Writers talk about their craft.
From over 30 years of the nationally syndicated radio program Bookworm, the show’s host Silverblatt and editor Felsenthal have selected conversations with 12 acclaimed writers, including poet John Ashbery; novelists Joan Didion, Toni Morrison, and Octavia Butler; short fiction writer Grace Paley; and composer Stephen Sondheim. As Felsenthal notes in the introduction, Silverblatt went into each conversation without an agenda, deftly pivoting to wherever the talk went, and the conversations attest to the writers’ trust and respect for their interviewer. As John Berger remarked to Silverblatt, “you’re an incredible expert—but I don’t like the word expert—inhabitant, hunter about books, about written text, about mad literature that you cross and live in and relate to what is outside that forest, which is life.” The occasion for each interview could be the publication of a new book (WG Sebald’s Austerlitzin 2001), an anniversary (the 25th for Octavia Butler’s Kindredin 2004), or a notable book-related event (1998, when Morrison’s Beloved was made into a movie). Some entries include more than one interview: Didion, in 1996, for the publication of The Last Thing He Wantedand 2013, for Blue Nights. Sondheim appeared when a recording of road show was released in 2009 and again in 2010 when he published Finishing the Hat, which Silverblatt describes as “a combination of collected lyrics, attendant comments, principles, heresies, grudges, whines, and anecdotes.” David Foster Wallace was a frequent guest, from 1996, after Infinite Jestuntil 2006, with the publication of Consider the Lobster. Each interview ranged far from the precipitating occasion as Silverblatt brought his considerable curiosity to questions of style, tone, language, structure, aspirations, and inspiration. Widely read, knowledgeable, and thoughtful, he elicited candid, detailed responses from his guests. The interviews can be heard online in the Bookworm archive at kcrw.com.
A warm celebration of creativity and the writing life.
Ad Date: today
Page Count: 432
Publisher: The Song Cave
Review Posted Online: Jan. 12, 2023
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2023