11-04-10:A 2010 Interview with Gary Young on Morton Marcus
"...scanning the heavens in our solitary vigil for words that will redeem us..."
—from "Radio" by Morton Marcus, as read by Gary Young
Live radio is an interesting challenge — one that the late poet, Morton Marcus was quite familiar with. In addition to writing poetry, prose, genre fiction, film criticism and everything else, including even grocery lists that seemed blessed with grace, Marcus hosted the Poetry Show on KUSP for some ten years. He started before the age of CDs, and passed away last year, but he's not left us yet. He still speaks.
Morton Marcus came my way via The Santa Cruz "Artist of the Year" Award of 2006; it was given to Laurie R. King, who asked me to host a panel that included Marcus and the late James D. Houston. Marcus was a raucous, funny figure, and he told some utterly entertaining stories — which I was able to put to good use on Talk of the Bay, when I brought in Santa Cruz's Poet Laureate Gary Young.
Young lost the coin toss between himself and fellow poet Joe Stroud, as to who had to show up and do radio instead of watching the Giants win another game in the World Series.
Both will be joined by Stephen Kessler at the First Annual Morton Marcus Memorial Poetry Reading. Pulitzer Prize Winning Writer Robert Hass will also be featured.
Young and I had a nice time talking about Morton Marcus, listening to the tapes of his voice, and reading his poetry aloud.
11-03-10:Agony Column Live Preview : Paul McHugh and Wallace Baine on Writing, Journalism and the Future of the Newspaper
"Newspapers have geography on their side." —Wallace Baine
"Why isn't the paradigm shifting even faster?" —Paul McHugh
I really didn't have any worries about pairing Wallace Baine and Paul McHugh. I'd spoken with both before in different settings. Baine, I'd talked to as a newsman, since I was a local yokel seeking publicity from his local newspaper. He and I have had a couple of very nice conversations covering the whole spectrum of writing and yes, of life as well, of families and vacations and schools and children. And of course, I'd talked to McHugh a couple of times as well; once about his novel, 'Deadlines,' and once about his work teaching the art of memoir.
Still, I must admit I was probably unprofessionally pleased with myself when I finally managed to get them on the phone together. To be honest, any problems were strictly my fault. I've not set up a conference call ... ever, at least not in the new century. I think there may have been one phone company the last time I tried to something like this. Seriously.
Since I didn't order "three-way calling," I thought it was still a simple matter of dialing the "O" operator and asking her to set up a conference call. Alas, I was seriously mistaken. First, she asked me if I was a business or a residence, and though I said "residence" I got put through to the business group, which proceeded to put me on hold for 20 minutes. I just didn't think it could be that complicated. When they finally came on line, they told me that I had been on hold to the wrong folks. They switched me over to the residence people, who told me all I had to do was flash the call and flash back again. I did not use any language that I could not use on the radio, though my imagination was in full force.
Once I got Wallace and Paul on line, the rest was easy. These guys have both been in rather different segments of journalism and they both have small-press books that are rather different as well. If you can make it, then join us live at Capitola Book Café on Saturday, November 6, at 6:30 PM. It's going to be fun. There's a lot of nice commonality and cross-talk in our phone preview as we touched the tip of the icebergs of writing, journalism and the Exciting Death of the Newspapers as Reported both in Newspapers and on Tee Vee and With No Small Amount of Joy on the Internet. Which is where are you reading this now, and where you can download the MP3 audio file of our conversation...assuming some new technology does not kill the Internet in the interim.
11-02-10:A 2010 Interview with Charles Burns
Charles Burns video capture by Charles Kruger
"I remember having this feeling of literally wanting to slip out of my skin, shed my skin and turn into someone else."
My interview with Charles Burns might have been a chapter in one of his graphic novels. This is not necessarily a good thing.
The conversation was excellent; Burns is eloquent when it comes to talking about his art, and there is plenty to talk about. We set up at Bookshop Santa Cruz, with Charles Kruger of Litseen and Storming Bohemia filming. I've been reading Burns for years now. His novel 'Black Hole' is the kind of work that you can go back and visit, both as reader and in your reading-experience mind. There was a lot to talk about, in particular, disease. Which proved to be more pertinent than I might have hoped.
I'd been speaking with Burns about 30 minutes, when I started to become a character in one of his stories. That was when something tried to crawl out of my throat.
At first, the glass of water so kindly supplied by Bookshop Santa Cruz kept the critter at bay. But it was strong, and like the things in Burns' work, would not be denied. That which is inside of us will always emerge, generally to our dismay.
I trust that all of my readers will remember the remarkable dinner scene in the movie Alien. In it, John Hurt is happily eating and conversing, when he begins to cough. Shortly after my water ran out, I began to cough. At first single coughs ... then it grew worse.
To tell the truth it was rather embarrassing. I felt as if I might snuff it right there in the office of Bookshop Santa Cruz. The embryonic thing that had been spending the summer inside of my lungs had chosen an unfortunate time to decide to fly and be free. It was all so biological that I couldn't help but wait for my dead cat, Elsie, so crawl in through a hole in the wall of the office.
Better still, much of this is captured on video. Not what I would cal an auspicious start. But it has been a very bad allergy season. I found myself, for the first time, buying antihistamine eye drops. They were insanely expensive, but the itching eyes, which seems so bizarre — how can your eyeballs itch? -- were actually making it difficult to work. As was the alien that emerged when I was speaking with Charles Burns. I think it is right there on tape, but I do hope Charles Kruger will edit it out; in the fullness of time.
"Ayahuasca doesn't always give you what you want ... but she usually gives you what you need."
Conversations with writers are the best way to get to know whether or not you're going to like their work. Graham Hancock is a great case in point. While I've enjoyed both books of his I've read, 'Supernatural,' which was non-fiction, and 'Entangled,' which was fiction, I had no idea if the man himself would be as compelling as his writing. But after about a minute of talking with him, I was thinking he should have his own TV show. He's a born storyteller with a hell of story to tell.
Generally, I like to focus on a writer's most recent book when we speak. But I was curious about Hancock's past. It seemed a rather odd leap for him to move from non-fiction to fiction, even given the sort of non-fiction he'd been writing. So instead of the story of 'Entangled,' I fond myself hearing Hancock's story, which proved to be just as compelling, and pretty much as odd, as any novel of supernatural fiction.
Hancock started his answer to my question with his work for the BBC. Wait — the BBC? And that's the just first of many strange events he told ne about. In the course of our conversation, we talked about his career in the news and how he found his way into history and archaeology — of a sort that did not endear him to the mainstream.