Open Source has returned with shows on fiction, politics, family, and more. Here’s our recap of the year so far—as always, you can find us wherever you go for podcasts or at our site!
Thank You, Patrick Lydon
Our first show of 2023 was a conversation between Chris Lydon and his brother Patrick. Here’s Chris, from that show:
My brother Patrick was the youngest of six, the saint among us and always the brightest company. Two winters ago he’d struck an odd note in our regular catching-up by phone, from his community farm in County Kilkenny to my base in Boston. He said, “Chris, I’ve aged more in the last 10 weeks than in the last 10 years.” To walk 50 yards had become an ordeal. The villain turned up in a Dublin exam: it was ALS, Lou Gehrig’s disease of the “motor neurons,” which spares the victim’s thinking and speech even as it cripples the body. There was nothing to be done about this — except, I ventured, to record a gabby memoir in the time we had, over Zoom, and then face-to-face on the porch of Patrick’s little farmhouse in the town of Callan.
A Radical American Life
We spoke with Lydia Moland—philosophy professor at Colby and a radio colleague—about her new book on Lydia Maria Child, the abolitionist writer. Paul Theroux mentioned both Lydias in his New York Times tour of literary Boston recently:
We always set off from our home in Medford — a Boston suburb, and a literary town in its own right. Lydia Maria Child, noted for her poem “Thanksgiving Day,” had been born there: “Over the river, and through the wood, to grandfather’s house we go.” And, by the way, grandfather’s house still stands — handsomely restored — thanks to Tufts University. Child was a combative and articulate abolitionist, a campaigner for women’s rights and an advocate for Native Americans. She was vilified for her antislavery views but stood her ground in “An Appeal in Favor of that Class of Americans Called Africans” (1833). A new biography of her has recently appeared: Lydia Moland’s “Lydia Maria Child: A Radical American Life.”
Norman Mailer Turns 100
Norman Mailer would be 100 this year, and we went back in time with his son John Buffalo Mailer and biographer J. Michael Lennon. You’ll hear passages written by Mailer and sound of Norman Mailer himself on this show. You’ll hear, too, about Mailer’s relevance to 2023. Says Lennon:
Norman’s biggest fear was that the country was going to devolve in anarchy and chaos because it was polarized. And indeed, we are probably more polarized now than at any time in the history of the country. Maybe going back to the Civil War.
Here’s a bonus item: Norman Mailer’s experimental adventures in cinema are viewable over at the Criterion Channel, and they’re probably not what you’re used to watching.
This Other Eden
Our show with Pulitzer-winner Paul Harding goes to the fictional Apple Island, based on the true story of Malaga Island off the coast of Maine. Malaga Island was home to a mixed-race community driven away by the state in the early twentieth century, with some residents committed to the Maine School for the Feeble-Minded.
The conversation with Harding ranges widely—through the book and the music of Harding’s language, the history of New England, and nineteenth-century American literature. On music, you’ll hear about the drummer Elvin Jones. Harding says,
He was just a working guy, you know? And no matter what state he showed up in, the second he sat down at the drum set and counted off the first song, he and the entire band went straight for Saturn. It was just art. The closest thing I can think of is: it feels like channelling, being receptive.
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