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02-27-09 : Agony Column Podcast News Report : Deborah Grabien, Michael Boatman and Terry Bisson Talk at SF in SF on February 21, 2009 : Panel Discussion

How do we describe the books we like? Often with a one-word label. It's a "horror" novel. It's a "mystery." But all too often, these one-word summaries don’t do justice, especially when writers strive to straddle genres. But it all goes to one very important outcome: where to shelve the book.

Deborah Grabien, Michael Boatman and Terry Bisson put on a fine discussion about genre, and how it does not in fact inform their writing. No matter how perfectly a writer's work seems to exemplify one genre, or combine two or more, writers don’t think about genre (ie shelving) when they sit down to write a novel. Generally, they're possessed by characters and language, traits which serve them well when it comes to discussing their work. To hear a great example of authors discussing their work, follow this link to the podcast audio of the panel discussion featuring Deborah Grabien, Michael Boatman and Terry Bisson.

02-26-09 : Agony Column Podcast News Report : Deborah Grabien Reads at SF in SF on February 21, 2009 : 'Still Life With Devils'

SF in SF on February 21, 2009 was one of those shows that really just wowed me; two writers I'd never heard of who both proved to be golden. Deborah Grabien writes a variety of books, from the "supernatural police procedurals" of the Haunted Ballads series to a new set of rock-and-roll mysteries to one-offs and standalones like the wonderfully titled (Drollerie Press; December 10, 2007 ; $15.95).

'Still Life With Devils' is not Deborah Grabien's newest book, but it may be her creepiest. I'm not going to give away one bit of the content of this book, because I think Grabien has a wonderfully imaginative take in this mystery. I will say that she reads well and that you might want to call up our local independent sooner rather than later to order the book. Here's a link to the podcast audio of Deborah Grabien' reading from SF in SF on February 21, 2009.

02-25-09 : Agony Column Podcast News Report : Michael Boatman Reads at SF in SF on February 21, 2009 : 'The Revenant Road'

It didn't take me long to figure out that I'd like Michael Boatman's novel. I came to SF in SF on a night threatening rain, but was unfamiliar with the author or his work. So I picked up his new book, 'The Revenant Road' (Drollerie Press ; January 15, 2009 ; $15.95) from Drollerie Press and used the tried-but-true method of reading from page 1.

By the time I got to page 4, a large monster with "teeth that would have looked more at home in a shark's maw," was eating one of the first people we meet. I was hooked. Then Michael Boatman read from his novel and had the audience, including me in stitches, even while his characters were far beyond stitches. Humor, gore, monsters, homicidal literary critics — what's not to like? I bought the book on the spot and started reading it that night. Thusly, you’re going to be hearing a lot more about Boatman and this book quite soon. In the interim, here's a link to the podcast of Michael Boatman introducing and reading from 'The Revenant Road'.

02-23-09 : A 2009 Phone Interview With Xinran : Looking for a new God

History is written by the gods, it seems, while it is lived by the masses. Xinran, worried that the perceptions of the Chinese masses who actually had to live through things like the Cultural Revolution would be lost, decided to embark on series of interviews to record their words.

Xinran's efforts are themselves now history, and I was fortunate enough to reach her between appointments at the BBC before she embarked on her tour of the United States, so that I could record her voice and her struggles. I wanted to get just a hint of what she;d be talking about when she came here so that readers could know precisely why they should get themselves out to see her. Here's a list of her tour dates. And here's a link to the audio of our phone conversation.

02-23-09 : A 2008 Interview With Sarah Powers: 'Insight Yoga'

In the search for books worth reading, you have to be willing to look beyond the familiar. Fortunately, the publishing world makes that pretty easy; there are lots of different books out there! In a sense, too many, and one way to find a decent book in of the tidal wave of titles is to go and listen to an author speak. I listened to Sarah Powers and her book, 'Insight Yoga' offers readers an easy approach to a complicated subject.

OK, so I'm not going to give you the, "She's beautiful, naturally gifted, and a great writer," shtick. Those attributes are for you to decide, though I'll certainly say the book is straightforward, simple and entertaining to read. If you’re looking for an "in" to what the heck "yoga" is, this seems like a pretty good bet. It's not overwhelming and it's not all-encompassing, unless you want it to be. Powers offers something of a buffet of beliefs, which she's combined into a synergistic whole that won’t eat your life. But for all that I can say about her book here, she says it better, both in the book itself and in our conversation about the book, Yoga practice and her experiences; follow this link to download the audio.

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