All I Did Was Ask: Conversations with Writers, Actors, Musicians, and Artists

All I Did Was Ask: Conversations with Writers, Actors, Musicians, and Artists

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by Terry Gross
     
 

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A fascinating collection of revealing and entertaining interviews by the award-winning host of National Public Radio's premier interview program Fresh Air.

Over the last twenty years, Terry Gross has interviewed many of our most celebrated writers, actors, musicians, comics, and visual artists. Her show, Fresh Air with Terry Gross, a weekday

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Overview

A fascinating collection of revealing and entertaining interviews by the award-winning host of National Public Radio's premier interview program Fresh Air.

Over the last twenty years, Terry Gross has interviewed many of our most celebrated writers, actors, musicians, comics, and visual artists. Her show, Fresh Air with Terry Gross, a weekday magazine of contemporary arts and issues produced by WHYY in Philadelphia, is one of National Public Radio's most popular programs. More than four million people tune in to the show, which is broadcast on over 400 NPR stations across the country.

Gross is known for her thoughtful, probing interviewing style. In her trusted company, even the most reticent guest relaxes and opens up. But Gross doesn't shy away from controversy, and her questions can be tough—too tough, apparently, for Bill O'Reilly, who abruptly terminated his conversation with her. Her interview with Gene Simmons of Kiss, which is included in the book, prompted Entertainment Weekly to name Simmons its male "Crackpot of the Year."

For All I Did Was Ask, Gross has selected more than three dozen of her best interviews—ones of lasting relevance that are as lively on the page as they were on the air. Each is preceded by a personal introduction in which she reveals why a particular guest was on the show and the thinking behind some of her questions. And in an introductory chapter, the normally self-effacing Gross does something you're unlikely ever to hear her do on Fresh Air—she discusses her approach to interviewing, revealing a thing or two about herself in the bargain.

The collection focuses on luminaries from the art and entertainment world, including actors, comedians, writers, visual artists, and musicians, such as:

  • Conan O'Brien
  • Chris Rock
  • Michael Caine
  • Dennis Hopper
  • Dustin Hoffman
  • Jodie Foster
  • John Updike
  • Mary Karr
  • Mario Puzo
  • Nick Hornby
  • Chuck Close
  • Eric Clapton
  • George Clinton
  • Sonny Rollins
  • Samuel L. Jackson
  • Johnny Cash
  • Isabella Rossellini
  • Divine
  • Uta Hagen
  • Carol Shields

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Editorial Reviews

Twenty years of interviewing experience have taught NPR veteran Terry Gross how to draw out even the most skeptical or shy guests. Ever curious and seldom confrontational, the host of Fresh Air inspires reciprocity. These conversations with creative people display a smooth blend of banter and surprising insights. The subjects include Dennis Hopper, Michael Caine, Isabella Rossellini, Uta Hagen, Eric Clapton, Sonny Rollins, Conan O'Brien, Chris Rock, Jodie Foster, John Updike, Mary Karr, Nick Hornby, Mario Puzo, Chuck Close, Samuel L. Jackson, Divine, Carol Shields, and Johnny Cash.
Publishers Weekly
Conducting a good interview requires exhaustive research, good timing, the ability to steer the interview back on course when it meanders, a knack for close listening and thinking about the next question, flexibility and editing skills. Gross, the polite and generous host of NPR's Fresh Air, is a pro, and here she collects some of her favorite interviews with people in the arts. The result is a wide-ranging and entertaining look into the creative process. With a few exceptions, the interviews are from the show's national broadcast debut year in 1987, but they never seem dated, as many of the guests are still active or well known, and the topics are timeless. Whether she's asking Johnny Cash about the difference between a singer and a song stylist, discussing the role of class in British actor Michael Caine's life or examining the eternal intricacies of the human face with Chuck Close, Gross remains sensitive, engaged and informed. The two notable exceptions are her interviews with cable opinion-slinger Bill O'Reilly and Kiss front man Gene Simmons, whose pugnacity and sexism, respectively, unseat the usually collected host and challenge her to summon interview skills she rarely exercises. Overall, however, this is an often funny and completely fascinating anthology. Agent, Jonathan Lazear. (Sept. 8) Forecast: Magazine features and cross-promotions with NPR should give Gross's book a boost. Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information.
Library Journal
Fans of National Public Radio's Fresh Air with Terry Gross are in for a treat. For the first time, listeners can read transcripts from the popular talk show, chosen by the Peabody Award-winning host herself. The compilation begins with an informative introduction from Gross, who provides a behind-the-scenes look into the production of the program. She also reveals insights into her interviewing process and her continuing interest in the arts throughout her 25-year career with Fresh Air. The eclectic and sometimes confrontational interviews are edited for readability and are prefaced with background information about the guests, who range from John Updike to Johnny Cash to Jodie Foster. A fun read; for large public libraries and academic libraries with communications collections. Donna Marie Smith, Palm Beach Cty. Lib. Syst., FL Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information.

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Product Details

ISBN-13:
9781401300104
Publisher:
Hachette Book Group
Publication date:
09/08/2004
Pages:
380
Sales rank:
1,241,863
Product dimensions:
6.14(w) x 9.21(h) x 0.88(d)
Age Range:
18 - 17 Years

Read an Excerpt

"You may be wondering what the point is of reading interviews that were meant to be listened to. I've asked myself that. But in going through transcripts in preparation for this book, I was pleasantly surprised that so many of the interviews I remembered as having been good radio also made for enjoyable reading. In reading the ones gathered here — I probably shouldn't admit this—I've learned things from them that went right by me in the studio." —from the Introduction

Meet the Author

Terry Gross started out in public radio in 1973 at WBFO, the NPR affiliate on the campus of her alma mater, the State University of New York at Buffalo. She became producer and host of Fresh Air in 1975, when it was still a local program. Fresh Air won a Peabody Award in 1994 for its "probing questions, revelatory interviews, and unusual insights." In 2003, Terry herself received public radio's highest honor, the Edward R. Murrow Award. She lives in Philadelphia with her husband, the writer Francis Davis.

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