From Publishers Weekly
Conducting a good interview requires exhaustive research, good timing, the ability to steer the interview back on course when it meanders, a knack for close listening and thinking about the next question, flexibility and editing skills. Gross, the polite and generous host of NPR's Fresh Air
, is a pro, and here she collects some of her favorite interviews with people in the arts. The result is a wide-ranging and entertaining look into the creative process. With a few exceptions, the interviews are from the show's national broadcast debut year in 1987, but they never seem dated, as many of the guests are still active or well known, and the topics are timeless. Whether she's asking Johnny Cash about the difference between a singer and a song stylist, discussing the role of class in British actor Michael Caine's life or examining the eternal intricacies of the human face with Chuck Close, Gross remains sensitive, engaged and informed. The two notable exceptions are her interviews with cable opinion-slinger Bill O'Reilly and Kiss front man Gene Simmons, whose pugnacity and sexism, respectively, unseat the usually collected host and challenge her to summon interview skills she rarely exercises. Overall, however, this is an often funny and completely fascinating anthology.
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In the first print collection of her justifiably famous interviews, Gross, host of the exceedingly popular National Public Radio interview program Fresh Air
, admits to being nervous before every recording session. She also reveals the enormous amount of prep work involved. Writing with the directness and insight that make her such a magnet for listeners, Gross takes readers behind the scenes of her Philadelphia-based Peabody Award-winning program. She has wisely chosen to focus strictly on people in the arts, presenting 39 judiciously selected interviews that span the last two decades, conversations that, no matter the date, are, indeed, fresh, probing, and compelling. The book will prove newly revelatory to listeners (radio broadcasts are, after all, ephemeral), and engage everyone interested in how artists view their lives. Gross is at once extremely well informed and darn near guileless in her willingness to pose personal questions. She asks Chris Rock, for instance, if being skinny influenced his work (absolutely), gets Sonny Rollins to talk about drugs, and elicits many reminiscences about loving mothers. Wonderfully eclectic, she extracts intriguing disclosures from Johnny Cash, Grandmaster Flash, Nick Hornby, Jodie Foster, James Baldwin, John Updike, painters Chuck Close and Frank Stella, thoughtful Divine, and Kiss's absurdly crass Gene Simmons. It's a boon to have these priceless exchanges preserved in print, along with Gross' candid commentary. Donna SeamanCopyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved