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This Just In...News From The Agony Column


08-01-08: Agony Column Podcast News Report : Barbara Ehrenreich Knows 'This Land is Their Land' ; Amazon Interview With Jeff VanderMeer : NPR Correspondent Rick Kleffel on Books, Insomnia, and The Agony Column

Reports From a Divided Nation

It sure as hell ain't yours or mine.

'This Land Is Their Land' (Metropolitan / Henry Holt ; June 24, 2008 ; 424) by Barbara Ehrenreich is a crafty collection of bitter pills that are easy to read, but hard to swallow. Ehrenreich is a skilled essayist who has been given the greatest gift that any writer in her format can ask for – bad news, lots of it, across all spectrums of life. Just look around and you can see a mismanaged war, a plummeting economy, a widening income gap – injustice on an epic scale. The degree of our distress makes it difficult to comprehend and unfortunately easy to ignore. Ehrenreich's talent is for slicing and dicing a world full of "interesting times" into bit and pieces we can read, laugh at – and eventually, understand in an intuitive manner; "grok," as Robert Heinlein would say.

Barbara Ehrenreich.

'This Land Is Their Land' is a series of reports from the front lines of an undeclared economic war that pits a few powerful corporations and individuals against not just the poor, as was once the case, but pretty much everyone else, including some who would probably like to think of themselves as firmly lodged between the middle class and the mildly affluent. But as the recent mortgage crisis has shown us, it's not just the working poor who have to worry. You can own what you think is a half-million dollar house one day and find yourself homeless and trapped in debt the next. Ehrenreich's essays take the readers to the front lines of an unprecedented transfer of wealth from the bottom and the middle to the top.

What distinguishes her work is her ability to find specific stories that reflect a larger picture and then to craft a work that is humorous and economically, at least, horrific in the same sentence. Ehrenreich is a skilled humorist, and that quality is required in order to make the bitter pills of truth she has to offer more palatable. You'll hear ample evidence of her sense of both truth and humor in today's podcast, available via this link. My inclination is to savor the humor and the skill, to laugh while you can. Because once the facts start to seep into your reality, they may be delivered in large, red envelopes.

Amazon Interview With Jeff VanderMeer : NPR Correspondent Rick Kleffel on Books, Insomnia, and The Agony Column

From the web page.

Recently, I was interviewed by Jeff VanderMeer for his blog over at Amazon's Omnivoracious. Those wishing to get a peek behind the scenes of this web stie might want to follow this link and join me in sleepless agony.


07-31-08: Agony Column Podcast News Report : Charles Stross Vs Geekspeak

'Saturn's (Sexless) Children'

Picture box verbiage.

Before we went live on the air with Charlie Stross, Lyle Troxell, and Sean Cleveland, my producer at KUSP, J. D. Hillard, and I had a nice little round-table where we talked about what ... we couldnt talk about on the radio. We worked through the seven words (Shit, Piss, Fuck, Cunt, Cocksucker, Motherfucker, and Tits), and then the phrases and implying words. Charlie was originally of the opinion that we couldn't say anything about 'Saturn's Children', because it is, after all, a novel drenched in sex even though humans are off-stage.

Lyle Troxell, Charlies Stross, Yours Truly and Sean Cleveland.

Then we got into the studio and started talking. Afterwards, none of us could really believe that we spent most of the hour on 'Saturn's Children' and never even mentioned sex, or had any run-ins with the sort of language that could get us an expensive FCC fine. They run on the order of $25K, which say, Yours Truly, would have to pay out of pocket. I've already had my glancing blow with fate, when I left a "bullshit" in the broadcast version of an interview with James P. Othmer. It was purely an accident, and fortuitously for me, nobody noticed. I trust that my listeners will notice the podcast interview with Charlie Stross instead. I love these interviews with science fiction writers for GeekSpeak; its an opportunity to work in a very different format. I just wish wed get more calls, but one must build an audience, and that's what were trying to do. One interview(ee) and three or more interviewers at a time.


07-30-08: A 2008 Interview with Nathaniel Rich, Part 2

Reality Frayed at the Edges

A memorable language.

Today's podcast is the second part of my conversation with Nathaniel Rich, author of 'The Mayor's Tongue'. This portion of the interview focuses on that novel, which is a sublime mix of the surreal, the comedic, the literary and the fantastic. To my mind, it is a book tailor-made for readers of this column, and as you hear him speak about it, I think you'll agree. Moreover his forthcoming work sounds equally perfect, with just a hint of the Apocalypse. Rich is the sort of author who will always be exploring the frayed edges of reality, which we hope will remain stable as you download the MP3 podcast of part 2 of my interview via this link.


07-29-08: A 2008 Interview with Nathaniel Rich, Part 1

San Francisco Noirs

Nathaniel Rich © Mark Schäfer. Shamelessly ...

Yes, I am damnably slow sometime at getting material through the pipeline. But as I edited and listened to my conversation earlier this year with Nathaniel Rich, I realized just how smart he was and once again was able to live in the world of his novel, 'The Mayor's Tongue'. Here's how I find out whether or not a book really stands the test of time for me; the question is, can I go back and visit the places and scenes described in the book in my mind?

As I listened to my chat with the intelligent and witty Rich, the whole book unfolded easily, naturally, and I was thrust into the cramped apartment with Eugene and Alvaro speaking the incomprehensible Cibaeño dialect, with Rutherford and Schmitz on a park bench in the warm NY sunshine, in the weird borderland forest between Italy and Slovenia, in the cramped library full of manuscripts by Constance Eakins.

Rich is a wonderful fabulist and a careful thinker, as well as the editor of the Paris Review. He has a lot to say, so I've split the interview into two parts. Here's the link to the podcast MP3 of the first part of the interview, which is prefaced with a two-minute reading from the book. In the first part of the interview, we talk about his literary and movie-oriented childhood (he's the son of two publishing professionals), his days in Yale (apparently its a good place to learn binge drinking), how he got into the Paris Review and his time writing 'San Francisco Noir'.


07-28-08 Update: Charles Stross Interviewed Live In-Studio on KUSP

Call-In or Email Your Questions

A tale of two books.

Tomorrow morning, between 10 AM PDT and 11 AM PDT, you can join in the GeekSpeak KUSP live radio interview with Charles Stross featuring the Geeks Lyle Troxell and Sean Cleveland as well as yours truly, Rick Kleffel; simply email me your questions, or phone in at 1-800-655-5877. We'll be talking with Charlie about his latest novel, 'Saturn's Children', a novel that clearly offers some divergent pleasures. There are the usual Strossian riffs of invention; he seems to spin out a new one on about every page, and this novel is no exception. There are fascinating takes on, say, Space Travel comma How Humans Are Quite Unsuited For It. This might be deducible from the UK cover art. The US cover art raises rather different expectations. And they dont waste any time in the jacket flap verbiage either. I suspect most readers' brains are going to get hung up on the word Fembot, and well they should; Freya Nakamachi-47, the Fembot on the cover of the US version is one of the last of her kind. With humanity, her one true love gone, Freya finds herself deep in a gravity well until an out presents itself. As opportunities go, however, it's probably not the type she'd prefer to have come knocking. This is your opportunity to talk to Charles Stross; send an email, give us a call, and listen live to KUSP tomorrow, Tuesday, July 29 between 10 AM PDT and 11 AM PDT. We may not see you but we certainly hope to hear (from) you!


07-28-08: Agony Column Podcast News Report : Jeremy Lassen at Comicon 2008

Fifteen Years

In the interest of keeping things sort of timely, today's podcast is Jeremy Lassen's on-scene report from Comicon 2008. You will not hear breathless reportage about how bitchin' this year's or next year's superhero movie is (or isnt) going to be. You will not hear reports from panels where Hollywood stars and producers promote a product that has a budget large enough to feed all the inhabitants of a starving nation for a few weeks. You will hear an experienced Comicon native, who's been attending for more than fifteen years, talk about his personal history with the show, how it's changed, and in particular, about the newish presence of no-pitchers-type book publishers here. They gots to go where the money is, to be sure, but they also gots to go where tomorrow's audience for written science fiction is hanging out. Strange as it may seem, Comicon is not a harbinger of the reading apocalypse, but rather, an encouraging sign that there is still hope out there. Here's a link to Lassen's informed commentary.


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