Monday, April 28, 2008

TV To Go: Top 10 Books About Television

Let's face it, there may be times and places in our lives in which we find ourselves without the familiar comfort of television: a commute on the city bus, a visit to the park, a family vacation. Here is a list of the top ten books about television that might be able to help you get your fix.

When Television Was Young:
The Inside Story with Memories by Legends
of the Small Screen

by Ed McMahon and David Fisher

This is the first oral history of early television by those who made it happen. Reminiscences of the stars, the writers, the producers create a feeling of being there when television first came into America's homes. We all know how successful Ed McMahon's career has been, the perfect television icon to serve as a guide to the early days of television. Ed has interviewed writers, producers, cameramen and stars such as Annette Funicello, Dick Clark, Andy Griffith, Art Linkletter, Gale Storm, Barbara Billingsley, Walter Cronkite, Jerry Mathers, Soupy Sales, Ron Howard, Merv Griffin and many more.

A Reporter's Life: Peter Jennings
Edited by Kate Darnton and Lynn Sherr

This book chronicles Peter's career from the beginning to the end, including his childhood radio program, his first unsuccessful stint in the ABC News anchor chair, his experiences as a foreign correspondent, and his lengthy tenure with "World News Tonight." Jennings served as the popular a anchor of ABC News until 2005 when he died because of lung cancer. This book, edited by Peter's colleagues at ABC, consists of nearly a hundred interviews with friends, family, colleagues and friends that took place shortly after his death.. The book also details Jennings' feelings about being a Canadian working in the United States as one of the nation's top news anchors and his subsequent gaining of citizenship in 2003. A Reporter's Life offers a chance for those who turned to Peter throughout the years to say goodbye.

Lucille: The Life of Lucille Ball
by Kathleen Brady

Lucy is an icon, television's leading lady. Featured mainly in B-movies in the 1930s at RKO, leading lady in several MGM films in the '40s, Lucille Ball was never a "star," but she became the Queen of TV with I Love Lucy, first aired in 1951. In this evenhanded, serious look at America's beloved comedienne, Brady describes how, under Buster Keaton's tutelage, Ball developed her talents, and how her husband's womanizing led her to conceive the TV series "because it would keep Desi at home." Brady's biography is a narrative roller coaster veering from heartache to terror to triumph as she depicts Ball as actress, wife, mother and producer. Ball's outrageous behavior after her last series, Here's Lucy, ended in 1974 and her struggle against aging are recounted in doleful detail. Ball died in 1989 at the age of 78 but, as Brady remarks, "Lucy Ricardo" achieved eternal life. Fans will appreciate the profusion of I Love Lucy lore and trivia.

True Stories of Law and Order
by Kevin Dwyer and Jure Fiorillo

Are you or someone you love a Law and Order junky? Summer vacations can be fun, but not if you can't get enough of the true crime git. Here's the perfect book to bring along on your travels, the real crimes that have inspired your favorite episodes of Law and Order. True Stories of Law & Order reveals the fascinating and shocking facts behind 25 of the hit show's most popular episodes-from the incredible account of how a woman's repressed memory leads to the solving of a 30-year-old cold case to the high-profile investigation of transvestite millionaire Robert Durst. And just like in Law & Order, the actual crime is just the beginning, as you follow these cases from the initial stages of the investigation through the trial and up to the often controversial verdicts.

Part of the reason millions of fans tune in to Law & Order is the gritty realism of its storytelling. The monumentally popular show has included many episodes inspired by actual cases ripped from the headlines-true crimes that are often stranger and more chilling than fiction. Here is a link to another book in the series, True Stories of Law and Order: SVU.

I Shouldn't Even Be Doing This
by Bob Newhart

Bob, Newhart is one of the greatest television stars of all time. Newhart's career began with his 1960 Grammy-winning album, The Button Down Mind of Bob Newhart, the comedian's 46-year career has included nightclub standup, TV series (The Bob Newhart Show), animation voices (The Simpsons), feature films (Catch-22, Elf)—and now his first book This isn’t a memoir like most memoirs. It’s a book only Bob Newhart could have written, with his unique worldview and irrepressibly wry humor on every page. Oh, and there’s a fair bit of plain silliness too. In this, his first book ever, Newhart gives his brilliant and bemused twist on a multitude of topics, including flying, the trials of a family holiday in a Winnebago, and more serious subjects, such as gold. And of course, there are side-splittingly funny stories from his life and career.

The Place to Be:
Washington, CBS, and the Glory Days of Television News
by Roger Mudd

Yes, you've read the title of the book correctly, in the 1960's CBS was the place to be for the most talented journalists, great stories, and political intrigue. Roger Mudd joined CBS in 1961, and as the congressional correspondent, became a star covering the historic Senate debate over the 1964 Civil Right Act. Appearing at the steps of Congress every morning, noon, and night for the twelve weeks of filibuster, he established a reputation as a leading political reporter. Mudd was one of half a dozen major figures in the stable of CBS News broadcasters at a time when the network's standing as a provider of news was at its peak.

In The Place to Be, Mudd tells of how the bureau worked: the rivalries, the egos, the pride, the competition, the ambitions, and the gathering frustrations of conveying the world to a national television audient in thirty minutes minus commercials. It is the story of a unique TV news bureau, unmatched in its quality, dedication, and professionalism. It shows what TV journalism was once like and what it's missing today.

Inside Inside:
by James Lipton

Each week Inside the Actors Studio takes the insights and intimate revelations of its guests, usually celebrated artists, into 84 million homes on the Bravo network and 125 countries. Sitting down to talk to Lipton has become a rite of passage to Hollywood's best. The book provides inside information abotu the itnerviews of Tom Hanks, Julia Roberts, Sean Penn, Clint Eastwood, Johnny Depp, Harrison Ford, Martin Scorsese, Sharon Stone and some of the funniest like Billy Crystal, Robin Williams, Mike Myers, Chris Rock, Dave Chappelle. And the bonus, Lipton writes about Will Ferrell playing James Lipton on the Inside stage.

Top Chef: The Cookbook

Here is a cookbook based off of the number one cooking show on television. Chefs make up delicious dishes on the fly, cook with ingredients they've never used, and compete to impress a panel of judges and serious foodies. If the recipes in the cookbook are half as good as some of the completed dishes look at 9pm on a Wednesday, then this book is a must have. Fans of the show will rejoice because the book includes discussions with contestants, judges, and crew reveal the inner workings of the show, and lavish photographs take readers behind-the-scenes into the Top Chef pantry and the competition sites.

Television Game Show Hosts:
Biographies of 32 Stars
by David Baber

Game shows are a large part of the television experience. We have all spent time wondering about private lives and thoughts of the men and women behind our favorite game shows, from Love Connection to The Gong Show. There's no reason to worry because Television Game show Hosts provides answers to all of those questions. No where else will you find a single book that contains work profiles, the successes, the scandals and information about the private lives of 32 of the greatest game show hosts of all time. Included in that number are the original hosts like Bill Cullen and Peter Marshall as well as the classics such as Bob Barker and the contemporaries like Regis Philbin.

The Simple Faith of Mister Rogers

by Amy Hollingsworth

Who better to end with than everyone's favorite neighbor, Mister Rogers? Tom Brokaw of NBC Nightly News once said of the American icon Fred Rogers, "Mister Rogers was an ordained minister, but he never talked about God on his program. He didn't need to."

Eight years before his death, Fred Rogers met author, educator, and speaker Amy Hollingsworth. What started as a television interview turned into a wonderful friendship spanning dozens of letters detailing the driving force behind this gentle man of extraordinary influence. Educator? Philosopher? Psychologist? Minister? Here is an intimate portrait of the real Mister Rogers.

Did we miss anything? Hit reply and share your tops picks.

Thursday, April 24, 2008

John Adams: The Book vs. The Miniseries

The Book
The Basics

Number of Pages: 752
Release Date: May 22nd, 2001
Publisher: Simon & Schuster


Like his masterly, Pulitzer Prize-winning biography Truman, David McCullough's John Adams has the sweep and vitality of a great novel. It is both a riveting portrait of an abundantly human man and a vivid evocation of his time, much of it drawn from an outstanding collection of Adams family letters and diaries. In particular, the more than one thousand surviving letters between John and Abigail Adams, nearly half of which have never been published, provide extraordinary access to their private lives and make it possible to know John Adams as no other major American of his founding era.

As he has with stunning effect in his previous books, McCullough tells the story from within -- from the point of view of the amazing eighteenth century and of those who, caught up in events, had no sure way of knowing how things would turn out. George Washington, Benjamin Franklin, John Jay, the British spy Edward Bancroft, Madame Lafayette and Jefferson's Paris "interest" Maria Cosway, Alexander Hamilton, James Madison, the scandalmonger James Callender, Sally Hemings, John Marshall, Talleyrand, and Aaron Burr all figure in this panoramic chronicle, as does, importantly, John Quincy Adams, the adored son whom Adams would live to see become President.

Above Photo: David McCullough, two-time winner of both the Pulitzer Prize and the National Book Award, he is widely referred to as a "master of the art of narrative history."

The Miniseries

The Basics:

Total Run Time: 7 hours
Aired on: HBO
Available on DVD: June 10th, 2008
Amazon Listing Price: $59.99
Current Amazon Sale Price: $38.99

John Adams is a sprawling HBO miniseries event that depicts the extraordinary life and times of one of Americas least understood and most underestimated founding fathers: the second President of the United States John Adams. Starring Paul Giamatti (Sideways Cinderella Man HBOs American Spendor) in the title role and Laura Linney (You Can Count on Me Kinsey) as Adams devoted wife Abigail John Adams chronicles the extraordinary life journey of one of the primary shapers of our independence and government whose legacy has often been eclipsed by more flamboyant contemporaries like George Washington Thomas Jefferson Alexander Hamilton and Benjamin Franklin. Set against the backdrop of a nations stormy birth this sweeping miniseries is a moving love story a gripping narrative and a fascinating study of human nature. Above all at a time when the nation is increasingly polarized politically this story celebrates the shared values of liberty and freedom upon which this country was built.

Some Film Facts or Little Details That Make HBO Productions So Damn Good

Many civilian costumes were previously used in UK public television productions. The magic-markered letters "BBC" were visible inside many pairs of trousers.

- The old-fashioned stout beer sloshing from mugs as townspeople merrily cheer George Washington outdoors at his inauguration is actually bottled-water darkened with cola.

- For a more authentic look (and smell) of a real working quay, around two truckloads of oyster shells were heaped around the set of the Dockside Welcome Home Mr Adams Scene

- A very nice detail, often overlooked in historical movies, is that as John Adams ages, his teeth get progressively more stained and dark, especially near the gums and the interstices of the teeth.

Key Differences: the book and the movie

Abigail Arrives in France

The movie: The film depicts Abigail's emotional arrival at John's French residence at Auteuil, perhaps most important, she arrives alone without any of her children who were quiet young when we last saw them.

The book: Abigail arrives with her daughter Nabby where they first land in England, staying in London where John Quincy meets them. Later, still in England, they all unite with John. The family then travels to Paris, meets with Jefferson and his daughter and eventually rent a house, much like the one that John is living in at Abigails arrival in the film.

Nabby Gets Married

The movie: John Adams rejects Colonel William Smith's proposal to marry his daughter Nabby after his return to America. The marriage, however, happens while Adams in Vice President. Later, John refuses to help William get a position in the army.

The book: McCullough indicates in the text that William Smith and Nabby Adams were married in England, while John was still serving as a minister and ambassador. Interestingly, there were no objections to the marriage put forth by either John or Abigail. Later, John attempts to help William to get a job in Senate, a job William never got because of the fact that he had earlier filed for bankruptcy and was therefor unable to serve.

Learning the French Language

In the movie: John Adams arrives in France, attends events and meets the king, all without being able to speak a lick of French. Which is interesting because John's eldest son John Quincy attempts to help teach his father French while sailing towards France, a journey that, despite the one storm shown in the film, was probably pretty boring at times and provided some down time. John is constantly mocked for not speaking the language which leads, in part, to the terrible relationship that develops between himself and the French people.

In the book: In the text, John Adams learns the French language and is eventually able to speak it. Upon learning the language John finds out that Benjamin Franklin, a much loved figure in France, doesn't speak the language very well at all.

The Film's Historical Inaccuracies

Numerous sites have boldly declared that history buffs will love this miniseries. But do history buffs ever like movies about a historical person or period?

As usual, some dedicated television watchers have poured over the miniseries to look for factual inconsistencies and by the looks of it, that wasn't too difficult of a job. Here are some of the more interesting alleged historical inaccuracies:

- The film shows all troops acquitted for the Boston Massacre, however two men were found guilty of murder because they were found to fire directly into the crowd. John Adams was able to have their charges reduced to manslaughter due to a loophole in British law by proving the men could read. The two solders were punished by branding on their thumbs.

- When the militia man is telling Abigail Adams about the "Battle of Bunker Hill" and when John Adams is telling of General Warren's death, both say that the battle took place on Bunker Hill. The militia man would have known that the battle actually took place on Breed's Hill (adjoining Bunker Hill), and John Adams probably would have known the difference as well.

- After the death of Abigail there is a scene where Dr. Benjamin Rush is consoling John Adams and encourages him to write to Thomas Jefferson. Benjamin Rush died 5 years before Abigail. (What a bedside manner!)

LA Times Makes a Mistake (a kinda funny one, too!)

Speaking of factual errors, an LA Times reporter should be forced to take a high school American history class for reporting an inconsistency where George Washington was concerned. The reporter, Mary McNamara, wrote: "George Washington (David Morse) so quickly tired of the infighting among his Cabinet and vagaries of public opinion that he stepped down from the presidency after a single term." Here is a link to the entire article.

Ouch. We know, of course, that George served for two terms but decided to step down after that, because of the infighting, backbiting, and public opinion. Okay, so Mary did get a few things right. What's the punishment for a crime in colonial America? Ah yes, according to historian James A. Cox's "Bilboes, Brands and Branks: Colonial Crimes and Punishments", one form of punishment was the "Gossip's Bridle" which was a metal caged placed over the head with a flat tounge of iron that was to be placed in the mouth. Harsh! Lets hope that Mary got off with a few public whippings. Actually, Mary wrote a pleasant apology in which she states her thanks, "for the six or seven people living in the Los Angeles Basin who did not e-mail to correct me, he served two terms, not one. And my daddy was a history teacher! Ever since the first e-mail hit my box (on Friday afternoon, about two seconds after the story went up on the website), I have been bathed in hot shame." So, Mary's okay in my book.

If you find that you are no enamored with the time period, here are some other interesting books about John Adams and his family:

My Dearest Friend
by Abigail Adams and John Adams
Foreword by Joseph J. Ellis
Editors: Margaret A. Hogan and C. James Taylor

Abigail and John were prolific letter writers. The letters featured in this book are from the Adams Papers at the Massachusetts Historical Society. Those interested in the private correspondence of these two fascinating figures won't be disappointed. In addition, learn more about the brilliant adviser that Abigail was to her husband throughout their lives.

The Adams-Jefferson Letters
by John Adams, Abigail Adams, Thomas Jefferson
Editor: Lester J. Cappon

Well, like I said, these guys wrote a lot of letters. The real appeal here is getting to see what Adams and Jefferson were writing to one another. John Adams and Thomas Jefferson, the second and third presidents of the United States, were the original American frenemies. With this book you can peer into the sometimes supportive, other times tense relationship between these two founding fathers.

Abigail Adams: A Revolutionary American Woman
by Charles W. Akers

Finally, a book about Abigail Adams herself. This book is part of the Library of American Biography Series and is a biography of Adams that details the life of a revolutionary, mother, activist and wife who engaged in the building of the America nation.

Please respond to this post to share your thoughts about John and Abigail Adams and their burst of television and literary fame.

What do you think about the John Adams book and/or movie?

Does it matter to you if historical movies/miniseries aren't 100 percent accurate as long as they are entertaining?

What other historical books or people would you like to see be featured in a movie or on HBO?

This Week's New Book Releases

Here is a list of some new and upcoming books:

A Wolf at the Table by Augusten Burroughs

Release Date: April 29th
St. Martin's Press

When Augusten Burroughs was small, his father was a shadowy presence in his life: a form on the stairs, a cough from the basement, a silent figure smoking a cigarette in the dark. As Augusten grew older, something sinister within his father began to unfurl. Something dark and secretive that could not be named.

Betrayal after shocking betrayal ensued, and Augusten’s childhood was over. The kind of father he wanted didn’t exist for him.

With A Wolf at the Table, Augusten Burroughs makes a quantum leap into untapped emotional terrain: the radical pendulum swing between love and hate, the unspeakably terrifying relationship between father and son. Told with scorching honesty and penetrating insight, it is a story for anyone who has ever longed for unconditional love from a parent. Though harrowing and brutal, A Wolf at the Table will ultimately leave you buoyed with the profound joy of simply being alive. It’s a memoir of stunning psychological cruelty and the redemptive power of hope.

It's been quite a year for Augusten Burroughs and his brother John Elder Robison who relleased his book earlier this year, Look Me in the Eye, a book about his childhood and living with Aspberger's syndrome. I did an interview with Robison a few months ago, we talk about his brother Augustine, the process of writing his book, and the infamous family of psychiatrist Dr. Finch. Click here to read the interview.

by Iris Johansen

Release Date: April 22nd
St. Martin's Press

Returning from Johansen’s New York Times bestselling thriller, Stalemate, forensic sculptor Eve Duncan is still reeling from the disappearance of her daughter, Bonnie. Deciding to take matters into her own hands, she enlists the clairvoyant skills of Dr. Megan Blair to help find her. No strangers to looking for clues where there seem to be none, the two women use their highly specialized talents to hunt down Bonnie’s elusive kidnapper and return her to her mother’s arms. But is Bonnie still alive? Will the two women find her in time? Iris Johansen strikes again with this non-stop, action packed thriller, keeping readers turning pages well into the night.

Maps and Legends by Michael Chabon

Release Date: May 1st
McSweeney's Press

Michael Chabon's sparkling first book of nonfiction is a love song in 16 parts — a series of linked essays in praise of reading and writing, with subjects running from ghost stories to comic books, Sherlock Holmes to Cormac McCarthy. Throughout, Chabon energetically argues for a return to the thrilling, chilling origins of storytelling, rejecting the false walls around "serious" literature in favor of a wide-ranging affection. His own fiction, meanwhile, is explored from the perspective of personal history: post-collegiate desperation sparks his debut, The Mysteries of Pittsburgh; procrastination and doubt reveal the way toward Wonder Boys; a love of comics and a basement golem combine to create the Pulitzer Prize-winning The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay; and an enigmatic Yiddish phrasebook unfurls into The Yiddish Policeman's Union.

Belong to Me by Marisa de los Santos

Release Date: May 1st
William Morrow Publishing

Everyone has secrets. Some we keep to protect ourselves, others we keep to protect those we love. A devoted city dweller, Cornelia Brown surprised no one more than herself when she was gripped by the sudden, inescapable desire to leave urban life behind and head for an idyllic suburb. Though she knows she and her beloved husband, Teo, have made the right move, she approaches her new life with trepidation and struggles to forge friendships in her new home. Cornelia's mettle is quickly tested by judgmental neighbor Piper Truitt. Perfectly manicured, impeccably dressed, and possessing impossible standards, Piper is the embodiment of everything Cornelia feared she would find in suburbia. A saving grace soon appears in the form of Lake. Over a shared love of literature and old movies, Cornelia develops an instant bond with this warm yet elusive woman who has also recently arrived in town, ostensibly to send her perceptive and brilliant son, Dev, to a school for the gifted.

Sunday at Tiffany's by James Patterson
and Gabrielle Charbonnet

Release Date: April 28th
Little Brown and Company

As a little girl, Jane has no one. Her mother, the powerful head of a Broadway theater company, has no time for her. She does have one friend-a handsome, comforting, funny man named Michael-but only she can see him.

Years later, Jane is in her thirties and just as alone as ever. Then she meets Michael again-as handsome, smart and perfect as she remembers him to be. But not even Michael knows the reason they've really been reunited. Sundays at Tiffany's is a love story with an irresistible twist, a novel about the child inside all of us-and the boundary-crossing power of love.

by Greg Egan

Release Date: May 1st
Night Shade Books

The long-awaited new novel from Hugo Award-winning writer Greg Egan! The Amalgam spans nearly the entire galaxy, and is composed of innumerable beings from a wild variety of races, some human, some near-human, and some entirely other. The one place that they cannot go is the bulge, the bright, hot center of the galaxy. There dwell the Aloof, who for millions of years have deflected any and all attempts to communicate with or visit them. So, when Rakesh is offered an opportunity to travel within their sphere, in search of a lost race, he cannot turn it down!

So Brave, Young, and Handsome
Leif Enger

Release Date: April 22nd
Atlantic Monthly Press

A stunning successor to his best selling novel Peace Like a River, Leif Enger’s new work is a rugged and nimble story about an aging train robber on a quest to reconcile the claims of love and judgment on his life, and the failed writer who goes with him.

In 1915 Minnesota, novelist Monte Becket has lost his sense of purpose. His only success long behind him, Monte lives simply with his wife and son. But when he befriends outlaw Glendon Hale, a new world of opportunity and experience presents itself. Glendon has spent years in obscurity, but the guilt he harbors for abandoning his wife, Blue, over two decades ago, has lured him from hiding. As the modern age marches swiftly forward, Glendon aims to travel back to his past--heading to California to seek Blue’s forgiveness. Beguiled and inspired, Monte soon finds himself leaving behind his own family to embark for the unruly West with his fugitive guide. As they desperately flee from the relentless Charles Siringo, an ex-Pinkerton who’s been hunting Glendon for years, Monte falls ever further from his family and the law, to be tempered by a fiery adventure from which he may never get home.

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

What I'm Reading: The Painter of Shanghai by Jennifer Cody Epstein

I was up until 4 am last night reading a new book that arrived in the mail. The book is The Painter of Shanghai by author Jennifer Cody Epstein. The publisher has been touting The Painter of Shanghai as a novel written in the same style of Memoirs of a Geisha, writing that readers who enjoyed Arthur Golden's immensely successful novel will be sure to take pleasure in reading The Painter of Shanghai.

Here is a brief synopsis of the novel: Down the muddy waters of the Yangtze River and into the seedy backrooms of "The Hall of Eternal Splendor," through the raucous glamour of prewar Shanghai and the bohemian splendor of 1920s Paris, and back to a China ripped apart by civil war and teetering on the brink of revolution: this novel tells the story of Pan Yuliang, one of the most talented—and provocative—Chinese artists of the twentieth century.

I have really been enjoying this book, part of the reason I lost track of time and stayed up way too late. For her part Epstein has done a great job keeping the story moving along at an interesting pace, combining elements of Chinese history, poetry, and language into the narrative that make the book feel real. The author also develops a cast of rich characters that include Pan Yuliang, her uncle, the madam of "The Hall of Eternal Splendor", and another prostitute. I am looking forward to continuing reading this book.

I am also very happy to announce that I will be doing an interview with Jennifer Cody Epstein to talk about The Painter of Shanghai, the writing of her first novel, and her inspiration for writing a novel set in China.

Is anyone else reading this novel? What do you think? What would you ask Epstein? Please do reply.

Monday, April 21, 2008

Blast From the Past: Loaded Questions Interview with Mary Roach

This week's Blast from the Past is an interview I did with Mary Roach, author of Stiff, Spook, and the brand new Bonk. Those of you who visit Loaded Questions often know that I get weak in the knees whenever Mary Roach is mentioned. We have maintained contact over the last couple of years and when she sent me a copy of her new book a few months ago I had the chance to email her back and tell her what parts I liked the most. She said that my boyfriend and I, who have a ritual of reading her books out loud before bed and laughing till we cry, are her favorite fans. I am sure she says that to all of her fans but I have certainly been pretending that's not the case.

I wrote a few months ago about starting to read the book, you can read my thoughts and praises of the new book by clicking here.

I emailed Mary this evening to see about doing another interview, which we had discussed doing a few months back. I will let everyone here know the moment I hear back. In the meantime here is my firs
t interview with Mary Roach in which she discusses her best-selling Stiff and first mentions Bonk.

Kelly Hewitt
: Despite the often times dour and serious nature of your books, you come across as a very funny and witty person. Is that something that comes naturally during the writing process or is it something that you go back later to add in?

Mary Roach: When I'm very lucky, and material is great and I'm in a relaxed mood and the moon is in the right position and maybe I've had a martini, it comes naturally. But usually I go back and try to massage it a bit, make it stand and deliver. I'm very hard on my prose. It's got to earn its keep or out it goes. I so envy writers who just sit down and pour it straight out into the keyboard. Bastards.

Kelly: One of the things that I like most about your work is the fact that you use such interesting ways of gaining the information necessary for your books. You're sending emails to scientific experts, soliciting guidance from strangers in India, and inviting yourself all over the place. Has there ever been a contact that you were nervous about making or that didn't work out very well?

Mary: I'm always nervous about the initial overture, because I'm usually digging around in fairly sensitive subject areas. Most of these researchers are very wary of getting critical or scornful media coverage. I worry that they're going to do a Google search on me, realize the sort of shenanigans I'm up to, and just hit the Delete button. It's kind of amazing that they don't. I mean, there's really nothing in it for them. It's exposure, but not the kind they really want (unlike, say, a New York Times piece). I'm always SO grateful to the ones who agree to put up with me. People are amazing.

Kelly: A couple of weeks ago I got the chance to see the Bodies Exhibit in Las Vegas. The exhibit is full of bodies preserved and then put on display in various poses, offering an unprecedented view of the human body. Have you been to see this particular exhibit?

Mary: I didn't see the show, but I saw a couple of Bodies bodies in the process of being plastinated, in Roy Glover's lab at U of Michigan -- back when I was researching Stiff. I'm all for these shows, with one caveat. This is a hugely profitable entertainment venture disguised as a purely educational endeavor. So I'm a little uncomfortable with using unclaimed bodies. I'd feel better if all the bodies were people who had given their enthusiastic and specific consent to be used this way. Personally, I think it'd be a cool way to end up. Beats the crap out of rotting in a hole in the dark.

Kelly: So far you've tackled the ins and outs of the human cadaver and the scientific search for the soul. What's next for Mary Roach?

Mary: More bodies in strange labs, but live ones this time. The working title of the next book is; BONK: Sex in the Laboratory. It's a humdinger.

Kelly: Where can those of us who're big fans of your writing get a Roach fix?

Mary: I think that my columns are still in the archives.

Kelly: I was reading the introduction to Jessica Mitford's 1996 update of The American Way of Death in which she discusses the very strong response which the funeral industry had towards her when that book was originally published in 1963. You mention her book as a source when you were writing "Stiff". While the books aren't totally alike, they both tackle aspects of death that are sometimes not discussed. Did you have any backlash from certain parts of society when your book was published?

Mary: I expected a lot of backlash, though wasn't sure who from. As it turned out, I got almost none. I think that a book like Stiff self-selects for the right audience. in other words, anyone who is squeamish or very delicate isn't giong to buy or read a book called Stiff. Except for that darn Washington Post reviewer....

Kelly: I personally had not had much knowledge of The American Way of Death until I read your book. When did you first discover it?

Mary: I read it just before my mother died, about 10 years ago. When she actually died, I was all prepared to do battle with the undertaker. I made my brother take off his Rolex, so they didn't steer us to the most expensive caskets, etc. As it turned out, the guy was very low-key, very kind. He actually said, "You don't have to embalm her if you don't want to. It's not summer." He was the direct opposite of what Mitford
had portrayed in her book.

Kelly: What sort of books, movies, and music do you like?

Mary: Books by Bill Bryson, Bill Buford, Adam Gopnik, David Sedaris, Dave Barry, Michael Chabon, Birkhard Bilger, Susan Orlean. Films by the Coen brothers, Robert Bresson, Herzog, Wim Wenders (The American Friend especially), almost anything from that golden era in the 70s (Mean Streets, Rancho Delulxe, Five Easy Pieces...).

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