10-19-12 UPDATE:Podcast Update:Time to Read Episode 70: Jeffrey Toobin 'The Oath: The Obama White House and the Supreme Court
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Here's the seventyth episode of my new series of podcasts, which I'm calling Time to Read. 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.
10-16-12: Cindy Pon Reads at SF in SF on September 15, 2012
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"His words were ice against her ear."
Cindy Pon was the last reader at last month's SF in SF; she read from 'Fury of the Phoenix,' the sequel to 'Silver Phoenix.' As ever, when we hear a writer read their own work, it's an inner eye-opening experience.
Cindy's novel is a delicately detailed historical fantasy set in a supernatural vision of historical China, where monsters, ghosts and demons are every bit as dangerous as the backstabbing politics and intrigues in the palaces and in the fields. For her reading, Cindy selected an intense battle set on a ship under siege from creatures that are best described by the author reading herself.
There's a lot to be learned from a reading by any author. In Cindy's reading, we can hear the thought that she puts into the creation her fantastic creatures. They are more than just dangerous; they have characters and needs and wants, even though they are trying to kill the protagonist, Ai Ling.
One thing I really appreciated as a listener was that Cindy did not give us a lot of setup. She just put her audience on a ship on a story sea and let us experience the horrific things that follow. That kind of immersion gives us as listeners a better sense for what to expect from the novel itself. In this case, my expectations are high.
"I imagine having a conversation with one of them."
— Gene Robinson
If you listen closely, you'll hear the background sounds of San Francisco during my conversation with Bishop Gene Robinson as we talked about his new book, 'God Believes in Love.' It was the culmination of Fleet Week and the Blue Angels were just about at eye level out over the Bay. It might have been a bit distracting, but Robinson is so engaging that he quietly put five supersonic jets in the background.
I was fortunate — and honored to have his time. He was only here for the weekend, and speaking Sunday at the Grace Cathedral across the street from his hotel. We set the recorder between two chairs and had a very nice discussion about the creation of his book and the issues he tackles inside.
Robinson is a thoroughly modern Bishop; when I arrived he was typing away on his iPad. As we spoke about his book, his incisive understanding of the issues surrounding gay marriage, and the many objections to gay marriage were constantly cutting through. It is clear that Robinson has spent a long time thinking about how to talk and write on the subject of gay marriage.
Robinson was not easily brought on broad the writing of the book. He was asked to write it, but as he told me, he had a full-time job and they expected him to show up. After a few go-rounds, he finally decided to dedicate his 4 AM rising hours to the project, and to my mind, he finished it rather quickly.
Readers will definitely hear the voice in the book speaking in the interview, and vice versa. We managed to neatly step aside from the structure of the book and approach the material via a different set of through-lines that unite the work. One of these is the matter of literary interpretations of canonical political and religious works. We observed that our culture is currently in what amounts to a struggle between two visions of these documents. In one view, a document's meaning is static after it is created; whether it is a book within the Bible of the Constitution of the United States of America; in current politics, what is called "originalism," and in current religion what is called fundamentalism. Countering that is the perception that these are "living documents," that have within them the seeds of re-interpretation and self-change.
We did go outside the book as well, to talk about the controversy he courts by virtue of being willing to speak out for what he believes, and the dangers he incurs as a result. They're not to be underestimated.