By Ava Innes
It is a welcome relief to all book lovers, sometimes, to not have to read. Academic fatigue, and indeed fatigue generally stifles our ability to engage with words on the page. Literary Friction is a podcast that offers a perfect escape, whilst allowing you not to completely cut ties with the literary world.
Hosted by friends Carrie Plitt and Octavia Bright, the podcast is a monthly NTS Radio show that centres on an interview with a current author, but also includes cultural recommendations and lively discussion. Alongside these episodes run ‘Minisodes’, which delve into books based around a certain theme. These themes range from ‘Mothers’ to ‘The Campus Novel’, and the episodes brim with innovative ideas and interesting suggestions.
Both Carrie and Octavia have established roles in the literary world, being a literary agent and writer and academic respectively. Their professional involvement grants the podcast an air of deep knowledge and understanding, whilst also providing them with the opportunity to interview major writers such as Maggie Nelson, Rachel Kushner and Deborah Levy.
Despite their high accolades, the podcast is not inaccessible. Their conversations are explorative and engaging, and touch upon topics both close to your heart and distant. One of my favourite episodes is an interview with Natasha Brown, author of the 2021 novel Assembly. I found Brown’s background intriguing: Before writing, she had studied Maths at Cambridge and worked in the finance industry, going to later publish her debut novel Assembly.
It is snippets like these that reading alone will not grant you. Having insight into the life of an author is always a thrilling experience. Knowledge of her background made the subject of Brown’s work more understandable. Assembly tells the story of a Black British woman invited to a garden party at her boyfriend’s family estate. Having technically ‘made it’ (via a job in banking and a flat of her own), Brown’s narrator is forced to come to terms with the barriers of race and class that exclude her from feeling comfortable in the upper echelons of society.
A favourite ‘Minisode’ of mine is entitled ‘Twilight Knowing’. Taking place in the wake of COP26, this episode discusses the potential of literature to spur people to activism. They discuss work such as Jenny Offill’s Weather, considering how one can write in light of climate change, without it seeming like a disaster novel. It is episodes like these that demonstrate the strength of their podcast in its alternative range of thought and depth.
The chemistry between Carrie and Octavia is what buoys this podcast. Tuning in feels like entering into a discussion with friends, and their fondness for each other makes for a gentle, open and inspiring interview style.
This communal touch is also something that extends beyond the podcast itself: it is something that I share and discuss with family and friends, and it is always interesting to see the different recommendations people pick up on, and the ideas that they love. Literary Friction strikes the balance between relaxed listening and exciting, thought-provoking challenges perfectly.
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