"I'm Terry Gross and this is Fresh Air . . ." Now available in paperback--a selection of revealing interviews from the award-winning National Public Radio show Originating from WHYY-FM in Philadelphia and heard on more than 450 NPR stations, Fresh Air with Terry Gross has become a daily habit with millions of listeners nationwide--a must for anyone hoping to keep up with what's happening in the arts. Over the last twenty years, Terry's guests have included our most significant writers, actors, musicians, comics, and visual artists. For her first collection, Terry has chosen more than three dozen timeless interviews that prove to be as lively on the page as they were on the radio. Her questions--probing yet sensitive--encourage revelations from figures as diverse as John Updike, Isabella Rossellini, Conan OBrien, Samuel L. Jackson, Johnny Cash, and Nicolas Cage. And in her introduction, the generally self-effacing host of Fresh Air does something she wouldnt dream of doing on the air--she reveals a thing or two about herself.
I'm sorry. I had to say it. It hurt me to say it. But now it is over with.
Here's the real deal.
This is a very good book on many levels, yet all the levels have to do with Terry Gross' ability to interview. Many interviewers are lauded for their ability to not even be part of the interview. That is not Terry's style. There is no doubt she is allowing herself to be a part of the interview. But that leads to one of the reasons this book is so good – Terry Gross obviously enjoys her jobs and enjoys the interviews (even if she doesn't always enjoy the person being interviewed.) And that is part of why she is so successful (and this book is so successful.)
This is also a good book (again, because Terry knows how to perform an interview) because we learn things about these people we probably didn't know before. That is no easy task. When your interviewees include people like Johnny Cash and Michael Caine and Dustin Hoffman – people who have been interviewed to death – how do you find something fresh and new? Terry does so. (Maybe that's why they call it Fresh Air.) And, even if the person is one who hasn't been interviewed as much (maybe someone we were not even aware of), Terry gets them to share in ways that makes them real people.
And finally, this is good book for those who want to watch or learn about skilled interviewing. (One more time, it all comes to Terry's ability.) She makes it look easy. And, as you read the interviews, it may seem that this is effortless work. But take the time to go back and look at the way the interviews are crafted. (Yes, I know these are edited versions, but you can't edit in quality.) Her questions show a depth of knowledge about her subjects, as well as an unerring ability to identify the key aspects of a personality – all done in such a way that interviewees open up to her.
This is a book that should be read by anyone who wants to learn more about people, who want to learn more about human beings, and want to see finely crafted interview techniques on display. And it is a book that should be read by anyone who wants to be entertained.
Gross is an intelligent interviewer, who has researched (or read her assistants' research) her subject and doesn't back down easily. Some of her interviewees are hostile to her, some gracious...almost all are interesting.