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Friday, September 25, 2009

An Interview with A.S. Byatt


Yesterday I had the good fortune of sitting in on a telephone interview between book critic and literary wonder woman Kassie Rose (don't miss her blog: www.thelongestchapter.com) and writer A.S. Byatt. Ms. Byatt, or Dame Antonia as she is addressed, will be speaking at Capital University on October 13th.

We were lucky to get her. The author of "Possession", "The Biographer's Tale", and "The Virgin in the Garden" among other titles, Byatt has been shortlisted for the 2009 Man Booker Prize for her new novel, "The Children's Book." Kassie made sure I understood that the Man Booker Award is the world's most prestigious literary prize....not quite second to the Nobel. Dame Antonio won back in 1990. She told Kassie that she was pleased to note that if won this year she would be the first woman to receive the prize more than once. J.M. Coetze has won twice already and is shortlisted again this year. Jeez. Even Candace Bergen withdrew her name after her fifth consecutive Emmy for Murphy Brown!

You can hear the interview at Scott Gowan's wonderful web site: www.wosu.org/blogs/arts

Here's a quote from yesterday:

"I have a terrible fear that I write dark novels whether I want to or not. I fear the world is a dark place. That's one side of the equation. The other side is that when I am writing a novel I so intensely enjoy writing that the world is a very bright place, with lots of beautiful pots and lovely trees and people running in the woods...I think I'm extremely double and I think the novel is double..."

Again...you can hear the interview at www.wosu.org/blogs/arts

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Rossini on Mozart

I love this:

"Mozart roused my admiration when I was young; he caused me to despair when I reached
my maturity; he is now the comfort of my old age."

--Gioachino Rossini

The Hyatt Hotels and The Cry of the Sloth

I'm blissing out right now listening to a new recording of Mozart's "Idomeneo" while preparing it for broadcast and am having a lovely time. Late last night I finished reading Sam Savage's recent novel, "The Cry of the Sloth". Quite a contrast to "Idomeneo"! "Sloth" is the tale of writer-landlord-narcissist-nutcase Andrew Whittaker, who lives to write vituperative letters-, and operates at full glee in victim mode. It's like watching a train wreck: horrible, but you can't not watch. "The Cry of the Sloth" is perhaps the grown up cousin of the wonderful "A Confederacy of Dunces", the latter one of my all time favorites.

I bring this up because while I don't mind being a curmudgeon, and while I too like to rail at injustice, I hope I'm not sinking into Andrew Whittaker's craziness. "Idomeneo" brings me up for air. If I can wallow in this beauty-and I do, then I feel safe in continuing to rant.

So...
What's up with Hyatt hotels in Boston? Three of 'em have fired 98 housekeepers, mostly minority women and single mothers who after years of service had gotten themselves up to $15/hr to clean the toilets, etc. These ladies, as reported in the Boston Globe and NPR, were asked to train some vacation replacements, even more hapless workers being paid $8/hr to do twice the work, then our core 98 was fired. Not laid off, fired. Yesterday's NPR report (and don't roll your eyes) had the fired ladies reporting they were sent into the locker rooms and given a few minutes to change out of their uniforms and collect their things, all under the eye of HR staff, and then ushered out. Period, goodbye, get out of here.

Two sides to every story? I don't care. Hyatt management either thought this would escape any kind of public notice, which makes them stupid, or knew there'd be a brouhaha and didn't care, which is worse ("No such thing as bad publicity")
The Governor of Massachusetts has called for a boycott of Hyatt Hotels (I hasten to add-AFAIK this action is limited to three hotels in Massachusetts) and the chain has back pedaled a bit by sending out press releases offering "retraining" -to clean the toilets?-and three months of medical coverage, which is nice but doesn't help these workers when the extension runs out around Christmas time!

Shame on Hyatt. Shame on anyone who is unwilling to take a little less so that everyone can have a job.

You can follow the Hyatt ruckus at www.boston.com.
And don't forget "The Cry of the Sloth" by Sam Savage.
And really don't forget Mozart. Mozart makes Hyatt and lousy management bearable.