Great collection of interviews with writers! — 7 years ago
This is a great collection of Terry Gross interviews with a broad range of famous authors. Terry Gross is well-known as a great interviewer. Personally, I think she’s a little overrated, as she seems to stumble over her questions sometimes, and leaves little bits of dead air here and there, which is awkward to listen to. But the CD isn’t really about her, it’s about the great writers she interviews.
Disc One: 75:18
STEPHENKING, the famous novelist, is best known for stories like Carrie and The Dark Tower series. In this 2000 interview, he talks extensively about his horrific 1999 car accident. He discusses his reaction to Brian Smith’s sentence for reckless driving, his painful recovery, as well as his spirituality.
MAURICESENDAK, in a 1993 interview, talks about his children’s book We Are All In The Dumps With Jack & Guy. (He’s perhaps best known for Where The Wild Things Are.) He discusses the development of the story and the illustrations from two nursery rhymes. He also discusses his difficult childhood, the controversy over In the Night Kitchen, and why he doesn’t do many book signings for children anymore.
RICHARDPRICE, whose first novel The Wanderers brought him early fame, has also written a number of screenplays, perhaps most notably The Color of Money. Here, in a 1986 interview, he talks about being Jewish when everyone assumes he’s as tough and Italian as the characters he writes about. There’s part of a 1992 interview as well, discussing his novel Clockers. He does a brief reading, and then talks about his research process and the real-world relationship between cops and drug dealers.
PHILIPROTH spoke with Gross in 2001 about his trilogy that includes The Human Stain, a novel that examines political correctness and impotence. He also discusses growing up in a prominently Jewish neighborhood and the relationship between a writer and the people around him.
Disc Two: 69:03
JAMESBALDWIN was a well-known civil rights writer, best known for books like Go Tell it On The Mountain. In this 1986 interview, he talks about growing up in Harlem as the son of a preacher, and his own brief career following in his footsteps. He also discusses his status as a “controversial” writer in both the black and white communities, nd his views on the gay movement and being labeled.
NORMANMAILER, best known for his war novels like The Naked and The Dead and Armies of the Night, in a 1991 interview, talks about being a “two-fisted” intellectual. He discusses the difference between being in the Army and being at Harvard, and how this changed his self-image.
ALLENGINSBERG, the Beat poet who wrote the infamous “Howl,” talked with Terry in 1994 about his relationship with his mother and her mental illness, and how it influenced the poem. He also discusses the unexpected success of “America,” his homosexuality, drug use, and friendship with Jack Kerouac and William S. Burroughs. The interview wraps up with a discussion of the influences that came together in “Kaddish,” another one of his great poems.
JOYCEJOHNSON was most famous for being Jack Kerouac’s lover in the late 1950’s. She talks a lot about Kerouac and his rise to fame, as well as her relationship with him. She reads a really great letter she wrote to him in response to his alcoholism, as well as a letter he wrote to her asking her to come to Mexico City.
JOHNUPDIKE is most famous for his Rabbit series, as well as The Witches of Eastwick. Here, he talks about writing his memoir, Self-Consciousness, in which he talks about his weaknesses (Psoriasis and stuttering, to name two.) and how they’ve shaped him as a person and a writer.
Disc Three: 58:17
DAVIDRAKOFF is most famous for Fraud, a collection of witty essays, as well as a regular contributor to NPR’s This American Life. This is a hilarious interview, which is kicked off by an excerpt from an essay about going mountain climbing. He also discusses his acting career, and how he invariably gets typecast as either gay or Jewish. Rakoff is very witty, and thinks quickly on his feet, making this one of the funniest interviews in the collection.
FRANLEBOWITZ, who wrote Metropolitan Life and Social Studies in the late 1970’s hasn’t written anything since, and talks about making a career of not writing. She also talks about her writing habits and writing process, and how she feels about aging. (Which I feel was a sexist topic for Terry Gross to bring up – you don’t hear her asking any of the older men about aging.)
DAVIDSEDARIS, best known for his essay collections like Me Talk Pretty One Day and Holidays On Ice, shines in an early 1993 interview. The interview actually predates his books. He was a regular contributor to NPR, and still working his day job cleaning NYC apartments. There’s also a snippet of a later interview, from 2000, after the publication of Me Talk Pretty One Day, in which he discusses growing up trying to hide the fact that he was gay.
BILLYCOLLINS, former U.S. poet laureate, reads and discusses a few poems. In the interview, from 1998, he reads “Forgetfulness,” which sparks a conversation of memory and the current trend of obscurity in poetry, and how this relates to writing for an audience. He follows that with a poem about contentment, "Osso Buco,” and discusses the lack of art about happiness. He talks about his writing process as well, and concludes the interview by reading “Victoria’s Secret,” which is about a lingerie catalogue, and the unique language within it.
There isn’t a single interview here that isn’t worth listening to. However, don’t make the mistake of buying the collection to listen to just one author. The interviews range from ten to twenty minutes on average, and in some cases aren’t the full interviews. If you just want to hear what one author has to say, you’d be better off listening to them on NPR’s website. However, this collection is worth buying for any writer interested in learning more about their craft, or anyone who enjoys listening to brilliant people talk about how they do what they do best.