Book chat, book laffs

Julie Bosman's story in Sunday's New York Times makes the point I did last year: Most of the guests on The Daily Show and The Colbert Report are authors. The programs have become premiere showcases for books -- unfortunately, for non-fiction books almost exclusively.

So why not extend the model? A humorous, culture-news or book-news program on cable? Here's what I told Critical Mass, the National Book Critics Circle's website Aug. 15:

"I'm currently talking to an agent about developing a favorite project of mine. It'll probably come to nothing, but I think it's a terrific idea: a cable TV program like The Daily Show -- but about books (or perhaps the arts in general). Think about it: The majority of the guests Jon Stewart interviews are authors of some kind, anyway. We'd just cut back on the politics, put in more backstabbing bookchat. It wouldn't be the usual respectful, Charlie Rose sit-down schmoozefest, but a news program/spoof -- with real items from the field. I want a TV show that can handle Peter York's Dictator Style: Lifestyles of the World's Most Colorful Despots seriously and John Updike's Terrorist bemusedly.

I doubt it could be a daily program, but weekly? Why not? There's this tremendous amount of literary-cultural material that is always mysteriously ignored by the celebrity obsessives on ET, by the happy chatterers on the morning shows, by Oprah (blinded by her tearful uplift) and by all the dusty, heavyweight policy wonks on Book TV.

What's left is most everything in literature -- everything funny or maddening or stupid or wonderful. All we have to lose is our hushed, reverential treatment of authors and books."

February 25, 2007 10:21 PM | | Comments (2)



It's not that I'm photogenic, Bill. It's that I'm funnier on camera -- the arrow through the head, the pratfall, the pie in the face. You just can't do those kinds of deep intellectual critiques as easily in print.

It's a good idea, but I don't see what a picture adds to the idea. (You're not THAT photogenic.) Radio -- PBS -- is the way to go, I think, at least in the beginning.


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