Columbus Neighborhoods: Columbus’ Literary Scene


MUSIC>>>TUCKED AWAY ON THE SOUTH SIDE OF COLUMBUS IS THE TWO DOLLAR RADIO HEADQUARTERS AN INDEPENDENT BOOKSTORE, EVENT SPACE, BAR, AND CAFE SERVING A PLANT BASED MENU, LOCALLY BREWED COFFEE, AND CRAFT DRINKS. IN THIS COLLABORATIVE MEETING SPACE, HUSBAND AND WIFE TEAM ERIC OBENAUF AND ELIZA WOOD-OBENAUF CREATE AN INSPIRING ATMOSPHERE TO CULTIVATE A PASSION FOR LITERATURE ALL WHILE OPERATING THEIR PUBLISHING COMPANY IN THE BACK. IT’S THE PERFECT PLACE TO MEET AND TALK ABOUT THE LOCAL LITERARY SCENE WITH OWNER ERIC AND THE EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR OF OHIOANA, DAVID WEAVER.>>WELL, FIRST THING I WANTED TO ASK BOTH OF YOU, I’M SURE THERE WERE SOME EARLY INFLUENCES ON YOU. SO, WO WERE SOME OF THE AUTHORS? WHAT WERE YOU READING WHEN YOU WERE YOUNGER THAT SPARKED YOUR INTEREST IN LITERATURE?>>FOR ME, IT REALLY IS — IT ISN’T A REAL AUTHOR, VICTOR APPLETON WHO WAS A CONGLOMERATION OF MANY DIFFERENT AUTHORS HIRED BY EDWARD STRATEMEYER WHO ALSO CREATED CAROLYN KEANE TO WRITE THE “NANCY DREW” MYSTERIES. AND I LOVE TOM SWIFT. SO, “TOM SWIFT AND HIS FLYING LAB,” “TOM SWIFT AND HIS ULTRASONIC CYCLOPLANE.” AND THEN I ALSO LOVED READING BIOGRAPHIES WHICH IS MAYBE WHY I ULTIMATELY, YOU KNOW, WROTE A BIOGRAPHY MYSELF. I JUST LOVED TO READ BIOS YOU KNOW AS A KID, SO I LOVED THE LANDMARK SERIES OF BOOKS ABOUT FAMOUS PEOPLE LIKE LINCOLN AND EISENHOWER ETC. SO, THOSE ARE MY EARLY LITERARY INFLUENCES.>>AND ERIC, WHAT ABOUT YOU?>>MY FORMATIVE READING YEARS WERE MOSTLY LIKE IN MY EARLY TWENTIES. AND THERE WAS A BOOK, JONATHAN LETHEM’S “AS SHE CLIMBED ACROSS THE TABLE” AND IT’S ABOUT A WOMAN WHO FALLS IN LOVE WITH A BLACK HOLE, KIND OF LIKE B SCI-FI PLOT THERE. BUT, IT’S LITERARY. IT’S REALLY INVENTIVE AND CREATIVE. AND I LOVE THAT.>>WHO WERE SOME OF THE EARLY AUTHORS IN COLUMBUS, DAVID?>>IF YOU’RE TALKING THE EARLY PART OF THE 20TH CENTURY, OUR FIRST VERY WELL KNOWN AUTHOR WAS O. HENRY, WILLIAM SIDNEY PORTER WHO WAS KIND OF LIKE AN INVOLUNTARY COLUMBUSITE BECAUSE HE WAS IN THE STATE PENITENTIARY. AND HE WAS SERVING A TERM FOR EMBEZZLEMENT, STARTING WRITING STORIES. USED A DIFFERENT PEN NAMES, VERY SET TIMES. HE DIDN’T WANT TO USE HIS REAL NAME OF WILLIAM SIDNEY PORTER AND ULTIMATELY CAME UP WITH THE MONIKER O. HENRY WHICH ACTUALLY WENT FROM OH FROM OHIO, PENITENTIARY, ENRY. SO, O. HENRY CAME OUT OF THE WORDS OHIO PENITENTIARY, SO OF COURSE “GIFT OF THE MAGI” AND OTHER THINGS MADE HIM WORLD FAMOUS. AND LATER ON CAME ANOTHER PERSON WHO ACTUALLY SERVED A PRISON TERM, CHESTER HIMES, ONE OF THE GREAT AFRICAN-AMERICAN WRITERS WHO CREATED THE HARLEM DETECTIVE STORIES, “COTTON COMES TO HARLEM.” AND BECAME A CLOSE FRIEND OF LANGSTON HUGHES AND WAS ONE OF THE INFLUENTIAL VOICES, YOU KNOW, OF THE HARLEM RENAISSANCE. SO, THAT’S KIND OF LIKE THE EARLY PART OF THE CENTURY. AND OF COURSE EVERYONE KNOWNS JAMES THURBER, OUR MOST FAMOUS LUMINARY CITIZEN OF COLUMBUS. BUT, A LOT OF PEOPLE DON’T KNOW THE NAME DONALD OGDEN STEWART WHO WAS BORN 12 DAYS AND SEVERAL BLOCKS AWAY FROM THURBER AND BECAME ONE OF THE GREAT HOLLYWOOD WRITERS AND WON THE ACADEMY AWARD FOR “THE PHILADELPHIA STORY.” UNFORTUNATELY HIS CAREER CAME TO PREMATURE END WHEN HE WAS BLACKLISTED IN THE RED SCARE OF THE 1940s AND ’50s, SO HE ENDED UP MOVING TO EUROPE AND LIVED THERE THE REST OF HIS LIFE. AND WHEN YOU GO DOWN THE LINE, YOU SEE PEOPLE WHO CAME HERE SPECIFICALLY TO OHIO STATE LIKE JEROME LAWRENCE, WHO LATER TEAMED UP WITH BOB LEE AND WROTE “INHERIT THE WIND” AND “AUNTIE MAME.” AND ALL THE WAY DOWN TO THE PRESENT WHERE SO MANY YOUNG EXCITING WRITERS NOW ARE LIVING AND WORKING HERE RIGHT NOW.>>THE OHIOANA LIBRARY HAS PRESERVED A LOT OF THIS AND MORE. GIVE ME THE THUMBNAIL HISTORY OF THE ORGANIZATION AND WHAT IS YOUR MISSION.>>WELL, OHIOANA WAS CREATED BY OHIO FIRST LADY MARTHA KINNEY COOPER IN 1929. SO, NEXT YEAR IN 2019 WILL BE OUR 90TH ANNIVERSARY. AND IT WAS BECAUSE SHE FELT THERE SHOULD BE A COLLECTION OF BOOKS IN THE GOVERNOR’S MANSION BY OHIO AUTHORS OR ON OHIO SUBJECTS. FROM THAT SIMPLE CONCEPT THEN OHIOANA WAS BORN. AND TO THIS DAY, 90 YEARS LATER, OUR MISSION IS TO COLLECT, PRESERVE, AND CELEBRATE OHIO LITERATURE.>>AND, WELL I THINK THAT’S SOMETHING ERIC IS PROBABLY FAMILIAR WITH. YOU DEAL WITH A LOT OF LOCAL WRITERS. AND MANY OF THEM YOUNG, MANY OF THEM FIRST-TIMERS. BUT, TELL ME WHAT ELSE YOU PROMOTE HERE AT THE TWO DOLLAR RADIO CAFE.>>WELL, IN TERMS OF THE PRESS, WE ACTUALLY JUST MOST RECENTLY PUBLISHED A WRITER FROM COLUMBUS WHICH IS THE FIRST TIME WE PUBLISH A WRITER FROM COLUMBUS AND THAT WAS HANIF ABDURRAQIB. WE PUBLISHED HIS ESSAY COLLECTION “THEY CAN’T KILL US UNTIL THEY KILL US.” AND SO, FOR US TO HAVE THAT SORT OF LIKE DIRECT INTERACTION WITH A WRITER LOCALLY WHERE YOU’RE NOT JUST SENDING EMAILS, OR SKYPING, OR TALKING ON THE PHONE ABOUT THE PLANS FOR THE BOOK OR BRINGING THE BOOK INTO THE WORLD, BUT ABLE TO ACTUALLY DO THAT IN PERSON WAS REALLY SPECIAL. AND THEN, IN TERMS OF HOW WE WENT ABOUT IMAGINING THIS SPACE, THE STORE CAFE, WE WERE FEELING A LITTLE DETACHED I GUESS FROM LIKE THE LITERARY COMMUNITY IN TOWN WHICH CAN HAPPEN WHEN A LOT OF YOUR WORK IS ON YOUR LAPTOP OR IPAD. AND SO, WE WERE DEFINITELY WANTING MORE OF THAT SOCIAL INTERACTION WITH PEOPLE TO TALK ABOUT BOOKS AND LITERATURE, AND WHAT’S EFFECTING US IN OUR COMMUNITY AND THINGS LIKE THAT
. SO, THAT’S HOW THIS STORE KIND OF GREW OUT OF THERE, SO WE HAVE BEEN PRETTY FORTUNATE TO HOST A LOT OF LOCAL WRITERS AND ALSO THEN WRITERS WHO ARE PASSING THROUGH.>>ERIC HAS ACTUALLY INTRODUCED OHIOANA TO SOME WRITERS WHO WERE NOT ON OUR RADAR SCREEN, SO THAT’S ONE OF THE GREAT THINGS ABOUT SOMETHING LIKE WHAT HE DOES BECAUSE WE BECOME OF AWARE OF WRITERS THAT WE MIGHT NOT OTHERWISE HAVE GOTTEN AWARE OF HAD IT NOT BEEN THE FACT THAT, YOU KNOW, HAD APPEARED OVER AT TWO DOLLAR RADIO.>>I WAS WONDERING TOO HOW HAVE YOU SEEN THE COLUMBUS LITERARY SCENE CHANGING?>>IN THE TIME THAT I’VE BEEN AT OHIOANA WHICH HAS BEEN SINCE 2005. OF COURSE WHEN I FIRST CAME, THE BIG THING WAS OH, WHAT’S GONNA HAPPEN WITH THINGS LIKE AMAZON.COM, THE KINDLE AND EVERYTHING THAT MADE YOU KNOW THAT PRINT BOOK WILL BE DEAD. IT’S NOT. PEOPLE STILL LOVE TO HOLD THAT TACTILE, YOU KNOW, OBJECT IN THEIR HAND. AND PEOPLE STILL LIKE TO GET TOGETHER AND TALK ABOUT BOOKS. I ACTUALLY HEARD THE PERSON WHO WAS THE HEAD OF “PUBLISHER’S WEEKLY” SAY ONE TIME WHEN HE WAS TALKING ABOUT THE EFFECTS OF TECHNOLOGY, AND HE SAID “REMEMBER IN THE END, WE’RE TALKING ABOUT STORIES. AND STORYTELLING. STORIES AND STORYTELLING ARE ANCIENT. WE’VE ALWAYS HAD STORIES. THE MEDIUM BY WHICH WE’VE DELIVERED STORIES HAS CHANGED, BUT WE WILL ALWAYS HAVE STORIES AND WE WILL ALWAYS NEED STORYTELLERS.”>>SO, WHERE ARE WE GOING AS FAR AS LITERATURE IN THIS COMMUNITY? AND NATIONALLY, EITHER WAY?>>IT’S ALWAYS EXCITING TO FIND A NEW VOICE, NEW TALENT LIKE HANIF A ND IT DOESN’T NECESSARILY HAVE TO BE SOMEBODY WHO WRITES FICTION. I MEAN, YOU KNOW THERE’S A WONDERFUL POET, RUTHA WAD WHO HAS BEEN HERE. SO, IT’S ALWAYS WONDERFUL TO SEE NEW VOICES AND THAT WILL BRING IN NEW READERS AS WELL AS EXCITING YOU KNOW PEOPLE WHO ARE ALREADY OUT THERE READING. AND IT IS WONDERFUL THAT SO MANY WRITERS ARE CHOOSING TO MAKE COLUMBUS THEIR HOME AND THEIR BASE OF OPERATION.>>AND IT’S ALL BECAUSE OF THE TWO DOLLAR RADIO. [ LAUGHTER ]>>WELL, I THINK A LOT OF IT IS TOO IS LIKE PEOPLE LIKE HANIF WHO ARE WILLING TO SAY LIKE I LOVE COLUMBUS, I WANT TO BE IN COLUMBUS. AND THEN WITH US LIKE SAYING THAT TOO. LIKE COLUMBUS IS PART OF WHO WE ARE, LIKE YOU KNOW PUTTING IT ON OUR COFFEE CUPS AND STUFF LIKE THAT. AND I THINK THERE’S A REAL POSITIVE ENERGY IN COLUMBUS, LIKE A POSITIVE SPIRIT IN COLUMBUS THAT AS PEOPLE AND GROUPS ARE SAYING LIKE IT’S OK TO BE FROM FLYOVER COUNTRY OR WHATEVER THEN THERE’S LESS OF A STIGMA AGAINST COMING TO COLUMBUS FOR WHATEVER REASON.>>WELL, IT’S BEEN WONDERFUL TALKING TO BOTH OF YOU AND I WILL BE SEEING BOTH OF YOU AGAIN. THANK YOU FOR THE HOSPITALITY.>>THANK YOU.>>THANK YOU CHARLENE.>>YEAH, APPRECIATE IT.

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