Book Book Book Book
Commentary Commentary RSS Reviews Podcasts_Audio Podcasts RSS Blog Links Archives Indexes
02-05-10: Three Books With Alan Cheuse

Dominick Dunne, Too Much Money
Jonathan Dee, The Privileges
Adam Haslett, Union Atlantic
Elif Shafak, The Forty Rules of Love
T. C. Boyle, Wild Child

We do try to stick to three books, but it is hard. Especially when we get gifts like the gift of money. Or rather, books about money. I called up Alan Cheuse, with the intention of covering just four books — only one over our usual goal. But naturally, the literary world has some different ideas.

We started by drowning ourselves in the rich-ass world of the late Dominick Dunne, whose all-too-juicy 'Too Much Money' (Crown / Random House ; December 15, 2009 ; $26), which brings back Augustus "Gus" Bailey as Dunne's alter-ego to dish the goods. And they are good, even if those of us who are not so rich might hope for trucks to fall from the sky on these sorts of people in real life.

Then we moved on to the slightly-less insanely rich world of
Jonathan Dee's 'The Privileges,' (Random House ; January 15, 2010 ; $25), where good intentions and bad decisions result in money that's not exactly earned. Dee focuses on the giddy sense of risk, and the addictive nature thereof. Readers may or may not like this family, but these people do seem like the sort who lead a life off the page.

Then there's 'Union Atlantic,' (Nan A. Talese / Random House ; February 9, 2010 ; $26), by
Adam Haslett, who managed the difficult feaat of getting a Pulitzer Prize nomination and becoming a National Book Award finalist for his collection of short stories, 'You Are Not a Stranger Here.' Suffice it to say the well-to-do are not quite so appealing in this novel. As they deserve, often.

Elif Shafak's first novel was 'The Bastard of Istanbul,' and she returns with the nicely-twisty 'The Forty Rules of Love' (Viking / Penguin Putnam ; February 18, 2010 ; $25.95). You get the bored suburban housewife who finds herself immersed in the novel she's reading for a literary agent, The novel-within-a-novel, "Sweet Blasphemy" a novel of Rumi, explores the life of the Sufi mystic and creates a nice hall-of-mirrors effect. It's a device I particularly enjoy.

And finally, just because we needed to go way over the speed limit, so to speak, we talked about the latest from
T. C. Boyle, 'Wild Child' (Viking / Penguin Putnam ; January 21, 2010 ; $25.95). Cheuse pointed out that it was not so long ago that a 'Collected Stories' by Boyle came out; and yet this is his fourth collection since. He may be prolific, but he manages to be evergreen in terms of quality.

And we don't stop there, but I'll let listeners suss out the rest. I'm having a blast in these conversations with Cheuse, and I hope readers are as well. We live for books – and yet, we have lives as well. You can hear our conversation by following the link to the MP3 audio file.

02-04-10: A 2010 Interview with Josh Sundquist

"It was a really amazing testament to the power of small-town America and to the power of organized religion at its best."
Josh Sundquist

I had my doubts.

Tamera at the Capitola Book Café told me that I was going to be amazed at the kind of show that Josh Sundquist would be able to throw when he appeared. She's seen a You Tube video and I had just come of a day that could best be called "challenging." I was tired and not in the mood to interview anyone. But it took about 30 seconds for me to catch a very different mood once I sat down with Sundquist. He gives the occupation of "motivational speaker" a good name.

Josh Sundquist got his start in motivational speaking early — in high school. At the age of nine he was diagnosed with a rare bone cancer, but he was skiing before he even finished chemotherapy — after his left leg was amputated. He talked about not just the personal aspects of this, but also the financial costs of disease.

But mostly what Josh Sundquist brought to the tiny back-office of Capitola Book Café was enthusiasm, and you can sure as heck hear it in every answer. It's the sort of enthusiasm that actually motivates and inspires listeners to get up and do something about their lives.

Sundquist also talked about the trade of being a motivational speaker, and about his love of writing. He's been a writer for a lot longer than you might expect. To catch his enthusiasm, you can follow this link to the MP3 audio file.

02-03-10: Remembering Kage Baker

The View from Spyglass Park

I get bees in my bonnet sometimes and let them drive me — sometimes literally — to do strange things. For example, apropos of nothing, last summer, I decided that I would take a spin down to Pismo, spend a couple of days in a hotel reading and justify the whole thing by seeing if I could get an interview with Kage Baker. It was a glorious day; a slight wind, but the sun was warm and Pacific Ocean was a suitable backdrop to my exploration of Baker's life and writing.

Now, I don't often do this sort of thing, but this time I'm making an exception, because the interview with Baker seems like ... such a perfect way for those who have not read her work, or those who have, but have not heard her speak, to get to know this wonderful writer.

She left us behind on Sunday morning, but left us, the readers, her readers, books that we can read — and re-read. The re- is incredibly important. Baker created characters we really loved to read about, even if we didn't always love the characters. In fact, one of the reasons that her books are re-readable is that her characters have that prickly feeling of real people. They inhabit our worlds and our minds as surely as memories. We can add Baker to their legion in our memories. Hear her speak; read her books; celebrate her life and work..

02-02-10: SF in SF, January 16, 2010 :

A Panel Discussion with Terry Bisson, Jeff Carlson and Nancy Etchemendy

Having heard, I hope, the interviews and reading that lead up to this panel discussion; Jeff Carlson's reading and interview, and Nancy Etchemendy's reading and interview, I trust my listeners can imagine that things got lively when they sat down to talk. But even I was surprised how well this particular discussion lived up to Terry Bisson's oft-promised "bitch and moan." It was well-informed, but science fiction and literature were pretty-well wrung out and hung out to dry.

Of course, when you mention science fiction and literature, then eventually somebody is going to bring up the Big Bad, in this case, Margaret Atwood. Now as listeners to this podcast know, I found Atwood to be rather a different person than the Big Bad we often hear about when science fiction readers breathlessly quote "space squids" and "talking cabbages." And so, dear listeners, I actually contributed to this little discussion, which you can hear near the end of this MP3 audio file.

Charlie Huston
02-01-10: A 2010 Interview with Charlie Huston

"The prospect of things becoming deeply unhinged seemed very, very immediate"
Charlie Huston

Charlie Huston's new novel is not an attempt to predict the future, even if it is set in a future that has the feel of tomorrow's headlines. Suicidal Christians blowing themselves up in an America that is (still) descending into chaos, a prion plague that turns its victims into shambling insomniacs, traffic nightmares — not a place to bring up a baby. But then, a couple of years ago, the outlook didn't seem much better. And things have not improved, though we haven't gone over the cliff edge. Yet.

I drove down to the Los Angeles of 2010 to talk with Huston about his novel 'Sleepless,' and to tell the truth, found it to be a pretty pleasant drive. When you live in a city like Los Angeles, it's hard to remember that most of coastal California at least, is still pretty damn beautiful. And LA itself didn't seem quite so dystopian as I expected it to be in comparison. Of course, I don't live there any more, and Huston does.

It shows in the gritty, complex structure of 'Sleepless,' which is an impressive science fiction genre debut; if you want to call it science fiction, and even Huston agrees that it is certainly set in the future and does involve some, to my mind, well researched and entertainingly-imagined speculative elements. But I think any of Huston's mystery fans could enjoy this novel, as well as a lot of science fiction readers. To my mind, it is a book best experienced cold, no prep, just dive in. Sort of like time itself. It's not like you can read a review of the year 2012 and then decide whether or not go to there. You just go, no review required. You can hear Huston talk about 'Sleepless' by following this link to the MP3 audio file.

New to the Agony Column

12-19-14: Commentary : Mark Samuels 'Written in Darkness' : Sinkholes of Despair

Agony Column Podcast News Report : A 2014 Audio Review of Mark Samuels 'Written in Darkness' : "This is an abyss that is not content to merely gaze back."

12-16-14: Commentary : Christopher Hobbs and Leslie Gardner 'Grow It, Heal It' : Natural and Effective Herbal Remedies from Your Garden or Windowsill

Agony Column Podcast News Report : A 2014 Interview with Christopher Hobbs : "I want to integrate both the traditional uses and the traditional wisdom and knowledge and experience with modern science."

Agony Column Podcast News Report UPDATE: Time to Read Episode 187: Christopher Hobbss : Grow It, Heal It

12-09-14: Commentary : Tad Williams Is Caught 'Sleeping Late on Judgment Day' : As Below, So Above

Agony Column Podcast News Report : A 2014 Interview with Tad Williams : ...Heaven and Hell couldn't be an open, on-going dramatic conflict; it would be more like the Cold War."

Agony Column Podcast News Report UPDATE: Time to Read Episode 186: Tad Williams : Sleeping Late on Judgment Day

12-04-14: Commentary : Anne Rice Crowns 'Prince Lestat' : A Unified Theory of Vampires

Agony Column Podcast News Report : A 2014 Interview with Anne Rice : "I have to woo him..."

12-03-14: Commentary : Andrew Michael Hurley Returns from 'The Loney' : A Matter of Faith

Agony Column Podcast News Report : Four Books With Alan Cheuse : : Maureen Corrigan So We Read On, Casey Walker Last Days in Shanghai, Ron Rash Something Rich and Strange, Nicholson Baker Traveling Sprinkler

Agony Column Podcast News Report UPDATE: Time to Read Episode 185: Anne Rice : Prince Lestat

12-01-14: Commentary : Back to Darkness : Re-Visiting 'Darkscapes'

Agony Column Podcast News Report : A 2014 Interview with Anne-Sylvie Salzman : "You really have to enter a world and it's not some kind of guided tour."

11-22-14: Commentary : William Gibson Connects 'The Peripheral' : Time Life Books

Agony Column Podcast News Report : A 2014 Interview with William Gibson : "...recalibrate my yardstick of weirdness..."

Agony Column Podcast News Report UPDATE: Time to Read Episode 184: William Gibson : The Peripheral

11-19-14: Commentary : David Greene Catches 'Midnight in Siberia: A Train Journey into the Heart of Russia' : The Character(s) of a Country

Agony Column Podcast News Report : A 2014 Interview with David Greene : "It was very easy to literally just tell their stories..."

11-17-14: Commentary : Azar Nafisi Resides In 'The Republic of Imagination: America in Three Books' : Choose Your World

Agony Column Podcast News Report : A 2014 Interview with Azar Nafisi : "I wanted to show how close reality and fiction are..."

11-15-14: Commentary : Cary Elwes Delivers 'As You Wish: Inconceivable Tales from the Making of The Princess Bride' : Re-Reading and Re-Viewing

Agony Column Podcast News Report : A 2014 Interview with Cary Elwes : " unwise decision on my part..."

Agony Column Podcast News Report UPDATE: Time to Read Episode 183: Azar Nafisi : The Republic of Imagination: America in Three Books

11-10-14: Commentary : Dana Cowin 'Mastering My Mistakes in the Kitchen' : Learning to Cook — and Live

Agony Column Podcast News Report : A 2014 Interview with Dana Cowin : " I add a little more citrus..."

11-09-14:Agony Column Podcast News Report UPDATE: Time to Read Episode 182: Dana Cowin : Mastering My Mistakes in the Kitchen: Learning to Cook with 65 Great Chefs and Over 100 Delicious Recipes

11-06-14: Agony Column Podcast News Report : A 2014 Interview with Paolo Bacigalupi and A. S. King : "You're handing us all the problems..." Paolo Bacigalupi "That gray area is so important for readers..." A. S. King

11-05-14: Commentary : A. S. King Foresees 'Glory O'Brien's History of the Future' : Halls of Mirrorsr

Agony Column Podcast News Report : A 2014 Interview with A. S. King : "How much do we really change?"

11-04-14: Commentary : Paolo Bacigalupi Believes In 'The Doubt Factory' : Thrills Matter

Agony Column Podcast News Report : A 2014 Interview with Paolo Bacigalupi : "...these are perfectly nice people..."

10-30-14: Commentary : Brian J. Showers Opens 'The Green Book, Issue 4' : 200 Years of Le Fanu

Agony Column Podcast News Report UPDATE: Time to Read Episode 181: Paolo Bacigalupi : The Doubt Factory

10-27-14: Commentary : Jim Rockhill and Brian J. Showers Recall 'Dreams of Shadow and Smoke: Stories for J. S. Le Fanu' : New Stories for an Antiquary

Agony Column Podcast News Report : A 2014 Interview with Brian J. Showers : "I have a lot reference materials on my desk..."

Commentary & Podcast Archive

Archives Indexes How to use the Agony Column Contact Us About Us