Podcasts

Author Interview: Joanna Mishtal, The Politics of Morality

Growing up in the west, I had a fairly uncomplicated view of the Soviet Union. In the 1980s, they were the EvilThe Politics of Morality Empire. Then down comes the Berlin Wall. The Iron Curtain crumbles. Freedom wins the day. Roll credits.

Of course, history is never that simple.

Anthropologist Joanna Mishtal grew up in Soviet Poland, defected to the United States as a teenager, and now studies reproductive rights in her country of birth. Her research uncovers a thornier narrative of post-Soviet Poland. Rather than a secular democracy, the Catholic church has assumed a dominant political role.

As a result, Poland has some of the strictest abortion laws of any European Union country, and Mishtal explores the effect this has had on women and women’s rights in her first book, The Politics of Morality: The Church, the State, and Reproductive Rights in Postsocialist Poland.

The book, published by Ohio University Press, blends politics, personal narrative, Polish history and peer-reviewed research. Full disclosure: I have known Mishtal for close to a decade and I proofread early drafts of a few chapters.

Mishtal provides a unique view of Polish politics, having experienced both Soviet and post-Soviet culture as well as having lived in the west. Most impressively, she is able to switch easily between detached observation and insider familiarity, lending a unique voice to her research. Her personal insights enhance the narrative while her use of case studies give flesh and bone to the academics.

With Russia once again a wild card, the EU in crisis and Poland’s recent swing even further to the right, The Politics of Morality is a timely and important read. We are still figuring out both the history and consequences of the end of the Cold War, and Mishtal’s is an important and necessary voice in the discussion.

She recently sat down with Ensuing Chapters to discuss The Politics of Morality.

 

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Audio Interview

Sorry for the delay in writing, but we’ve been busy prepping for the holidays. From now until Dec. 24, we’ll be posting a daily review of a literature-themed Christmas gift. You can make it a last-minute gift for the literary subversive in your life, or just enjoy the reviews for review’s sake.

We begin with an audio interview with best-selling author Carrie Vaughn, whose new novel, Kitty Steals the Show, would make the perfect stocking stuffer for the lycanthrope lover on your list.

Unsettling Chapters: Pseudopod

The apocryphal saying goes, “May you live in interesting times.” Indeed, the publishing world is in something of a fugue state these days (or should we say the past decade).

But rather than a curse, I consider it a good thing. I’ve found that I prefer reading magazines and newspaper articles on my Nook.

Programs and Web sites like Calibre, Byliner and Instapaper have made long-form journalism accessible to wider audiences, and audio books and podcasts have opened up new literary avenues for both writers and readers.

The latter, in particular, have made it possible to “read” while driving or drifting to sleep.

And when it comes to audio horror, Pseudopod stands head and tentacles above the rest.

Launched in 2006, Pseudopod recently broadcast its 300th episode… and the body count continues to rise. Featuring weekly short stories from contemporary horror authors, occasional flash pieces and periodic classics, the podcast has something for everyone.

There are brilliant tales of ultraviolent, existential horror (“Counting From Ten,” “The Duel”); grim philosophy (“Some Things Don’t Wash Off,” “What Dead People Are Supposed to Do”); dark fantasy (“Goon Job,” “Full Moon Over 1600”); adventure, both internal and external (“The Primakov,” “The Greatest Adventure of All”); and Lovecraftian weird (“Hometown Horrible,” “Jihad Over Innsmouth”).

Those are only 10 of the 300-plus stories Pseudopod has produced, and the chills keep coming. Former editors Mur Lafferty and Ben Phillips seem like old friends, and host (and an initial contributor) Alasdair Stuart is in the class of Rod Sterling and Jack Palance. I’m awed, weekly, by his haunting delivery and thoughtful post-story editorials. Even when the featured story is so-so, Stuart’s commentary alone is worth the listen.

The podcast is free, and may be downloaded through a program such as iTunes. You can also access the entire archive of stories at the Web site.

Despite being free, Pseudopod is a professional, paying market, and it runs on donations from listeners. My suggestion, especially if you’re new to the program, is to order the archive discs (which also make great gifts). Sure, I’ve got my favorite episodes on my computer, but by purchasing the discs, I have a permanent hard copy and have supported a great cause at the same time.

Other must-listen stories include “Raising Eddie,” “Bag Man” and “The Hand You’re Dealt.” But with a few hundred stories to choose from, this podcast has something for everyone’s Halloween hit list.