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03-20-09 : SF in SF, March 14, 2009 — Frank M. Robinson Reads : 'The Errand Boy'

Frank M. Robinson started his professional career as a writer in a time when he could snag Frederick Pohl as his agent. He's still writing "thrillers" (and yes, you will get that from-the-thriller-writer's-association definition of the word), and at SF in SF he read from his forthcoming thriller, 'The Errand Boy.'

Robinson called his new novel a "Religious thriller," but from what we heard it sounds like a sharply-crafted character study of some fairly unpleasant people. He's got a great voice and delivery, which you can confirm by following this link to the reading.

03-19-09 : SF in SF, March 14, 2009 — James Rollins Reads James Clemens : Underground Marsupials

James Rollins writes "thrillers" (which he'll define in the panel discussion podcast coming up next week), while James Clemens writes "Fantasy." (Which in this case, needs no definition.) Whatever name he writes under, he seems to be having just a little bit too much fun doing so. That translates to a larger amount of fun for the reader.

OK, so I have to admit that at SF in SF I was hoping for a reading from Rollins' first book, 'Subterranean,' because, you know, it has monsters in it. But I have to admit that I really enjoyed the excerpt from his fantasy quite a bit, though, as readers can hear in this linked audio file, Rollins spends a fair amount of time tantalizing monster hounds such as myself. Well, at any rate, the next time I have a hankering to read about Underground Marsupials, I know who is the go-to guy for that sub(terranean)-genre.

03-18-09 : A 2009 Interview with Donald Hall by Kathryn Petruccelli

by Kathryn Petruccelli

Former United States poet laureate, Donald Hall, has earned his way to iconic. It's been a path that extends over six decades and 100 books, his latest is 'White Apples and the Taste of Stone — Selected Poems 1946-2006.' He decided at 14 to become a poet, and did. He published his first poem at 16, his first book at 27.This is a man who knew Robert Frost, who interviewed T.S. Eliot.

Donald Hall generously shared his morning before the reading with me, and mid-way through our talk, readily accepted the invitation to read a long poem that I'm particularly fond of, which features his rural neighbors and which was especially thrilling to hear in the voice of the author since its length pretty much disqualifies it from the list in a public reading.

I was instantly taken by Hall's charm and openness...And, his sharpness of mind. Despite his 80 years, when I used the wrong article in one of his poem titles, for example, before the recorder started rolling, he corrected me kindly, but promptly.

It's notable to add that the third participant, so to speak, in our conversation was Hall's late wife, poet Jane Kenyon. Long before I ask directly about his love, a woman 19 years his junior, gone now 14 years, Hall brings her into the room again and again through tales of their poetic life together. The pain of her absence and the event of their happy marriage is as monumental an influence on his body of work as the bucolic landscape his poetry is so known for. [Link to audio interview.]

03-17-09 : A 2009 Interview with James Morrow : Choose to Disagree

James Morrow is one of those writers that I've been reading since my Jurassic age. Who can resist a nuclear satire like 'This Is the Way the World Ends' or Morrow's many feints at religion, from 'Only Begotten Daughter' to the Godhead Trilogy. Oh, I love those books! And of course, the heart-searing Legend novella, 'City of Truth.' The historical science fiction of 'The Last Witchfinder' was particularly appealing. And thanks to Tachyon Publications and 'Shambling Towards Hiroshima,' I finally had a chance to talk to Morrow.

Morrow was in San Francisco for the SF in SF film series. Morrow based Sims Thorley in 'Shambling Towards Hiroshima,' on Lon Chaney, Junior, and is now on tour showing two of Chaney's cheesiest movies, Ghost of Frankenstein with The Mummy’'s Curse, and taking great delight in pointing out Chaney's skill as a "consummate shambler," a skill that would come in handy when portraying a large green lizard bent on destroying a Japanese metropolis.

Morrow is a great presenter of middling Universal monster movies, pointing out the parallels between Syms Thorley and Lon Chaney, Junior: "...he's got some issues with alcohol, more in the later part of his life, whereas Lon Chaney Junior wrestled with alcohol throughout his career; well, he didn't exactly wrestle with alcohol, I think he kind of joyously swam in it..." Morrow is bringing this show next to the NW Film Forum, 515 12th Avenue, Seattle, WA on Monday, March 16. Bring your own rubber suit; Seattle is yours for the taking! In the interim, you can hear my interview with him by following this link.

03-16-09 : A 2009 Interview with Xinran : Hearing Voices

Sit yourself down in a studio with Xinran Xue and prepare to have your sensibilities changed. You can sense the intensity of her commitment to render the real world into written prose, the drive it takes to plan and execute a huge project over a number of years. You can also sense her warmth, her ability to connect with her subjects on a thoroughly human level.

I spoke with Xinran at KQED studios, where I noticed that she had only one fingernail painted red. Frankly, I was disinclined to mention that sort of fashion gaffe to a woman who was otherwise so thoroughly collected and professional. And what do I know of fashion? I'm just discovering black socks.

But what I thought was a mistake proved to be a very clever and intentional mistake. In her quest to gather an oral history of the Chinese people in the days of the Cultural Revolution and beyond, Xinran found herself speaking to bandits and shoe-sellers, to generals and peasants. Every interview required a different approach, a different means of finding that common thread upon which to base a frank conversation. You can hear my conversation with Xinran by following this link.

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