05-22-09 :Agony Column Podcast News Report — Three Books with Alan Cheuse
by Stephen Baxter
Do Not Deny Me by Jean Thompson
Into the Beautiful North
by Luis Alberto Urrea
Books have no borders, no boundaries, no matter how much booksellers demand lines of demarcation. The upshot of this is that you will find great reading in a variety of titles and genres, shelved everywhere in the store. Here to help you sort it all out is Alan Cheuse of NPR's All Things Considered. Today he and I talk about three very different books, that have but one thing in common. They're worth your valuable time and money.
I have to admit that I was quite happy when Alan Cheuse asked me about 'Flood' by Stephen Baxter. He'd seen my write up, and was hoping to score a copy, which I was happy to help him do. Now, it ends up in Three Books, alongside the latest by Luis Alberto Urrea, 'Into the Beautiful North' and 'Do Not Deny Me', a collection of short stories by Jean Thompson. I'm connected to both of the other books as well; I'm pretty sure, at least that my one-time colleague from KUSP, Jenn Ramage, interviewed him. And the Agony Column's Kathryn Petruccelli interviewed Jean Thompson a couple of years back. Now you can hear my conversation with Alan Cheuse about these three books by following this link to the MP3 file.
05-21-09 :Agony Column Podcast News Report — Will Schwalbe and Cookstr : Smart and Simple
I admit it; I'm a totally hypocritical cooking geek. I love to cook, and do so in an extremely obsessed manner, starting a dinner that will take about 40 minutes cooking and prep time four hours beforehand. You'd think, then, that I would gravitate towards complicated recipes. But no, I'm a completely lazy bum when it comes to cooking as well as a maniac. I see too many ingredients in a recipe, I turn the page. Or click the mouse.
And should I click the mouse, the place I'd like to go is cookstr. Will Schwalbe seems to have read my mind when it comes to cooking sites. First and foremost, while there are ads, they don't hover like flies over the page. And the layout is such that they recipes are a pleasure to read. There's a Print button that works as I want it to, formatting things for easy printout on regular paper. The site loads fast and it’s well organized. Even the URLs are eminently sensible and elegant.
But all that would be for nought if the recipes weren't both delicious and eminently cookable. Schwalbe, who once ran Hyperion Books and helped to publish a fair number of cookbooks, has assembled recipes that you both can and will want to cook. Pizza Rustica, for example, is not pizza as you know it; it’s so much better. And today's recipe, for example, chicken with Balsamic vinegar, simple, elegant and delicious. THe most important work for the site, though, is the stuff you'll never see, the care indexing that makes the search function here incredibly powerful. You want more? Follow the link to my interview with Will Schwalbe.
05-20-09 :Agony Column Podcast News Report : Heather Shaw Reads at SF in SF on May 16, 2009: "Little M@tch Girl"
I've spoken to writers published in just about every format I can imagine; paperback, chap books, Internet web sites, hardcover and softcover books of all sizes and shapes. But until Saturday night, I'd never spoken to a writer published in a browser extension.
Heather Shaw is the editor of 'Flytrap', and one of the authors published in 'Tumbrarumba', which calls itself, "A frolic of intrustions." It's a Firefox extension that at it's own unknowable whim, shows you stories, one of which is 'Little M@tch Girl' by Heather Shaw. This story fits into a sub-genre that I love, "the drug story." I find drug stories utterly terrifying, and extremely creepy, as well as just generally enjoyable. 'Little M@tch Girl' is no exception, and you can hear Heather Shaw read it by following this link to the audio MP3 file. Your reality is about to shift.
05-19-09 :Agony Column Podcast News Report : Richard Kadrey Reads at SF in SF on May 16, 2009: "Hit man from hell"
It is a beautiful Saturday morning in Northern California, and I'm getting ready to had out to San Francisco to record Richard Kadrey and Heather Shaw for SF in SF. Tonight, we've got Richard Kadrey reading, and I'm sort of hoping that he'll read from his new novel 'Sandman Slim,' a rockin' story about escaping from Hell.
Kadrey's one of those writers who fits into the long-distance sniper fiction category, showing up in the nick of time with a novel that seems to perfectly capture the zeitgeist and serve it up straight, prose-whiskey style. But the sparseness of his contributions to the novel category belie the incredible output across the whole range of writing, from short stories to reportage to ranting to, well you name it. Once you get beyond novels, he's like a man with three or four automatic prose-spewing weapons, taking no prisoners but hitting every target with perfect accuracy; even as he's inventing the targets to hit. You can hear his reading by following this link to the MP3 audio file.
05-18-09 :A 2009 Interview With Mark Arax: "The process of objectivity is becoming subjective"
You might think that if, for example, you own a house, you own the land. That's never the case. The land owns us. The places we live shape us, shake us, take us apart and put us back together as different and not always better people. The relationships between people and the places they find themselves living are complicated and contradictory. Exploring that relationship in prose is a difficult proposition. Trying to get at the truth, the facts leads one to the lies and deceptions, and further leads, one to lie and deceive one's self as well as one's audience.
Mark Arax is anything but dispassionate. I sat down with him in the office of the Capitola Book Café to talk about 'West of the West,' and discovered a journalist who had the prose eye of a novelist. As a writer, Arax expands the toolkit of the journalist to the entire literary spectrum. He explores his imagination as easily as he explores the landscape, and he converses with his own life and memories as smoothly as he speaks with the disparate cast of immigrants, refugees, conmen, blowhards and relatives that we met in his essays. There's no easy way to summarize what Arax does. He's a writer who takes in the world in whole cloth, with the lies and deceptions we tell ourselves and one another as well as the splendid visions that are right there, in front of our eyes. Mostly, 'West of West' is a riveting reading experience. You may or may not feel like you've been to California afterwards, but you'll know you've been someplace real, in the way that your memories and dreams are real. Listen to the man; follow this link to the MP3 file of our conversation, which will be a good start for your journey into his book.
05-04-13: Commentary : Reasons Not to Leave the House, Reality Check : The Truth Hurts Edition: 'Down the Up Escalator' by Barbara Garson, 'The Wolf and the Watchman' by Scott C. Johnson,'The Book of Woe' by Gary Greenberg, 'Confessions of a Sociopath' by M. E. Thomas