Captivating compilation of interviews with people in the arts, all first broadcast on Fresh Air.
Gross has been hosting her daily, hour-long NPR interview show for 30 years, and in that time countless cultural icons have submitted to her polite but relentless questioning. Here, she collects interviews done since the show went national in 1987. Explaining the focus on artists, writers, actors, and sundry entertainers, the author contends that her many interviews with figures involved in politics or social issues can seem dated a few years after they air. The famously cagey Gross begins by revealing a good deal about her own life; existing fans should enjoy the inside look at how her show is produced and who the key players are, along with personal details. (She answers the lesbian question once and for all.) But the real delight is in the interviews themselves, uniformly fresh and so animated on the page that it’s hard to imagine they were better live. The range of subjects is vast: Gross connects with Johnny Cash and Grandmaster Flash, Dennis Hopper and Jodie Foster, Mario Puzo and Maurice Sendak, among many others. Almost all of them, while discussing their work process or latest project, come up with some remarkable observation, from the piquant to the extraordinary. John Updike’s comments on his Rabbit novels give piercing insight into life in suburbia in the 1950s, while author Ann Bannon describes how it felt to write lesbian fiction during the same period. George Clinton talks about the roots of his mighty funk empire, and Hal David reveals that he dreaded writing the song for the movie Alfie. For those who love a good fight, Gross includes her notorious interview with Gene Simmons.
A genuine page-turner: the weak-willed will lose sleep.