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06-05-09 : Agony Column Podcast News Report — The BEA with Alan Cheuse : The Death of the Book and Other Bodily Parts

Who do you want to give you the lowdown on the BEA? Well, let me suggest NPR's Alan Cheuse, who returns from the premiere Book conference with a report on lines, the bikini models, grumbling publishers and the oft-reported death of the book.

If you want to get more than a rundown on titles, Alan Cheuse is the guy to ask. In our conversation about Book Expo America 2009, he gets to the all important ambiance of the affair, the feel of the booths (not the bikini models, that's the kind of reporting I specialize in!), the talk on the floor about attendance and most importantly, we get right to the point. Because we used to just have to talk about the death of the novel, which has been right around the corner pretty much since novels were first invented. Of course like any apocalypse, if it has arrived, we've just not noticed. And the predictions get more extravagantly entertaining every damn year. Let Alan Cheuse show you what literary entertainment really means by following this link to the MP3 audio file.

06-04-09 : Agony Column Podcast News Report : Richard Kadrey Interviewed at SF in SF on May 16, 2009 :

"What I realized I had to do for this character is throw out everything"

When you read a book, or hear an author read; for example, Richard Kadrey, reading from 'Sandman Slim,' you hear or read the finished product and forget that it was not always that way. Readers suffer from the tunnel-vision of polished prose.

Moreover, as readers we sort-of presume, when we even think about such things, that characters were always intended to be as we find them, that plots emerged with complete perfection from the author's mind the first around, that the book we get is the book the author thought they were going to write. But as Richard Kadrey tells us in the MP3 audio file linked here, he had to wrench things around to get his character to work in 'Sandman Slim.' Kadrey developed a sophisticated system of magic to work in the novel, and we're not just talking about the prose here, which I thought did an admirable job of creating a good feel for the grungy underbelly of Hollywood.

06-03-09 : Agony Column Podcast News Report : A Look at Ramayana from Mount Madonna School : Epics and Students

Student life seems truly epic — to the students! But at Mount Madonona School, students find themselves immersed in an actual epic, in this case, Ramayana (rah-MY-a-na), a 2600 year-old Hindu epic in which Prince Ram is tested. And not in math, social studies and the sciences!

On the final segment of the last Talk of the Bay I hosted (May 24, 2009), I spoke with Leah Nasciemento, Camille Schwartz and Trevor Forry about their roles in Ramayana, a four-plus hour production that's been running for some thirty, count 'em THIRTY years. Camille wears nine (I think) heads and Trevor gets painted blue a la Goldfinger, only, yes, blue. Finding out about the epic itself was pretty epic, as was finding out how a 2600 year-old poem of more than 50,000 lines gets turned into a costumed extravaganza. I waited to run this podcast because, as you can find out from this link to their website (, the Ramayana runs this weekend, June 5, 6 and 7. The link above will tell you how to go; follow this link to the audio interview and find out why to go!

  Heather Shaw
06-02-09 : Agony Column Podcast News Report : Heather Shaw Interviewed at SF in SF on May 16, 2009 : Flytrap

One of the wonders of SF in SF is hearing a story out of the blue, something powerful and amazing like Heather Shaw's 'Little M@tch Girl'. () And it gets tough, really, determining just what the best part of the experience is; hearing the story or hearing the story of the story.

Heather Shaw's story was really quite striking. But she's much more than a short story writer. Like most of America, she is working on a novel, which, we trust will be just as striking. But she's also an editor for 'Flytrap' and married to Tim Pratt. I talked with her in our interview at SF in SF about all this and more.

06-01-09 : A 2009 Interview with Colson Whitehead : Live at KUSP

Rick Kleffel and Colson Whitehead at KUSP Studios, Santa Cruz, CA

Every interview is done live, in a sense. Even a phone interview happens in that time as two people talk. But there's nothing like a live, on-air interview to cure what ails you, if what ails you happens to be that sense of security you get when you or a guest uses one of the Seven Words and you know you can "fix it in the mix."

You can also whether any number of interruptions, just hit pause, then talk to the person hovering outside the window, then go back to your interview. But when you’re live, on the air, you have none of those refuges. On the other hand, when you’re done, you're done. I had Colson Whitehead into the studio a couple of weeks ago when he 2was in town to talk about his new memoir, 'Sag Harbor.' I've spoken with Whitehead before, and he's a great interview. This time was no different, well, only a little different, in that I was running a live show before another live show, which was being hosted, as it happened by someone other than the usual host, who would be running the broad for the new host. What this adds up to is a lot of distraction on the other side of the glass that was not apparent to either Colson or the listening audience. It almost begins to see like an I Love Lucy or Three Stooges skit with frantic gestures being made in my direction and me responding with a lifted eyebrow. You can hear my conversation with Whitehead about his fascinating writing process, a hybrid, I would say, of the outline versus organic, by following this link to the MP3 audio file.

New to the Agony Column

09-30-14: Commentary : Rebecca Alexander Will 'Not Fade Away' : A Memoir of Senses Lost and Found

Agony Column Podcast News Report : A 2014 Interview with Rebecca Alexander : " your hands are, and their arms are, engaged in this poetic dance..."

09-28-14:Agony Column Podcast News Report UPDATE: Time to Read Episode 175: Rebecca Alexander : Not Fade Away: A Memoir of Senses Lost and Found

09-23-14: Commentary : Lauren Beukes Builds 'Broken Monsters' : Dream Reapers

Agony Column Podcast News Report : A 2014 Live Interview with Lauren Beukes : "...fiction allows you to step into someone's head..."

09-21-14:Agony Column Podcast News Report UPDATE: Time to Read Episode 174: Lauren Beukes : Broken Monsters

09-19-14: Commentary : Walter Mosley's 'Debbie Doesn't Do It Anymore' : In the Flattened Light of Life

Agony Column Podcast News Report : A 2014 Live Interview with Walter Mosley : "... it was him saying what he felt, but for me it was a revelation about what I felt..."

09-18-14:Agony Column Podcast News Report UPDATE: Time to Read Episode 173: Walter Mosley : Debbie Doesn't Do It Anymore

09-17-14: Commentary : Lisa See Collects 'China Dolls' : Voice Power

Agony Column Podcast News Report : A 2014 Live Interview with Lisa See : "'s not my worldview, but it was the worldview at that time..."

09-16-14: Commentary : Lauren Beukes Illuminates 'The Shining Girls' : A Glimpse of Grubby Terror

Agony Column Podcast News Report UPDATE: Time to Read Episode 172: Lisa See : China Dolls

09-15-14: Commentary : Alan Cheuse Reveals 'An Authentic Captain Marvel Ring and Other Stories' : Infinite Worlds Within

Agony Column Podcast News Report : A 2014 Live Interview with Alan Cheuse : " of the first books I ever wrote was a Bobbsey Twins novel..."

09-10-14: Commentary : Nick Harkaway Unleashes 'Tigerman' : The Heart of the Hero

Agony Column Podcast News Report : A 2014 Interview with Nick Harkaway : "...we do a lot of policy-based evidence making here..."

09-08-14: Commentary : Alastair Reynolds 'On the Steel Breeze' : Everything and More

Agony Column Podcast News Report UPDATE: Time to Read Episode 171: Nick Harkaway : Tigerman

08-08-14: Commentary : Alastair Reynolds 'Blue Remembered Earth' : Diffident Utopia

Agony Column Podcast News Report : A 2014 Interview with Alastair Reynolds : "...the first book was going to contain about a hundred years of implicit future history..."

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