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All I Did Was Ask: Conversations with Writers, Actors, Musicians, and Artists Paperback – October 5, 2005
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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.
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.
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 Seaman
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.
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Top Customer Reviews
So I've started reading interviews with people, or autobiographies, since I already know whats going to happen for them.
This book is lovely. It's a great way to get perspective in many different ways about celebrities or icons, and truly view them as fellow humans.
I love Terry's in depth and fearless questions.
This will be a forever bedtime book for me.
She doesn't explicitly tells you how to interview people but it is inferred through the introductory paragraphs for each interview section. I guess the readers can learn that by close analysis of the transcript.
If they do decide to make volume 2. I hope that through the ease of the digital age, they will provide links of said interviews. Also support your local public radio station. I feel that I just have to mention that.
If you're not a Fresh Air listener, it's a good way to discover an interviewer who has talked with a wide swath of people.
Fan or no fan of Fresh Air, reading the book is like reading the transcripts of her interviews. Since her guests are so varied, it's a great way to discover new authors, artists, actors, statesmen, etc. It's a great read. I'd recommend buying it!
Well, I was right - and wrong. Terry has all the deep thinking and interesting, nuanced opinions you'd expect her to have. But I found out a lot about Terry Gross that I didn't know. I came to appreciate her as an interviewer even more, when I realized I'd been projecting my own opinions and perspectives onto her as interviewer, because she's able to be so transparent.
I admire Terry Gross, Diane Rehm and other interviewers who are able to elicit the opinions, feelings and philosophies of the people they talk to. Now I understand a lot more about what it takes to get there - how Terry has to honor her curiosity and find the middle ground.
And some of the vignettes are just plain fun. I like to think I'd be able to suffer the tauntings of Gene Simmons without succumbing to anger, but after reading the book I admire Terry for just laying it out there. Nobody's perfect. None of her subjects, and not Terry herself.
Turns out, I didn't know Terry Gross well at all, even after listening to her for years. I was seeing myself in the mirror of my own perspective. But now that I know her a little better, I like her and her show even more.
What the book adds are personal, behind the scenes reflections, so that the book is about Terry and the interviewee. This book explores dialogue and reflection while telling good stories. A good read from a good human.