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Truthdig Radio: Meltdown in Our Casino Economy

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Posted on Apr 21, 2011
Photo illustration from an image by Colin Grey

(Page 5)

Howie Stier: Is it a good idea for musicians to live together? Is it conducive to creativity?

Angelo Moore: Sometimes it is. It all depends on, it all depends on where you are in life. If you’re ready to accept living in a place with other people, coexisting with other people. If you’re not ready for that, and you’re ready to be a recluse, you can do that too. This is the kind of place, man, where you can pretty much make any noise any time you want to make it.

Howie Stier: You performed here the other night, though. How’s that? Playing in your house?

Angelo Moore: It’s definitely surrealistic, man. Playing in a place where, you know, you walk out of your bedroom—I call it my laboratory; it’s not just a place to live, it’s a laboratory for me—so when I step into the living room, you see a whole part out there going on. So it’s definitely a different trip, man. Because ordinarily you wouldn’t have a party like that going on in your living room.

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Howie Stier: Is this fueling some new material? You played a lot of your old tunes the other night.

Angelo Moore: Well, living here, I’m doing a lot of my solo stuff here.

Howie Stier: Meaning you’re recording it here, or you’re…

Angelo Moore: I’m recording it, yeah…recording a lot of it here. And writing songs.

Howie Stier: Communal living is not just for college-age kids, it’s for later on in your career.

Angelo Moore: Yeah, this is later on, man. You know, this is like a part of my, this is like a crossroads in my life where I get to put up all my art and I get to experience all the other artistic influences that are here in the complex, too. The guy that lives above me, his name is Hunter, he invented Gwar; he makes all the big puppets, and all the figures that are in Gwar.

Howie Stier: Does that mean Fishbone, some—next time I see you, you’re wearing a big puppet head?

Angelo Moore: Nah. No, but what you might see in the future is, I have a comic book with an audio epic that goes with it, like a nine-minute audio ska, psychedelic and blues audio that goes with the comic book, you know, and all the singing that goes along. So I want to be able to re-create my comic book, and I want to have the guy upstairs, Hunter, have him collaborate with me and make—show the kids and students how to make puppets to go along with the whole production. [Music plays]

* * *

Peter Scheer: This is Truthdig Radio. I’m sitting here with Josh Scheer, this is Peter Scheer. And we’re talking to Matthew Specktor, who is the senior editor of the newly launched Los Angeles Review of Books and author of two books himself, including the novel “That Summertime Sound.” Thank you for joining us.

Matthew Specktor: Yeah, thank you for having me.

Josh Scheer: So Matthew, I just want to jump on. This is the first, you know, Web … 21st century book review to be launched, right?

Matthew Specktor: Well, it’s the first to be launched specifically as a Web-based publication. That’s right, yeah.

Josh Scheer: And you want to use the Web because you want to use, I mean—can you go into that more?

Matthew Specktor: Well, certainly … we want to use the Web for, you know, obviously for its reach; that’s where readership lies these days. And it’s also, I think, where the conversation about books tends to unfold. I mean, you know, with … obviously it does continue to unfold in traditional media, but the traditional newspaper supplement is…the Sunday book supplement appears to be shrinking or disappearing, and and at the same time I think there are a lot of writers who … and readers who embrace the Web as a place to find content. You know, I was having a conversation with a novelist friend of mine, the novelist David Shields, the other day, and we were talking about Web publication and how much that’s changed—how maybe five years ago or 10 years ago, people would say, oh, so is this going to be Internet-only? And these days, it’s like if it isn’t going to be on the Web, sometimes a writer might wonder how people are going to, how people are going to find…[Laughs] you know, who’s going to read the piece if it’s not on the Web. So it’s really interesting to feel that…

Peter Scheer: What is the—if you don’t mind my asking, as the editor of another online publication, which would be Truthdig—what is the business approach here? Are you a nonprofit, are you looking…

Matthew Specktor: We are a nonprofit, we are a nonprofit.

Peter Scheer: OK.

Josh Scheer: I was going to say … you got to learn how to get the plug in, like Peter just did, you know, wherever you’re talking…[Laughter] Keep on saying Truthdig, Truthdig, Truthdig…

Matthew Specktor: [Laughs] Yeah. I mean, that’s certainly a part of it. We’ve … advertising is also, obviously, going to be a part of our model, too. I mean, you know, we feel like for publishers and university presses … and even for some extraliterary industries, they’ll be—they’ll certainly be advertising, lots, on the site for them. But we are first and foremost a traditional nonprofit, and surviving very much on the basis of philanthropy and grants.

Peter Scheer: So, you know, there seems to be this idea that you alluded to earlier that, you know, book reviews are on the decline, it seems; or there’s—you know, books in general are an endangered species, but that’s certainly not true. We’ve got Amazon Kindle books outselling their hard covers; clearly there’s a great market and thirst for good books for new long-form writing.

Matthew Specktor: Yeah. I mean … I think that’s a tremendous fallacy, when people say oh, the book review is dying, or the book is in trouble. I just don’t think that’s true. I mean, there were 20 times as many titles published last year, in 2010, than were published in 1980. And at the same time, we have one-twentieth of the serious book reviews. I mean, there’s a distinct disproportion that’s been created, but as far as readership is concerned, and as far as people writing not just books but really strong and interesting books, I think there are more, certainly more of those than there have ever been.

Josh Scheer: The question I have for you also—I mean, it’s very important, is—you know, the very impressive list of senior editors; you can mention them—Jonathan Gold, among others; Marty Kaplan. And what kind of books are you going to do—all books? Is this going to be pop books only? Is this going to be university presses, or is this going to be like a full-frontal everything book?

Matthew Specktor: It’s absolutely going to be a full-service, full—you know, we on the one hand are aiming to cover a lot of things that we feel don’t necessarily get adequate coverage in the serious book reviews that exist…Which is to say we intend to cover children’s lit; YA; genre fiction like noir or SF, speculative fiction; all of those things, as well as commercial fiction, which we certainly intend to direct plenty of attention there. But at the same time, I think all of us who are starting have a somewhat literary bent, and we feel it’s part of our mission to drive traffic towards books that might otherwise—you know, towards good books, serious books, university press or small press books—that might otherwise slip between the cracks. We’re very interested in making sure that we attend to the many, many, many worthy books that aren’t getting enough media attention elsewhere.

Josh Scheer: You are the Los Angeles Review of Books, so I’d be remiss not talking about this. You talk about, in your press material and everything else, about New York’s seemingly monopoly on the book world. So do you want to get into that? We’re about to have the Festival of Books in Los Angeles, I think, next week, so…

Matthew Specktor: Yeah, well, I guess that’s obviously a gigantic topic, you know. And on the one hand, I don’t think we feel that it’s our bailiwick or our interest; you know, it’s not an us versus them situation. It’s sort of—to say New York is the hub of publishing is a little bit like saying Hollywood is the hub of filmmaking; it’s historically true. And, having said that, clearly there are a lot of other places, not just Los Angeles, that have incredibly vibrant literary and intellectual scenes. And…I think New York, for all of its fine virtues, can sink into the same kind of parochialism that any other city can, where you start thinking that only things that happen in New York matter…

Peter Scheer: Yeah, the idea that we should have to get our book reviews exclusively from people who haven’t figured out how to put their garbage anywhere but on the street is absurd to me.

Matthew Specktor: [Laughs] We feel strongly that on the one hand, you can look at our contributing editors—whether it’s Chris Abani or Jonathan Gold or Amy Bender or Jonathan Lethem or, you know, I could sit here and I could read the list for quite a while, because we have, our contributors are…

Josh Scheer: I printed it out today, maybe 12 pages long. [Laughter]

Peter Scheer: That’s very—how did you get all these people to sign on?

Matthew Specktor: Well, I think because they felt, as we feel, that there’s a need for this.

Peter Scheer: Are these L.A. residents, or…?

Matthew Specktor: Many of them are; not all of them. I mean, it’s very important that—you know, our contributors really are based everywhere. We have people writing for us from New York or London or Cairo, or … really … we have a very global contributorship. But at the same time … as do the New York Review of Books or the London Review of Books. But we do feel a responsibility to represent the West Coast as such, yeah.

Josh Scheer: And now—I just want to get into this real quickly, before we wrap up—you’re in a two-phase process right now; you’ve got—Phase One is already up; you’ve got reviews, you’ve got this list, your people can go to—then you’re launching the website, late 2011, you can give people the date. And you promise that you’re going to be updating essays, interviews and reviews on a daily basis, right?

Matthew Specktor: That is correct.

Josh Scheer: OK, then, look forward to it.

Peter Scheer: We’re very excited about this. Let’s just give the address so people know. It’s LAReviewOfBooks.org. And we are speaking with Matthew Specktor, the senior editor of the newly launched Los Angeles Review of Books, and author of two books himself, including the novel “That Summertime Sound.” Thank you so much for being with us.

Matthew Specktor: Thank you very much, I really appreciate it.

Josh Scheer: Have a great day.

Peter Scheer: And good luck!

Matthew Specktor: Thanks.

Kasia Anderson: That’s all we have time for today. From us at Truthdig, which is Bob, Peter and Josh Scheer, along with myself, Kasia Anderson, and Howie Stier, we’d like to thank Jeff… and Stan here at KPFK. We’ll be on this same time next week. Thanks a lot.


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