Book Book Book Book
Commentary Commentary RSS Reviews Podcasts_Audio Podcasts RSS Blog Links Archives Indexes

12-01-12 UPDATE: Podcast Update:Time to Read Episode 76: Justin Cronin 'The Twelve'

Click image for audio link.

Here's the seventy-sixth 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 seventy-sixth episode is a look at Justin Cronin, 'The Twelve.'

Here's a link to the MP3 audio file of Time to Read, Episode 76: Justin Cronin 'The Twelve.'

12-01-12: A 2012 Interview with Charles Burns and Chris Ware

Click image for audio link.

"..Tolstoy, the greatest writer who ever lived ..."

—Chris Ware

There's a good reason that I conduct my interviews sort of like science experiments — when I get the chance. With Charles Burns and 'The Hive' and Chris Ware and 'Building Stories,' I had the opportunity to speak with each writer separately one day, and then together the next. And I have to admit I just had fun the second time around, with the both of them. All the prep was done, I had great audio queued up and all I had to do was start the ball rolling — Ware and Burns took care of the rest.

The experiment aspect works like this. First, I isolate each element in its own suspension; that is I get a "baseline" interview with each writer, in this case Charles Burns and Chris Ware. Having spoken with each of them separately, I have a good idea as to what their commonalities are and what their differences are. This gives me a good basis for questioning the elements once they are combined. The third interview is the actual chemical experiment, so to speak.

We met for the second time at Bookshop Santa Cruz, and sat down upstairs to talk about their books, and as it happened, flushing toilets — since the pipes above us seemed particularly talkative. But once I got them together, their long-term friendship and the influences that they have had over one another came to the foreground in a totally fascinating synthesis.

I also got to ask the easy-geek questions about influences and found myself with the honor of having Chris Ware talk about the power of Tolstoy's prose. Charles Burns talked about having to ratchet back his drawings as a reaction to his experience of reading Heavy Metal magazine. Now that brought back memories; not that I am an artist, but like many of my readers, I'm guessing, I do have a stash of the venerable import, printed by the same folks who brought you National Lampoon.

Burns and Ware discuss the ways they use colors and layers to tell stories, and that in itself tells s story about the two men and their friendship over the years. They're quite insightful about their own work and abut one another's work. You can hear our conversation by following this link to the MP3 audio files.

11-28-12: A 2012 Interview with Chris Ware

Click image for audio link.

" attempt to get at what it feels like to be alive..."

—Chris Ware

Chris Ware is soft-spoken and articulate. The soft-spoken part is easy to get because he's audibly quieter than Charles Burns in the headphones. I have to turn up the volume a bit as we begin to tuck into our discussion of his book 'Building Stories.' There's a lot to talk about.

Shockingly, to me, Ware does everything just about once, and as he explains it, it does make sense. The art is incredibly time consuming, so his stories grow organically, he tells me. That makes sense; the collection feels like the human equivalent of a redwood forest glade; one tree-organism bursts through the ground in several places. It's all connected underneath, but looks like a collection of different plants.

Ware's influences are fascinating; some of them are surprising and others, while expected ripple through his work in an unexpected manner. I would have guessed that my Dickensian perceptions were based on a deliberate intention on Ware's part, but that's not the case. But who can forget the last time they read Great Expectations?

I spoke with Ware about his use of details, which to me is one of the most powerful elements of his work, both visually, and in the writing, which is unusual. To a degree, Ware provides his readers with an audio soundtrack, the quiet tinks and sighs that punctuate all of our own, lonely lives.

Ware is effusive with his praise for his various collaborators over the years in publishing, from the magazines (like The New Yorker) and other venues where he began seeing his work in print to the folks at Pantheon who helped him put together this massive project. Readers should look for exhibitions of excerpts from this work. It was most recently exhibited in New York, and I think this would be a great way to experience the work, especially if you have already read through the box set.

Ware spoke of his friend and collaborator Ira Glass, from NPR's venerable This American Life, for whom, if I am not mistaken, Ware has done some animation. He is exactly the sort of fellow who can talk casually about the greatest artists of the day because he himself manages to be just that — a casual gentleman and a great artist, in the same moments. You can hear him do so by following this link to the MP3 audio file.

11-26-12: A 2012 Interview with Charles Burns

Click image for audio link.

"'re getting information in different ways..."

— Charles Burns

I met Charles Burns and Chris Ware in the lobby at KQED, with the honor of interviewing both; one after the other. They're friends, and they were having a good time chatting in the before I arrived to speak to Burns about 'The Hive' and Ware about 'Building Stories.'

I decided to talk to them in alphabetical order by last name, and thus Burns was first in the booth, while Chris Ware cooled his heels in another studio, working on his laptop. I'd spoken with Burns before, but it had been two years, so it took him a while to place me, especially since last time, we spoke at Bookshop Santa Cruz.

But once you sit down to talk to Burns, you'll find a very serious, and well-spoken artist who manages to neatly combine what to me, at least, seem to be two very different disciplines; visual art and storytelling — in an utterly seamless manner. Burns is a master of dreams made real on paper, of crafting a work that is not an illustrated short story, but instead, is a story that can only be told in words and images. He creates a continuum, and is able to speak about how he does so.

I found it remarkable when he told me that some readers believe he used a computer or a razor to create the muscular images that wrestle their way out of the book and into the readers' minds. To me they seem so forceful, gut-wrenching, really. And that is indeed the case.

It was also fascinating to talk to Burns about his history with the Tintin books, which inform his work in 'X'ed Out' and 'The Hive.' Some of this is obvious, and some not so much. I found myself surprised by the ways in which the influence of these books were made manifest.

With Burns' work in these books, it is refreshingly easy to have a conversation about the material which will inform your reading experience without giving away one iota of what happens between the covers. We did talk about Charles Burns' dreams, and not surprisingly they play a big part in his work. As readers, your own dreams, as informed by your reading (and, I trust re-reading) of 'X'ed Out' and 'The Hive' will similarly inform your enjoyment of our conversation, which you can hear by following this link to the MP3 audio file.

New to the Agony Column

01-23-15: Commentary : Jake Halpern Pushes 'Bad Paper: Chasing Debt from Wall Street to the Underworld' : Non-Fiction 21st Century Noir

Agony Column Podcast News Report : A 2015 Interview with Jake Halpern : "...he goes to Las Vegas to this debt-buyers' convention..."

Agony Column Podcast News Report UPDATE: Time to Read Episode 193: Jake Halpern : Bad Paper: Chasing Debt from Wall Street to the Underworld

01-19-15: Commentary : David Shields and Caleb Powell Assert 'I Think You're Totally Wrong' : The Power to Bicker

Agony Column Podcast News Report : A 2015 Interview with David Shields and Caleb Powell : "I read no book reviews any more; the level of discussion is really pedestrian." David Shields "I'm just saying it's a conflict of interest!" Caleb Powell

Agony Column Podcast News Report UPDATE: Time to Read Episode 192: David Shields and Caleb Powell : I Think You're Totally Wrong

01-17-15: Commentary : Charles Todd Expects 'A Fine Summer's Day' : We Interrupt This Program...

Commentary : Charles Todd Engages In 'A Test of Wills' : The Politics of Passion and Policing

Agony Column Podcast News Report : A 2014 Interview with Charles and Caroline Todd : "...let them be themselves and sort it out..." Caroline Todd "'s more on a personal level..." Charles Todd

Agony Column Podcast News Report UPDATE: Time to Read Episode 191: Charles Todd : A Fine Summer's Day

01-13-15: Commentary : Rosalie Parker Unearths 'The Old Knowledge' : The New Old World

Agony Column Podcast News Report : A 2014 Interview with Ray Russell and Rosalie Parker : "I thought I'd write something for fun.." Ray Russell "..there was a side of me of that was interested in the strangeness..." Ros Parker

01-12-15: Commentary : Richard Ford 'Let Me Be Frank with You' : The Default Years

Agony Column Podcast News Report : A 2014 Interview with Richard Ford : "...most of our politicians are morons..."

Agony Column Podcast News Report UPDATE: Time to Read Episode 190: Richard Ford : Let Me Be Frank with You

01-06-15: Commentary : Bessel van der Kolk 'The Body Keeps the Score' : Human Trauma

Agony Column Podcast News Report : A 2014 Interview with Bessel van der Kolk : "...being able to see what happens in the brain really helps us to understand certain things..."

Agony Column Podcast News Report UPDATE: Time to Read Episode 189: Bessel van der Kolk : The Body Keeps the Score

01-03-15: Commentary : Rebecca Lloyd 'Mercy and other Stories' : "You humans are practiced executioners." Zanti Leader, The Outer Limits

Agony Column Podcast News Report : A 2015 Audio Review of Rebecca Lloyd 'Mercy and other Stories' : "Our knives and monsters are ever ready, and as real as we need them to be."

12-30-14: Commentary : Kathy Freston 'Quantum Wellness' : : Tipping Points

12-29-14: Commentary : Kathy Freston Embraces 'The Lean' : Series of Successive Approximations

Agony Column Podcast News Report : A 2014 Interview with Kathy Freston : "...visualize how you'd like your life to look..."

Agony Column Podcast News Report UPDATE: Time to Read Episode 188: Kathy Freston : Quantum Wellness, Veganist and The Lean

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 Hobbs : 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

Commentary & Podcast Archive

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