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10-19-13 UPDATE: Podcast Update: Time to Read Episode 128: Paul Harding, 'Enon'

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Here's the one hundred and twenty-eigth episode of my series of podcasts, which I'm calling Time to Read. Hitting the two-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.

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 one hundred and twenty-eigth episode is a look at Paul Harding and 'Enon.'

Here's a link to the MP3 audio file of Time to Read, Episode 128: Paul Harding, 'Enon'




10-16-13: A 2013 Interview with Nicholson Baker

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"...I did all sorts of things to get the voiceiness..."

—Nicholson Baker

Nicholson Baker is clearly having too much fun being Paul Chowder. In his sequel to 'The Anthologist,' 'Traveling Sprinkler,' Baker captures a unique tone that makes stream-of-consciousness writing more fun than it has any right to be.

As he and I talked about his new work, and his old work, we had a lot of fun as well. Baker is a true original who follows his muse without question. The genesis of these books was an experiment by Baker, in his attempt to craft a different sort of voice. It's no surprise that Chowder spends more than a little time discussing "the poet's voice." Baker is paring everything he can to find the authentic.

Baker and I spent a good deal of time talking about his efforts to find a truly human prose voice. As he points out, words on the page can be a desiccated afterthought to human speech. Baker likes to take risks and is willing to stray down a path that may lead nowhere simply because he has not gone that way before.

As we spoke, Baker made it clear that the line between Chowder and himself is a bit blurry. He and I had a good time talking about the world of making music using MIDI and Logic and the rest of the fun stuff that has transformed music from something that required a lot of people and a lot of money into an art that pretty much anyone with a computer and bedroom can enjoy.

This is more than just idle chatter, though that would be perfectly in place in a Paul Chowder novel. In 'Traveling Sprinkler,' Paul Chowder makes music – and in the enhanced version of the e-book, you get a sample of his songs. This is a fascinating development, or experiment in characterization. Chowder's music is a hoot, the perfect accompaniment to Baker's understated glory.

The fact of the matter is that Nicholson Baker and I talked for just over an hour and it hardly felt like time passed. To hear what happens when an interview is more fun than it should be, follow this link to the MP3 audio file.




10-15-13 UPDATE: Podcast Update: Time to Read Episode 127: Nicholson Baker, 'Traveling Sprinkler'

Click image for audio link.
Here's the one-hundred twenty-seventh episode of my series of podcasts, which I'm calling Time to Read. Hitting the two-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. This week, I seem to be on top opf the game, but who knows what the hell might happen. I am hoping to stay back up and stumbling.

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 one-hundred twenty-seventh episode is a look at Nicholson Baker and 'Traveling Sprinkler.'

Here's a link to the MP3 audio file of Time to Read, Episode 127: Nicholson Baker, 'Traveling Sprinkler'




10-14-13: A 2013 Interview with Jonathan Lethem

Click image for audio link. [Photo Credit: John Lucas]

: "...we resist thinking about these things, and then suddenly it will become quite urgent figure it out, wait, where do I come from..."

— Jonathan Lethem

I'd have thought that my favorite Jonathan Lethem novel might be one of his more science fictional efforts, but his latest 'Dissident Gardens' brought back to me all the pleasures of first reading 'Great Expectations.' As I sat down to talk to him about the novel, the challenge of unpacking the reading seemed daunting.

In preparing for an interview, I tend to take extensive notes, which, alas, get mostly ignored once I start talking to the writer. That was the case in this conversation, when Lethem revealed the inspiration for his character Rose. My perceived priorities were upended about two minutes in.

That proved to be just fine. However, I do find it a bit challenging to frame questions about what interests me in a written work, because I tend to wonder how a writer goes aout creating a certain type of reading experience. When I ask about this, for example in 'Dissident Gardens,' how Lethem plays with story to reward readers with stories that we see first in full, then later are referred to in passing and vice verse, the author tends to think I'm trying to say something positive about the book. But I feel like a vivisectionist, slicing open the novel and asking about that red, pumping muscle chamber. Like any competent Doctor Phibes, I hold back on the anesthetic. But yet the patients live to answer another knife-plunge.

But yes, I do occasionally ask a normal question, for example, what's next. The answers, I know, may vary greatly. Some writers may balk — understandably, for a variety of reasons. Some don't want to talk about a project until it is finished, or they may not have yet started. For my part, I mostly wanted to know whether or not Lethem was going to return to New York for another extravaganza, and he was more than happy to give me an answer that was suitably vague.

Readers who want to hear Jonathan Lethem talk about the variety of techniques he use to put together what is arguably his best novel (until his next) can follow this link to the MP3 audio file.



New to the Agony Column

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

03-01-15: Commentary : William Ury on Getting to Yes with Yourself: And Other Worthy Opponents : To the BATNA, Robin!

Agony Column Podcast News Report : A 2015 Interview with William Ury : ...he proceeded to shout at me for approximately 30 minutes..."

Agony Column Podcast News Report UPDATE: Time to Read Episode 198: William Ury : Getting to Yes with Yourself: And Other Worthy Opponents

02-22-15: Commentary : Jennifer Senior Experiences 'All Joy and No Fun: The Paradox of Modern Parenthood' : Reading Fun for the Whole Fambly!

Agony Column Podcast News Report : A 2015 Interview with Jennifer Senior : "...it becomes a source of enormous tension once a baby comes along..."

Agony Column Podcast News Report UPDATE: Time to Read Episode 197: Jennifer Senior : All Joy and No Fun: The Paradox of Modern Parenthood

02-09-15: Commentary : Stewart O'Nan Looks 'West of Sunset' : Twilight of the Great

Agony Column Podcast News Report : A 2015 Interview with Stewart O'Nan : "...we see him as a tragedian because is life is a tragedy..."

Agony Column Podcast News Report UPDATE: Time to Read Episode 196: Stewart O'Nan : West of Sunset

02-04-15: Commentary : Armistead Maupin Maps 'The Days of Anna Madrigal' : Swiftly Flow the Years

Agony Column Podcast News Report : A 2015 Interview with Armistead Maupin : "I could see what silliness was going on while it was happening..."

Agony Column Podcast News Report UPDATE: Time to Read Episode 195: Armistead Maupin : The Days of Anna Madrigal

01-31-15: Commentary : Christine Carter's Path to 'The Sweet Spot: How to Find Your Groove at Home and Work' : Neurohabits

Agony Column Podcast News Report : A 2015 Interview with Christine Carter, Ph.D. : "...a real tipping point..."

Agony Column Podcast News Report UPDATE: Time to Read Episode 194: Christine Carter, Ph.D. : The Sweet Spot: How to Find Your Groove at Home and Work

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 "...it'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

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