Category Archives: Authors

A Private Conversation With Amy Rigby

 

Amy Rigby has been crisscrossing the USA promoting her memoir, Girl To City, stopping at music venues and book stores from upstate New York to the Pacific North West. She reads from her book, often she plays her guitar, sometimes she is accompanied by musician friends.  The acclaimed singer-songwriter loves the experience as evident by her enthusiastic social media and diary posts. Of course, not all of Amy’s fans have been able to enjoy her personal appearances, which is why we are delighted she took the time to talk with Norman B about Girl To City.

Amy Rigby, Girl To City – A Memoir – Summer Of My Wasted Youth

When I lived on East 4th Street, the staircase had been clogged twice a month with tenants waiting for the mailman to bring disability and welfare checks. My 14th Street neighbors were more of a mix of writers and musicians, the employed and the unemployable. Above and below and on either side of me, people were reading books, painting, making clothes. I also saw a lot of them hustling to the subway or bus in the morning dressed in business attire, off to do their day jobs. I won’t be like that, I thought. I’m only tempting until I’m successful at music. Then I won’t have to work another job.

In this short, brilliantly written example from Amy Rigby’s memoir, you cannot ignore her raw honesty. Even describing humdrum, day-to-day scenarios she doesn’t wander off into fanciful wordplay. Instead, Amy has a marvelous knack for not only conjuring up the scene but also her feelings at that moment. It’s a powerful skill, she modestly acknowledges. “I write better than I say it.” She announces with a slight giggle. Conversing with Amy is always a treat because you never know what tangent you’ll go in. Reading Girl To City is not unlike having a private conversation with the much-loved artist. She speaks directly to you, sometimes wistfully:

He wore a tank top in winter and summer.
But I loved him.
He gave me a crash course in art and film history.
He also gave me crabs, gonorrhea and herpes.
But I loved him.

And she always speaks with a wink in her eye. Never jaded, often knowing and occasionally with a tartness that catches the reader by surprise. Her memoir is packed full of information, details, names, cultural references, a history of rock and roll as seen through Amy’s almost always bright-eyed vision. There have been a lot of memoirs from the rock fraternity, Girl To City deserves its own unique category, as Lenny Kaye says, “Amy Rigby writes the way she performs and sings, laced with insight, humor, self-awareness, and above all, heart”.

During the conversation, Norman B asked Amy to select some music to play during the show. She decided on two cuts from A One Way Ticket To My Life, a companion album to her book, Girl To City, featuring unreleased tracks and demos. Plus she requested we play, the Summer Of My Wasted Youth from her 1998 album, Middlescence.

Show #351

Demystifying The Science Of Hearing

Our sense of hearing makes it easy to connect with the world and the people around us. The human system for processing sound is a biological marvel, an intricate assembly of delicate membranes, bones, receptor cells, and neurons. Yet many people take their ears for granted, abusing them with loud restaurants, rock concerts, and Q-tips. And then, eventually, most of us start to go deaf. Millions of Americans suffer from hearing loss. Faced with the cost and stigma of hearing aids, the natural human tendency is to do nothing and hope for the best, usually while pretending that nothing is wrong. In Volume Control, David Owen argues this inaction comes with a huge social cost. He demystifies the science of hearing while encouraging readers to get the treatment they need for hearing loss and protect the hearing they still have. Hearing aids are rapidly improving and becoming more versatile. Inexpensive high-tech substitutes are increasingly available, making it possible for more of us to boost our weakening ears without bankrupting ourselves. Relatively soon, physicians may be able to reverse losses that have always been considered irreversible. Even the insistent buzz of tinnitus may soon yield to relatively simple treatments and techniques. 

Olivia Taylor Smith – What Do You Do?

Unnamed Press is an independent publisher of fiction and non-fiction, based in Los Angeles and co-founded by Olivia Taylor Smith. “Our books represent a diverse list of voices—ones that challenge conventional perspectives while appealing to a broad general audience: exciting, radical, urgent. We nurture emerging talent and partner with more established authors to help their platform grow.” Says Olivia, who is also executive editor of Unnamed Press. For our ongoing series, we asked Olivia, “What Do You Do?” We wanted to learn more about the enterprising woman who had directed our attention to a wide variety of exceptional authors, like Elizabeth Tan, Tim Orchard, Adam Popescu, Hope Ewing, and Adam Nemett.

photo of Olivia Taylor Smith by Jaya Nicely

Show #350

See Jane Win & Strange Harvests. Two Important Books On Our World, Now

 

                       

Every so often, you can visualize a guest’s emotions as they recount their story over the airwaves to Norman B. You’ll definitely be aware of the huge smile on Caitlin Moscatello’s face as she recounts the wondrous parts of her new book, See Jane Win: The Inspiring Story Of The Women Changing American Politics. And, you’ll also catch a glimpse, albeit audible only, of the sadness, the deflation, the shock felt by so many women across the USA after the outcome of the last presidential election

After November 8, 2016, first came the sadness; then came the rage, the activism, and the protests; and, finally, for thousands of women, the next step was to run for office – many of them for the first time. More women campaigned for local or national office in the 2018 election cycle than at any other time in US history, challenging accepted notions about who seeks power and who gets it. Journalist Caitlin Moscatello reported on this wave of female candidates, closely following four candidates throughout the entire process, from the decision to run through Election Day, See Jane Win takes readers inside their exciting, winning campaigns and the sometimes thrilling, sometimes brutal realities of running for office while female. What she discovers is that the candidates who triumphed in 2018 emphasized authenticity and passion instead of conforming to the stereotype of what a candidate should look or sound like, a formula that will be more relevant than ever as we approach the 2020 presidential election. Caitlin’s exuberance for her story and the women involved is engaging and we urge you not to miss this edition of Life Elsewhere.

Fascinating! Intriguing! Extraordinary! Excuse us if we cannot help but repeat these words over and over when talking about Edward Posnett’s fascinating, intriguing and extraordinary new book, Strange Harvest – The Hidden Histories Of Seven Natural Objects. On reading the title, the first question you feel obliged to ask is why? Then, what? What in the world made this seemingly sensible young man go off to Borneo to find out why eating bird’s nests are considered a delicacy. And, what pursued him to unravel the horrors of plucking feathers from live Eider ducks? Thankfully, Mr. Posnett explains why he journeyed to some of the most far-flung locales on the planet to bring us seven wonders of the natural world–eiderdown, vicuña fiber, sea silk, vegetable ivory, civet coffee, guano, and edible birds’ nest. He wanted to tell human stories against our changing economic and ecological landscape and discover what do they tell us about capitalism, global market forces, and overharvesting? How do local microeconomies survive in a hyperconnected world? Is it possible for us to live together with different species? Strange Harvests makes us see the world with wonder, curiosity, and new concerns. Blending history, travel writing, and interviews, Edward has compiled a fascinating, intriguing and extraordinary book and you need to hear our interview.

Show #339

 

Dispelling The Myths Of Thomas Cromwell – Redux

After a decade of researching the Royal Archives, the award-winning and New York Times bestselling author, Diarmaid MacCulloch has emerged with the most thoroughly researched and complete biography of Thomas Crowell – a polarizing political figure most know for his unwavering service to volatile King Henry VIII, the demise of Anne Boleyn, and his hand in the Reformation. Thomas Cromwell: A Revolutionary Life sheds light onto a fascinating part of history, one that helped shape the course of English politics and the future of the Protestant religion. Since Crowell’s life met its end on the scaffold in 1540, history has not been kind to this self-made commoner who rose from obscurity to become the architect of England’s split with Rome. However, MacCulloch unveils a more sympathetic figure. Was Cromwell the villain of history or the victim of its creation? A masterful storyteller, not afraid to interject a healthy portion of English wit, MacCulloch dispels popular myths. Despite being unable to control the violent humor of his King, Cromwell made his mark on England, setting her on a path to religious awakening and indelibly transforming the system of government of the English-speaking world. Norman B’s conversation with Diarmaid MacCulloch is certainly not for history buffs alone, as illustrated by the author’s deadpan reference to the current US President’s possible resemblance to the one-time narcissistic, volatile ruler of England.

Show #338 V1

Another Conversation With Nathaniel Popkin

After Nathaniel Popkin first appeared on Life Elsewhere in 2018 to talk about his novel, Everything Is Borrowed we didn’t hesitate to invite the Philadelphia-based author back. Then, in response to the American political crisis, the movement, Writers Resist proved a renewed interest amongst writers in political discourse and prompted Stephanie Feldman and Popkin to co-edit, Who Will Speak For America? The eloquent and intellectually curios Nathaniel Popkin returned to our show to discuss the anthology. Now Nathaniel is back to talk about his latest work of fiction – set against the backdrop of 1976 Philadelphia, The Year Of The Return follows the path of two families, the Jewish Silks and African American Johnsons, as they are first united by marriage and then by grief, turmoil, and the difficult task of trying to live in an America failing to live up to its ideals. Both hyper-real and feverishly imagined, and told in the unfiltered voices of the characters themselves, Popkin summons the electric dimensions of racial conflict, sexual liberty, and economic collapse during America’s post-Vietnam urban meltdown. Paul Silk and Charlene Johnson are journalists whose love for each other and commitment to social justice were formed in the peace movements of the 1960s. But the idealism of that era leads to the urban deterioration of the 1970s. Mayor Frank Rizzo’s Philadelphia is a place of crime, white flight, and class resentment that is inhospitable to their interracial marriage, forcing them to move away. But when Charlene dies of cancer, Paul returns. Unmoored and unable to let go of Charlene, he wades back into the lives of the two families, with the hope of helping Charlene’s younger brother Monte, once a prodigy and now a troubled veteran of the Vietnam War. Their explosive reunion leads to the baring of personal revelations and dangerous secrets. This is a vivid story of families trying to reconnect with and support each other through trauma and loss, and a meditation on the possibility of moving on to a better future. We are delighted to welcome Nathaniel Popkin back to Life Elsewhere.

Plus new music from Felicia Douglass and Eric Gundel out Brooklyn who perform under the moniker, Gemma. You’ll hear Love Trade from Feeling’s Not A Tempo, their latest album, which we highly recommend. Montreal-based, multi-talented singer-songwriter, Sarah Krier gives us Wrap from her new long-player, Avoidable Injuries. Digital Vagabond hail from Denver, Colorado, Patrick Boyle is the composer, producer, and knob-twiddler on The Tyndall Effect, featuring Carly Lynn Meador aka Spirah on vocals. 

And, Norman B voices an opinion on guns, he first aired on a talk radio show in the early ’80s.

Show #336

Portrait by Peter Woodall

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