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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

06-26-15: Commentary : Neal Stephenson Crafts an Eden for 'Seveneves' : Blow It Up and Start All Over Again

Agony Column Podcast News Report : A 2015 Interview with Neal Stephenson : "...and know that you're never going to se a tree again..."

Agony Column Podcast News Report UPDATE: Time to Read Episode 207: Neal Stephenson : Seveneves

06-03-15: Commentary : Dan Simmons Opens 'The Fifth Heart' : Having it Every Way

Agony Column Podcast News Report : A 2015 Interview with Dan Simmons : "...yes, they really did bring those bombs..."

Agony Column Podcast News Report UPDATE: Time to Read Episode 206: Dan Simmons : The Fifth Heart

05-23-15: Commentary : John Waters Gets 'Carsick' : Going His Way

Agony Column Podcast News Report : A 2015 Interview with John Waters : "...you change how you would be in real life...”

Agony Column Podcast News Report UPDATE: Time to Read Episode 205: John Waters : Carsick

05-09-15: Commentary : Jeffrey A. Lieberman, MD and 'Shrinks' : A Most Fashionable Take on the Human Mind

Agony Column Podcast News Report : A 2015 Interview with Jeffrey A. Lieberman, MD : "..its influence to be as hegemonic as it was..."

Agony Column Podcast News Report UPDATE: Time to Read Episode 204: Jeffrey A. Lieberman, MD : Shrinks: The Untold Story of Psychiatry

04-29-15: Commentary : Barney Frank is 'Frank' : Interpersonally Ours

Agony Column Podcast News Report : A 2015 Interview with Barney Frank : "...while you're trying to change it, don't ignore it..."

Agony Column Podcast News Report UPDATE: Time to Read Episode 203: Barney Frank : Frank: A Life in Politics from the Great Society to Same-Sex Marriage

04-21-15: Commentary : Kazuo Ishiguro Unearths 'The Buried Giant' : The Mist of Myth and Memory

Agony Column Podcast News Report : A 2015 Interview with Kazuo Ishiguro : ".... by the time I was writing this novel, the lines between what was fantasy and what was real had blurred for me..."

Agony Column Podcast News Report UPDATE: Time to Read Episode 202: Kazuo Ishiguro : The Buried Giant

04-17-15: Commentary : Erik Larson Follows a 'Dead Wake' : Countdown to Destiny

Agony Column Podcast News Report : A 2015 Interview with Erik Larson : "...said to have been found in the arms of a dead German sailor..."

Agony Column Podcast News Report UPDATE: Time to Read Episode 201: Erik Larson : Dead Wake

04-15-15: Commentary : Peter Bell Reflects 'A Certain Slant of Light' : Strange Stories of Modern Scholars

Agony Column Podcast News Report : A 2014 Interview with Peter Bell : "...I looked up some of the old books..."

Agony Column Podcast News Report UPDATE: Time to Read Episode 200: Peter Bell : Strange Epiphanies and A Certain Slant of Light

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

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