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Kansas artist M. T. Liggett protests FEMA's rebuilding of
Greensburg, KS, from the movie What's the Matter with
by by Laura Cohen and Joe Winston
10-09-09: Thomas Frank Unleashes The Predator State : Consuming the Consumer

Everybody reads differently, which is what makes reading such a wonderful way to entertain one's self — while expanding your outlook on the world. For example, check out Thomas Frank's Wall Street Journal piece on how Conservatives read liberal writer Kenneth Galbraith, Health Care and the 'Predator State'.

When you're done, grab a brew, pull up a chair and give a listen to my chat with Thomas Frank, where we cover the week's politics with our own reading of events — and talk about the movie based on his book, 'What's the Matter With Kansas?' Yes, events can be read as well, in fact, the core concept of reading, the skills of the reader, are called into play a lot more often than anyone might suspect. We read one another — we read the road in front of us or suffer the consequences. And we have to read the news, even if we watch it on television. Paper has not refused ink — and our ears do not refuse the words that are spoken in our general vicinity. We have to sift through them and give them meaning. Here's a link to my conversation with Thomas Frank.

10-08-09: Laurie R. King at the Book Passage Mystery Conference : Twelve Rules for Frivolous Fiction

Life got you down? This whole "fresh hell" deal giving you pause to think before you drag yourself out of bed to face a new day of torment and toil? Is hurtling into the future making you want to hurl in the present? Laurie R. King has some advice for you about taking your life, especially your life in writing, a bit too seriously.

You dont go to a mystery writing conference expecting to get a good dose of stand-up comedy about the process of writing itself, especially when the comedy doubles-down as solid advice for how to write your way out of a gods-damned paper bag. But Laurie R. King managed to do just that with her "lecture" — which is really a bad description of her hilarious speech — at the Book Passage Mystery Conference. When so many writers take themselves and their work so seriously, it's nice to see someone who excels by doing neither, and offers advice to other writers on how to achieve the same state of grace. That introduction, by the way is done by no less than Jacqueline Winspear. But what you want is the heart of the matter, so get to the heart via the gizzard of this linked MP3 audio file.

Hawk Towers, hand built by Jeffers.
10-07-09: Debbie Sharp on Robinson Jeffers and the Robinson Jeffers Fall Festival : The Edge of the Literary World

Poet Robinson Jeffers built a stone house on the edge of the world. It's called the Tor House, and it sits, literally, on the edge of the world, over the ocean in Carmel, California. Not surprisingly, Jeffers wrote more than a little about the natural beauty that, to a much lesser extent some 90 years later, still exists.

Every place has it's poet; and in Carmel, perhaps more than one. But when it comes to Tor House, perched on the cliff at Carmel Point, there's only one, and that's Robinson Jeffers, who built an incredible structure in an incredible place and the went on to write some incredible about that incredible place. Each Fall, the Tor House Foundation celebrates Jeffers, with tours, lectures and even a poetry walk. I spoke with Debbie Sharp, a docent for the Tor House foundation and a member of the board, about Jeffers, his admirers and the times in which he wrote. We're talking 1,000 pages of letters — and that would be the first volume in planned trilogy. You can hear our conversation about how poetry can save the world by following this link to the MP3 audio file.

10-06-09: Susan Henderson at Squaw Valley

"The stories were after me ...."
        Susan Henderson

Yes, I'm still going through the audio I got at Squaw Valley, and there is still, as you shall hear some incredible stuff in there. Let's start today with Susan Henderson, who blogs at, is working on a fascinating project for NPR, and has a novel titled 'The Ruby Cup' coming out from HarperCollins next year. It all sounds so easy, doesn't it? Think again.

I interviewed Susan Henderson outdoors on the patio, while the creek ran and the sprinklers hissed behind us. She's a fascinating combination of light and dark. She laughs through much of the interview while telling stories of literary rejection that will curl your toes. Not surprisingly, her work, as she describes it, is rather on the dark and sort of surreal side. We talked about how she got into writing, starting with poetry then moving into short stories and novels.

I think that readers (and other writers) will find her story of getting agents and selling books very instructive as well as entertainingly told. I will warn readers that they are getting a look at the sausage factory of the publishing world, and your heart will break as you hear how much stuff that we, as readers, suspect would be just dandy reading, gets shot down arbitrarily or sidelined into oblivion. To hear these tales told in the cheerful voice of Susan Henderson, just follow this link to the MP3 audio file.

10-05-09: A 2009 Interview with Peter Richardson : Ramparts Magazine

"They knew to be successful, they had to make waves."
        Peter Richardson

Peter Richardson was not quite old enough to be "in the mix" when Ramparts magazine had its run. When he was researching his book 'American Prophet: The Life and Work of Carey McWilliams,' the people he was talking to kept mentioning Ramparts. At first he was just curious about the magazine — at first.

Richardson's curiosity took him to the library, and eventually led him to write 'A Bomb in Every Issue: How the Short, Unruly Life of Ramparts Magazine Changed America.' He's out speaking about the book now, and you can keep track of where he is by checking out his blog and see some great photos of the Ramparts crew as well.

Richardson not only tells a great story in his book; he's equally adept at doing so in person. In the seemingly golden sonic confines of the Capitola Book Café office, we talked about Ramparts and his book, touching on the fascinating history he weaves. You can hear our interview by following this link to the MP3 audio file.

New to the Agony Column

10-19-14:Agony Column Podcast News Report UPDATE: Time to Read Episode 179: William T. Vollmann : Last Stories and Other Stories

10-16-14: Commentary : Alix Christie Hires 'Gutenberg's Apprentice' : Fifteenth Century Start-Ups

Agony Column Podcast News Report : A 2014 Interview with Alix Christie : "This was the world's first tech start-up."

10-15-14:Agony Column Podcast News Report UPDATE: Time to Read Episode 178: Alix Christie : Gutenberg's Apprentice

10-13-14: Commentary : Maureen Corrigan 'So We Read On: How The Great Gatsby Came to Be and Why It Endures' : The Power of Re-Reading

Agony Column Podcast News Report : A 2014 Interview with Maureen Corrigan : "On his death in 1940, there were remaindered copies..."

10-08-14:Agony Column Podcast News Report UPDATE: Time to Read Episode 177: Maureen Corrigan : So We Read On: How The Great Gatsby Came to Be and Why It Endures

10-03-14: Commentary : Lawrence Wright ' Thirteen Days in September: Carter, Begin, and Sadat at Camp David' : Suspension of Belief

Agony Column Podcast News Report : A 2014 Interview with Lawrence Wright : "...peace is possible..."

10-01-14:Agony Column Podcast News Report UPDATE: Time to Read Episode 176: Lawrence Wright : Thirteen Days in September: Carter, Begin, and Sadat at Camp David

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..."

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