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10-19-14 UPDATE: Podcast Update: Time to Read Episode 179: William T. Vollmann, 'Last Stories and Other Stories'

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Here's the one-hundred seventy-ninth episode of my series of podcasts, which I'm calling Time to Read. Hitting the two(three[?])-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'm way behind, but who knows what the hell might happen. I am hoping to get back up and stumbling. I have lots of great books in the hopper to review and lots of great interviews to podcast.

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 seventy-ninth episode is a look at William T. Vollmann and 'Last Stories and Other Stories.'

Here's a link to the MP3 audio file of Time to Read, Episode 179: William T. Vollmann, 'Last Stories and Other Stories'




10-16-14: A 2014 Interview with Alix Christie

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"This was the world's first tech start-up."

Alix Christie

Alix Christie brings more than research to her first novel, 'Gutenberg's Apprentice.' She brings family history. Printing runs in her family, and she's moved hot metal type herself.

In an email she told me, "The reason I embarked on this book at all was because of my family’s long involvement with hot metal type and printing in S.F. My grandfather, Lester Lloyd, was for four decades the superintendent of Mackenzie & Harris, the pre-eminent type foundry on the West Coast for most of the 20th century. He taught me how to set type and print in his retirement, in the 1970s. We made many books and broadsides together and I am still the owner of a 1910 Chandler & Press plate press, which resides in San Francisco in a working letterpress studiowhile I live abroad."

As I read Christie's gripping tale of technological innovation and invention, I had to constantly wonder if the author intended for me to be thinking of all the current start-ups as she wrote about Gutenberg and company. As the quote indicates, the answer is a resounding "Yes!" But in spite of this, there's not a hint of anachronism in the novel. It's a great historical reading experience that just happens to ring true for modern times as well.

"It creates disruption in the status quo," she observes. "For me the challenge was to ask, 'How did it come to be?'" Part of what she talks about in this interview and does in the book is to refute the "Great Man" vision of the invention of the printing press. The whole shebang did not as she observes, "..spring forth." This is the story of a team effort over three years, filled with trials, lots of trial, and a fair amount of error as well.

Apparently there's some perception that women readers prefer history, but I can't think of any science-fiction reader or software developer who would not find this book amazingly insightful. Alix Christie has managed to write a history novel that steps outside of history and distills action into timeless essences. She's as remarkable a speaker as she is a writer, which will become clear to you when you follow this link to the MP3 audio file of our interview.




10-15-14 UPDATE: Podcast Update: Time to Read Episode 178: Alix Christie, 'Gutenberg's Apprentice'

Click image for audio link.
Here's the one-hundred seventy-eighth episode of my series of podcasts, which I'm calling Time to Read, or when I warn the writer in advance, the lightning round. Hitting the who knows-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'm way behind, but who knows what the hell might happen. I am hoping to get back up and stumbling. I have lots of great books in the hopper to review and lots of great interviews to podcast.

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 seventy-eighth episode is a look at Alix Christie and 'Gutenberg's Apprentice.'

Here's a link to the MP3 audio file of Time to Read, Episode 178: Alix Christie, 'Gutenberg's Apprentice.'




10-13-14: A 2014 Interview with Maureen Corrigan

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"On his death in 1940, there were remaindered copies..."

— Maureen Corrigan

Yes; you hear the voice in print when you read 'So We Read On.' How can you not? Maureen Corrigan has a cadence and tone that are unmistakable. Sitting down at KQED to talk with her almost seems redundant after having read her book, but once she starts talking — it's that voice.

And not just her voice, but more precisely what she says. As a hard-core reader, talking in person with Corrigan about 'The Great Gatsby' gave me a chance to dig in to a book that I'd just re-read myself. Her conversation about and her insights into the book are as fresh when she re-condenses them live as they are in the book. And, since the book itself is much like a conversation with her readers, there was a continuity at work.

Of course, Corrigan has not stopped learning about and thinking about 'The Great Gatsby' since she finished her wonderful book. She told me on our way into the interview that she had, since finishing the book, visited Fitzgerald's childhood home.

In the interview, she talked about visiting his town and Fitzgerald's sense of being in the vicinity of the rich without ever belonging to the rich. For all that he wrote about Jazz Age excess, Fitzgerald, she told me, was one of our sharpest observers of class, and I would agree. Corrigan spoke eloquently about Fitzgerald and class.

Part of this goes with re-reading the novel now as opposed to back in the 1980's. These days, the class system in America is showing its strength. The fat has been rendered from the flesh in our dividing economy, and the skeleton underneath is becoming more apparent. 'The Great Gatsby' observes with enjoyable and often unsettling precision the ways in which we divide ourselves from ourselves. Corrigan's voice is, as you might expect, a guide to and through the crevasse as observed some 90 years ago.

You can hear Maureen Corrigan discuss Fitzgerald, Gatsby and her own writing process by following this link to the MP3 audio file.



New to the Agony Column

10-19-14:Agony Column Podcast News Report UPDATE: Time to Read Episode 179: William T. Vollmann : Last Stories and Other Stories

10-16-14: Commentary : Alix Christie Hires 'Gutenberg's Apprentice' : Fifteenth Century Start-Ups

Agony Column Podcast News Report : A 2014 Interview with Alix Christie : "This was the world's first tech start-up."

10-15-14:Agony Column Podcast News Report UPDATE: Time to Read Episode 178: Alix Christie : Gutenberg's Apprentice

10-13-14: Commentary : Maureen Corrigan 'So We Read On: How The Great Gatsby Came to Be and Why It Endures' : The Power of Re-Reading

Agony Column Podcast News Report : A 2014 Interview with Maureen Corrigan : "On his death in 1940, there were remaindered copies..."

10-08-14:Agony Column Podcast News Report UPDATE: Time to Read Episode 177: Maureen Corrigan : So We Read On: How The Great Gatsby Came to Be and Why It Endures

10-03-14: Commentary : Lawrence Wright ' Thirteen Days in September: Carter, Begin, and Sadat at Camp David' : Suspension of Belief

Agony Column Podcast News Report : A 2014 Interview with Lawrence Wright : "...peace is possible..."

10-01-14:Agony Column Podcast News Report UPDATE: Time to Read Episode 176: Lawrence Wright : Thirteen Days in September: Carter, Begin, and Sadat at Camp David

09-30-14: Commentary : Rebecca Alexander Will 'Not Fade Away' : A Memoir of Senses Lost and Found

Agony Column Podcast News Report : A 2014 Interview with Rebecca Alexander : "...like your hands are, and their arms are, engaged in this poetic dance..."

09-28-14:Agony Column Podcast News Report UPDATE: Time to Read Episode 175: Rebecca Alexander : Not Fade Away: A Memoir of Senses Lost and Found

09-23-14: Commentary : Lauren Beukes Builds 'Broken Monsters' : Dream Reapers

Agony Column Podcast News Report : A 2014 Live Interview with Lauren Beukes : "...fiction allows you to step into someone's head..."

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