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01-15-10: Poetry Santa Cruz — James Scully Reads Capitola Book Caffé

'Line Break'

Given the sort of hijinks I had to go through to get this recording, I'm happy to report that I didn't get too much in the way. I actually sat behind the poets in the little platform that Capitola Book Café has for readings. I had to keep an eye on the little battery icon to make sure that the PA wasn't going to die partway through somebody's reading.

Fortunately, the reading was almost over when the ground hum returned.

I think you can hear
James Scully say, "He's gone," after I vacated my perch in a vain attempt to get rid o the ground hum. And because I was out of the platform, I a) couldn't see if my EverReady batteries were living up to their name (they did) or b) check and see if the ground hum was being recorded, IE, somehow my fault.

I'm saying that it is just a coincidence that the title of Scully famous collection of essays on poetry as a means of social activism is titled, 'Line Break.'

Podcast listeners will be happy to know that the ground hum was not being recorded, that it was entirely in the kludged PA system. The James Scully reading, with Adrienne Rich providing the introduction is squeaky clean. James Scully is the author of 11 collections of poems, three books of translations, and two books of prose.

His most recent collection is 'Donatello's Version.' He is an emeritus professor from the University of Connecticut and has received the Lamont Poetry Award and fellowships from the NEA, the Ingram Merrill Foundation and a Guggenheim Fellowship. You can hear his reading by following this link to the MP3 audio file.

01-14-10: Poetry Santa Cruz — Adrienne Rich Reads at Capitola Book Café

Battery-Powered Adventures in PA

Santa Cruz has many attractions to those who enjoy outsider literature and lifestyles. There is a thriving music and arts scene, and even a "Keep Santa Cruz Weird" campaign. Doing their part for the latter, and for literature, is Poetry Santa Cruz, which hosts readings in a variety of venues. The poets who read can be stellar. When I heard that Poetry Santa Cruz was presenting poets James Scully and Adrienne Rich at Capitola Book Café, I decided to take the opportunity to record these great poets live. But what should have been a quickly set-up tape gig, rapidly became a jerry-rigged PA experience.

Going in, I knew that it would be a bit of a challenge. Capitola Book Café uses a home audio system to pipe music into the store and to do the audio for their readings, they have a Beringer mini-mixer cabled to the home audio system by a 25-foot RCA cable. It's sub-optimal at best, and non-functional at worst, which was the case when I arrived.

The super-custom, line-lumped power cable for the mixer had finally decided to stop working, so they essentially had no PA. Moreover, in the experiments I'd done prepping for the show, there turned out to be a horrid ground hum if you were to plug anything into the mixer that was not battery-powered. Fortunately for the show, I'd brought an entire extra set of batteries.

I ended up removing the mixer entirely, and using my Marantz digital recorder for the PA — running on batteries. Fortunately, there were two poets reading, so there was a natural break in the show where I could swap out batteries.

And thus we have two nice podcasts, perfectly recorded of two incredible poets. The room was packed, and I can see why. You forget how powerful the spoken word can be. You'll be reminded when you hear these readings.

Today's reading is by Adrienne Rich, a true Santa Cruz and national treasure. She has published 24 books of poems and seven books of nonfiction prose. Her most recent are 'Telephone Ringing in the Labyrinth' and 'A Human Eye: Essays on Art in Society.'

She's been awarded a Medal for Distinguished Contribution to American Letters by the National Book Foundation, the Bollingen Prize for Poetry, a Lannan Foundation Lifetime Achievement Award, the National Book Award and numerous other honors.

You can hear this live reading by following the link to the MP3 audio file.

Jeremy Lassen, photo by Leo Docuyanan
01-13-10: Jeremy Lassen Looks to the Future

Are We There Yet?

Jeremy Lassen and I spent our last discussion look at the books of 2009, so this time around we decided to look to the future, both in terms of the specific releases and in more general terms. Is it redundant to talk about the future of science fiction itself?

Of course, talking about the future of science fiction would presume that it has one, and it strikes me that when we look back 2010, we might very well come to think of it as the beginning of a second blossoming of horror fiction.

After all, it has been, frighteningly, thirty years since the big horror boom of the 1980's. Stephen King, once just a maverick and looked-down upon bestseller, is now a recognized member of America's literary canon, while Stephanie Meyer and Laurell K. Hamilton's new releases regularly hit the bestseller lists. And the publishing world itself is in the midst of a revolution, or perhaps, just at the end of a segment of evolution. You can hear Jeremy Lassen and I talk about the news species of flora and fauna in the publishing ecosystem by following this link to the MP3 audio file.

Gary Paulsen
01-12-10: A 2010 Interview With Gary Paulsen

Man in the Wilderness

I was reading my usually brief introduction to Gary Paulsen for today's podcast when realized that 'Woods Runner' was not the first book by this writer that had come into my house. In fact, somewhere around here, there's probably a diorama based on Paulsen's Newberry-award winning novel, 'Hatchet.' My youngest son had read that book, back in the day; he enjoyed it enough to seek out the sequel.

Like 'Woods Runner,' 'Hatchet' is a boy-in-the-wilderness novel, though 'Hatchet' has a contemporary setting. And, as I talked to Paulsen, the reason is apparent. A quick glance at his website will inform you the Paulsen, like most of his characters, is quite a bit more at home outside, in the wilderness, than he is in a suburb.

Paulsen's personal story plays a big part in the stories he writes, and as we spoke on the phone, I could get a sense of how he manages to create such a convincing perspective. There's just something about 'Woods Runner' that really captured me, and I could sense that it was the presence of the author himself, that voice coming through in the novel. You can hear that voice by following this link to the MP3 audio file.

S. T. Joshi
01-11-10: A 2009 Interview with S. T. Joshi

"We were essentially academic outsiders"
        —S. T. Joshi

I've been seeing the name S. T. Joshi for almost longer than I can remember. And I had to wonder — just who was this man who almost single-handedly turned an author once scorned by the mainstream literary world into a canonical American writer? At the World Fantasy Convention, I had the chance to find out.

S. T. Joshi has been haunting my bookshelves for decades, with his introductions to a variety of Cthulhu Mythos and Lovecraft works, and as the creator no less, of Lovecraft Studies. I met the man's words more times than I can count, so meeting the man himself was an honor. So far as I'm concerned, he's the rock star of horror fiction criticism. I'm sure that as the genre itself slowly gains academic acceptance, largely through his work, he'll be seen as a key literary figure of this century as well as the last.

What really distinguishes him when you sit down to talk is how forthright and fresh he is. Sure, he believes, like many, that Lovecraft is an important writer, but he's as quick to acknowledge Lovecraft's weaknesses as well. Like most of us who read Lovecraft, he encountered the writings as an adolescent. But even then he knew his fate was to be entwined with Lovecraft's work.

Joshi, however, is much more than a Lovecraft specialist. He's moved on from Necronomicon Press to Hippocampus Press, where he's got some great projects in the works. Yes, he's got the whole Weird Tales gang down as well. But he's also set his sights on the California Romantics, including not just Clark Ashton Smith, but also George Sterling and Ambrose Bierce. And beyond that, he's just undertaken an amazing project involving H. L. Mencken. You can hear his story of being an academic outsider by following this link to the MP3 audio file.

New to the Agony Column

01-23-15: Commentary : Jake Halpern Pushes 'Bad Paper: Chasing Debt from Wall Street to the Underworld' : Non-Fiction 21st Century Noir

Agony Column Podcast News Report : A 2015 Interview with Jake Halpern : "...he goes to Las Vegas to this debt-buyers' convention..."

Agony Column Podcast News Report UPDATE: Time to Read Episode 193: Jake Halpern : Bad Paper: Chasing Debt from Wall Street to the Underworld

01-19-15: Commentary : David Shields and Caleb Powell Assert 'I Think You're Totally Wrong' : The Power to Bicker

Agony Column Podcast News Report : A 2015 Interview with David Shields and Caleb Powell : "I read no book reviews any more; the level of discussion is really pedestrian." David Shields "I'm just saying it's a conflict of interest!" Caleb Powell

Agony Column Podcast News Report UPDATE: Time to Read Episode 192: David Shields and Caleb Powell : I Think You're Totally Wrong

01-17-15: Commentary : Charles Todd Expects 'A Fine Summer's Day' : We Interrupt This Program...

Commentary : Charles Todd Engages In 'A Test of Wills' : The Politics of Passion and Policing

Agony Column Podcast News Report : A 2014 Interview with Charles and Caroline Todd : "...let them be themselves and sort it out..." Caroline Todd "'s more on a personal level..." Charles Todd

Agony Column Podcast News Report UPDATE: Time to Read Episode 191: Charles Todd : A Fine Summer's Day

01-13-15: Commentary : Rosalie Parker Unearths 'The Old Knowledge' : The New Old World

Agony Column Podcast News Report : A 2014 Interview with Ray Russell and Rosalie Parker : "I thought I'd write something for fun.." Ray Russell "..there was a side of me of that was interested in the strangeness..." Ros Parker

01-12-15: Commentary : Richard Ford 'Let Me Be Frank with You' : The Default Years

Agony Column Podcast News Report : A 2014 Interview with Richard Ford : "...most of our politicians are morons..."

Agony Column Podcast News Report UPDATE: Time to Read Episode 190: Richard Ford : Let Me Be Frank with You

01-06-15: Commentary : Bessel van der Kolk 'The Body Keeps the Score' : Human Trauma

Agony Column Podcast News Report : A 2014 Interview with Bessel van der Kolk : "...being able to see what happens in the brain really helps us to understand certain things..."

Agony Column Podcast News Report UPDATE: Time to Read Episode 189: Bessel van der Kolk : The Body Keeps the Score

01-03-15: Commentary : Rebecca Lloyd 'Mercy and other Stories' : "You humans are practiced executioners." Zanti Leader, The Outer Limits

Agony Column Podcast News Report : A 2015 Audio Review of Rebecca Lloyd 'Mercy and other Stories' : "Our knives and monsters are ever ready, and as real as we need them to be."

12-30-14: Commentary : Kathy Freston 'Quantum Wellness' : : Tipping Points

12-29-14: Commentary : Kathy Freston Embraces 'The Lean' : Series of Successive Approximations

Agony Column Podcast News Report : A 2014 Interview with Kathy Freston : "...visualize how you'd like your life to look..."

Agony Column Podcast News Report UPDATE: Time to Read Episode 188: Kathy Freston : Quantum Wellness, Veganist and The Lean

12-19-14: Commentary : Mark Samuels 'Written in Darkness' : Sinkholes of Despair

Agony Column Podcast News Report : A 2014 Audio Review of Mark Samuels 'Written in Darkness' : "This is an abyss that is not content to merely gaze back."

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 Hobbs : 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

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