Thursday, April 24, 2008

New shows in the wings

My intention was to add five new shows to the web site, but, alas, more pressing, can't-wait matters required my attention. And now I'm about to return to my home ground, the beautiful Hudson Valley, for a visit with my parents. So Open Books Radio will receive its Spring infusion soon. In time for May, that month of promises.

In the meantime, this Sunday the Chicago Tribune Magazine will feature coverage of presidential sites, including my article on Roosevelt Country, a piece I very much enjoyed writing. And the Chicago Tribune Books section will contain my review of Louise Erdrich's new novel, A Plague of Doves.

Saturday, April 19, 2008

On the Air

Open Books will be on WBEZ, Chicago Public Radio, this Sunday night at 9:00 central time and it's a heartland Earth Day edition featuring Chicago naturalist, writer, birder, and activist Joel Greenberg. Joel wrote the magnum opus, A Natural History of the Chicago Region, and has now put together an inspired and revelatory anthology, Of Prairie, Woods, & Water: Two Centuries of Chicago Nature Writing.

Joel is a dream guest, ask a simple question, and receive a great fountain of information, observation, irony, enthusiasm, and insight. You can listen online,

Monday, April 7, 2008

Bravo Junot!

One of my favorite novels by one of my favorite writers and Open Books guests has won the Pulitzer Prize: Junot Diaz for The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao.

If you haven't read it, do.

I'm also happy to see two other titles I gave starred reviews in Booklist: Robert Hass's Time and Materials in poetry, and the terrific Eden's Outcasts in biography by John Matteson. It's always good to have one's passions affirmed.

Pick these up.

Saturday, April 5, 2008

Librarians listen

Last week I attended the Public Library Association conference in clean and serene Minneapolis. The city, brisk and sunny, was a balm to stressed nerves and overheated brain; the company of thousands of thoughtful, book-loving, community-supporting librarians was affirming and inspiring. Public librarians from across the country gathered in meeting rooms by the hundreds to listen to their peers talk about books and readers. Even on a Saturday morning at 8:30 when three of us spoke about that most maligned and misunderstood form, the memoir. Thousands laughed uproariously at the closing session as Paula Poundstone, author and big reader, made good fun of them. You don't think, in that context, that the world of books is imperiled. No, you feel certain that literature is a pillar of civilization, that reading is a profoundly pleasurable practice cherished by many, that people are hungry for news of new books and writers, for precise and penetrating reviews, for reading recommendations and fresh perspectives on the river of books that flows from publishers to book review editors to bookstores and libraries. And then you find yourself stuck at the airport, your flight delayed, CNN blaring on TVs hanging above your head, and most of your fellow travelers spending their arrested time fiddling with gadgets--cell phones, laptops, and iPods. Now maybe they're talking about a novel they just read, or reading an essay online, or listening to an audiobook. It's possible. Me? Sure, I was reading one book, with another handy.