Had A Good Time with Robert Olen Butler

Feb 3, 2019

On this episode of Arts & Letters, we talk with Pulitzer Prize-winning author Robert Olen Butler about his many books informed by theories on desire, life's chance meetings and conscious decisions that inform sometimes unconscious occurrences in the world.

A life in letters, the varied novels, the wildly inventive short stories, the radical pedagogy, please join us for a retrospective on his work thus far--Robert Olen Butler in his own words.

Author Robert Olen Butler
Credit Courtesy of WFSU Public Media

“He notices him instantly, though the man is making eye contact with none of the scattered few of them, the health-conscious members of the co-op, dining by the pound from the hot buffet. It's a chilly North Florida January twilight, but he's clearly overbundled, perhaps from the cold drilling deep into his bones because of a life lived mostly outside. Or perhaps he simply needs to carry all his clothes around with him.

Robert takes him for a veteran.”

Robert Olen Butler has published seventeen novels and six volumes of short stories, one of which, A Good Scent from a Strange Mountain, won the 1993 Pulitzer Prize.

"23 Flights" as drafted by Butler in 5th grade.
Credit Butler Family Photos

Among his other awards are a Guggenheim Fellowship in fiction, the Richard and Hinda Rosenthal Foundation Award from the American Academy of Arts and Letters, two National Magazine Awards, and the 2013 F. Scott Fitzgerald Award for Outstanding Achievement in American Literature.

His works have been translated into twenty-one languages. He teaches fiction writing at Florida State University.

A special thanks to Travis Bowman, whose music serves as the score.

Bowman is an acoustic instrumentalist hailing from Little Rock, Arkansas.  First inspired by blues guitarists such as Stevie Ray Vaughan, Travis turned to fingerstyle guitar at the age of 15.

Bowman performing on the harp guitar.

He has since won national and international prestigious awards such as the Ernie Ball Acoustic Prodigy (2014), the Arkansas State Fingerstyle Championship (2017), and the International Fingerpicking Championship at Walnut Valley (2018).

Husband and wife duo, Michael & Ashley Shackelford.

With graditue to Galactic Engineers of Magnetic Sounds for contributing music to the show. G.E.M.S., known for their combined electronic music with garage rock and created “Dark Pop” from outer space, is a husband & wife duo based out of Birmingham, AL comprised of Michael & Ashley Shackelford. 

Thank you voice actors Gary Hinton, Logan Wells, Richard Wells, Tony Phan, Victor Phan, Thu Nguyen,  Ri Nguyen, Beth Wells, Laurie Pierce, Ann Owen, Keith Robinson, Trey Philpotts,  Mary Ellen Kubit, Terry Wright, Linda Calcote Hehemann, and Devin Robertson.  

Thank you to Stickyz Rock ‘N’ Roll Chicken Shack for keeping music alive and well in Arkansas.

Generous funding for this episode was provided by the Arkansas Humanities Council and the National Endowment for the Humanities.

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Executive Producer & Host:  J. Bradley Minnick

Producer: Mary Ellen Kubit

Recorded by: Christopher Hickey