01-22-10: Thomas Frank
Bringing Back Glass-Steagall and the Price of Gold
I shouldn't have been surprised that the two latest Thomas Frank columns for the Wall Street Journal dealt with money matters. After all, he pointed out to me, it is the Wall Street Journal. And Frank is indeed the author of 'One Market Under God,' a book that is becoming more au courant every day. The surprise, he says, is where the calls for reform of the Glass-Steagall act are coming from.
With his column "One Cross of Gold, Coming Up", Frank takes a page from Jonathan Swift, but to my mind, he does sort of neglect to notice that of late, at least, the real world seems to be giving satirists a run for their money.
The suggestions one makes laughingly now have a way of being reported as serious news by the sorts websites that aren't all that interested in reading as we are here. Then there are reports on the reports, and reports on the reports on the reports, until the original source material is lost in a blur of hyperventilation and exaggerated paranoia. Of course, only a few of us know that there is a secret government program to steal American's gold teeth for meltdown.... Project Tooth Fairy.
01-21-10: SF in SF, January 16, 2010
Nancy Etchemendy Reads from "Honey in the Wound"
Nancy Etchemendy has one of those names that you instantly recognize from Awards Ballots, or perhaps from your youth. If you started reading science fiction in the wake of Star Wars, chances are you picked up her novel 'The Watchers of Space.' Now she's writing what she calls YA horror, but it's really quite sophisticated. The intensity and carefully created setting for "Honey in the Wound" had the perfect feel of American Southern Gothic fiction at its best.
Nancy Etchemendy's story has the kind of textured, measured approach that grounds it firmly in the real world. You can find it in the anthology, 'The Restless Dead' (Candlewick Press ; July 14, 2009 ; $7.99) edited by Deborah Noyes.
The rural setting and the gritty evocative language have the feel of adult fiction, but in retrospect, there's nothing beyond the ken of kids either. "Honey in the Wound" is one of the sorts of stories that really attracted me to the horror genre in the first place. You can find out why by following this link to the MP3 audio file.
01-20-10: SF in SF, January 16, 2010
Jeff Carlson Reads from 'Plague Year'
I'm sort of cheating here, giving you the reading before the interview I did with Jeff Carlson, just because I did the interview before I heard him read. If Carlson wasn't such a good writer, he might have made millions selling stuff on television, because he has an energy and attitude that are positively as infectious as any nano-tech disease he might have invented.
If books were marketed on television, Jeff Carlson would have been flown into SF in SF on a helicopter and rappelled down into the glare of spotlights and thronging crowds. Carlson manages to love his own work in an un-self-conscious way, with such verve, that you instantly want to like it just as much.
And the fact is, he's damn good at writing a toe-tapping tale of apocalypse. There are a lot of seminars at writer's conferences that sing the praises of a strong opening, and you'll hear a great example of that when you follow this link to the MP3 audio file.
01-19-10: Three Books With Alan Cheuse : Start the Year Right
Don Delillo,Point Omega
Robert Stone,Fun With Problems
It's a new year, and NPR's Alan Cheuse and I are already booking gigs into April and perhaps May. To see our previous podcasts, you can go to this new Three Books web page and catach up on all our conversations.
There are a lot of books out there worth talking about, so I trust listeners will bear with us when we stretch the "Three Books" to encompass a bit more than three books. For example, science fiction television shows — or movies about monsters in the Arctic. Because, in the dead of winter, the books may be great, but great books can be as cold as a DC dawn.
Yes, we did choose three very "guy" books for our discussion. Hey, we're guys. Don Delillo's 'Point Omega' (Scribner ; February 2, 2010 ; $24) bills itself "A Novel," but is closer to novella in length. Robert Stone, author of the legendary 'Dog Soldiers,' has a new collection of short stories deceptively titled 'Fun With Problems' (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt ; January 11, 2010 ; $24).
And the prolific Douglas Preston bombards readers and the earth itself with the cleverly-written 'Impact' (Forge / Tor / Tom Doherty Associates ; January 5, 2010 ; $25). You'd think it would be a pretty straightforward discussion of some rather manly reading.
Not so fast. You know, you get two guys talking about a book like 'Point Omega,' and it isn't hard for them to get derailed and talking about other stories in other mediums.
"There is a battle between gravity and levity."
When I spoke to Graham Joyce at the World Fantasy Convention, so far as he was concerned, levity was definitely winning any battle that may have been taking place. Rightly so and well deserved, so far as I was concerned. Joyce is an incredibly skilled writer who has a knack for finding the place that genre fiction ends and literary fiction begins. His books are always powerfully written, but he's one of those writers who constantly challenges himself to do something different.
Joyce's most recent novel is 'How to Make friends with Demons,' from Night Shade Books. In it, he fires off from his O. Henry Award-winning story, "An Ordinary Soldier of the Queen," to tell the story of William Heaney, who happens to know that there are 1,567 demons out there, waiting to torment you. Some of them have probably advised girls you wanted to date, your friends, or folks you've voted for. No worries though — the humans in your life are quite adept at making things hellish.
That's not currently the case for Joyce, however, who sold the movie adaptation rights to his forthcoming book, 'The Silent Land,' before he sold the North American publishing rights. He may write quite beautifully about how effective human are at tormenting one another, but he, at least for the moment, is quite torment-free. You can hear him talk about why he uses elements of the fantastic to tell his stories when humans are already quite fantastic on their own by following this link to the MP3 audio file.
New to the Agony Column
03-11-14: Commentary : Ian Rankin Ordains 'Saints of the Shadow Bible' : Standing in the Shadow of the Past