28 ottobre 2007

Maieutica radiofonica

Costretta dalla sua popolarità a un inevitabile livellamento verso il basso, in genere la televisione non riesce ad annoverare tutte le icone culturali che al contrario rendono la radio un mezzo di comunicazione e una sede di dibattito per e tra intellettuali. Per un Bernard Pivot, per un Piero o Alberto Angela televisivi - figure di ideatori di programmi che con il loro enorme successo ci dicono che forse la televisione fa male ad accontentarsi del livellamento verso il basso - esistono centinaia di controesempi radiofonici in cui la vocazione dello strumento di massa si sposa con la passione e il rigore culturale. Carlo Emilio Gadda, tanto per dire, lavorava alla radio e i canali radiofonici culturali sono spesso i veri gioielli della corona di proposte di radiofonia pubblica, dentro e fuori l'Europa.
Può così capitare che la casa editrice di una delle università più prestigiose d'America, Stanford, pubblichi l'autobiografia professionale e letteraria di un conduttore radiofonico molto apprezzato per la sua carriera di intervistatore di letterati e altri esponenti del mondo culturale e artistico, Michael Krasny. Il libro si intitola "Off Mike" e contiene i ricordi di Krasny e dei suoi incontri con scrittori famosi e altri personaggi. La recensione che segue è stata pubblicata sul San Jose Mercury News, il quotidiano ufficiale della Silicon Valley. Krasney è uno degli animatori di KQED, la stazione che rappresenta il circuito National Public Radio a San Francisco e che si ascolta in FM in tutta la Bay Area, fino a Monterey a sud e Sacramento a nord. E' dai microfoni di KQED che Krasny ha conversato con Roth e Naipaul, con DeLillo e Oz e anche col nostro Umberto Eco.
Nella presentazione del volume sul catalogo online della Stanford University Press, si legge che:

Michael Krasny is one of the country’s leading interviewers of literary luminaries, a maestro for educated listener who prefer their discourse high and civil. He is a writer’s interviewer.
But it didn’t start out that way.
In Off Mike, Krasny, host of one of public radio's most popular and intellectually compelling programs, talks of his strong desire to become a novelist in the footsteps of Bellow and Philip Roth, and then discovering his real talent as a communicator—a deft ability to draw others out as an interlocutor. Krasny remarks that, “Trying to meld life into art as I read and interpreted and taught and wrote about writers, I went on to talk and talk and talk with writers until I had interviewed more writers perhaps than anyone ever has or will or should. I was on the road. My own road to literary Damascus. More than ever, I wanted to live a life that could answer Bellow’s primary question: How should a good man live.”

Un curriculum che parte dunque dal desiderio di diventare collega di Saul Bellow e Philip Roth ma culmina nel ruolo di narratore dei narratori, attraverso la potenza introspettiva dell'arte della maieutica. Radiofonica, si intende.

The literate radio host
By Brad Kava Special to the Mercury News Article Launched: 10/28/2007 01:43:57 AM PDT

In his years on commercial radio, talk show host Michael Krasny was told to limit his vocabulary and to keep his show dumbed down so listeners would not feel stupid.
He makes up for it in his autobiography, "Off Mike: A Memoir of Talk Radio and Literary Life" published this month by Stanford University Press.
His subjects range from the hard-boiled radio manager whose loves were ego and power, to authors such as Salman Rushdie and Larry David.
Krasny ultimately left commercial radio - one station fired him because he had "too many old broads on" following interviews with Jessica Mitford and Doris Lessing - and has spent 14 years on KQED-FM, where he hosts the station's erudite two-hour interview and talk show "Forum."
Perhaps the biggest plaudit to give Krasny - who aspired his whole life to be a novelist, but settled for hosting talk radio and television shows, doing live interviews and teaching college - is that this book is well written, and will equally please literati and listeners of commercial radio.
One critic complained the book should have been called "On Mike." But part of the book's charm is that Krasny, 62, doles out some of his toughest shots at himself, as he grew from a Cleveland hoodlum to the holder of a doctorate in English teaching at San Francisco State University.
So many memoirs leave out unfailingly human moments of pain and doubt. But Krasny recalls those moments, like throwing up on his first job interview at a professor's home.
These stories are balanced with his slow march to success in the Bay Area, including his stints on Marin's KTIM-FM (where he did a show called "Beyond the Hot Tub") and 10 years with San Francisco's most listened-to station, KGO-AM (where his nighttime show mixed collegial intellect with entertainment), and his current high-profile position hosting "Forum" at 9 a.m. daily.
At the end of each chapter of his life story, Krasny weaves in summaries of his interviews with successful authors, such as Khaled Hosseini, Philip Roth, Norman Mailer, Gore Vidal, Isabel Allende, Amy Tan and Kazuo Ishiguro. Radio fans will instantly recognize the pattern: They are like the hourly commercials and news that punctuate a talk show.
It's a good twist in this age of channel surfing. Fans of literature may only want to read about the authors, and radio fans may want to skip the interviews and stick with stories of the airwaves.
My biggest problem with the book was his failure to name names. For example, he doesn't identify a boss by name, and he recounts a story of a famous rocker indulging in preconcert sex without identifying him.
In an interview, Krasny said he preferred not naming everyone, some for reasons of libel, others just because he didn't want to. But he goes so far in telling all most of the time, it's frustrating not to carry it through to the end.
He even leaves out Michael Savage's name, although the high school graduation speech at which the conservative radio talk host heckled Krasny has been extensively reported.
His description of the now-popular host who practices "pathology dressed up as conservatism," is a great example of Krasny's storytelling, and his candor.
"I would later on feel involuntary twinges of envy for this despicable man, a toxic, incendiary gasbag with a growing, undeniable appeal - who would go on to build a major national career out of a frappe of jumbled extremist views and the sort of kook and shock-jock excess that I had come to speak publicly about as giving talk radio a bad name."
There's always an underlying self-doubt with Krasny, even as he is hired to high-paying jobs interviewing corporate CEOs and the world's top authors.
Krasny never feels that he has achieved his own dream of writing great literature, although, like James Lipton, he's become identified with the oeuvre of doing serious, unfailingly well-prepared interviews, a respected art of its own.
Even at the height of success, when one of his students calls him "professor Superman," Krasny, unafraid to show his warts, responds: "Read my book."

A Memoir of Talk Radio
and Literary Life
By Michael Krasny
Stanford University Press, 344 pp., $24.95

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