Tune in to 89.1 FM on Oct. 22 at 7:00 p.m. for KUAR’s radio program Arts & Letters Radio featuring UCA creative writing professor Mark Spitzer and the highly elusive American eel.

Based on a chapter from Spitzer’s 2017 environmental nonfiction book Beautifully Grotesque Fish of the American West, published by the University of Nebraska Press, this forthcoming radio broadcast spotlights a slimy, squiggly, mystery fish that exists in our midst, though they’re rarely seen or ever caught. 

The 52-minute episode, “A Phantom (in Your Own Backyard),” produced for NPR-member station KUAR, highlights Spitzer’s experience stalking and sampling eels in Central Arkansas. With assistance from biologist Casey Cox and 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. He also makes a pet of one, which does not work out well. 

Spitzer, who has been on various episodes of Animal Planet’s River Monsters series, has published thirty books, two of them having to do with gar species specifically and two concerning the concept of “monster fish.” As fishing celebrity Zeb Hogan, host of National Geographic’s Monster Fish series has remarked, Spitzer teaches us “about a fish that’s in trouble and explains to us 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 Ouachita River, where Spitzer wrestles a ferocious eel of unspeakable proportions. Both angler and eel are injured in the process, making for an epic fish battle to excite the imagination. 

As noted in a recent review from Publisher’s Weekly, “Spitzer also provides philosophical musings on threats facing the ecosystem and on humankind’s challenge of living alongside other animals ‘conflict-free.’ It’s the juxtaposition of Spitzer’s thoughtful and adventurous sides that sets his book apart, making for a powerful mixture of entertaining wildlife jaunt and moving environmental advocacy,” qualities clearly echoed in this highly awaited Arts & Letters episode. 

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 that broadcast, the Arts & Letters podcast can be accessed online at artsandlettersradio.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 audience 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 501-916-6400 or jbminnick@ualr.edu.

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