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01-15-10: Poetry Santa Cruz — James Scully Reads Capitola Book Caffé

'Line Break'

Given the sort of hijinks I had to go through to get this recording, I'm happy to report that I didn't get too much in the way. I actually sat behind the poets in the little platform that Capitola Book Café has for readings. I had to keep an eye on the little battery icon to make sure that the PA wasn't going to die partway through somebody's reading.

Fortunately, the reading was almost over when the ground hum returned.

I think you can hear
James Scully say, "He's gone," after I vacated my perch in a vain attempt to get rid o the ground hum. And because I was out of the platform, I a) couldn't see if my EverReady batteries were living up to their name (they did) or b) check and see if the ground hum was being recorded, IE, somehow my fault.

I'm saying that it is just a coincidence that the title of Scully famous collection of essays on poetry as a means of social activism is titled, 'Line Break.'

Podcast listeners will be happy to know that the ground hum was not being recorded, that it was entirely in the kludged PA system. The James Scully reading, with Adrienne Rich providing the introduction is squeaky clean. James Scully is the author of 11 collections of poems, three books of translations, and two books of prose.

His most recent collection is 'Donatello's Version.' He is an emeritus professor from the University of Connecticut and has received the Lamont Poetry Award and fellowships from the NEA, the Ingram Merrill Foundation and a Guggenheim Fellowship. You can hear his reading by following this link to the MP3 audio file.

01-14-10: Poetry Santa Cruz — Adrienne Rich Reads at Capitola Book Café

Battery-Powered Adventures in PA

Santa Cruz has many attractions to those who enjoy outsider literature and lifestyles. There is a thriving music and arts scene, and even a "Keep Santa Cruz Weird" campaign. Doing their part for the latter, and for literature, is Poetry Santa Cruz, which hosts readings in a variety of venues. The poets who read can be stellar. When I heard that Poetry Santa Cruz was presenting poets James Scully and Adrienne Rich at Capitola Book Café, I decided to take the opportunity to record these great poets live. But what should have been a quickly set-up tape gig, rapidly became a jerry-rigged PA experience.

Going in, I knew that it would be a bit of a challenge. Capitola Book Café uses a home audio system to pipe music into the store and to do the audio for their readings, they have a Beringer mini-mixer cabled to the home audio system by a 25-foot RCA cable. It's sub-optimal at best, and non-functional at worst, which was the case when I arrived.

The super-custom, line-lumped power cable for the mixer had finally decided to stop working, so they essentially had no PA. Moreover, in the experiments I'd done prepping for the show, there turned out to be a horrid ground hum if you were to plug anything into the mixer that was not battery-powered. Fortunately for the show, I'd brought an entire extra set of batteries.

I ended up removing the mixer entirely, and using my Marantz digital recorder for the PA — running on batteries. Fortunately, there were two poets reading, so there was a natural break in the show where I could swap out batteries.

And thus we have two nice podcasts, perfectly recorded of two incredible poets. The room was packed, and I can see why. You forget how powerful the spoken word can be. You'll be reminded when you hear these readings.

Today's reading is by Adrienne Rich, a true Santa Cruz and national treasure. She has published 24 books of poems and seven books of nonfiction prose. Her most recent are 'Telephone Ringing in the Labyrinth' and 'A Human Eye: Essays on Art in Society.'

She's been awarded a Medal for Distinguished Contribution to American Letters by the National Book Foundation, the Bollingen Prize for Poetry, a Lannan Foundation Lifetime Achievement Award, the National Book Award and numerous other honors.

You can hear this live reading by following the link to the MP3 audio file.

Jeremy Lassen, photo by Leo Docuyanan
01-13-10: Jeremy Lassen Looks to the Future

Are We There Yet?

Jeremy Lassen and I spent our last discussion look at the books of 2009, so this time around we decided to look to the future, both in terms of the specific releases and in more general terms. Is it redundant to talk about the future of science fiction itself?

Of course, talking about the future of science fiction would presume that it has one, and it strikes me that when we look back 2010, we might very well come to think of it as the beginning of a second blossoming of horror fiction.

After all, it has been, frighteningly, thirty years since the big horror boom of the 1980's. Stephen King, once just a maverick and looked-down upon bestseller, is now a recognized member of America's literary canon, while Stephanie Meyer and Laurell K. Hamilton's new releases regularly hit the bestseller lists. And the publishing world itself is in the midst of a revolution, or perhaps, just at the end of a segment of evolution. You can hear Jeremy Lassen and I talk about the news species of flora and fauna in the publishing ecosystem by following this link to the MP3 audio file.

Gary Paulsen
01-12-10: A 2010 Interview With Gary Paulsen

Man in the Wilderness

I was reading my usually brief introduction to Gary Paulsen for today's podcast when realized that 'Woods Runner' was not the first book by this writer that had come into my house. In fact, somewhere around here, there's probably a diorama based on Paulsen's Newberry-award winning novel, 'Hatchet.' My youngest son had read that book, back in the day; he enjoyed it enough to seek out the sequel.

Like 'Woods Runner,' 'Hatchet' is a boy-in-the-wilderness novel, though 'Hatchet' has a contemporary setting. And, as I talked to Paulsen, the reason is apparent. A quick glance at his website will inform you the Paulsen, like most of his characters, is quite a bit more at home outside, in the wilderness, than he is in a suburb.

Paulsen's personal story plays a big part in the stories he writes, and as we spoke on the phone, I could get a sense of how he manages to create such a convincing perspective. There's just something about 'Woods Runner' that really captured me, and I could sense that it was the presence of the author himself, that voice coming through in the novel. You can hear that voice by following this link to the MP3 audio file.

S. T. Joshi
01-11-10: A 2009 Interview with S. T. Joshi

"We were essentially academic outsiders"
        —S. T. Joshi

I've been seeing the name S. T. Joshi for almost longer than I can remember. And I had to wonder — just who was this man who almost single-handedly turned an author once scorned by the mainstream literary world into a canonical American writer? At the World Fantasy Convention, I had the chance to find out.

S. T. Joshi has been haunting my bookshelves for decades, with his introductions to a variety of Cthulhu Mythos and Lovecraft works, and as the creator no less, of Lovecraft Studies. I met the man's words more times than I can count, so meeting the man himself was an honor. So far as I'm concerned, he's the rock star of horror fiction criticism. I'm sure that as the genre itself slowly gains academic acceptance, largely through his work, he'll be seen as a key literary figure of this century as well as the last.

What really distinguishes him when you sit down to talk is how forthright and fresh he is. Sure, he believes, like many, that Lovecraft is an important writer, but he's as quick to acknowledge Lovecraft's weaknesses as well. Like most of us who read Lovecraft, he encountered the writings as an adolescent. But even then he knew his fate was to be entwined with Lovecraft's work.

Joshi, however, is much more than a Lovecraft specialist. He's moved on from Necronomicon Press to Hippocampus Press, where he's got some great projects in the works. Yes, he's got the whole Weird Tales gang down as well. But he's also set his sights on the California Romantics, including not just Clark Ashton Smith, but also George Sterling and Ambrose Bierce. And beyond that, he's just undertaken an amazing project involving H. L. Mencken. You can hear his story of being an academic outsider by following this link to the MP3 audio file.

New to the Agony Column

06-26-15: Commentary : Neal Stephenson Crafts an Eden for 'Seveneves' : Blow It Up and Start All Over Again

Agony Column Podcast News Report : A 2015 Interview with Neal Stephenson : "...and know that you're never going to se a tree again..."

Agony Column Podcast News Report UPDATE: Time to Read Episode 207: Neal Stephenson : Seveneves

06-03-15: Commentary : Dan Simmons Opens 'The Fifth Heart' : Having it Every Way

Agony Column Podcast News Report : A 2015 Interview with Dan Simmons : "...yes, they really did bring those bombs..."

Agony Column Podcast News Report UPDATE: Time to Read Episode 206: Dan Simmons : The Fifth Heart

05-23-15: Commentary : John Waters Gets 'Carsick' : Going His Way

Agony Column Podcast News Report : A 2015 Interview with John Waters : " change how you would be in real life...”

Agony Column Podcast News Report UPDATE: Time to Read Episode 205: John Waters : Carsick

05-09-15: Commentary : Jeffrey A. Lieberman, MD and 'Shrinks' : A Most Fashionable Take on the Human Mind

Agony Column Podcast News Report : A 2015 Interview with Jeffrey A. Lieberman, MD : "..its influence to be as hegemonic as it was..."

Agony Column Podcast News Report UPDATE: Time to Read Episode 204: Jeffrey A. Lieberman, MD : Shrinks: The Untold Story of Psychiatry

04-29-15: Commentary : Barney Frank is 'Frank' : Interpersonally Ours

Agony Column Podcast News Report : A 2015 Interview with Barney Frank : "...while you're trying to change it, don't ignore it..."

Agony Column Podcast News Report UPDATE: Time to Read Episode 203: Barney Frank : Frank: A Life in Politics from the Great Society to Same-Sex Marriage

04-21-15: Commentary : Kazuo Ishiguro Unearths 'The Buried Giant' : The Mist of Myth and Memory

Agony Column Podcast News Report : A 2015 Interview with Kazuo Ishiguro : ".... by the time I was writing this novel, the lines between what was fantasy and what was real had blurred for me..."

Agony Column Podcast News Report UPDATE: Time to Read Episode 202: Kazuo Ishiguro : The Buried Giant

04-17-15: Commentary : Erik Larson Follows a 'Dead Wake' : Countdown to Destiny

Agony Column Podcast News Report : A 2015 Interview with Erik Larson : "...said to have been found in the arms of a dead German sailor..."

Agony Column Podcast News Report UPDATE: Time to Read Episode 201: Erik Larson : Dead Wake

04-15-15: Commentary : Peter Bell Reflects 'A Certain Slant of Light' : Strange Stories of Modern Scholars

Agony Column Podcast News Report : A 2014 Interview with Peter Bell : "...I looked up some of the old books..."

Agony Column Podcast News Report UPDATE: Time to Read Episode 200: Peter Bell : Strange Epiphanies and A Certain Slant of Light

03-14-15: Commentary : Marc Goodman Foresees 'Future Crimes' : Exponential Potential

Agony Column Podcast News Report : A 2015 Interview with Marc Goodman : "...every physical object around us is being transformed, one way or another, into an information technology..."

Agony Column Podcast News Report UPDATE: Time to Read Episode 199: Marc Goodman : Future Crimes: Everything Is Connected, Everyone Is Vulnerable and What We Can Do About It

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