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
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.
'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.
With Jeff VanderMeer : NPR Correspondent Rick Kleffel on Books, Insomnia,
and The Agony Column
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
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
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
at the Edges
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
MP3 podcast of part 2 of my interview via this link.
07-29-08: A 2008 Interview with Nathaniel Rich, Part 1
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
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
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.