Book Beat: The Podcast

Don's unedited CBS interviews at Ohio U's Wired for Books

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ARCHIVES #3 — 2013

Don Swaim Interviews

Barbara Brandon
The Passion of Ayn Rand

May 14, 1919 -- December 11, 2013
Barbara was an early Rand disciple and husband of Nathaniel Brandon, once Rand's greatest proponent. His sexual relationship with Rand led to a self-destructive denouement for all involved, and seriously compromised Rand's failed Objectivist philosophy.
Ayn Rand did not have the education to sustain her notions about economics (she was a history major), particularly in a complex post-industrial America. She knew little about human nature. Righteous anger and a dominant personality are not the ingredients for a successful philosophy, and hers will remain a literary apostrophe. --DS
  • Don's 1987 interview with Barbara Brandon on the occasion of her biography The Passion of Ayn Rand: listen

    Hugh Nissenson
    Pressed the Bounds of the Novelistic Form

    (March 10, 1933 -- December 13, 2013)
  • The Tree of Life 1985: listen
  • The Elephant and My Jewish Problem 1989: listen
  • unedited CBS Wired for Books interview 1985: listen
  • unedited CBS Wired for Books interview 1989: listen
  • Video Interview with Hugh Nissenson (taped in 1987 as a pilot for a TV venture that never came to be) WATCH

    Andrei Schiffrin
    Renowned American Publisher

    June 14, 1935 -- December 1, 2013
    Schiffrin headed the daring Pantheon Books for 28 years (and edited The Tin Drum by Gunter Grass). His clumsy departure fomented by owner Random House led to a major controversy about the integrity of publishing. Don interviewed Schiffrin on the eve of the founding of his new publishing venture, the New Press. listen

    July 22, 1925 -- November 28, 2013

    The Ohio-born novelist was as colorful as the chcracters in his books.

  • Robert Nagle's excellent essay on the life and death of Jack Matthews here.
  • Don Swaim's 1984 Book Beat broadcast with Jack Matthews: listen
  • Don's unedited CBS Wired for Books interview with Jack: listen
  • Don and Jack debate Ohio's own Ambrose Bierce: listen (recorded Oct. 9, 2001, WOUB, Athens, Ohio)
  • Free downloads of Matthews' works from Personville Press here.
    photo of Jack Matthews by Dinty W. Moore

    Doris Lessing
    Nobel Prize Winner

    (October 22, 1919 -- November 17, 2013)
  • The Fifth Child 1988: listen
  • African Laughter 1992: listen
  • unedited CBS Wired for Books interview 1988: listen
  • unedited CBS Wired for Books interview 1992: listen

    Penn Kimball
    Distinguished journalist and educator

    (October 12, 1915 -- November 15, 2013)
  • The File 1983: listen
    When the American right-wing of the 1940s launched its communist witch hunts, Kimball was declared a national security risk -- and he didn't even know it. Kimball's ten-year effort to clear his name is detailed in The File.

    Oscar Hijuelos
    Pulitzer Prize-winner

    (August 24, 1951 -- October 12, 2013)
  • Mambo Kings Sing Songs of Love 1990: listen
  • unedited CBS Wired for Books interview 1990: listen

    Tom Clancy
    Popular techno-thrillers

    (April 12, 1947 -- October 1, 2013)
  • Hunt for Red October 1985: listen
  • Red Storm Rising 1986: listen
  • unedited CBS Wired for Books interview 1985: listen
  • unedited CBS Wired for Books interview 1986: listen

    Robert Barnard
    British mystery writer

    (November 19, 1936 -- September 19, 2013)
  • School for Murder 1984: listen
  • unedited CBS Wired for Books interview 1984: listen

    Elmore Leonard
    Edgar Prize Mystery & Thriller Writer Supreme

    (October 11, 1925 -- August 20, 2013, 2013)
  • Dutch Treat 1985: listen. (Leonard on his alcoholism)
  • Touch 1987: listen
  • Freaky Deaky1988: listen. (Leonard on rejection)
  • unedited CBS Wired for Books interview 1985 : listen
  • unedited CBS Wired for Books interview 1987: listen

    Andrew Greeley
    Catholic Priest Wrote Steamy Novels

    (February 5, 1928 -- May 29, 2013)
  • Lord of the Dance 1984: listen
  • unedited CBS Wired for Books interview 1984: listen
    Note the chatter at the start. The interview had to be recorded twice because a technical glitch ruined the first take. Greeley was not happy.

    Ruth Prawer Jhabvala
    Booker Prize Winner

    (May 7, 1928 -- April 3, 2013)
    Born in Germany, Jhabvala was best known for her screenplays, which she wrote as part of the Merchant-Ivory filmmaking tean. Jhabvala won Oscars for Room with a View and Howard's End. Don interviewed her in 1993: listen

    Stanley Karnow
    Pulitzer Prize Winning Journalist

    (February 4, 1925 -- January 27, 2013)
    One of America's great journalists and historians, Karnow covered Southeast Asia for Time, Life, The Saturday Evening Post, and NBC News, and wrote nine books. He may be best known for his mammoth Vietnam: A History, and its companion, a thirteen-hour PBS documentary. Don spoke to Karnow about the significant but sorry Viet Nam chapter in American history. listen

  • But you have -- even though you may not have known it. His name was EDWARD DE GRAZIA who died on April 11, 2013 at the age of eighty-six. He fought for free speech against the reactionaries who--until de Grazia took them on--had censored our books and films.

    Ed de Grazia's victories over the agents of suppression were manifest, and among the literary figures he championed were Henry Miller, William S. Burroughs, and publisher Barney Rosset. A champion of the First Amendment, de Grazia changed America's obscenity laws forever--we hope.

    Don Swaim interviewed de Grazia on the occasion of his massive account about the law of obscenity and the assault on genius, Girls Lean Back Everywhere.
  • Don's five-part broadcast with de Grazia can be heard here: listen
  • Here's Don's complete, unedited interview with de Grazia at Ohio University's Wired for Books: listen (runs 43:55)

    Comeback for a Forgotten Writer?

    by Don Swaim

    Liveright Publishing (bearing the hallowed name that dates to the 20s and 30s and now an imprint of W.W. Norton) has published The Complete Short Stories of James Purdy. Purdy died nearly forgotten in 2009 at the age of 94. Yet in the 1950s and 60s he was celebrated for his often bizarre, sexually violent stories. His novel Malcolm was adapted by Edward Albee for the Broadway stage.

    You see my books are really all underground in that they are about things people don't want to hear expressed. And though the critics would like to carry them off to the shit-yard, they can't seem to get rid of them because they haunt people. --Purdy

    I got to know James Purdy in New York. He was more than an acquaintance but something less than a close friend. I first met him in 1984 when his novel On Glory's Course was published, and went to a party for him at the home of Vassilis Voglis at 30 East 20th Street. I believe the incredibly chain-smoking writer Fran Liebowitz was the co-host. James didn't smoke, and barely drank.

    I would meet Purdy in Brooklyn Heights for lunch, and once visited him in his home, literally a garret, an attic room in a five-story walkup at 236 Henry Street, where he did all of his writing. On a manual typewriter, he would sometimes type out his poems for me and autograph them. Within the fringes of the gay world, he never married, but after he suffered herpes of the eye that temporarily blocked his vision, he was helped by a woman friend named Elaine to Manhattan where we had drinks. When I asked Elaine what she did, she replied, "I take care of James."

    He was said to be extremely difficult. One of his former editors told me that Purdy would phone in the middle of the night, enraged about something or another. I never had to work with him, of course, but I always found James courtly and polite, and flattered by my interest, understandably as I was one of the few major media entities to promote him. I took him at his word that he was born in 1923. He was actually born in 1914.

    I interviewed James Purdy three times for CBS. Here are the actual broadcasts:
  • On Glory's Course: listen
  • The Candles of Your Eyes: listen
  • Garments the Living Wear: listen (trashes his publishers)

    Ohio University posted Don's complete and unedited interviews with Purdy at Wired for Books:
  • 1984: listen
  • 1987: listen
  • 1988: listen

    A beautifully done tribute site by the director, actor, and editor John Uecker is called James Purdy Memento Mori, which uses his own words and photographs: here

    There's also a James Purdy Society website, to which I contributed, but it hasn't been updated since 2004: here

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