WYSO

Books - Non-Fiction

"Psycho: Behind the Scenes of the Classic Thriller" by Janet Leigh (original recording made in 1995)

1995 was my Hollywood year on the program. Over a thirty day period I had interviews with two of the greatest movie stars of their era, Charlton Heston and Janet Leigh. Janet Leigh was coming to Dayton for the Janet Leigh Film Festival and she was publicizing a book about her experiences making a film in which she only made a brief but career defining appearance; Alfred Hitchcock's "Psycho."

Brendan Gill began working for The New Yorker magazine straight out of college in 1936. In 1996 he celebrated his 60th year with the publication and he published his final book, "Late Bloomers." In that book Gill celebrated individuals who had blossomed after reaching middle age or even later.

One of the most impressive works of non-fiction that I read during 2017 was the book "Glass House - the 1% Economy and the Shattering of the All-American Town" by Brian Alexander. Alexander's hometown of Lancaster, Ohio has seen the once vital industrial core of the community withering. Like many towns in the region known as the Rust Belt Lancaster's manufacturing base has shriveled and this once vibrant little town has been dealing with the aftermath of this decline in local employment and all the incipient problems which have been the result of this slow decay.

Some interviews  can make a powerful impression. One interview that has stood the test of time is the one that I had in 1998 with Dr. Leonard Shlain about his book "The Alphabet Versus the Goddess: The Conflict Between Word and Image." Nearly twenty years later listeners will still mention it.

We live in an affluent consumer society. Many of us have too much stuff and we are obtaining more of it with every passing day. Is your stuff becoming an issue for you? Do you feel like perhaps your life could be better with much less?

Rose Lounsbury got to a point in which she realized that she had too much stuff and that it was having a negative impact on the quality of her life. She decided to do something about that.

Back in 1999 Mike Wallace appeared on the program to discuss the first volume of his massive history of New York City. That book ended with the year 1898. Wallace was the co-author of that work. It is a massive volume and was highly praised. The book went on to win the Pulitzer Prize.

Try to imagine that your two young sons were out working in the tobacco field one day and that they never came home. They had vanished and you had no idea what had happened to them. This happened to a mother in Virginia over a century ago. The two missing boys had been taken away to be paraded around the country as freaks in a circus side show. In those days before television and radio the circus was the the most popular entertainment to be found in little towns and hamlets across America.

In 1932 Franklin Delano Roosevelt began serving his first term as President of the United States of America. In the election Roosevelt had defeated the incumbent Herbert Hoover. When Hoover was elected in 1928 the U.S. economy was booming. With the stock market collapse on Black Friday in 1929 the nation had plunged into the Great Depression. The dour Hoover had become very unpopular. Roosevelt exuded confidence and he was elected even though most people had no sense of what he might try to do to get the country back on track.

In 1929 the Soviet dictator Stalin began the process of what was known as the collectivization of agriculture in the Soviet Union. There was a lot of resistance to this effort especially in the breadbasket region of the Ukraine. Stalin was determined to crush the Ukrainian nationalist movement and his agricultural policies served to do this quite effectively. As Anne Applebaum describes it in her book "Red Famine - Stalin's War with Ukraine" during the period 1931 to 1933 over five million Ukrainians starved to death.

If you ask me to name my favorite writers to interview Julie Klam would be high on the list. In her latest book Julie delves into our cultural obsession with celebrities. Have you ever wondered why some of us seem to be so fascinated by people who spend most of their time trying to impress us with their talent, their beauty, their conspicuous consumption, their wealth, or their celebrity? Julie peels back the layers of our attractions to these people to uncover the roots of our interest and she shows how this cult of celebrity has grown and mutated over the years.

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