Podcast: The Magnificent Seven

Virtual Memories – season 3 episode 2 – The Magnificent Seven

Reading, walking, looking, dancing, listening, swimming, and writing: these are the activities organizing the life of this episode’s guest, Willard Spiegelman, author of Seven Pleasures: Essays on Ordinary Happiness! We talk about his wonderful book (go read it!), his addiction to ballroom dancing, how to find joy in the day-to-day world, why he hates book clubs, what Dallas, TX is like for a secular Philadelphia Jew, how he turned me on to one of my favorite novels, who his Desert Island Poets are, how he writes about the visual arts, why the world’s great novels are lost on the young, and what it was like to attend his 50th high school reunion. (Also, Harold Bloom crops up yet again; I really gotta try to get him on the show sometime. Boy, talk about the anxiety of influence . . .)

One of the best things about doing this podcast is that I get to meet some wonderful people. In this case, meeting with Willard over two afternoons (story to come) was like making a new old friend.

Enjoy the conversation! Then check out the archives for more!

Willard Spiegelman on The Virtual Memories Show

About our Guest

Willard Spiegelman is the Hughes Professor of English at Southern Methodist University. He also serves as editor-in-chief of Southwest Review, the third oldest continuously published literary quarterly in America. In 2005, Willard won the PEN/Nora Magid award for literary editing. In addition to Seven Pleasures, he’s also written or edited How Poets See the World: The Art of Description in Contemporary Poetry, Wordsworth’s Heroes, Imaginative Transcripts: Selected Literary Essays, Majestic Indolence: English Romantic Poetry and the Work of Art, The Didactic Muse: Scenes of Instruction in Contemporary American Poetry, and Love, Amy: The Selected Letters of Amy Clampitt. He writes about the arts for the Wall Street Journal. Oh, and he’s quite dapper.

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Credits: This episode’s music is This Charming Man by The Smiths. The conversation was recorded at Willard Spiegelman’s home in New York City, on a pair of AT2020 mics, feeding into a Zoom H4n recorder. I recorded the other material on a Blue Yeti USB mic into Audacity. All editing and processing was done in Garage Band.

Comments

3 Comments so far. Leave a comment below.
  1. Wendell Murray,

    I am familiar with Mr. Spiegelman and with his work. I became familiar with Mr. Spiegelman through his Wall Street Journal column as well. Not specifically the essay about Il Gattopardo, but an earlier one on the word “sprezzatura”. I agree with Mr. Spiegelman regarding that novel. Superb and nowhere near as well known as it should be.

    Another outstanding book written in Italian, beloved of many Italians of the post-World War II era, but much less known is Cristo si è fermato a Eboli.

    Since I do not subscribe to the Wall Street Journal for a few years now, Mr. Spiegelman forwards references to essays there to me through e-mail. He also just sent me a reference to this conversation.

    Mr. Spiegelman not surprisingly does an excellent job in describing The Seven Pleasures, then discussing related, miscellaneous topics. Unfortunately, too few people are exposed to his excellent essays in the Wall Street Journal and likely too few will hear this excellent conversation, but good for Mr. Roth for doing this.

  2. Jonathan T Densford,

    Great interview, Mr. Roth! Professor Spiegelman is indeed the embodiment of erudition, and you did a fine job questioning him.

    I first encountered WS through his outstanding lecture series “How to Read and Understand Poetry,” available through The Great Courses/The Teaching Company (with which I have no affiliation or financial interest – though I wish I did!) When I learned of the publication of Seven Pleasures in 2009, I bought it and loved it too. On the topic of re-reading, your podcast has inspired me to read Seven Pleasures again, but this time I will read the essays in a different order to experience each more as a stand alone essay.

    I have a customer review of Seven Pleasures that has been posted on a gargantuan online retailer’s website since September 2009. I hope anyone considering reading the book will read my review. It will be easily found if you search the book title or my name.

    One further note, on your website you did not tag Lampedusa. And since I do not read Italian, I was wondering if there is a preferred English translation of Il Gattopardo? Probably just one? Translators don’t usually get the credit they deserve, do they?

    Jonathan T. Densford

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