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1220 AM WLIT: All Lit All the Time

Jon Armstrong

Welcome to Charles and The Verb, every weekday from four to seven on 1220 AM, WLIT — All Literature All the Time.

[Sparkling music plays.]

—Greetings everyone. I am Charles Creighton and my partner is Mathew "The Verb" Vroman. How are you today, Verby?

—I'm great! But, oh boy, Charlie, what another crazy day in the world of literature!

—It's another remarkable day, isn't it?

—You got that right! Oh boy, just two days ago, there was an article in The Times implicating Jonathan Franzen and those huge sentences of his. The word is that steroids are involved. This alone had readers across the country going crazy, and now there’s another bombshell about a writing coach who was supplying dozens of writers with illegal, performance-enhancing supplements.

—Joyce Carol Oates was one of the writers linked to this writing coach.

—Actually, Charles, I always thought Oates was on something. I mean, how can it be possible to crank out books like she does without human growth hormones?

—There have been suspicions about her, but you know what my question is, Verby? I'm wondering what do we do with her books. Do we put an asterisk next to her novel, then? The question is: would she have won the National Book Award without the drugs?

—Oh boy, that's the big question, Charles. And speaking of questions, let's take our first call. It's from Valerie in Ridgewood. Hello, Valerie, you're on the air.

—Oh... What? Hello?

—You're on the air. Go ahead, Valerie.

—Thank you for taking my call. First-time, long-time! I just want to say that I don't think it's such a big deal... the steroids. I just want to read a good book. What those authors do on their time, that's their business.

—Oh boy! Valerie. Come on! Steroids affect literature. It's about integrity! They test in Europe all the time, Valerie! It's about a level playing field. You're crazy if you don't see that!

—I see it, but I just want a good book.

—Oh boy! I'm sorry. You're wrong. You're really wrong! I can't tell you how wrong you are!

—Valerie, you'll have to excuse my partner. Take it easy, Verby.

—All I'm saying is that I just want a good read. Does it matter what they were taking? What are they doing to do, ban coffee next?

—I hear you, Val. Thanks for the call, Valerie. Wow, Verby, I think that's the sentiment a lot of people have. It's not about a level playing field, they just want their books. They don't care. They want a good read.

—Boy, oh boy! I don't get it. You know, I guess we really do have a drug culture. But, God, you thought that literature was the one clean place. I mean, except for Lewis Carroll and Carlos Castaneda.

—We've got another caller, Verby. It's Herman from South Park. Herman, go ahead.

—Hey, I think you guys have a great show. I listen all day at the garage here. But this deal really burns me, guys. That caller before had it all wrong. I feel like I don't want to buy another book. And the worst thing, my son thought he wanted to grow up to be a novelist. He was a big fan of Isaac Asimov. But now, are we supposed to believe he wrote all those books without designer drugs?

—Oh boy! Herman, I feel for you.

—What do I tell my boy? What happened to the great America novel? What happened to fairness? What happened to role-models?

—Well said Herman! Thanks for the call. Verby, what about it? What about role models? What about little boys and girls who were hoping to grow up and pen novels? Do they start taking these drugs? Is that what they're supposed to do to compete?

—Oh boy, Charlie, you've asked the million-dollar question. I don't know. I really don't know.

—Verby, after a short break, we're going to be speaking to Patricia Slagle, head of the Western Librarian Conference, and see what she has to say about all of this. Stay with us.

You’re listening to Charles and The Verb on 1220 AM, WLIT—all lit all the time!