Review Archive


This Just In...News From The Agony Column

10-05-07: Agony Column Podcast News : A 2007 Interview with Kathryn Petruccelli and Nikki Giovanni : American Classics

Nikki Giovanni

Today's podcast features Kathryn Petruccelli speaking with Nikki Giovanni, no less than an American institution; a classic poet. My words are not necessary; the audio matters. Here's a link to the MP3.

Dr. Barney Pell

10-04-07: Agony Column Podcast News: A 2007 Interview With Doctor Barney Pell at Singularity Summit 2007 : The High-School Graduate Replacement Robot

Today's Agony Column Podcast News Report is my interview with Dr. Barney Pell at the Singularity Summit. Pell was a fascinating figure, who told me about the thirty-year quest to create the CUI – Conversational User Interface. In other words, he's teaching computers to speak English by extracting the meaning of words, not just by proximity. And he talks about his very entertaining measure for true AI, the High-School Graduate Replacement Robot. Here's the MP3; you must show your diploma before listening in!


Agony Column Podcast News Report : Howard V. Hendrix Reads at SF in SF

Howard V. Hendrix.
Today's Agony Column Podcast is the final report from the last SF in SF gathering; it's Howard V. Hendrix reading his story 'Flame of Branches', which I believe is as yet unpublished, but is slated for publication RSN. Here's a link to his website, where there will soon be more fiction. As Terry Bisson noted during the intro to the Wrench-Pixeled Techno-Pleasant Stain debate, Scott Sigler, a seasoned podcaster and extraordinarily talented voice actor, was succumbing to the illness he described so vividly in 'Infection'. Hendrix, arguing for the prosecution so to speak, read his story at a rather rapid clip with nary a hesitation. Here's the MP3 to prove I was there and vaguely competent at my recording chores.

10-02-07: A Review of Whitley Strieber '2012: The War for Souls'; Agony Column Podcast News : Scott Sigler Reads from 'Infection'

Hell on Earth or Hell is Earth?

No frog rain, however.

So I broke down and read '2012' by Whitley "" Strieber. How could I resist? It spent at least fifteen minutes being the next movie by Michael blowin'-up-shit Bay, until the I-can't-believe-they-made-it Transformers movie actually made money. Nobody ever went broke underestimating the taste of the American movie audience. While I'm not going to give away the big build-up, I can say with confidence that no reader who has ever either managed to stay awake through a Michael Bay movie or read a review of one will doubt as to what attracted him to this property. That said, Strieber's latest displays unexpected finesse as well as running-too-fast incoherence. You can read my review here. I want to warn you that it may make you want to read the novel. Don’t a say I didn't warn you. Hey, I read it. I couldn’t resist. Maybe you should.

Scott Sigler

Agony Column Podcast News : Scott Sigler Reads from 'Infection' : More SF in SF

Today's Agony Column Podcast News is Scott Sigler's reading from the forthcoming-in-hardcover 'Infection'. Scott is a fantastic voice actor who takes his work seriously, and he was properly ill for this reading. I did elide come soughing fits, and included the guest reading by Terry Bisson who bravely carried on while Scott spread his contagion in the lobby of the Variety Theater. If you hear that San Franciscans are murdering one another at a greater than usual rate, you know who to blame. Me! After all, I Podcast the number one SF podcaster reading his work. Here’s the MP3 to prove it. Salut! [Author currently validating reading; please stand by!]


10-01-07: A 2007 Interview With Kate Christensen

"I have a lot of rage."

I took this 2004 photo of Ms Christensen, which ended up on the Italian edition of 'The Epicure's Lament'.
Well, yes. Even though her latest novel, 'The Great Man' is essentially a romantic comedy, the story of four elderly women and their relationships with a now-deceased artist, Kate Christensen's writing is filled with the same sort of nervous energy that one might find in say, a Sex Pistols album. I had the pleasure of speaking with her not long ago at KQED, where we talked about her new novel and the through-line of all her novels.

That through-line is a sort of sustained vehement rage, a snarling dissatisfaction that inspires her characters to all sorts of entertaining mischief. Her characters are the sort of people who would like to be larger-than-life, who would indeed be larger-than-life if only life would goddamned-well cooperate. Which alas, it is reluctant to do. Instead, people like Hugo Whittier from 'The Epicure's Lament' and Teddy St. Cloud from 'The Great Man' find themselves forced to fume in reduced elegance, and in so doing capture a universal feeling of annoyed discontent. On one hand, it’s not like we can really complain about our own puny lives. After all, we're not like, dead, in poverty, or living in refugee camps. We're not locked away in prisons, we're not even being tortured goddamn it. And still life makes us want to spit nails, drive through stop signs and cross the street when the DON'T WALK light is already flashing. We have our cakes (bought at the grocery store), we eat those cakes (then agonize about the white sugar and carbohydrates), and in a final indignity, we have to either do the dishes or stare at the stack of drying crumb-filled plates in the sink. Is that justice? I don’t think so.

Christensen's genteel rage is both bracing and entertaining, and you can hear both sides in our conversation. Plus, she promises to finally write about food. That's right. You can hear her talk about the delicious-sounding recipes you'll read about in 'The Great Man'. And I trust you will note that I used the adverb "delicious" to refer only to food, not to Christensen's novel. There's a rather memorable rant from the opinionated Ms. St. Cloud on the subject of using the adverb delicious to refer to books, people or other inappropriate subjects. You can hear Christensen's charming vehemence in the MP3 or the RealAudio file format. Spend some time with her and then, perhaps for a few moments, that stack of crumb-filled plates won't seem quite so daunting. You can do the dishes goddamn it. It's not like someone is going to do them for you.


Agony Column Review Archive