Arts & Letters

Arts & Letters is a program celebrating contemporary arts, humanities, and social sciences, with an emphasis on authentic Southern voices. Hosted by J. Bradley Minnick of the University of Arkansas at Little Rock, the full episode archive is available at artsandlettersradio.org

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On this episode of Arts & Letters, we talk with creative writing professor John Vanderslice. His book The Last Days of Oscar Wilde, published by Burlesque Press, is a glimpse into the notorious life of the writer and the friends who filled his last days.

Vanderslice writes about Wilde's lesser known years: his book is a fictional account of 1898--1900, which takes up after the scandal, after the trial, and after his poem "The Ballad of Reading Gaol."

On this episode of Arts & Letters, we talk with memoirist Michelle Kuo.

Reading With Patrick, published by Random House, is about a teacher, a student, and a life-changing friendship.

This episode “The Delta, Full of Stars” chronicles Kuo’s story of moving to Helena, Arkansas for Teach for America to work at an alternative school, Stars Academy School.

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On this episode of Arts & Letters, we talk with writer Stewart O'Nan about his historical novel, West of Sunset

Published by Viking, the novel is a fictional account, beginning in 1937, of the last three years of writer F. Scott Fitzgerald's life.

It weaves a tale of his notorious romp through Hollywood; his affair with gossip columnist, Sheilah Graham; his attempts to salvage his writing career; and whatever was left of his marriage to Zelda, locked away in an asylum.

O'Nan writes:

“Dearest Heart,

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On this episode of Arts & Letters, we talk with writer and University of Arizona associate professor Cristina Devereaux Ramírez about her book Occupying Our Space: The Mestiza Rhetorics of Mexican Women Journalists and Activists, 1875-1942, published by The University of Arizona Press.

In the book, Ramírez sheds new light on the contributions of Mexican women journalists and activists during the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, marked as the zenith of Mexican journalism.

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On this episode of Arts & Letters, we talk with Scottish writer Brian Conaghan. His novel for young adults, The Bombs That Brought Us Together, published by Bloomsbury, is an all-to-relevant fable about language and loss, regimes and refugees and the forging of a common ground in the midst of real and perceived intractable differences between Old Country and Little Town.

  

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Welcome to Hickory Ditch, Arkansas, 2012

". . . where nothing ever stops or happens but just hangs somewhere in the middle. . . Hickory Ditch, Arkansas--a city full of human-shaped mosquitoes suspended in amber."

 

Carlisle/Fletcher

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On this episode of Arts & Letters, we talk with writer, actor, and folksinger Willi Carlisle and director and designer Joseph Fletcher. Their one-man operetta There Ain't No More! Death of a Folksinger chronicles an aging folksinger's last performance in front of an audience.

Throughout the performance, this raconteur called "Our Hero" delights the audience with off-color jokes and stories from his past. 

Yeah Boy

Nov 5, 2017
LSU Press

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The Dark Lyricism of Arkansas poet Greg Brownderville 

On this episode of Arts & Letters, we talk with poet Greg Alan Brownderville, who discusses his latest collection, A Horse With Holes in It, published by LSU Press. This collection is interwoven with humor, compelling imagery and dark lyricism. 

 

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On this episode of Arts & Letters, we speak with artist Robert McCann who talks about his paintings, which interrogate the drama that is entertainment culture and place us smack down between studio wrestling and external ideas of contemporary spaces. 

 

M. E. Kubit

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Hot Springs singer songwriter Ryan Sauders and guitarist Keith West  sat down with J. Bradley Minnick, host of KUAR's Arts & Letters, to discuss a very difficult subject: suicide of loved ones and how it permeates much of Ryan's lyrics and music.

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On this episode of Arts & Letters, we talk with Trenton Lee Stewart, author of the bestselling The Mysterious Benedict Society series.

Head shot of Sen. Caraway with gavel in hand
New York Times

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On this episode of Arts & Letters, we talk with writer, academic and actor Dr. Nancy Hendricks, who sings the praises of the first elected U.S. female Senator, Hattie Caraway  (1878-1950). 

Dr. Nancy Hendricks is the author of Senator Hattie Caraway: An Arkansas Legacy, published by The History Press.  

Hendricks: 

Cover of The Boy and The Firefly
L. K. Sukany

On this episode of Arts & Letters, we talk with the husband and wife team, performers, musicians, and writers Lauren and Micah Sukany.

The Boy and the Firefly is their multimedia children's book: a fractured fairytale--a postmodern bedtime story for our modern times, complete with original music and illustrations.

These Jungian dream-tales are filled with fireflies, bicycles, brooms, princes, princesses and damsels in distress.

Connected as dreams, these stories stitch together the waking life with the dream life. . . "for everyone dreams." 

A&L Short: Bonnie Montgomery

Jun 18, 2017
Mary Ellen Kubit

On this Arts & Letters short, which aired on Father's Day, we visit a 2016 interview with singer and songwriter Bonnie Montgomery. She and J. Bradley Minnick talked about the importance of song and reflected on the enduring memory of her father. 

Stillness Falling Like Calamity

Jun 16, 2017

On this episode of Arts & Letters, Arkansas Poet Jo McDougall discusses the farm, family, and the everyday mystery that poetry explores. 

McDougall is the author of several collections of poetry, as well as Daddy's Money, A Memoir of Farm and Family. The memoir, published by the University of Arkansas Press in 2011, explores her early life growing up on a rice farm outside the town of Dewitt, Arkansas. Her book of collected poems, In the Home of the Famous Dead, was published by the University of Arkansas Press in 2015.

On this episode of Arts & Letters, we talk with Nashville-based YA author Jeff Zentner. His book, The Serpent King, is filled with big hearted characters, misfits and miscreants cornered by the crushing weight of destiny, “the ossifying conviction that they are living out some ancient and preordained plan—encoded in blood, built into the architecture of name.”

Almost Blu

Apr 21, 2017

On this episode of Arts & Letters, we talk with Arkansas novelist and memoirist Cara Brookins about her book, Little Boy Blu, a novel loosely based on the "blue people" of Hazard County, Kentucky, who suffered from methemoglobinemia. This rare hereditary blood disorder results from excess levels of methemoglobin in the blood. It is passed on as a recessive gene, which turns the skin blue. 

In Little Boy Blu, we explore the hills and hollers, make our way through a copse of trees and into the crook of a valley—the sort of place common in Hazard County.

On this episode of Arts & Letters, University of Central Arkansas writer and professor John Vanderslice talks about his book Days On Fire. The novel explores the tumultuous days of painter Vincent Van Gogh from his early life in Holland to his hospitalization in St. Paul's Asylum in Saint Remy. Along the way, we discuss Van Gogh's many obsessions, including the painter's relationships with religion, women, family and work. 

On this episode of Arts & Letters, we talk with columnist and writer, Jay Grelen, whose book Sweet Tea Times Volume 1, Edition 1, collects his popular Sweet Tea newspaper columns, published by the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette from 2004-2011, and we debut a brand new Sweet Tea column, never before seen or heard: "The Case of Bozo's Missing Hand."

What The Hellbender Salamander!

Jan 20, 2017

On this episode of Arts & Letters, we take a dive into the streams and rivers of the Ozarks in Arkansas and Missouri to learn the saga of North America’s largest amphibian, the hellbender salamander.

Our guide is author, activist, professor and eco-poet Mark Spitzer, whose avant-garde epic poem, GLURK! A Hellbender Odyssey, serves as the basis for our journey.

The Holly Jolly Trolley: A Ride Through Arkansas History

Dec 21, 2016
Michael Hibblen / KUAR News

On this special holiday episode of Arts & Letters, we uncover true tales of Arkansas's past while touring the streets of Little Rock and North Little Rock inside the Rock Region Metro Streetcar—our “Holly Jolly Trolley.”

 

Along the streetcar rails we enounter a cast of characters, who tell of the cities' history bound up in the brick and mortar of the buildings—filled with ghosts and song.

 

Only Love Can Break Your Heart

Nov 18, 2016

On this episode of Arts & Letters, we talk with writer and teacher Ed Tarkington. His first novel Only Love Can Break Your Heart, published by Algonquin Books in 2016, "happens in moments."

The book "explores the city limits of fictional Spencerville, its grassy fields and horse farms, Georgian style homes and stately colonial manses and its inhabitants filled up with guilty ghosts from the past."

A&L Short: Gallows Bound

Nov 14, 2016
Gallows Bound

The Virginia-based band Gallows Bound’s music tells of the legend of the Appalachian Blood Witch, whose gnarled finger beckons and portends disaster to all who follow.

 

J. Bradley Minnick of Arts & Letters sat down with the band and filed this musical feature.

A&L Short: Brian Nahlen

Nov 14, 2016
Mary Ellen Kubit

Little Rock singer-songwriter Brian Nahlen in his song “Cicada Moon” explores the idea that humans got their sense of rhythm and synchronization from the world of insect sounds that have surrounded our species over the millions of years we’ve evolved.

He sat down with J. Bradley Minnick of KUAR’s Arts & Letters to talk about his musical inspiration. 

The Old Gray Lady: Part Two

Oct 28, 2016

The story of the Arkansas Gazette ended on October 18, 1991, with paper's sale to its rival, the Arkansas Democrat. The story shows a typical transformation of an American newspaper from independent, local ownership to remote corporate control that illustrates what happened to many American newspapers in the generation following World War II. 

Wounded by the fiercest newspaper war in the United States, former publisher J. N. Heiskell's heirs sold the Gazette to the Gannett Corporation in 1986, the country's largest newspaper chain. 

History of the Arkansas Gazette: Part One

Oct 21, 2016
Courtesy of the Center for Arkansas History and Culture

Today on Arts & Letters, we talk with journalist, researcher, and professor Donna Lampkin Stephens. Her book, If It Ain't Broke, Break It: How Corporate Journalism Killed the Arkansas Gazette, published by the University of Arkansas Press in 2015 "offers a firsthand account of how and why the Arkansas Gazette, then the oldest newspaper west of the Mississippi River, died after perhaps the country’s last great newspaper war."

A&L Short: Tim Anthony

Oct 6, 2016

Arkansas musician Tim Anthony follows a rich musical heritage started by his father, Lee, who opened Little Rock's first black-owned record store.

J. Bradley Minnick of KUAR's Arts & Letters spoke with the younger Anthony about soul and funk music and its impact on his life growing up in Little Rock in the early '70s.

All Wars Are Civil Wars

Sep 23, 2016

On this episode of Arts & Letters, we explore the historical fiction of Andrew Malan Milward's collection,  I Was A Revolutionary, interrogates historical Kansas from the Civil War to the present through literary fiction and artifacts, including Wikipedia entries, photographs, maps and satirical cartoons.

A&L Short: The Uh Huhs

Sep 16, 2016

Winner of the 2016 Arkansas Times Musician’s Showcase, the Little Rock-based band The Uh Huhs are certainly friends of KUAR. The band members Zach Hale, Zach Hunter, Tyler Nance and Trent Whitehead recently played during KUAR's Open House on August 16. That day, band mates Zach Hale and Zach Hunter sat down with J. Bradley Minnick to talk about how public policy and popular culture inform their music. 

A&L Short: Radio Birds

Sep 13, 2016

Members of the southern band Radio Birds write about a variety of subjects, but with one rule: no politics. However, these musicians are now breaking that rule, feeling the need to respond to the current political turmoil. J. Bradley Minnick recently sat down with the band, who are currently harmonizing on tour.

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