Silverblatt’s Stats

Here is the point in each installment of KCRW’s Bookworm, in which Michael Silverblatt finally permits the author to speak. (It is also worth noting that Bookworm is a twenty-eight minute show.)

Marianne Wiggins: 2:11
Miranda July: 1:59
Nathan Englander: 1:45 (only because Englander interrupted him)
Naeem Murr: 2:34
Michael Ondaatje: 1:30 (!)
Helena Maria Viramontes: 1:50
Kurt Vonnegut: 1:38
Richard Flanagan: 1:30
Jim Crace: 2:19
Jonathan Lethem: 2:07

© 2007, Edward Champion. All rights reserved.

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  1. Why don’t you post your own stats for Bat Segundo? If you include the cheeky intros I doubt you’d fare much better.

  2. No, the point is that this is happening *in front of the author*; the Bat intros are post-interview, nobody has to sit through it.
    But think about it, try talking for 2 minutes straight and imagine that it’s a complete stranger, not your pal–I doubt even your pal would let it go that long without interrupting…

  3. Maybe.

    I like Silverblatt so I don’t mind hearing what he has to say. He has great taste (listen to his Barth interviews) and I think he does a fine job with Bookworm (though I am sick of that theme song). Also, I get the impression that authors are usually thrilled to talk with him because of the depth of his insights.

    One reason I like Bookworm is that I can listen to an interview even if I have never read any of the author’s work. His introductory statements are not for the author’s sake but for the listener’s. Also, unlike Silverblatt, some interviewers ask questions like “When you did X in your novel, were you trying to do Y, or just Z?” These types of questions are arrogant and annoying (because the interviewer is usually dead wrong) and they box a conversation into the specifics of a single work rather than broader topics that those familiar and unfamiliar with the work can enjoy.

    Further, at a time when so many critics/bloggers are crying about the decline of book coverage, it seems that we should be glad that programs like Bookworm exist.

    So, Ed, what exactly was your motivation for this post?

  4. How about a total time for interviewer speaking v. interviewee speaking statistic? Seems like that’s the more important metric. Is Ed the champion there?

  5. The motivation was merely a little fun. I’m not completely knocking Silverblatt here, nor attempting to boost or inure myself. I’m merely pointing out that the restrictions of the form (28 minutes) and the medium (radio vs. written — and I agree with chewbee that reading Silverblatt’s interviews would be highly instructive) make Silverblatt’s approach a wee bit problematic. (And some of this could simply be social ineptitude on his part.)

  6. I think if Silverblatt were aware of this, he’d say:

    The words of the authors, when they speak, are not unlike the words of an infant, who, like me, has found only breath previously so that when words do form, when they form on the tongue, like mercury in an air conditioning unit, like a river, like scrimshaw, I am reminded, often, of the poem by Rilke which, in a way, reminds me that words are, as well, not unlike a combination of vowels and consonants pushed together in such a way as to make sounds that convey a sense of, like e.e. cummings once said, words or emotions or words which create emotions. Yes?

  7. Michael Silverblatt is probably the most intelligent person on the radio. I would guess that some authors would prefer to just sit and listen to him for 28 minutes, interrupting to say, “Yes, that’s right.” or “Oh, Michael, thank you for being such a thoughtful reader.” There is nothing problematic about Silverblatt’s approach! There is a problem with the fact that his approach is such a rarity.

  8. It seems I must be the dissenting voice — but it pains me to listen to his interviews because it seems never to be about the writer, and much more about Silverblatt’s thoughts and musings about the writer’s work. Are his thoughts and musings interesting? Certainly. But they always seem rather insulting when the author is in studio to be interviewed, not lectured. I think a commentary show without interviews – or a longer interview format – would suit him well.

    I often find his thought processes interesting (if a bit pretentious at times, Tod Goldgerg’s guess at what Silverblatt would say being a perfect example of this pretension), but find myself always, always screaming while in the car: JUST LET THE AUTHOR SPEAK FOR CRYING OUT LOUD.

    Why else have an interview show if they are merely there to say yay or nay to his theories.

  9. I agree that Silverblatt is an intelligent guy who does good interviews, but that voice! Dear god, it’s the most suicide-inducing sound on the radio. I’d rather listen to half an hour of nails on a blackboard. And it’s not just the nature of his nasally, whiny voice, but his slow, awkward delivery is second only to Diane Rehm. And at least Diane has a reason! With someone like Silverblatt on the air it truly makes one wonder if radio execs even listen to the demo tapes they get because I simply can’t imagine anyone hiring him if they had heard him first. It’s a shame, because his voice reflects everything we know ISN’T true about people who read – that they are introverted, shy, whiny, nerdy losers who will never get laid. Silverblatt is an icon of that stereotype, so the fact that he was chosen to host a national show about books is a real step backwards for people who want to shake that stereotype!!

  10. I should point out that I wrote this article six years ago and believe now that I was being unduly hard on Silverblatt at the time. The man is a national treasure and there is nobody else doing what he does. Don’t be too hard on him, folks. He’s got a very carefully honed act and is fighting the good fight. Silverblatt is aces in my book.

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