drawing for us a beautiful picture of redemption, and John embracing it- and being restored. There is a lot of grace here. I told you when we finished Macchiavelli- that redemption stories are my absolute favorite- so I cannot help but be enchanted by this element of this one. So, as a seguey into the love story between John and Elizabeth- let’s look at the love life of Arthur Miller- and like I said, a little bumpity at first.

Bumpity- is that a word

I don’t think so. But it was fun to say- and as a onomatopoeia- it kind of expresses Miller and Monroe’s relationship- it was something that I will call- bumpity.

Yes, well, Marilyn wasn’t the first Mrs. Miller- his first marriage was to a woman named Mary Slattery and lasted 16 years. Arthur said he was drawn to her because she was from a background totally different from his own- midwestern Catholic that sort of thing. She was drawn to him because he was the Jewish new yorker, but in spite of 16 years sounding like a long time- the marriage didn’t work. Mary went on to become a school psychologist and beyond that there is very little publically known about her except that she and Arthur didn’t speak for over 20 years after their bitter divorce- but sadly, his track record was going to get worse before it got better. His second marriage was even less successful than this one.

But infinitely more famous.

True, but believe it or not, when Marilyn Monroe and Arthur Miller met, Miller was the more famous of the two. He had just won a Pulitzer prize for Death of a Salesman. Elia Kazan, the one we talked about last week who would eventually give names to the HUAC , introduced them. It appears there was an instant attraction on Marilyn’s part because he was the only man in the room who didn’t immediately fawn all over her.

I’m sure there was an attraction on his part- as was the case with all men it seems when it came to Marilyn Monroe- he just hid it.

Likely, but that’s not unusual. What’s unusual is that she was interested in this nerdy writer at all- although it did start out just as a correspondence. She married to joe Dimaggio first- a professional baseball player in 1954.

, so the jock got first dibs.

He did. However, she said this about Miller when she first saw him back in 1950, “It was like running into a tree. You know, like a cool drink when you’ve had a fever.”

She and Miller wrote to each other for about five years. Eventually their relationship developed into an affair after her relationship with Joe Dimaggio went south in 1955- that marriage lasted less than a year.

By 1955 Miller is hooked on Marilyn and has established a residency in Nevada just for the purpose of being able to divorce his first wife and marry Marilyn. She was filming the movie Bus Stop. Now pay attention to the years here, because at the same time he’s in Nevada trying to get divorced and married to Marilyn Monroe, he gets his subpoena to go before the house of UnAmerican Activities.

Well, that’s an inconvenient time to be called a c...

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The Crucible - Arthur Miller - Episode 3 - Allegories Galore! - How To Incite Hysteria And Create a Bogeyman!

Crucible- episode 3

I’m Christy Shriver, and we’re here to discuss books that have changed the world and have changed us.

I’m Garry Shriver and this is the How to Love Lit Podcast. This is the third week in our discussion of Arthur Miller’s play, the Crucible. In Week one we went back in time to the 1690s and looked at the historical context and the story that gave inspiration to this modern American play. Week 2, we set all the history aside and looked at this play from a literary perspective, looking at Proctor as a tragic hero, at the internal and external conflicts, and I learned what a French scene was. This week, we are going to look at this play as a fairly straightforward allegory- an allegory of the part of the Cold War that today we call the Red Scare, the Lavender Scare and McCarthyism.

Garry, I know you’ve been looking forward to this segment, because we are going to get into some of the dirty details of this strange occurrence in American history that most who of us especially those of us living outside of the United States may not even be very familiar with.

True and if you think the intrigue behind the Salem Witch Trials is complicated, the intrigue: personal, financial, and political that went into the Red Scare is exponentially worse- America obviously is much larger, the organizations and people involved are more numerous, and the complicating circumstances are more grave- like nuclear war. Remember, Arthur Miller was born in 1915, that’s during WW1, he lived through the very hard economic times of the depression as a child- that is not something you forget.

So true, my grandmother died just a few years ago and was his contemporary. When she died, my aunts threw away literally 100s of thousands of egg cartons and butter tubs that she had stored since the 1920s, not because she was financially destitute, she was decidedly middle-class, but because those depression era habits of conservation never left her after even 80 years.

Absolutely, that entire generation’s world view is colored and scarred by the extreme hardships of the depression as well as those brought on by WW2- These two events are going to shape Miller’s world view- but there is one more very important personal characteristic we can’t overlook. Miller is Jewish- and although the United States is a much safer place to be for Jewish families than Europe, America is not free of anti-semitism, and Miller grows up understanding and feeling the oppression of racism.

Miller’s breakout play, All my Sons, if you remember from episode 1 came out in 1947, right after the end of world war 2, and if interpreted a certain way, could be viewed as being critical of capitalism and the pursuit of wealth as a life goal- these were moral perspectives acquired from his life experiences. Miller was critical of some of the changes coming out of this era and the changing of values he was a part of. He was young, educated and exploring in his own mind ideas about how the social contract between humans living together is best understood. Miller was doing all of the natural sort of soul searching young adults should do and arrived at the same conclusions many of his and frankly are generation arrive at,

Garry, what’s that famous Winston Churchill Quote

Well the quote I think you’re thinking of is “If a man is not a socialist by the time he is 20, he has no heart. If he is not a conservative by the time he is 40, he has no brain.”

That’s it!! He’s in is brainless phase, I guess.

HA! Christy, just so we don’t get a correction tweet on Twitter- this quote is actually incorrectly attributed to Churchill. Nobody knows who really said that. I’ve heard it attributed to so many people- one the historian, François Guizot, others think it started with Victor Hugo, some even attribute it to King Oscar II of Sweden.

Good grief, how ironic that a quote about sharing values is actually shared by so many different people.

Ha! Well, your point is- lots of people start out with lots of idealism- especially young people- especially good young people- and socialism for many, and I don’t want to take a political side here, is considered idealistic-- at least that’s the point the quote is making.

Except, at this same time, America is getting neck deep into another war, at least that’s what we’ve come to call this stand -off between the United States and the Soviet Union. The cold war took on some of the vestiges of WW2- this good versus evil narrative from WW2 was in the minds of everyone. Stalin, who one year before had been our alley, was feared as being something of the next Hitler- the next personification of evil and death- and of course, we know from history - the atrocities he committed if you just look at the numbers were far greater th...

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The Crucible - Arthur Miller - Episode 1 - Witch Hunts In Two Centuries - Pulitzer Prizes - Allegories Everywhere!

Hi, I’m Christy Shriver and we’re here to discuss books that have changed the world and have changed us.

I’m Garry Shriver and this is the How to Love Lit podcast. Today is new book day, and I always love new book day. We are starting our series on Arthur Miller and his timeless classic about human hysteria, The Crucible. I’m particularly excited about this series because it’s both extremely historical as well as psychological, as lots of things are- but in this case- it’s heightened.

For sure, The Crucible is Arthur Miller’s most produced play worldwide becoming one of America’s most popular plays in the 20th century. Ironically, it failed at the box office in its initial production in 1953, so what does that tell you?

Initial box offices don’t always get it right.

Miller would say, almost never. He was very critical to how we organize theater in this country. I watched an interview he did with Charlie Rose later in his life and he talked about the problems he saw with American theater. It was kind of interesting to me. He complained that, as a nation, we could never get good at play writing and acting because of the financing piece. He wished we had a national theater- I’m not saying I advocate for that idea, because I can see a lot of problems in other ways- but he did make an interesting point. He made the analogy that if you took another profession, like plumbing or something, for example you create a plumbing company and hire people to be professional plumbers- they would have security and work continuously- finishing one starting another- seamlessly- and with each new job, they would learn to perfect their craft- obviously getting better and better all the time and the trade itself would progress in technique and so forth. He said today, our theater does things by the job- and he said it would be like the plumbing company going out and hirng new plumbers every time they have a different job to do, and in the between time the plumbers are out of work doing something else, getting out of practice with no time or incentive to work on things that would have a long term improvements. He says, this financial piece keeps actors from getting better, play writes from getting better, and theaters from taking chances on things that might take more than one week to get popular. He said, doing theater project by project makes that initial box office too important because the immediate return on investment is too high. But anyway, I hadn’t thought of it like that. Maybe he’s right. There’s certainly quite a bit of sequels and redundancy in the movie industry.

That is one great thing about researching a person who only died in 2005- which is when Miller died. He was born in 1915 and lived until 2005- there is a lot of video footage of him, especially with his second wife, Marilyn Monroe.

Oh my gosh, I know and I guess this is a good of time as any to get into a little bit of the facts about his personal and professional life, although we won’t spend too much time on that today. We can get into the Marilyn Monroe stuff when we talk about the Mccarthy era stuff. But for starters, Miller was a native New Yorker, originally from a well to do family who owned a manufacturing company. Unfortunately, during the depression, his family went bankrupt and to the poor house they all went, not an uncommon depression era story inAmerica. One fun fact about Miller’s early life for all your burgeoning students out there is that- Miller was a terrible student, which is something I always find interesting. He failed Algebra three time.

So there you go- there’s hope for us all- even the non-mathematical types.

For sure, it took him two years to raise enough money to pay for his college tuition, but He did finally go to a great school- the University of Michigan- all you Blue fans out there- (if you’re not from the US, Michigan is famous not only because it’s a prestigious university but their American football team is very good- although not as good as their SEC counterparts – if you ask me!

HA!! Well, they likely could have beat the University of Tennessee this year.

Ouch- why would you say something like that??

For those who don’t know, Christy and I are big football fans and Christy’s daughters both attend the University of Tennessee which also is a big and good school with a very historically important football team- although not so much recently. Football rivalries never die! Her best friend’s husband attended the University of Michigan- so she has a little personal vendetta!! Anyway, it was at the University of Michigan that Miller started writing drama. By 1947, he was lucky enough, fortunate to use a Machiavellian phrase- to have a play open on Broadway. The name of that play was All My Sons. It was an immediate hit- an...

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Frederick Douglass Meets Elizabeth Cady Stanton-Abolition Meets Women's Suffrage!

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