04-28-13 UPDATE:Podcast Update: Time to Read Episode 95: Ben Katchor, 'Hand Drying in America'
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Here's the ninety-fifth episode of my series of podcasts, which I'm calling Time to Read. Hitting the one-year mark, I'm going to make an effort to stay ahead, so that podcast listeners can get the same sort of "sneak preview" effect that radio listeners get each Friday morning.
04-27-13:Thomas Frank from The Easy Chair and Harper's Magazine: TV's DC Fantasies
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"... basically, everyone is corrupt ..."
Readers of this column might guess that I have a busy reading schedule, chock full of books. But getting a chance to read an issue of Harper's Magazine with a new essay by Thomas Frank is perfect breath of fresh air between the big reads.
Harper's is the kind of magazine where you can find book reviews by Jane Smiley, new fiction by Charles Baxter, poetry, art, readings, and your dose of monthly non-fiction horror with Ted Conover's report from an industrial slaughterhouse. Any one of these makes a nice transition between your first experience of Mark Morris' Toady' and Glennon Doyle Melton's [Momastery] 'Carry on, Warrior.'
This month, Thomas addressed a trio of television shows that offer viewers a fantasy of Washington DC's corrupt nature. To be sure, these shows — ABC'S Scandal, Nextflix's House of Cards and HBO's Veep do indeed show DC as a hotbed of bad behavior and power-mongering corruption. Thomas Frank braved the small screen to watch them and bring back his report on nature of the rot.
Of course, it's easy to think rot is rot, corruption is corruption and television is a great example of both, but even while Frank finds some entertainment value here, the corruption on display in the world of TV is not what you'll find in Washington DC. In fact, in some cases the folks in DC are better behaved.
It sort of boggles my mind that two of the shows are based on British TV series. If I recall correctly, in England, they have what is called a Parliamentary system that's rather different from our form of corporate-driven wealth transfer and social gridlock. I do hope that the networks will take inspiration from Frank's observations and gussy up some homegrown DC fantasies. Heck there are enough conspiracy theories out there to fill up an entire TV channel. Come to think of it, I'm surprised that there isn't a Conspiracy Theory Channel.
So mute your home theaters, fire up your media centers, or just get ready for another commute with Thomas Frank from the Easy Chair as he and I discuss 'Power Rangers,' his latest column for Harper's Magazine. You can hear our discussion by following this link to the MP3 audio file.
04-22-13:A 2013 Interview with Danielle Trussoni
"I wanted it to be accurate...absolutely accurate."
— Danielle Trussoni
Given the sprinting pace of 'Angelopolis,' it's appropriate that Danielle Trussoni is herself almost sprinting. Her travel schedule is daunting to say the least, but she's as composed as her angels might be as she checks into her hotel before our interview. She did not even have time to unpack before we started.
We spoke in a small meeting room upstairs at the Claremont Spa in Oakland, an opulent resort that looks like a chalet, a delicate white gothic structure in the hills above Oakland. None of that's on display in the room where we talk however, so we're able to focus on her two novels, 'Angelology' and 'Angelopolis.'
I must admit given the title of her first novel, that I expected something a bit more along the lines of the new age books she tells me she did NOT find in the convent where her series began, for her as a writer. She already knew Evangeline in her heart, she told me, but finding what would become of the character took some work.
This involved research, and it was an aunt who helped her. Danielle's story of writing these books is just about as compelling as the books themselves, and there are more than a few similarities. You can easily imagine Danielle herself in that library at night (she was in its model at the same time of night). She was her own gothic heroine, which might have made the characterization a bit easier.
But the real interest in these novels is the secret history she creates and the rich feel of the prose and the world she evokes. We talked about how she creates her secret history; that is, how she chooses the focal points that will act as story pivots. In spite of the fact that she loves history and writes well about it, it is not within history that she finds to lynchpins of plot.
Trussoni and also talked about her prose. In the first novel it is dark and detailed. In the second, it's a bit sleeker, while being equally evocative. When Danielle and I talked about locations, it never occurred to me until afterward how appropriate a location the Claremont Spa was for our conversation. As I write, I'm wondering if the gothic aspects of this world follow her wherever she goes. You can hear our conversation by following this link to the MP3 audio file.
New to the Agony Column
09-18-15: Commentary : William T. Vollman Amidst 'The Dying Grass' : An Epic Exploration of Simultaneity
08-21-15: Agony Column Podcast News Report : Senator Claire McCaskill is 'Plenty Ladylike' : Internalizing Determination to Overcome Sexism [Incudes Time to Read EP 211: Claire McCaskill, Plenty Ladylike, plus A 2015 Interview with Senator Claire McCaskill]
Agony Column Podcast News Report : Emily Schultz Unleashes 'The Blondes' : A Cure by Color [Incudes Time to Read EP 210: Emily Schultz, The Blondes, plus A 2015 Interview with Emily Schultz]