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Sunday, April 6, 2014

Wednesday, April 9 - Festival of Books preview


Tonight on Bibliocracy, 8 PM on KPFK:  DAVID ULIN and Los Angeles Times Festival of Books preview.  It’s springtime, and the line-up of literary events is a full one, not the least of them being the annual Festival of Books sponsored by the Los Angeles Times, this weekend, Saturday and Sunday, April 12 & 13 on the campus of the University of Southern California.  KPFK will be there, broadcasting this show live at 10 a.m., and followed by onsite live broadcasts by Ian Masters (“Background Briefing”) and Maria Armoudian (“The Scholars’ Circle”).  The KPFK booth is number 210 so come by to watch live radio, buy books and station-related items or just to say hello to staff, programmers and volunteers in between visiting hundreds of other exhibitors and, best of all, attending panels and talks all weekend long.  Our Bibliocracy guide to all things Festival of Books is a friend of this program and a friend of readers and writers, and a terrific reviewer and writer himself, books editor for  the LA Times David Ulin.  He’ll talk with me tonight about the festival, the annual book prize nominations and his own work, too.  Ulin is the author of The Myth of Solid Ground: Earthquakes, Prediction, and the Fault Line Between Reason and Faith, a book knocked off bookstore shelves after our most recent earthquake, and the editor of Another City: Writing from Los Angeles and Writing Los Angeles: A Literary Anthology, and also a long meditative book-length essay called The Lost Art of Reading, which begins with the startling confession from a professional bibliofella:  “Sometime late last year --- I don’t remember when, exactly --- I noticed I was having trouble sitting down to read.” Then Ulin takes apart the many challenges to the interior life as against the virtual assault, and comes out swinging for books and reading and civic literacy.  Tonight he does the same, as in his smart reviews for the paper, and we preview this weekend’s books festival.  KPFK is a media sponsor of the festival, about which you can get information at  http://events.latimes.com/festivalofbooks/

Thanks for listening, and see you at the Festival of Books.   

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

Wednesday, April 2 - Susan Minot




Tonight on Bibliocracy Radio, 8 PM PST on KPFK 90.7 FM and online at www.kpfk.orgSUSAN MINOT.  I’m so pleased to host a writer tonight whose work and writing life I --- as so many of her fans --- have followed since publication of her gorgeously fragmented novel-in-stories Monkeys introduced Susan Minot ("mine-it") to readers.  She has since then published short stories, novels and screenplays including her acclaimed 1997 novel Evening.  In a new book, Thirty Girls, Susan Minot applies her delicately, ecstatically poetic narrative touch to an almost impossibly cruelly quotidian story of the kidnapping of, yes, thirty Ugandan schoolgirls by the crazy cult called the Lord's Resistance Army, famously led by one Joseph Kony.  Over many years his sadistic guerilla disciples stole 60,000 or more children from their families as sex slaves and child soldiers, killing many.  Many Americans learned about Kony in a documentary film that went viral two years ago.  Minot's fictionalized telling of that singular episode of the larger story --- which first garnered international attention in 1996 --- includes the life and journey of the teller, an American journalist named Jane Wood --- heartbroken, widowed, lost but always introspective and self-conscious. Susan Minot’s nonfiction has been published widely, and a story about kidnapped child soldiers in Uganda was published in McSweeney’s and included in the Best American Travel Writing 2001. She is an elegant, sensual, urgently engaged writer of beautiful sentences, here taking on an almost impossibly difficult crime and making of it art and insight.  Thanks for listening, on the radio or online live, or whenever you like at the KPFK audio archives, as a free download.  See you at the Los Angeles Times Festival of Books on the weekend of April 12 & 13, USC campus, where Bibliocracy Radio will broadcast live 10-11 on Sunday morning.

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Wednesday, March 27 - Shawn Vestal


Tonight on Bibliocracy, KPFK 90.7 FM at 8 PM: SHAWN VESTAL.  My guest this week was perhaps given lemons, sour and sweet, by way of family, culture, religion and politics, but out of it he has squeezed literary lemonade indeed, co-opting and transforming and repurposing the myths and tropes and vernacular of his Mormon upbringing into serious, sincere short literary fiction.  Somehow not exactly disrespecting that religion but instead perhaps respecting more the resisters, doubters, overlooked or victimized and even maybe himself, Shawn Vestal has rewritten past and present and future toward creating alternative and transgressive, often funny and frequently very much darker versions of the already dark, weird and fascinating tales of that experience.  Author of the new collection of short stories, Godforsaken Idaho, Vestal takes the iconography, stories, obsessions and cultural practices of the “family home evenings” tradition and reworks them for audiences in a big wink or grimace, you decide, but in nine stories elegant, smart, funny and resonant.  His day job is as a regular columnist for Spokane, Washington’s Spokesman-Review, and these and other stories have appeared in McSweeney’s, Tin House and in the new anthology from Ecotone magazine called Astoria to Zion: Twenty-Six Stories of Risk and Abandon from Ecotone's First Decade.  This is one of my most favorite recent short story collections, covering past, present ant future, from heaven to the mythic stories of the conquest of the American West.  Thanks for listening, on the radio or online, or as a download whenever you like, free from the KPFK audio archives.    

Wednesday, March 19 Tom Zoellner


Tonight on Bibliocracy: TOM ZOELLNER. My guest tonight is a gregarious and engaging social historian and researcher and, most of all, a terrific storyteller.  No matter the subject, Tom Zoellner finds a way in, and along with his unassuming yet authoritative voice he brings vulnerability and nearly ego-less experiential generosity.  His previous nonfiction has considered uranium and diamonds, respectively, the real-life humanitarian behind the Hotel Rwanda story, and offered an urgent cultural case study of the state of Arizona by way of the shooting of its congresswoman.  Train:  Riding the Rails that Created the Modern World, from the Trans-Siberian to the Southwest Chief is perhaps Tom Zoellner’s most ambitious book, and certainly covers the most territory, no kidding.  This one is bound to be an instant travel-writing classic, in the tradition of Paul Theroux and Pico Iyer, and will please both choo-choo fanatics and general readers with its rail-centric view of seven different parts of the world, each considered in relation to the tracks, the trains, the towns and the people, and forces that put them there.  Zoellner rides the rails, across China and India and the USA, looking out the window and looking into the past, with a brief journey into the future by way of high-speed bullet trains. Zoellner teaches at Chapman University, where I spoke with the author of the excellent A Safeway In Arizona, as well as Uranium, The Heartless Stone and An Ordinary Man. For more, see my recent blog post over at OC Bookly: 
Thanks for listening, on the radio or online, or as a free download from the KPFK audio archives.  All aboard!

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Wednesday, March 12 - Gary Amdahl's Debut Novel


Wednesday night at 8 on Bibliocracy:  GARY AMDAHL.  I am an admirer of both the writing of Gary Amdahl and the topics he chooses, of the politics and the dreamful associations, and of that alchemy which seems to occur when he begins a story and, as with few other writers, I am absolutely with him at each and ever step of the story, as if always at the beginning throughout, sometimes so much so that when his beginnings meet up in character kismet and symmetry and poetry and an obviously and creatively calculated or inspired dénouement or pause or plot development I am made giddy and breathless.  Two things you should know about his work:  Amdahl cannot finish a thought, and for that we readers are so much better – as thinkers and co-conspiring imaginists.  And, yet, he simultaneously just does not know when to stop, which is our good luck too, because his peeling of the onion, layering of the story, reassembling of onion and brain and heart and even history is about as much serious, sincere fun you can have, as they say, with your pants on.  Amdahl’s newest is the first novel published by the playwright, poet and short story writer boostered by Sven Birkerts and then Milkweed and now a small house which has established, of all things, the Gary Amdahl Library.  Across My Big Brass Bed is a novel posing as an intellectual and emotional memoir, an elegant and seamless and endlessly self-reinvigorating big story meets autobiography meets political wish fulfillment meets love and sex and empathy-story, with motorcycle racing, music, sex and love, anarchism, the Viet Nam War but always those amazing, long, textured, funny, startling Gary Amdahl sentences, here more than 400 pages of them.  A sane Holden Caulfield, perhaps, a Proustian rememberer and a fabulist, too, Amdahl’s adolescent to recollecting grown, lonely man narrator writes the whole book in a single day, unbelievably or, no, not unbelievable, totally believable for an Amdahl narrator.  It’s a real joy to host Gary Amdahl, and to hear him read from and talk about the new book.  Thanks for listening, on the radio or online, or later as a free download anywhere, any times you like.

Saturday, February 15, 2014

Wednesday, Mar 5: Creating More Atheists - Peter Boghossian, Reprised


An evergreen tonight, post-fund drive, and feeling both celebratory and wanting to make sure this one gets heard.  My guest tonight is an author-activist two-fer, a teacher-philosopher and seditious and provocative strategist who both preaches, as it were, the practice of critical thinking and teaches others how to exercise it.  He walks the walk and talks the talk by way of not just engaging audiences and students but persuading them to actively, respectfully, humanely and aggressively engage others, including the religionists or unengaged whose thinking is the opposite of critical.  Dr. Peter Boghossian is the author of the unshyly titled  A Manual for Creating Atheists with a foreword by our own Southern California skeptics activist Michael Shermer.  Boghossian is a full-time faculty member at Portland State’s philosophy department and likes to remind us that he was thrown out of the doctoral program at the University of New Mexico’s philosophy department.  No less than Richard Dawkins acknowledges Boghossian’s techniques of friendly persuasion and I have personally been so stirred not just by his argument but by his sincere and generous, even loving promotion of an “Honest and authentic way to live life.” God bless you for listening, on the radio or online, or as a free download from the station archives.  Thanks, always for supporting KPFK as a listener-sponsor.  Find and friend me on Facebook, bibliophiles.



Monday, January 27, 2014

Wednesday, Jan 29 - Creating Atheists!


My guest tonight is an author-activist two-fer, a teacher-philosopher and seditious and provocative strategist who both preaches, as it were, the practice of critical thinking and teaches others how to exercise it.  He walks the walk and talks the talk by way of not just engaging audiences and students but persuading them to actively, respectfully, humanely and aggressively engage others, including the religionists or unengaged whose thinking is the opposite of critical.  Dr. Peter Boghossian is the author of the unshyly titled  A Manual for Creating Atheists with a foreword by our own Southern California skeptics activist Michael Shermer.  Boghossian is a full-time faculty member at Portland State’s philosophy department and likes to remind us that he was thrown out of the doctoral program at the University of New Mexico’s philosophy department.  No less than Richard Dawkins acknowledges Boghossian’s techniques of friendly persuasion and I have personally been so stirred not just by his argument but by his sincere and generous, even loving promotion of an “Honest and authentic way to live life.” God bless you for listening, on the radio or online, or as a free download from the station archives.  Please support KPFK as a listener-sponsor with a generous renewal of your membership.