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Bookworm Michael Silverblatt Is A Horrible Radio Host

7/28/05

I listened to the KCRW show for the first time today to hear Tom Wolfe interviewed. It was awful radio. Michael can take a minute or longer to pose an awkward, pause-ridden question. There's so much dead air. Michael is to talk radio what the Special Olympics are to the Olympics. Listening to Silverblatt, I'm filled with the same awkward compassion I feel for a heavily retarded kid trying to run down a track and repeatedly falling on his face.

Am I an idiot or is this Scott Martelle LA Times article on Silverblatt's show idiotic? There's nothing in it I can hold on to. It's empty words about an empty show. If you can figure out what this article means, please Email Luke.

In particular, could someone please explain this paragraph:

The series is an ambitious effort to engage some of the nation's leading writers — and a few emerging writers like Martínez and David Mitchell, author of "Cloud Atlas" — in a far-ranging discussion of the nature of self in literature, both as a catalyst for the author and as a motivation for the reader.

Then could you explain this: "The programs are vintage Silverblatt, whose low-key but intensely informed approach to interviewing often leads writers to on-air revelations about their own work."

What's low key about Silverblatt bloviating for over a minute trying to form a question? Why does Silverblatt have to lecture these authors about the meaning of their books? Why does The LAT puff up this nonsense?

Silverblatt named the series "Escaping the Cage: Identity, Multiculturalism and Writing," playing off Angelou's autobiography, "I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings," which, in turn, was named for her poem about the human desire to make one's voice heard even when shackled.

Anything titled after anything Maya Angelou has written is likely to be nonsense. There are some voices that should be shackled -- ok, that's too strong, and I don't really believe it, but my shackling tendency just overcame my better self.

Why must I get angry before I can blog?

Sheli writes: "You're quite right to point out that Michael Silverblatt is no Warren Olnay, who come to think of it is no Charlie Rose. If you can get past the dead air and your own impatience, though, you might find he asks some of the most thoughtful and informed, albeit baroque, literary questions you're likely to hear on radio or most other places (save, maybe, Darko Suvin's Marxist/deconstructionist scifi classes at McGill)."

Why must I be premature with Silverblatt? Because I'm a busy man with a world to save.

Mr. Satire writes me:

You are not the only one confused about the article.

1. It makes no sense. It has no purpose. Its a classic psychobabble.

2. The whole premise (I believe) is based that the authors should not be classified into certain groups (sex, race, ethnicity), when in fact M. Silverblatt invited the guests based on their sex/race/ethnicity. M. Angelou is no poet, for heaven's sake! The only reason she is promoted and "celebrated" is because she is a black female. If she is a poet, I don't know what to say about Shakespeare, Pushkin, Goethe, Byron, Lorca, etc.

3. Nina Marie Martinez purports to write about humanity as opposed to her Latino ethnicity. The article compares her and/or she compare herself to Gabriel Garcia Marquez - a real literary giant - who never purported to be an ethnic writer. Maybe that's the secret why Marquez is so influential.

David Scott writes me:

Well, having taken college-lit classes within the last two years, I think I know what they’re saying. Actually, it’s sort of—gasp!—right wing, in some sense or another. It’s all about authors becoming stuck in a niche because of their gender or race. As in, Nina Marie Martínez is a Hispanic author, but not a Hispanic Author. She doesn’t just want to write books especially for her own race. I know how that is because I’m a Christian that writes books that does not aim to be a Christian Author: I think of my stuff as being pretty R rated.

Anyway, it’s kind of a shot at deconstructionism and saying everyone writes their culture. So in that way it’s actually a good thing.

Deep Thinking about writing fiction says that you’re always writing yourself. So, your self is your catalyst to write, because you write through your self. It’s the whole postmodern ‘we are our worldviews’ worldview. As far as ebing the motivation for the reader I assume they mean the motivation to read and learn from your writing.

Anyway, I think you agree with the point they are trying to make—writers are more than their cultural background, and we can find a shared truth—even if the language is flowery. Or, maybe I’m completely wrong. I know most Conservative people are irritated by the thought that no one can escape their cultures.

Brad Schreiber writes:

1. Silverblatt is in fact a well-read but pompous guy who is botulism to radio except he can get the best of literary novelists on the air...

2. Charlie Rose is a good ol boy who interrupts his guests while they are replying or asks a question and then interrupts the beginning of the answer by realizing he has not overexplained his question enough. Both he and Silverblatt should be boiled alive in custard.

3. Your Life As Story is a book written by my pal Tristine Rainer, who is in fact responsible for me living in this nice duplex in Brentwood because she could not live here and still have her horse...