Richard Prince—Spiritual America

When John Wayne rode through my childhood, and perhaps through yours, he determined forever the shape of certain of our dreams.” –Joan Didion, “John Wayne, A Love Song.”

Three of the four works you’ll hear on this program were read at Symphony Space on an evening we put together in collaboration with the Guggenheim Museum in connection with their retrospective exhibition of the works of the artist Richard Prince, “Richard Prince: Spiritual America”.  They represent the American psyche in fact and fiction.

The first offering is Beat Generation writer Neal Cassady’s wry recollection of his youthful car stealing days, “Adventures in Auto-eroticism.”   The reader is SHORTS regular Ted Marcoux.

 Our second story is by Tim O’Brien, whose powerful fictions, based on his Vietnam War experiences, have been featured on a number of our programs, including a recent special celebrating the 20th anniversary of his collection The Things They Carried.  In this short but compelling  tale a father who is a Vietnam vet is asked by his child “Have you ever killed anyone?”   “Ambush” is read by John Shea.

Our next piece of Americana is not a story, but a combination essay and memoir.  In “John Wayne: A Love Song,” Joan Didion writes about her lifelong fascination with iconic Hollywood star John Wayne.   Didion’s many novels and cultural essays include The Year of Magical Thinking and We Tell Ourselves Stories in Order to Live: Collected Nonfiction.

The final story on this program is a vintage John Updike story, which, like the three tales inspired by the Richard Prince Guggenheim exhibit, deals with life-altering decisions.  In this case, a successful sculptor contemplates with alarm the artistic tendencies of his own children.  Updike calls this story “Learn a Trade.”  Imagine how many fathers have inflicted this instruction on their sons and daughters.  The reader is Paul Hecht.

 “Adventures in Auto-eroticism” by Neal Cassady, read by Ted Marcoux

 “Ambush” by Tim O’Brien, read by John Shea

“John Wayne: A Love Song” by Joan Didion, read by Kathleen Chalfant

“Learn a Trade,” by John Updike, read by Paul Hecht

 The musical interlude is “Incoming,” by Phil Kline, from the album “Zippo Songs..  The SELECTED SHORTS theme is Roger Kellaway’s “Come to the Meadow.”

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