A warm celebration of creativity and the writing life.



Writers talk about their craft.

From over 30 years of the nationally syndicated radio program Bookworm, the show’s host Silverblatt and editor Felsenthal have selected conversations with 12 acclaimed writers, including poet John Ashbery; novelists Joan Didion, Toni Morrison, and Octavia Butler; short fiction writer Grace Paley; and composer Stephen Sondheim. As Felsenthal notes in the introduction, Silverblatt went into each conversation without an agenda, deftly pivoting to wherever the talk went, and the conversations attest to the writers’ trust and respect for their interviewer. As John Berger remarked to Silverblatt, “you’re an incredible expert—but I don’t like the word expert—inhabitant, hunter about books, about written text, about mad literature that you cross and live in and relate to what is outside that forest, which is life.” The occasion for each interview could be the publication of a new book (W.G. Sebald’s Austerlitz, in 2001), an anniversary (the 25th for Octavia Butler’s Kindred, in 2004), or a notable book-related event (1998, when Morrison’s Beloved was made into a movie). Some entries include more than one interview: Didion, in 1996, for the publication of The Last Thing He Wanted, and 2013, for Blue Nights. Sondheim appeared when a recording of Road Show was released in 2009 and again in 2010 when he published Finishing the Hat, which Silverblatt describes as “a combination of collected lyrics, attendant comments, principles, heresies, grudges, whines, and anecdotes.” David Foster Wallace was a frequent guest, from 1996, after Infinite Jest, until 2006, with the publication of Consider the Lobster. Each interview ranged far from the precipitating occasion as Silverblatt brought his considerable curiosity to questions of style, tone, language, structure, aspirations, and inspiration. Widely read, knowledgeable, and thoughtful, he elicited candid, detailed responses from his guests. The interviews can be heard online in the Bookworm archive at kcrw.com.

A warm celebration of creativity and the writing life.

Pub Date: yesterday

ISBN: 9781737277583

Page Count: 432

Publisher: The Song Cave

Review Posted Online: Jan. 12, 2023

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2023

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A virtuoso performance and an ode to an undervalued medium created by two talented artists.



The veteran actor, comedian, and banjo player teams up with the acclaimed illustrator to create a unique book of cartoons that communicates their personalities.

Martin, also a prolific author, has always been intrigued by the cartoons strewn throughout the pages of the New Yorker. So when he was presented with the opportunity to work with Bliss, who has been a staff cartoonist at the magazine since 1997, he seized the moment. “The idea of a one-panel image with or without a caption mystified me,” he writes. “I felt like, yeah, sometimes I’m funny, but there are these other weird freaks who are actually funny.” Once the duo agreed to work together, they established their creative process, which consisted of working forward and backward: “Forwards was me conceiving of several cartoon images and captions, and Harry would select his favorites; backwards was Harry sending me sketched or fully drawn cartoons for dialogue or banners.” Sometimes, he writes, “the perfect joke occurs two seconds before deadline.” There are several cartoons depicting this method, including a humorous multipanel piece highlighting their first meeting called “They Meet,” in which Martin thinks to himself, “He’ll never be able to translate my delicate and finely honed droll notions.” In the next panel, Bliss thinks, “I’m sure he won’t understand that the comic art form is way more subtle than his blunt-force humor.” The team collaborated for a year and created 150 cartoons featuring an array of topics, “from dogs and cats to outer space and art museums.” A witty creation of a bovine family sitting down to a gourmet meal and one of Dumbo getting his comeuppance highlight the duo’s comedic talent. What also makes this project successful is the team’s keen understanding of human behavior as viewed through their unconventional comedic minds.

A virtuoso performance and an ode to an undervalued medium created by two talented artists.

Pub Date: Nov. 17, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-250-26289-9

Page Count: 272

Publisher: Celadon Books

Review Posted Online: Aug. 31, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2020

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A top-flight nonfiction debut from a unique artist.


The acclaimed director displays his talents as a film critic.

Tarantino’s collection of essays about the important movies of his formative years is packed with everything needed for a powerful review: facts about the work, context about the creative decisions, and whether or not it was successful. The Oscar-winning director of classic films like Pulp Fiction and Reservoir Dogs offers plenty of attitude with his thoughts on movies ranging from Animal House to Bullitt to The Texas Chainsaw Massacre to The Big Chill. Whether you agree with his assessments or not, he provides the original reporting and insights only a veteran director would notice, and his engaging style makes it impossible to leave an essay without learning something. The concepts he smashes together in two sentences about Taxi Driver would take a semester of film theory class to unpack. Taxi Driver isn’t a “paraphrased remake” of The Searchers like Bogdanovich’s What’s Up, Doc? is a paraphrased remake of Hawks’ Bringing Up Baby or De Palma’s Dressed To Kill is a paraphrased remake of Hitchcock’s Psycho. But it’s about as close as you can get to a paraphrased remake without actually being one. Robert De Niro’s taxi driving protagonist Travis Bickle is John Wayne’s Ethan Edwards. Like any good critic, Tarantino reveals bits of himself as he discusses the films that are important to him, recalling where he was when he first saw them and what the crowd was like. Perhaps not surprisingly, the author was raised by movie-loving parents who took him along to watch whatever they were watching, even if it included violent or sexual imagery. At the age of 8, he had seen the very adult MASH three times. Suddenly the dark humor of Kill Bill makes much more sense. With this collection, Tarantino offers well-researched love letters to his favorite movies of one of Hollywood’s most ambitious eras.

A top-flight nonfiction debut from a unique artist.

Pub Date: Nov. 1, 2022

ISBN: 978-0-06-311258-2

Page Count: 400

Publisher: Harper/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: Nov. 1, 2022

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2022

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