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