Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Talking books on Title Page tv

If you've not seen the newest entry in the genre of book discussion shows, go look at Titlepage tv. The first episode of this internet book talk show is up now, and it's a good beginning. Host Daniel Menaker interviews four novelists I didn't expect to see sitting at the same set: Richard Price, Colin Harrison, Susan Choi, and Charles Bock. Each of them gets a chance to talk about their latest novel, prodded by good questions by Menaker, and then the four talk about creativity and the writing stories. If I were teaching creative writing, I'd want my students to watch this episode in part to see these four novelists, but also to get a glimmer of how writers come up with profound stories and how they choose to describe their work. But it's not a class, it's a discussion between artists, shaped by an informed and intelligent host who has actually read the books he's talking about. (He even reads passages on camera.)

Here's what I loved most about this first episode: Menaker is a charming and knowledgeable interviewer, and the novelists were . . . just themselves. Not tarted up for tv, not stretching to explain their story in a 30-second sound-bite. They had time to talk, and some were clearly better at articulating the whys and wherefores of their novels than others. That was refreshing. For example, Richard Price starts out stone-faced, slumped a bit in his chair, holding his head at a funny angle and saying "uh" a lot. And as Menaker draws him out, his answers become more animated and his eyes light up, and pretty soon he's sitting up and gesturing with his hands and making his novel and its characters come alive. That's the treat: getting to hear a novelist show us his or her passion for the story they birthed.

Titlepage tv isn't perfect: the camera work needs, well, work. The set is pretty spare. And it would be really nice if they'd take questions from readers. But it works. It's like getting to sit in on a book group with writers talking about their own books. For free. On your computer or iPhone or other browsing device anytime you want to listen. How cool is that? Very cool, I'd say.

Thanks Titlepage! I'm looking forward to watching your work evolve.


Janet Grace Riehl said...

I went there on your recommendation and was just delighted. It was just as you said...charming, knowledgeable host, chatting at a dinner party, drawing out his talented guests. Great show!

Janet Riehl

Susan J Tweit said...

Thanks, Janet. On reflection, I have one concern about the first episode: where's the cultural diversity? (Yes, I know, Susan Choi was interviewed. But she was the only woman and the only person other than Anglo.) I'll hope to see more diversity on future episodes.