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Podthoughts: Bookclub

Vital stats:
Format: moderated conversations between an author and an audience
Episode duration: ~30m (except when Douglas Adams comes on
Frequency: monthly

Despite having grown up in America, I’ve cultivated an overwhelmingly British, or at least British Empire, roster of favorite writers: Anthony Lane, Geoff Dyer, Pico Iyer, Clive James, Ian Buruma, Jan Morris — the list keeps unfurling, mostly on the other side of the Atlantic. (Even those who seem potentially American, like Douglas Coupland, usually turn out to come from fish-nor-fowl places like Canada.) Sometimes I’ll find my own readers — those, in any case, who’ve never heard me on a podcast — surprised at my lack of an English accent. (Not that they can then get a fix on the oddly placeless one I do have.) Should I put my attraction to U.K. letters down to my failure to master American English, or did too much time spent among all these Brits — natives, transplants, sons of former possessions — cause that failure? Either way, a reader like me can’t help but feast upon a show like BBC Radio 4’s Bookclub [RSS] [iTunes], which offers a robust archive of discussions with many of these very writers.

James and Morris turn up, anyway, as does Coupland. So, too, do an array of British men and women of letters whom I’ve barely read yet have always relished hearing speak: a Martin Amis, say, or a David Mitchell, or a Stephen Fry. Ironically, my serious reading career began when, as a youngster, I got into crime novelist Elmore Leonard and, a bit later, political humorist P.J. O’Rourke, two names I imagine strike reading Brits as among the most American wordsmiths alive. Leonard got his start with Westerns and went on to chronicle the sunnily sordid lives of wisecracking Florida lowlifes; P.J. O’Rourke dares simultaneously to have a functioning wit and vote Republican. They discuss these matters and others with Bookclub host James Naughtie and select audiences of twenty or so readers on their respective episodes or the program. Though most certainly of Britain, the broadcast hardly limits itself to Britain.

Read the whole thing at Maximum Fun.

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