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02-22-13 UPDATE: Podcast Update:Time to Read Episode 86: Gregory D. Johnsen 'The Last Refuge: Yemen, al-Qaeda, and America's War in Arabia'

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Photo by Jeff Taylor

Here's the eighty-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 eighty-sixth episode is a look at Gregory D. Johnsen, 'The Last Refuge: Yemen, al-Qaeda, and America's War in Arabia'.

Here's a link to the MP3 audio file of Time to Read, Episode 86: Gregory D. Johnsen 'The Last Refuge: Yemen, al-Qaeda, and America's War in Arabia'.

02-21-13: A 2013 Interview with Leslie Klinger

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"We're hoping for a streamlined procedure..."

—Leslie Klinger

The same laws that Sherlock Holmes spends his fictional life upholding (for the most part) are currently being used to keep him imprisoned. It sounds like a Mickey Mouse usage of the legal system, and in this case that's the truth of the matter.

The so-called Bono Law; named after Sonny Bono, who managed to get it passed to ensure that the Disney Corporation kept a firm grip on Mickey's throat — keeps Sherlock Holmes in jail as well. But that's disputable. Leslie Klinger, and Laurie R. King have had enough, and they're taking the Conan Doyle estate to court to spring Holmes free into the public domain. They even have the domain name down, where you can see all the documents and updates;

The back story is pretty simple. Readers might remember my last conversation with Laurie King, when we discussed 'A Study in Sherlock,' the collection she co-edited with Leslie Klinger, the pre-eminent Holmes scholar. She told me at the time that they had planned a follow up, and it is approaching readiness. 'In the Company of Sherlock Holmes' is just about ready to print. It will feature new stories by Sara Paretsky, Michael Connelly, Lev Grossman, Larry Niven, Val McDermid, Denise Mina, Cornelia Funke, Jeffery Deaver, to name but a few. But trhere's the not-so-small matter of the licensing fee.

Much of the Holmes canon has already passed into the public domain. But ten stories have not yet done so; that won't happen until 2023. And thus, the Conan Doyle Estate feels perfectly at home charging a licensing fee for anyone who wants to use Sherlock Holmes. Klinger and King are challenging that stance, and taking the estate to court. Laurie King thought I might be interested in this, and suggested I call up Klinger to get the details.

When it comes to Holmes details, Klinger is your man. And in our conversation, we talked about how his knowledge of the canon helped him to write up a document that demonstrates how copyright law can be abused by those with enough money to hide behind the cost of a lawsuit. We also talked about the more terrifying prospect of trademarking the character.

Klinger and I walked through his case and his papers, which you can find at his website. You can also find links to help his cause via PayPal. Klinger is smart, concise and genuinely respectful of Conan Doyle's accomplishment. He understands the intricacies of the law and is able to explain it. To hear the sound of Sherlock Holmes being set free, follow this link to the MP3 audio file.

02-19-13: A 2013 Interview with Siobhan Fallon, Amy Kossow, Chad Deverman and Arwen Anderson

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"We're looking at the shape of the text on the page..."

—Amy Kossow

After attending the performances of "The Last Stand" and "Gold Star," from Siobhan Fallon's 'You Know When the Men are Gone,' I down to talk with author Siobhan Fallon Fallon, director Amy Kossow, and actors Chad Deverman, who played Kit in both stories and Arwen Anderson, who played Josie in "Gold Star," and was in the chorus for "The Last Stand."

This was the first time that Siobhan has seen the performance of her work, and her reaction was, I think similar to mine; amazement that Word for Word could do what they did so well, on all levels. I immediately asked Amy Kossow about the how the intricate staging and reading were created from Fallon's text, and the first words she said were:

"We look to the text."

This is why, I think, this unusual and inventive format works so well. By looking to the text, the directors and actors are immersing themselves in the same words that we immerse ourselves in as readers. But when it is time for them to bring them to life, the level and variety of skills required are rather astonishing, considering how fast the words an actions fly on stage.

Kossow was quick to thank her technical crew, who clearly played a big part in making sure that the intricate and intense staging came off perfectly. Deverman and Anderson had rather different takes on how they approached their parts, which I found rather surprising since the whole work felt very homogenous, in the best of all possible senses.

The conversation proved to be a fantastic vision into the creation of the stories, the reality from which they came, and the re-creation of the reality within the stories on the stage — word for word. These guests all proved to be intelligent and insightful as they talked about how their art was recombined into a form that demands to be seen and heard — and rewards its audience with emotion and truth as art. To hear what we said, word for word, follow this link to the MP3 audio file.

02-18-13: A 2013 Interview with Dave Barry

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"Where's the beef, Mr. Lama?"

— Dave Barry

Yes, in 'Insane City' Dave Barry does manage the seemingly impossible, climbing to heights of absurdity with an admirable ease. He manages to mock the Dalai Lama, in a manner that is actually quite funny but good-natured.

The good-natured spirit that makes the book so utterly enjoyable is not just the result of literary skills, though Barry is clearly an astonishing perfectionist. Barry's ability to convey a sweet and happy sensibility is simply a reflection of the man himself. After all, here is a fellow who is booked to the gills for his tour. He's out in a Saturday, and before noon, he's already done one live appearance. He's got at least one and probably two more in the afternoon and evening (if not more), but he's willing to give me a chance to talk to him in his hotel room in San Francisco. It's a beautiful, sunny, crisp day, and I don't even know if he's had time for lunch.

He certainly is keeping up on his sports, watching a game while I set up the studio. But the second he sits down to talk about his new novel, he is — and you can hear this in the interview — charged with energy to discuss the inner workings of comedy. As an interviewer, I tend to be very wary when it comes to comedy. It's easy to kill that patient while you examine the inner workings. But Barry is so smart and so much fun that he can make jokes about writing jokes. It's like watching Bruce Lee karate chop his own moves.

Barry and I discussed a number of aspects of his book, and his inspirations and influences. What struck me was how seriously he takes his art. There's no doubt that 'Insane City' is first and last a joy to read. It is perilously easy to pick up and dangerously difficult to put down. Barry makes all this seem so easy that one might be tempted to believe that it's as easy for him to write as it is for us to read. Talking to the man will disabuse you of this sophistry. He works very hard to make his own art, his own hard work, quite invisible.

But Barry has this joyous energy running through him when he talks. These books are no more than a literary version of the man, who had his son's wedding to contend with. The real joy in 'Insane City' is that it not just rings true, but big old slabs of it are based on what comes and goes in an average day in Miami. Barry manages to make it seem as if, while the individual bits in the novel are fiction, the whole shebang is something that a lucky documentarian might end up filming.

You can listen to the movies in Dave Barry's mind and get some fine advice on the art of comedy by following this link to the MP3 audio file.

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