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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.

To find out what devious plans our government does not have, follow this link to the MP3 audio file of my conversation with Thomas Frank.



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

Douglas Preston, Impact

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.

It turns out that both Alan Cheuse have broader areas of interest than just books (Battlestar Galactica), which isn't, after all, all that surprising. You can join us on our not-so-long but definitely winding road by following this link to the MP3 audio file.



Graham Joyce
01-18-10: A 2009 Interview with Graham Joyce

"There is a battle between gravity and levity."
        —Graham Joyce

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

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 : "..it'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 : "...one 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..."

07-11-14: Commentary : Roz Chast Asks 'Can't We Talk About Something More Pleasant?' : NO

Agony Column Podcast News Report : A 2014 Interview with Roz Chast : "...I had no idea of how it worked because we had never talked about it."

07-08-14:Agony Column Podcast News Report UPDATE : Time to Read Episode 170: Roz Chast : Can't We Talk About Something More Pleasant?

06-30-14: Commentary : Alan Furst Passes 'Midnight in Europe : Wrong Side of War

Agony Column Podcast News Report : A 2014 Interview with Alan Furst : "...certain periods are echoic..."

06-29-14:Agony Column Podcast News Report UPDATE : Time to Read Episode 169: Alan Furst : Midnight in Europe

06-27-14: Commentary : Sarah Lotz Counts 'The Three' : The Uses of Fear

Agony Column Podcast News Report : A 2014 Interview with Sarah Lotz : "...people need answers..."

06-25-14:Agony Column Podcast News Report UPDATE : Time to Read Episode 168: Sarah Lotz : The Three

06-21-14: Commentary : Steven Galloway Conjures 'The Confabulist' : Creating Harry Houdini

Agony Column Podcast News Report : A 2014 Interview with Steven Galloway : "...so much has been written about Harry Houdini..."

06-18-14: Commentary : Raymond B. Russell Heralds 'The Dark Return of Time' : An Atmosphere of Crime

Agony Column Podcast News Report : Thomas Frank on Parlor Tricks : "Off With Their Heads!"

Agony Column Podcast News Report UPDATE : Time to Read Episode 167: Steven Galloway : The Confabulist

06-16-14: Commentary : Geoff Dyer Has 'Another Great Day at Sea' : The Steel Beach Party

Agony Column Podcast News Report : A 2014 Interview with Geoff Dyer : "..but it was as nothing compared to the noise of planes landing..."

06-15-14: Agony Column Podcast News Report UPDATE : Time to Read Episode 166: Geoff Dyer : Another Great Day at Sea: Life Aboard the USS George H.W. Bush

06-09-14: Commentary : Colson Whitehead Does 'The Noble Hustle' : Incandescent Memories of the Future

Agony Column Podcast News Report : A 2014 Interview with Colson Whitehead : "...I won five dollars, and from then on..."

06-08-14: Agony Column Podcast News Report UPDATE : Time to Read Episode 165: Colson Whitehead : The Noble Hustle: Poker, Beef Jerky and Deaths

06-02-14: Commentary : Kaui Hart Hemmings Explores 'The Possibilities' : Framing Life

Agony Column Podcast News Report : A 2014 Interview with Kaui Hart Hemmings : "I burned that copy and started fresh."

05-31-14: Agony Column Podcast News Report UPDATE : Time to Read Episode 164: Kaui Hart Hemmings : The Possibilities

05-26-14: Commentary : Kent A. Kiehl Heeds 'The Psychopath Whisperer' : Prison of the Mind

Agony Column Podcast News Report : A 2014 Interview with Kent A. Kiehl : "How do you measure the cost of those sixteen homicides?"

05-21-14: Agony Column Podcast News Report UPDATE : Time to Read Episode 163: Kent A. Kiehl, PhD : The Psychopath Whisperer: The Science of Those Without Conscience

05-19-14: Commentary : Justin Go Clocks 'The Steady Running of the Hour' : Time-Crossed Lovers and Wars

Agony Column Podcast News Report : A 2014 Interview with Justin Go : "... there was always something that had to happen ..."

05-15-14: Commentary : Jeff VanderMeer Grants 'Authority' : The Parallax Views

Agony Column Podcast News Report : A 2014 Interview with Jeff VanderMeer : "...the land people don't talk to the sky people don't talk to the water people..."

05-13-14: Agony Column Podcast News Report UPDATE : Time to Read Episode 162: Justin Go : The Steady Running of the Hour

05-12-14: Commentary : Matt Taibbi Views 'The Divide' : Zero-Sum Economic Morality

Agony Column Podcast News Report : A 2014 Interview with Matt Taibbi : "... the biggest bank robbery in the history of the world ..."

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