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March 03, 2008

Comments

blake

Yeah...still it's the first (or 2nd, I guess) show, so they'll get the ship righted. I think the most important thing is the idea of conversation between the writers...I didn't even get the sense they'd read each others books. That would seem to be a requirement for appearing on this show. I think the show could also use more a moderator, and less an interviewer...I'd be happy to listen/watch Menaker interview any of these writers one on one, but it the show does die a little bit of a death by stacking what is essentially four one on one interviews in a group setting.

But that's all little stuff...just glad something like this is out there! So kudos to Menaker et al, looking forward to more!

Sarah

Blake - my understanding was that the authors *did* read each other's work prior to the show (or at least made a good show of it) which made it a bit disappointing. But I'm hopeful that a more organic approach is possible for the next five episodes...

Mark Athitakis

To be clear: I *like* the idea of the "talking together" bit, I just didn't think it came off all that well this time around. There wasn't a whole lot of the individual authors going back and forth with each other, just them passing the baton on the same question. (In other words, I agree with what you wrote under "more conflict.) It all felt a little too stage-managed. Maybe it'd work better if Menaker picked two writers instead of four?

Steve Faul

As a writer who's "day job" is a technical director at a local TV station, I agree with your suggestions to improve the show. In addition I offer these points:

Ditch the set and take the show to a place where the writers can feel at home, like at their home. Or at a book store, library, public park, any place other than a TV studio where the introductory close-ups make the authors look like they're facing a firing squad.

Note to the director: just because you have a robotic camera doesn't mean you have to prove it to the viewers in every other shot. I don't want to see the back of the head of the person talking. It's a show about writers. You want it be intimate and inviting. Camera tricks put the viewer at a distance. Try staying on a simple shot of the person speaking.

Also, reaction shots of the non-speaking writers would work only if they could respond to what's being said. A format adjustment would really help.

In my opinion, the key to being a compelling talk show host is catching lightning in a bottle and running with it in spite of whatever you have on your note cards. When Richard Price stated one of his characters would never see a gun pointed at his face because he's from Indiana, I would've jumped all over that. "Really? There's no gun violence in rural Indiana?" I know what Price meant to say, but it came out wrong. He used a generalization - law enforcement professionals in Indiana would say a stereotype - in that statement, and a host's job is to challenge statements like that. Especially when your guest is someone who makes his living through the precise use of language.

BTW: Ms. Weinman, thanks or your comments on book reviews in the latest "InSinC" Sisters In Crime newsletter. When do you find time to post this blog?

Nikki

I tried watching it but found it too painful. I opted for the audio only. It can only get better, right?

bookfraud

oy veys mir. not only did it crash my browser, but hurt my eyes. yes, yes, yes on all of your suggestions, both aesthetically and otherwise. and a new host. and a new set. and a new color scheme.

this could be a slam dunk if done better. hope, as nikki says above, it can only get better.

Linda L. Richards

But is it possible that the basic premise is flawed? This has always been the challenge with authors and television: the two things just never seem to go that well together.

Sarah

Linda - this worked pretty well: http://youtube.com/watch?v=EgX6CA2nsJU

But then again, Burgess and Cavett are pretty much golden.

Mark - I'll invoke Cavett again because there was that memorable episode with Norman Mailer, Gore Vidal and Janet Flanner: http://www.slate.com/id/2171514/fr/flyout

Would this have happened had there only have been two writers? Who knows. But it all comes back to conflict. Or Cavett. Or both.

Also, I should add an eleventh improvement: an audience. Having people around to laugh or react to Menaker and his chosen writers immediately elevates the conversation.

ed

Well, to jump off this interesting analysis, I think you have to have the right kind of audience. Some balance between the intimacy of conversation and a literate audience who, if not regular readers, is at least fairly curious about the world, or can have their sense of curiosity encouraged by a dutiful host. I too am an obvious fan of Cavett, and have indeed stolen a few interviewing tricks from him, but I don't think anything like Cavett could happen again. Tom Snyder was also quite literate. But the days of smart, book-focused television, in which conversational fire was sparked by enthusiasm, an interest in the world, and the "words" that Burgess evokes have waned with the type of television in which lengthy documentary journalism was once practiced (think Charles Kuralt or, if you want to consider hard-hitting mano-a-mano style, a younger and less hubristic Mike Wallace) are now over. Unless some enterprising person can figure out a way for such a television program to attract advertisers and therefore money.

In Menaker's defense, he seems to be as wet-behind-the-ears as I was in the first twenty shows of Segundo, in which I really didn't know what the hell I was doing. (I now know slightly more, although I am largely driven by instinct.)

Greg

Ms. Weinman:

I must ask you who connected with Titlepage.tv do you perceive as having done you a personal wrong? Having just watched the wonderful first episode, "All Over the Map," I can imagine no other explanation for your frankly mean-spirited comments (e.g., "why it sucks").

Perhaps the problem is that you describe yourself as "a literary geek." I don't what that is, but I am a book lover and, as such, I got tremendous pleasure from watching "All Over the Map" -- the entire hour.

As a journalist, you must agree that the fact that "[your] attention span is crap" is not a good argument, as far as others of us may be concerned, for shortening an excellent one-hour program.

I will leave you with this question, which I think is a fair one in light of what you have written.

You write, "As much as I love books and authors and q&as . . ."

In light of your extremely negative and ungenerous reactions to the freshman effort of what seems like a wonderful new access to engaged conversation about great books for people who cannot go to the 92nd Street Y to hear authors talk, I think you need to ask yourself, how much DO you really "love books and authors and q&as?"

ed

But as Ms. Weinman made abundantly clear, she did not write a 1,000 word essay indicating "why it sucks." She chose instead to offer a more constructive post entitled "Ten Ways to Improve Titlepage.TV." This post was not titled "Ten Reasons Why Menaker Should Be Wiped Off the Face of the Earth." That might be sufficiently styled "mean-spirited."

It might help you, Greggy darling, if you actually learned how to use that dim organ in your head called a brain and exercised greater care in reading sentences. (Oh, is that "mean-spirited" or just playful?) Negative and ungenerous? This is a call for improvement, specifying helpful ideas to the producers that they may not be aware of. Is an editor who looks over a story "negative and ungenerous" because she dares to suggest ways a writer can improve her work? Not at all.

I suspect, Greggy baby, that your idea of "mean-spirited" is some absent-minded colleague who forgot one day to say "Good morning" to you. If you're looking for crazed conspiracies, I recommend the oeuvre of Oliver Stone. Not this post.

maitresse

I disagree! The clear precedent for this blend of authors and television is Bernard Pivot's slew of book shows, Apostrophes, Double Je, Campus, and Bouillon de culture. Authors and television DO go together, and the more uncomfortable the chairs, the more long-winded the conversation, the less TV-friendly the clothes, the better. It's not about filmmaking or entertainment. It's about listening to these people talk about books. Lose the trappings of pretension and they might as well be on Access Hollywood.

Dare I suggest that you ought to adjust your attention span to the show-- not the other way around?

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