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02-23-14 UPDATE: Podcast Update: Time to Read Episode 150: Annie Jacobsen, 'Operation Paperclip: The Secret Intelligence Program That Brought Nazi Scientists to America'

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Here's the one-hundred fiftyth episode of my series of podcasts, which I'm calling Time to Read. Hitting the two-year mark, I'm going to make an effort to stay ahead, so that podcast listeners can get the same sort of "sneak preview" effect that radio listeners get each Friday morning.

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.

The one-hundred fiftyth episode is a look at Annie Jacobsen and 'Operation Paperclip: The Secret Intelligence Program That Brought Nazi Scientists to America.'

Here's a link to the MP3 audio file of Time to Read, Episode 150: Annie Jacobsen, 'Operation Paperclip: The Secret Intelligence Program That Brought Nazi Scientists to America'




02-23-14: A 2014 Interview with Jeff VanderMeer, Part 2

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"...still clear distribution lines for books...."

Jeff VanderMeer

While I had Jeff VanderMeer's attention to discuss 'Annihilation' and 'Authority,' I also wanted to take the time to talk to him about his latest co-edit project with with his wife Ann, a mega-thick anthology coming soon, 'The Time Traveler's Almanac.' I also thought it would be a good time to catch up with Jeff about the ever-changing landscape of publishing.

It might be a bit hard to remember now, but VanderMeer was in the business of self-publishing long before it was just a mouse-click away at *.*. In the intervening years, book publishing has faced the same set of problems that the music business managed to use to immolate itself back in the before-time. While big business (and smaller) publishers and independent bookstores haven't done everything perfectly, they've done rather well. They're not out there suing their customers for income.

Our discussion of putting together doorstop anthologies yielded a lot of fascinating talk, if you're into that kind of geekery. You should own 'The Weird,' and if you do, you'll note that it's definitely not justa compendium of stories by The Usual Suspects. And getting the diverse kind of author list therein involves stories pretty entertaining in themselves.

As for the publishing and self-publishing world, it has been transformed since Jeff and I last spoke about such matters. As you might imagine, VanderMeer is well ahead of the game. We touched on the subject of how readers will choose from the huge supply of material out there and how writers might aim at readers, and more importantly, why.

You can hear my second conversation with Jeff VanderMeer by following this link to the MP3 audio file.




02-20-14 UPDATE: Podcast Update: Time to Read Episode 149: Jeff VanderMeer, 'Annihilation'

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I know, these are supposed to come first, but it's been busy here, in the best possible way. At least I'm in the position to share in the embarrassment of riches!

Here's the one-hundred forty-ninth episode of my series of podcasts, which I'm calling Time to Read. Hitting the two-year mark, I'm going to make an effort to stay ahead, so that podcast listeners can get the same sort of "sneak preview" effect that radio listeners get each Friday morning. This week, I seem to be on top of the game, but who knows what the hell might happen. I am hoping to stay back up and stumbling.

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.

The one-hundred forty-ninth episode is a look at Jeff VanderMeer and 'Annihilation.' It's a live perforemance version.

Here's a link to the MP3 audio file of Time to Read, Episode 149: Jeff VanderMeer, 'Annihilation'




02-20-14: A 2014 Interview with Jeff VanderMeer, Part 1

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"...obviously, something is subverting the landscape..."

— Jeff VanderMeer

It's one thing to read Jeff VanderMeer's 'Annihilation.' Disquieting and engrossing come to mind as descriptors. It's quite another to talk to him about it in your living room, while your two pugs tear around the room like the wild animals they definitely are not.

I was in fact lucky enough to have both experiences, though I must admit I might have preferred the pugs to have remained more in their usual dozing state. But when you're lucky enough to get a visit from Jeff VanderMeer, it comes as no surprise that the dogs get agitated. To be honest, I thought you'd be able to hear them quite clearly on the recording, but that proves not to be the case.

It was a nice day and Jeff and I had plans to take a tour of a local spot I thought would be of interest to him; our cement boat, the S. S. Palo Alto. It's a great piece of rotting World War I weaponry where they used to have a dance hall. Now it's home to the cormorants and, if we're lucky, the sea lions. Check out VanderMeer's trip blog for some photos.

But before our hobnobbing about the Santa Cruz area and a long lunch on the Santa Cruz Wharf, Jeff and I took the time for two interviews. In the first interview, we focused on 'Annihilation' and to a degree, the first sequel, 'Authority.' For me the books are a fascinating look at what I used to call "omenology," a sort of reading of the landscape for presences that are not apparent, for meanings that are not deliberate.

Apparently, and interestingly to me, there's a lot of "this book is like that [fill in the blank]" going on with 'Annihilation,' and I don't really think it's all that pertinent, other than that VanderMeer, consciously or not. is working in a well-established sub-genre; the literature of the weird place. I asked VanderMeer about this, and he noted that there had been comparisons to Tarkovsky's movie Stalker. Apparently those doing the comparing were not aware (or didn't mention) that Stalker is based on a wonderful (but very different) novel titled 'Roadside Picnic,' by Boris and Arkady Strugatsky, who also wrote the screenplay. The premise of the book does have a bit of simpatico with VanderMeer's 'Annihilation,' only in that humanity trying to understand the alien zones is likened to ants, trying to understand the trash from a roadside picnic. Good luck with that!

To my mind, VanderMeer's book is pretty immune to influence, other than that of the landscape within which he lives. You can hear us talk about the book (and perhaps a bit of pug snorting) by following this link to the MP3 audio file.



New to the Agony Column

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 Hobbss : 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

12-04-14: Commentary : Anne Rice Crowns 'Prince Lestat' : A Unified Theory of Vampires

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Agony Column Podcast News Report : Four Books With Alan Cheuse : : Maureen Corrigan So We Read On, Casey Walker Last Days in Shanghai, Ron Rash Something Rich and Strange, Nicholson Baker Traveling Sprinkler

Agony Column Podcast News Report UPDATE: Time to Read Episode 185: Anne Rice : Prince Lestat

12-01-14: Commentary : Back to Darkness : Re-Visiting 'Darkscapes'

Agony Column Podcast News Report : A 2014 Interview with Anne-Sylvie Salzman : "You really have to enter a world and it's not some kind of guided tour."

11-22-14: Commentary : William Gibson Connects 'The Peripheral' : Time Life Books

Agony Column Podcast News Report : A 2014 Interview with William Gibson : "...recalibrate my yardstick of weirdness..."

Agony Column Podcast News Report UPDATE: Time to Read Episode 184: William Gibson : The Peripheral

11-19-14: Commentary : David Greene Catches 'Midnight in Siberia: A Train Journey into the Heart of Russia' : The Character(s) of a Country

Agony Column Podcast News Report : A 2014 Interview with David Greene : "It was very easy to literally just tell their stories..."

11-17-14: Commentary : Azar Nafisi Resides In 'The Republic of Imagination: America in Three Books' : Choose Your World

Agony Column Podcast News Report : A 2014 Interview with Azar Nafisi : "I wanted to show how close reality and fiction are..."

11-15-14: Commentary : Cary Elwes Delivers 'As You Wish: Inconceivable Tales from the Making of The Princess Bride' : Re-Reading and Re-Viewing

Agony Column Podcast News Report : A 2014 Interview with Cary Elwes : "...an unwise decision on my part..."

Agony Column Podcast News Report UPDATE: Time to Read Episode 183: Azar Nafisi : The Republic of Imagination: America in Three Books

11-10-14: Commentary : Dana Cowin 'Mastering My Mistakes in the Kitchen' : Learning to Cook — and Live

Agony Column Podcast News Report : A 2014 Interview with Dana Cowin : "...so I add a little more citrus..."

11-09-14:Agony Column Podcast News Report UPDATE: Time to Read Episode 182: Dana Cowin : Mastering My Mistakes in the Kitchen: Learning to Cook with 65 Great Chefs and Over 100 Delicious Recipes

11-06-14: Agony Column Podcast News Report : A 2014 Interview with Paolo Bacigalupi and A. S. King : "You're handing us all the problems..." Paolo Bacigalupi "That gray area is so important for readers..." A. S. King

11-05-14: Commentary : A. S. King Foresees 'Glory O'Brien's History of the Future' : Halls of Mirrorsr

Agony Column Podcast News Report : A 2014 Interview with A. S. King : "How much do we really change?"

11-04-14: Commentary : Paolo Bacigalupi Believes In 'The Doubt Factory' : Thrills Matter

Agony Column Podcast News Report : A 2014 Interview with Paolo Bacigalupi : "...these are perfectly nice people..."

10-30-14: Commentary : Brian J. Showers Opens 'The Green Book, Issue 4' : 200 Years of Le Fanu

Agony Column Podcast News Report UPDATE: Time to Read Episode 181: Paolo Bacigalupi : The Doubt Factory

10-27-14: Commentary : Jim Rockhill and Brian J. Showers Recall 'Dreams of Shadow and Smoke: Stories for J. S. Le Fanu' : New Stories for an Antiquary

Agony Column Podcast News Report : A 2014 Interview with Brian J. Showers : "I have a lot reference materials on my desk..."

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