Bookstore owners become podcasters; marking the 100th anniversary of Joyce’s “Ulysses”

Podcasting in the spirit of Updike

John Updike wrote that “Museums and bookstores should feel, I think, like vacant lots – places where the demands made on us are our own demands, where the mind can find exercise in play unattended.” That energy drives a new bi-weekly podcast from the owners of the Beverly Farms Bookstore. Siblings Hannah Harlow and Sam Pfeifle bought the store, which opened in 1968, three years ago and recently launched ‘John Updike’s Ghost’, a podcast named after the longtime resident of Beverly Farms and the store’s “patron saint”. The chatty and joyful conversations cover the books that land and don’t, the power of hand-selling, the books they swiped through and the ones they put down. They hop through genres, talk local hooks, run fun tangents, and deliver unexpected takes (Pfeifle says in one episode that Duran Duran doesn’t get enough credit, that they’ve pushed the music forward as much as the Talking Heads), then return to literature. There’s enthusiasm, big opinions, easy sibling banter, and listeners get a sense of not just what they might read next, but what it’s like to run a bookstore and to create this sacred atmosphere of unsupervised play. Find the podcast on Spotify, Apple, or via the store’s website,

A centenary of Odysseus

This February 2 marks the 100th anniversary of the publication in Paris of “Ulysses” by James Joyce, the rich and joyful novel of linguistic acrobatics which takes place in one day in Dublin, on June 16, 1904, and stands as one of the early examples of modernism and 20th century literature. To celebrate the centenary, Boston-based Here Comes Everybody Players will give a virtual performance titled “Four Characters from Ulysses”, those characters being Stephen Dedalus, Leopold Bloom, Molly Bloom and the city of Dublin itself. Actors, including Mary Durkan, Steven Ó Broin, Donal O’Sullivan and Cathal Stephens, will perform excerpts from the book. “Would the deceased never reappear anywhere?” Joyce writes. “It would still wander, by itself, to the very limit of its cometary orbit, beyond the fixed stars, variable suns and telescopic planets, shipwrecks and astronomical wanderers, to the very extreme limit of space.” The performance, which includes an introduction by Joyce scholar Katherine O’Callaghan and live music, promises to be something of a similar odyssey. It takes place on February 2 at 4 p.m. and registration is required. Visit

Poems of the senses

In “The wild language of the deerwinner of the Slate Roof Press Chapbook competition, poet Susan Glass pays deep and constant attention to the percussive, whispering rhythms of the natural world, its scents (“the sheets smell of linden”), its flavors (“mint and lemon balm”), changing moods and moods. In the title poem, she writes, “The deer appears in my family room / and I throw away all the myths I ever read… I draw wet sentences from the clay of its sides.” Something almost supernatural hovers around the edges of these poems, a silent harmony that humbly touches the great mysteries. And there’s also simple human labor, as when she describes sanding wood as “work that dirty the wrists / and the forearms and the shoulders.” A frontpiece and title page feature braille, where the usual dots are formed with deer hoof prints. A Braille leaflet centers the collection, intended to give sighted people a sense of Braille as an art form, as well as a tactile experience. The result is a collection that is a deep and varied sensory experience.

To go out

Do not Cry for Meby Daniel Black (Hannover Square)

Recitativeby Toni Morrison (Knopf)

how to be normalby Phil Christian (Belt)

Choice of the week

Kelly Link of Book Moon in Easthampton, Massachusetts, recommends Summer in the City of Rosesby Michelle Ruiz Keil (Soho): “A beautiful, tender, warm reworking of mythical material that also feels firmly grounded in the world we live in.”

Nina MacLaughlin is the author of “alarm clock, siren.” She can be contacted at [email protected]

Laura J. Boyer