Friday, April 4, 2008

Fresh Air

I admit it – I'm a “Fresh Air” junkie. It certainly helps that I have four chances to listen to the show every day (1:00 pm and 7:00 pm on KQED; 9:00 am and 6:00 pm on KALW). I can remember several miserable evening commutes from the East Bay where I happily listened to the same show twice. Over more than 25 years the show has had an incredible list of guests – writers, musicians, actors, politicians. But the secret to the show's success is its host – Terry Gross. She can't possibly have read every book, seen every movie, listened to every album when she interviews her guests. But it certainly sounds like she has. She is the rare interviewer who can ask insightful – even probing – questions, and then get out of the way and let her guest answer. So I was interested in reading her book All I Did Was Ask: Conversations with Writers, Actors, Musicians, and Artists . In the first section of the book Gross talks about her interview philosophy and tells some great stories about interviews that took unexpected turns. She describes her now famous encounters with Bill O'Reilly and Gene Simmons. But did you know that Peter Boyle walked out in protest when she innocently asked him about his experience as a Christian Brother? The main portion of the book is Terry's selection of favorite interviews with artists, prefaced with brief comments. No doubt many of her guests were on press tours flogging their latest book, movie or album. But she always takes the interview in a different, more interesting direction. Sometimes the guests are annoyed or flustered by this, but more often they seem to enjoy answering questions they weren't expecting. But as much as I liked reading this book, I have to admit that I like listening to Fresh Air more. If you'd like to sample a few, visit Enjoy!

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