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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

12-16-14: Commentary : Christopher Hobbs and Leslie Gardner 'Grow It, Heal It' : Natural and Effective Herbal Remedies from Your Garden or Windowsill

Agony Column Podcast News Report : A 2014 Interview with Christopher Hobbs : "I want to integrate both the traditional uses and the traditional wisdom and knowledge and experience with modern science.""

Agony Column Podcast News Report UPDATE: Time to Read Episode 187: Christopher Hobbss : Grow It, Heal It

12-09-14: Commentary : Tad Williams Is Caught 'Sleeping Late on Judgment Day' : As Below, So Above

Agony Column Podcast News Report : A 2014 Interview with Tad Williams : ...Heaven and Hell couldn't be an open, on-going dramatic conflict; it would be more like the Cold War."

Agony Column Podcast News Report UPDATE: Time to Read Episode 186: Tad Williams : Sleeping Late on Judgment Day

12-04-14: Commentary : Anne Rice Crowns 'Prince Lestat' : A Unified Theory of Vampires

Agony Column Podcast News Report : A 2014 Interview with Anne Rice : "I have to woo him..."

12-03-14: Commentary : Andrew Michael Hurley Returns from 'The Loney' : A Matter of Faith

Agony Column Podcast News Report : Four Books With Alan Cheuse : : Maureen Corrigan So We Read On, Casey Walker Last Days in Shanghai, Ron Rash Something Rich and Strange, Nicholson Baker Traveling Sprinkler

Agony Column Podcast News Report UPDATE: Time to Read Episode 185: Anne Rice : Prince Lestat

12-01-14: Commentary : Back to Darkness : Re-Visiting 'Darkscapes'

Agony Column Podcast News Report : A 2014 Interview with Anne-Sylvie Salzman : "You really have to enter a world and it's not some kind of guided tour."

11-22-14: Commentary : William Gibson Connects 'The Peripheral' : Time Life Books

Agony Column Podcast News Report : A 2014 Interview with William Gibson : "...recalibrate my yardstick of weirdness..."

Agony Column Podcast News Report UPDATE: Time to Read Episode 184: William Gibson : The Peripheral

11-19-14: Commentary : David Greene Catches 'Midnight in Siberia: A Train Journey into the Heart of Russia' : The Character(s) of a Country

Agony Column Podcast News Report : A 2014 Interview with David Greene : "It was very easy to literally just tell their stories..."

11-17-14: Commentary : Azar Nafisi Resides In 'The Republic of Imagination: America in Three Books' : Choose Your World

Agony Column Podcast News Report : A 2014 Interview with Azar Nafisi : "I wanted to show how close reality and fiction are..."

11-15-14: Commentary : Cary Elwes Delivers 'As You Wish: Inconceivable Tales from the Making of The Princess Bride' : Re-Reading and Re-Viewing

Agony Column Podcast News Report : A 2014 Interview with Cary Elwes : "...an unwise decision on my part..."

Agony Column Podcast News Report UPDATE: Time to Read Episode 183: Azar Nafisi : The Republic of Imagination: America in Three Books

11-10-14: Commentary : Dana Cowin 'Mastering My Mistakes in the Kitchen' : Learning to Cook — and Live

Agony Column Podcast News Report : A 2014 Interview with Dana Cowin : "...so I add a little more citrus..."

11-09-14:Agony Column Podcast News Report UPDATE: Time to Read Episode 182: Dana Cowin : Mastering My Mistakes in the Kitchen: Learning to Cook with 65 Great Chefs and Over 100 Delicious Recipes

11-06-14: Agony Column Podcast News Report : A 2014 Interview with Paolo Bacigalupi and A. S. King : "You're handing us all the problems..." Paolo Bacigalupi "That gray area is so important for readers..." A. S. King

11-05-14: Commentary : A. S. King Foresees 'Glory O'Brien's History of the Future' : Halls of Mirrorsr

Agony Column Podcast News Report : A 2014 Interview with A. S. King : "How much do we really change?"

11-04-14: Commentary : Paolo Bacigalupi Believes In 'The Doubt Factory' : Thrills Matter

Agony Column Podcast News Report : A 2014 Interview with Paolo Bacigalupi : "...these are perfectly nice people..."

10-30-14: Commentary : Brian J. Showers Opens 'The Green Book, Issue 4' : 200 Years of Le Fanu

Agony Column Podcast News Report UPDATE: Time to Read Episode 181: Paolo Bacigalupi : The Doubt Factory

10-27-14: Commentary : Jim Rockhill and Brian J. Showers Recall 'Dreams of Shadow and Smoke: Stories for J. S. Le Fanu' : New Stories for an Antiquary

Agony Column Podcast News Report : A 2014 Interview with Brian J. Showers : "I have a lot reference materials on my desk..."

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