12-01-11:Kim Stanley Robinson Reads at SF in SF on November 12, 2011
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Forget genre, forget the future. In the very real, very present present, Kim Stanley Robinson is clearly one of the most important writers in America. It does not matter whether he's finding the gentle comedy in global climate change, the future in Galileo's past, or an Islamic world that never was, Robinson manages the unique feat of capturing imagination, technology and stunning literary power in every work he writes.
At SF in SF early last month, he read from his forthcoming novel, 2312. The genesis of the novel is the result of a series of consequences that seems like something from one of his novels; an oddball setup and reaction that he explains with great relish. It's fun to hear how great literature gets going, especially from so skilled a storyteller. He's just as good talking about his own life as he is talking about a new civilization on Mars.
His new novel is really going to be something special; it's a bit of a stretch for him, as he has never before written so far in the future. He read several segments, from lyrical to humorous, and you can hear by the manner in which he reads the work that it is something special.
Alan Garner, 'Red Shift' ; Stephen King, '11/22/63' ; Guillermo Del Toro and Chuck Hogan, 'The Night Eternal'
I always enjoy my conversations with Alan Cheuse, but I have to say, when the choices are this delectable, then it is especially fun. A while back, Alan asked me about a book that neither of us had heard of, but came to us via a source no less esteemed than the New York Review of Books. That's 'Red Shift' by Alan Garner, a book that has literally stood the test of time.
First published in the UK in 1973, it's a series of three linked stories that themselves span time. It's a gorgeously evoked story of land, of landscape and humanity. In today's publishing world, it would probably earn the label of slipstream; so far as I'm concerned it fits in the genre of books that I present on this website, to wit, books worth your valuable reading time.
Next we talked about Stephen King's latest, '11/22/63,' some 800 pages of time-travel-enabled Americana that uses a touch of genre to inform an enjoyable and eventually powerful, poignant emotional arc. I must say that I was pleasantly surprised that the esteemed critic actually agreed with my take on King as an American Dickens.
And finally, we talked about the finale for The Strain trilogy by Guillermo Del Toro and Chuck Hogan. Their resolution caught us both unaware, and I think that speaks to my mind, to the quality of their work. We talked about the book in relation to others in the vampire genre; I'll leave those titles to your imagination, which you can satisfy by following this link to the MP3 audio file.
11-29-11 UPDATE:Podcast Update: Time to Read, Episode 20: Charles Frazier, 'Nightwoods'
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Here's the twentieth episode of my new series of podcasts, which I'm calling Time to Read. The podcasts/radio broadcasts will be of books worth your valuable reading time. I'll try to keep the reports under four minutes, for a radio-friendly format. If you want to run them on your show or podcast, let me know.
My hope is that in under four minutes I can offer readers a concise review and an opportunity to hear the author read from or speak about the work. I'm hoping to offer a new one every week.
The nineteenth episode is a look at Charles Frazier and his new book, 'Nightwoods.'
"Within months of first contact, these groups experience a huge die-off."
Most interviews are carefully planned campaigns, with strict reading schedules, email reminders of dates and times, and everything set out in a series of steps to help me prevent embarrassment when I sit down to talk.
But then there are the rare arrivals, or nearly missed opportunities that result in a sort of blitzkrieg approach. Just as Scott Wallace found himself pulled into his journey to the Amazon at the last minute, I found myself setting up an interview with Wallace at the last minute. Fortunately, the book was something of a page-turner, and I was able to read it, enjoy it, and get myself to the interview with enough preparation to conduct a fairly lucid interview.
That said, Wallace himself is an excellent speaker, and he indeed has a grand adventure to talk about. But there's a lot more than adventure in 'TheUnconquered,' and that's what makes the book so good. Wallace skillfully weave in history and back story so that readers have a good idea why he's part of a mission that seems to have a conflict at its heart.