Tune in to 89.1 FM on October 22 at 7 p.m. for KUAR’s Arts & Letters Radio show featuring UCA Creative Writing Professor Mark Spitzer and the very elusive American Eel.
Based on a chapter from Spitzer’s 2017 environmental non-fiction book Beautifully Grotesque Fish of the American West, published by the University of Nebraska Press, this upcoming radio show highlights a mysterious squishy and wavy fish that exists among us. , although they are rarely seen or never taken.
The 52-minute episode, “A Phantom (in Your Own Backyard),” produced for NPR member station KUAR, highlights Spitzer’s experience tracking and sampling eels in downtown Arkansas. With the help of biologist Casey Cox and his fishing buddy Scotty “Goggle Eye” Lewis, who are interviewed and appear in the episode, Spitzer studies the fascinating folklore, history and science of Anguilla rostrata. It also makes him a pet, which doesn’t work well.
Spitzer, who appeared in various episodes of Animal Planet’s River Monsters series, has published thirty books, two of them dealing specifically with gar species and two dealing with the concept of “monster fish.” As fishing celebrity Zeb Hogan, host of National Geographic’s Monster Fish series, noted, Spitzer tells us “about a fish in trouble and why we should care.”
This newly produced radio show, hosted and edited by J. Bradley Minnick with assistance from Arts & Letters Radio producer Mary Ellen Kubit, will take listeners on an action-packed journey from the Sargasso Sea to the River Ouachita, where Spitzer battles a ferocious eel of indescribable proportions. Both the angler and the eel are injured in the process, resulting in an epic fish battle to spark the imagination.
As noted in a recent review from Publisher’s Weekly, “Spitzer also provides philosophical reflections on the threats facing the ecosystem and the challenge for humanity to live alongside other animals ‘conflict free’. It’s the juxtaposition of Spitzer’s thoughtful and adventurous sides that sets his book apart, creating a powerful blend of entertaining wildlife getaway and touching environmental advocacy, ”qualities that are clearly echoed in this highly anticipated episode of ‘Arts & Letters.
The original music and soundscapes are by Amyjo Savannah, Silas Hite, Project Parallel, and The Satin Cowboy & The Seven Deadly Sins. The show will be rebroadcast on Sunday, October 24 at 9:00 p.m. Following this broadcast, the Arts & Letters podcast is available online at artsetlettresradio.org, iTunes, the NPR Podcast page, Google Podcast, iHeart Radio and other podcast platforms.
Arts & Letters Radio is an educational program that strives to enlighten its audiences and is dedicated to showcasing aspects of the humanities and literary arts in Arkansas and beyond. The upcoming program was made possible through a grant from the Arkansas Humanities Council and the National Endowment for the Humanities. For more information, contact J. Bradley Minnick at (915) 433-3140 or [email protected]