Book Book Book Book
Commentary Commentary RSS Reviews Podcasts_Audio Podcasts RSS Blog Links Archives Indexes
09-01-11: A 2011 Interview with Penn Jillette



"I don't know."

—Penn Jillette

So far as interviews go, "I don't know," was not a bad take on the whole interview process with Penn Jillette. I complicate things, of course, because I prefer to speak to someone face-to-face. This meant that until literally the day before I was to do the interview, I had no set place or time to do it.

I understand the necessities. Jillette has a huge following from his Vegas magic act and his Showtime Series, Bullshit. Writers who work in all forms of media, whose stories go out across all sorts of platforms, are getting booked to the hilt. Moreover, they're dealing with all sorts of interview types. They may be putting in five minutes here, or answering questions about their show there, to someone who might not have seen the book at all.

Then there's me. The only time I've seen Penn Jillette live was when he introduced the Residents for the Mark of the Mole tour. I've not seen any of the magic, any of the visits to the talk shows, nor watched a single episode of Bullshit. (I don't subscribe to Showtime, kind of a stopper.) But I actually read the book, filled it with stickies and was well-prepped for the interview, which I found out was to be at 9:00 AM.

Thus, I found myself flying up the freeway just after oh-dark hundred, with the idea of making it to San Francisco in time to get parked and to his hotel for what to many people might be an early appointment.

None of this was easy — beyond reading the book, which I thoroughly enjoyed. The trap with interviews for books such as this is that you can just get slotted into asking, "What about Commandment 1?" and so on down the line. I tried to take different approach, and once Jillette and I got our words lined up right, off we went for a screamingly quick thirty minutes. You can hear just about every second by following this link to the MP3 audio file.




08-31-11: Nick Mamatas Reads at SF in SF on June 11, 2011


"I will try to read more slowly."

—Nick Mamatas

Before he read at SF in SF back in June — it seems so long ago now! — Nick Mamatas inveigled us with an anecdote about reading aloud at another gathering, and receiving a complaint about reading too fast from an audience member. "And then I married her," he told us.

To be honest, he didn't seem to exactly be hitting the brakes when he read this time around from his fascinating new novel 'Sensation,' in which our world is watched over and occasionally messed with by intelligent, near omnipotent wasps (insects, not humans). That said it's hard to go wrong with such a premise, to my mind. And when you hear the reading, all I can say it that in the aftermath, just blame the insects for manipulating you into buying the book.

Mamatas has a talent for undermining reality. He knows how to write about our lives from the perspective of creatures who regard them from afar, and how to craft a vision that makes us see ourselves as insignificant. His reading, however is anything but. You can hear Nick Mamatas, entertainingly introduced by none other than Terry Bisson, by following this link to the MP3 audio file.




08-30-11 UPDATE: Podcast Update: Time to Read, Episode 7: Writing About Slavery: Alan Cheuse, Song of Slaves in the Desert


Here's the seventh 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 seventh episode is a review of Alan Cheuse's 'Song of Slaves in the Desert' featuring Cheuse's thoughts about creating the novel. Here's a link to the MP3 audio file.




08-29-11: A 2011 Interview With David Levien

Click image for audio link.

"...this guy went on to be a private investigator for years and years and he still does it..."

—David Levien

David Levien (lev-VEEN, yes I mispronounced it at first as well) is exactly as down-to-earth as you might expect the author of the Frank Behr novels to be; which is to say, utterly, totally, salt-of-the-earth down-to-earth. I was privileged to speak with him while he was in town for a whirlwind tour that sounded pretty difficult; one of those one-city-a-day deals that I'm certain gives book tours the allure of a forced march.

But given the forced-march aspect of his appearance here, he was remarkably cheerful, and we had a great conversation about his books, his movies and his path to the Frank Behr books. This is the sort of conversation that is better heard than described, so I'll keep the spoilers for the interview to a minimum. Still, there are some things I do feel comfortable letting readers know.

The first is that there is another Frank Behr novel in the works. To my mind, any time after tomorrow would be good, but the chances are we will have to wait. But Levien makes sure that the books are worth the wait, so I'm content to do so. He also talked about his next movie, which is based on 'The Game' by Neil Strauss. The book is about the "secret society of pickup artists." Given that all movies these days seem to require a boy-meets-girl plot, well, at least we have here a book wherein that is essential to the plot instead of thrown in as an obligatory sub-plot.

Levien has been involved in a lot of interesting projects and his research has been equally interesting. You can hear him tell the tale 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 : "...you 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

Commentary & Podcast Archive
Archives Indexes How to use the Agony Column Contact Us About Us