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Big Ideas -

View in ParlView

(generated from captions) of his home crowd. Picture for

a second a ballet dancer.

Alright? Wem, I reckon there's

a good chance most of you would

have thought of a girl and

that's one of the main problems

for ballet. Often boys see its

a girls-only activity but hope

that's now changing. Tash

caught up with some ballet boys

to find out more about it.

Their grace, poise and energy

flows through their movements.

For these guys, ballet dancing

isn't about tutus and ribbons,

it's about athleticism, art,

strength and of course fun.

Just everything about it, Ust

the jumps, the power, the

girls. It an amazing sport.

My mum kind of just decided,

you know what Dylan, you're too

much of a jock, you're gonna do

ballet. Need to have the mind

for. Need to be able to think.

So what is ballet all about?

Ballet is a French word meaning

dance. Although ballet is

thought to have started in

Italy, it developed greatly in

France in the 1600s. At the

time, only men were allowed to

dance ballet. It wasn't until a

bit later that women were

allowed to join in. And it's

that French connection that

gives us some of these French

names like 'plie', meaning to

bend your knees, and

'pirouette', to whirl around.

And ballet isn't just popular

on the stage, it's also made

the leap on to our TV screens

in numerous talent shows and

even dramas like 'Dance

Academy'. Can the boys finish

warming up and follow me next

door? Girls, you're staying

here. Ballet is a great way to

keep fit and the physique of a

ballet dancer is important. The

male ballet dancer needs good

core strength. Their legs need

to support the weight of the

ballerina and their arms and

back must be able to handle

lifts.Even though ballet's a

graceful art, the intense physical training involved

means ballet dancers are often

compared to top athletes. A

university study in the UK

found the overall fitness of

ballet dancers is greater than

the fitness of professional

swimmers and rugby players.

They were tested for things

like their strength, endurance,

balance and flexibility. The

study found ballet dancers and

rugby players were similar in

that they trained really hard,

often putting long-term strain

on their bodies and they're

vulnerable to picking up

injuries through their intense

training. But when it came to

strength, rugby players tended

to be strong in shorter bursts,

whereas ballet dancers were

able to maintain their strength

for a longer period of time. A

lot of that pressure is

concentrated on the feet of the

ballet dancer and that's why

the type of shoes they wear

need to be flexible and

comfortable. Girls ballet shoes

usually look a bit like this

but if you get the special

training you get to wear pointe

shoes. The end of these

shoevise a flat bit called a

block when allow them to get on

their tippy toes but the guys

have just the standard ballet

shoes.Even if you're not keen

on ballet, there are lots of

opportunities and other avenues

of theatre and dance to get

involved in but for now, these

ballet dancers are hoping the

art of dance will point them in

the right direction. That's it

for BTN this week. See you next

time. Closed Captions by CSI This program is captioned live. # Theme Music I'm Waleed Aly. Hi there, welcome to Big Ideas. On the show today - the art of the author interview. Ramona Koval and Phillip Adams most fascinating minds have met and talked to literature's on ABC Radio National. in their respective shows from the Perth Writer's Festival, In this very entertaining session the two RN stalwarts swap stories interviews with famous authors. about their best and worst ever rubbed up against include The big names they've Gore Vidal, Christopher Hitchens, Arthur Miller, Henry Kissinger Bret Easton Ellis. and notorious literary bad boy, Mark Naglazas Lead in conversation by book reviewer hear from the writers we love they shine a light on why we want to

about their lives and ideas. and what drives us to find out more There's nothing more wonderful in your hands than holding somebody's work reading it closely and there is nothing more intimate

of somebody than getting inside the head thought about what matters to them, who has told you what they've what's moved them the most important thing and I think that's about the sort of work that I do. the work at hand? And do they elucidate after a conversation Do you feel as though that you know their work better? with one of these authors their work better? Um, maybe they know you writing something because it is very different, and then somebody else coming to you

made them think, and saying to you what it what connections it made for them what it made them feel, it can be enriching for people. It's a two way street, I think. as opposed to an interview? Ah, so you see it as a conversation Well, what is an interview? I mean, I'm not the KGB.

You're not interrogating them. So, it's not that kind of interview. to have a conversation - I regard it as a great privilege share it with the listeners to share ideas and to towards something and point listeners that they might be interested in, to read, to examine more thoroughly, books this person has written to have a look at all the other and so for me,

the cultural life of the country. it is a great chance to enrich who are listening. To share in the views of the people

the ABC online site We have the fantastic resource now, what they think of somebody's work. where people can write in and say They can disagree with a review. about where we work. This is the marvellous thing Radio National is the place the conversation it needs to have. where the whole country can have And I just see my part - in the wall of Radio National my little chink - of conversations. is for sharing those kinds

a small part of what you do - Phillip - literary authors are only of study of history, You range across all the fields of politics, of intellectual life literary authors but I sort of suspect that authors, have a special place in your heart. It's interesting. you two are having Listening to the conversation of this generous introduction - and incidentally one thing left out at Radio National - we love this woman so much

that the ABC elected her to be a board member and that was a role that John Howard got rid of and we hope to see it come back. I broke it. (Laughter) I tend to interview authors who are not fiction writers. I find fiction terribly difficult to deal with on radio. It requires degrees of subtlety that we really don't have time for when we are doing three stories a night. So we live on ideas, the books of ideas. And my authors tend to be, I think, less complex or rather that's not what it's about - it's about what they are writing about, not about them. There are some differences - some of my most admired non-fiction guests are bastards. Why do I... oh, that's right

I wanted to mention Patrick White. (Laughter) The trouble with finding too much out about an author - is you won't necessarily like it. (Laughter) I hold the novels of Patrick White in the highest regard. And I have to tell you that Patrick was one of the most detestable people I have ever met. Did you ever interview him? I didn't interview Patrick White, but I think this is a big mistake to ever think that the writer that you are going to meet is going to be your best friend or someone you'll like. It's not the case that somebody who's has been gifted in explaining some aspect of life in their own very special way - knows how to actually sit down at a table and share a conversation with you or be pleasant for an hour. It's a mistake to expect it. Has that put you off an author? Have you then said I really don't want to read that book, or looked at a book in a different light after a not so pleasant encounter with an author? You know, the only people who I think it applies to, for me are travel writers. When someone is a travel writer they've gone to a place and they are your emissary and they are telling you what it's like over there - this is what the people are like, this is what the landscape's like, this is what my experience has been - what have I dropped? So, I've found that if you meet a travel writer and they are a real bastard you think - 'Gee this is probably what they are like every where they go.' (Laughter) All my writers are travel writers in a sense that they take me and the listener to a destination. But if they don't actually have the human values or the human touch to insert themselves into the place that they're telling you about and have an experience they will convey to you - I mean, you don't necessarily want to know about a place which is what it's like when you're a real bastard and you go there. There have been a couple of people I've interviewed that I've thought to, myself - 'Hm, I don't think I'll be talking to them again because actually I don't trust their view of things.' Phillip, just to take you back to literature. Do you think that - I seem to remember in your early years - You actually attempted to be a novelist, didn't you? In your young, creative days? Not really, just three or four appalling documents that should be either shredded or burnt. No, I could never do it. I also tried drama, but I have a tin ear for dialogue. Whatever you say about David Williamson - people say very nasty things about David - he has an extraordinarily good ear for idiom.

I don't have that. So, I've in fact written, I've published millions of words,

but almost none of them have been fictional. I may do an autobiography - and that of course would be fictional. (Laughter) But do you think that writers - I mean, you're dealing with people with ideas on the world. One hopes they've got ideas. Some of them are simply academics who publish tautologies.

(Audience laughter) Do you think that literary writers have a particular view that's worth, um, interrogating? Is there a view that ah - Let's look at the hierarchy of writers. Right at the top of the tree there's the Dead Poets Society and I'm not talking so much about, say - Tennyson who charged off into the valley of Death, but say Sylvia Plath. Les Murray is wandering around the place, now - you know, there's no question. Most people defer, absolutely defer to the poets as the highest form of literature. That may be right. I don't know that it's right, because I can never work poetry out. The next realm are certainly the fiction writers, the fiction writers - we want to believe in them as human beings. There's a need to very often. Which is what writers weeks and festivals are often about. It's a chance to come close to them and really try to know them, and I think to like them. My sort of writers - people really aren't interested in their psyche. My thesis is very simple, that writing is a very, very simple impulse. The old - the first thing that humans do in a cave in Altamira, in the Drakensbergs, up in the Kimberleys - is they put their hand on the cave wall and they make an imprint of their hand with spittle. I. Was. Here. That's the first impulse of the writer. The second, I think, is therapy. I think most people who write, write because they have a degree of psychological damage. Not you Ramona, you're - I have a degree of psychological - I started writing for that reason - you know, I wrote to stay sane when I was dealing with a psychotic and often murderous stepfather. Most of the writer I know, the fiction writers, start off in that way, as do comedians. They're people that are trying to give themselves some sort of - not camouflage, some sort of protection from a world that can be pretty tough. My sort of writers are purely intellectually driven and often their work isn't that emotional.

But basically, we want to - and writers are the oldest celebrities. You think about it. It took two days for the people of Paris to pass by Victor Hugo's window at the time of his death.

He was, I'm told, the most famous man on earth. Dickens wouldn't have been far behind him. Byron, for God's sake, and then more recently

the first sort of hyper-celebrity in Oscar Wilde. You know, Samuel Clemens. So we've wanted to exult and celebrate our writers. But are you as interested in the views on say - the Iraq war as, say Harold Pinter as Tariq Ali, for instance. Now, this was the point I'm going to make. When her writers move into my territory, they bring with them special gravatars. Any Australian writer who moves from fiction into a political essay, that essay tends to get an immense amount of interest. If is was a David Malouf or someone else, you know - writing a quarterly essay. But is that - do you think that's correct though? Do you think it should? I think it is good. Why? Because your writers work on a different deadline than my writers. Me, I've been churning out two or three columns a week for 40, 50 years. So there's not a lot of cogitation, there's not a lot of study, there's not - you just do it. Your writers can spend a week on a paragraph... (Laughter) ..and do. Yes, but they may not know that much about the Iraq war. I think that the cognitive processes of a fine writer like a Malouf, who wrote one of the most wonderful pieces of prose I've ever read about a bloke on a beehive, I think is pretty good at looking at a beehive like Iraq. It's the same when, say Einstein, moves from pure science to philosophising. We take him terribly seriously.

So when you live in two worlds -

And can write and humanise the situation. Your wonderful interview with Harold Pinter, Genius! He describes the death of a child in the arms of a mother in Sarajevo and it's deeply moving just within the interview itself. I'm not quite sure whether Tariq could do that. Because he has the words, he chooses the words, he knows how to deliver them. He has the command of silence. Exactly. Now to more practical matters, Ramona. How do you prepare for an interview with an author? Do you read everything you can? Yep. Do you reach back? Do you have time to do that? Yes. And the first question that you ask, is it crucial? Do you have to think about that first question to set the tone? Yeah, I always do, I mean - I read the book that I'm supposed to be talking about. How extraordinary. (Audience laughter) But I do. (Laughs)

Most authors don't expect that. Most authors, when they're being interviewed assume that the interrogator hasn't read the book. Well that's right. That's right. (Laughs) But why would I not? I mean, for me the fun is learning something new and engaging with things and that's what I - that's the fun part. So I would read that, I would read, um, essays that they've written, I would read previous books if I - but now, I've been doing this for quite a while now, it turns out I have read the previous books. Read them all already. Besides, I've often talked to them before. I read the reviews after I've finished a book

so I can see whether I agree with them. I read other interviews, I look at YouTube now. (Laughs) And see what they're like, what their delivery is like. Yeah, yeah. Um, and the first question is absolutely vital, because - I mean, especially in a live situation like this, you have to work out - I don't work it out necessarily in advance, but I might have a couple of possibilities. It's just that if I meet the person a few minutes before and then I can work out whether that's a good approach or I needed to do something else. Um, and I think it is important, because as soon as you ask a question, you know - you either open your arms and say 'come here for this conversation,'

or you go... You don't want to put them back in their seats. And have you ever had a bad first question, that you regret asking that question? That you've already set the interview down one path that you didn't want to go? No I haven't, I haven't.

I think I've been pretty seriously thinking about how to do it for a while. So... I mean, it's like anything. I sort of imagine you inviting people into your home, into your room and you're saying - come and sit down here, let's talk. I'll make you comfortable and let's now have this conversation. It's sort of the normal sort of hospitality that one learns and that's really how I - that's how I prepare. And Phillip, you get through a vast amount of material on a weekly basis. Do you use researchers extensively? Do you have a young crew that help you out? Oh, I've got wonderful producers and I fast-read before I go to air, and then I bring the book, if I like the interview - I then read the book thoroughly, afterwards. (Audience laughter) So it's a different sequence. To me, it's not so much the first question, it's often the introduction. May I be permitted to tell my favourite intro story? Which I don't think I've ever told publicly. We landed Henry Kissinger and he was going to come into the 30 Rock Studios

the ABC has in New York. and I was astonished we had him. I detested Henry Kissinger.

It comes to mind, because last night in the hotel there was a wonderful 2-hour interview with Kissinger - quite tough, on National Geographic channel of all things. Anyway, we land him and the book is Diplomacy. And I actually did read it and it was a masterwork,

apart from the self-serving chapters on Cambodia. It was an over-arching history of diplomacy and it was riveting. So, he comes in and he's late into the studio. Now at the time David Hill was running the ABC. David Hill fantasised that he was going to be

the next Secretary-General of the United Nations. (Audience laughs) As did Bob Hawke, as did Gareth Evans, so we had three egomaniacal Australians, all convinced that they should get this job. Of them I suppose Gareth was the best qualified, but basically and as I remember reminding a couple of them - no-one with English as a first language had ever got the job. And Bob Hawke couldn't possibly get the job, 'cause he was so wildly Pro-Israel that there'd be block votes against him.

Anyway, David Hill flies to New York to welcome Kissinger. To your studio? To actually welcome Kissinger into the studio for the interview. Now David and I were not on speaking terms, (Audience laughter) I used to write terrible columns about him and how he had to go. So I'm prolonging another interview, keeping it going, 'cause I want to hear that the eagle has landed. So only half my attention is on these poor guys who have written a masterwork on 30 years of research, 'cause I'm actually thinking - here's Kissinger turned up.

Well, I hear him kerthumping into the studio and he's in a foul mood. Really grumpy. I think, oh Christ, this is going to be heaven. So finally he sits down and I said - You know it's a wonderful thing about America, log cabin to Whitehouse. You can start in the Okefenokee Swamps and you can finish up as the president. Unfortunately, you can't - the log house can't be on the blistered plains of Poland, they've got to be somewhere in America. Otherwise my next guest would have got to the Whitehouse

under his own steam, in his own right. And I heard Kissinger omit a sound that was very close to the orgasm. (Audience laughter) And then I had him, so - and the interview went well, but there was an aftermath. As he left the studio, I could still hear and he said to David Hill - 'What a wonderful interview! That's the best interview I've ever had.' (Audience laughter) And David said - he's a very close personal friend of mine. (Audience laughter) And then Kissinger came to Sydney and took me to lunch.

Now, the point being - I think the intro also settles - now, that's a shamefull case of flattery, but normally you try to make them comfortable before the first question, don't you? Yes, that's true. Well, I don't interview people whose work I don't like. So that makes me totally passionate, really - You're their advocate as much as their interviewer.

Yeah, because who's got time to read bad books? I haven't, you haven't. Yeah, but I do. Occupationally. But there's another paradox.

An author of a rotten book can give a dazzling interview - Oh, yes, we call it good talent - And vice-bloody-versa. You know, there can be a book which you worship, and then the author comes on in a stumble tongue or is cold or humourless. That's right, so we are actually making conversations, we are actually making radio. And it has to be something you want to listen to, and it has to be a person who can take you through the ideas

and keep you on the edge of your seat and engage you. And for some people, they just are not ever going to be like that. They're not going to appear at writers festivals, and they're going to probably appear on the radio. But they can be fantastic writers

and you should be reading their books - sorry. No, it's just reminded me of the crossovers. The idea of author as celebrity. I've had Gore Vidal on the program on many occasions, now Vidal of course, fiction writer, writes some pretty good novels. Much better essayist. I would have thought so.

So, I get Vidal on. Now, people congratulate you on what a great interview you did with Gore Vidal. No you didn't, Gore Vidal interviews himself. So, you introduce him, you can then walk out the studio, go round the block, have a cup of coffee - (Laughter) have a smoke in the stairwell, come back and thank him for his appearance. Because it's a performance piece, and that is true of many of the most celebrated authors. I like an author who comes on and there's a long half second while they think of an answer, and it's magic. Because most people on the radio are glib, they're used to the media, they're familiar with it.

It's when you ask a question and you don't get an immediate answer, but a heartbeat. Mmm, that is very rewarding.

It is a special, special thing and it happens very rarely. Because you know they're thinking and you want them to think on their feet and you want it to be an interesting experience for them and you want to forget everything and explore these ideas together. That is the most exciting part. Ramona have you ever had an interview that's gone so completely off the rails that you've never actually broadcast it? That's a good question. I've had an interview which went completely off the rails, and I broadcast it. Oh, OK. I don't know if you heard my interview with Bret Easton Ellis

that I recorded at the Byron Bay Writers Festival last year. Where Bret Easton Ellis, wunderkind... What a wonderfully Jewish gesture. Basically, it was interesting, because I hadn't read American Psycho when it came out, because I really thought,

'Do I really need to read this book about dismembering and cannibalism and stuff like that?' And it was in a plastic wrapper and everything and it was before I was doing literary shows, I was doing other kinds of work, so I didn't. But then, for this I read American Psycho on the way out in the plane and I had read his new book and I had read something else, and the week before, I'd had a conversation with him. I had to ring him at 10 to 2. I had 10 to 2 'til 2 o'clock to talk to him, so I rang him and said, you know, I'm Ramona, blah, blah, blah. We're going to have this conversation, what would you like to do? And he said, 'anything you want'. He said, 'What would you like to do?' And I said, well, it's a literary festival, I've read your work, I've got this radio show, I'll be recording it, why don't we talk about your work, talk about your books, all the ideas

and the festival audience will be interested in that, because they're there at a literary festival, if that is OK with you. Absolutely fine, he said. And then he said something like, sometimes I might go off script, but you can bring me back and it will be fine. That's great, we'll do what you want. So, OK fine, the night comes, he arrives at one minute to seven, for a seven o'clock start, so there's no chance beforehand to say anything. But we arrive on the stage and then I ask him - do an introduction, ask him the first question and then he says something like, 'Delta Goodrem is hot.' (Laughter) Really? And he said, I've been watching Australian video clips

in my hotel room and she is hot!

But the video clips are so '80s, it's so '80s, but she's hot. You're hot Ramona. You're gorgeous. Thank you. And I said, well, you know, and this has got to do with what?

And he went, well, I'm just saying Delta Goodrem is hot. Well, I can't even remember what I said any more, but tried to make it clear, did you want to have this conversation or is this a stand up, or shall I just sit over here until you're ready to have this conversation? So, I behaved like what I am, which is a Jewish grandmother, and I thought I've met naughty boys before, I'm not going to be railroaded like this. So, what it was was this very, slightly embarrassing for the audience I think, but it was, anyway it was a bit of a shtick for him. And you were thinking, I was thinking American psycho. But anyway, I thought, well, this is OK, I'm going to play this. Because people need to know what he's like. I thought he was very shallow and I thought he was probably the result of being shot to fame after writing something shocking at the time. And being the responsibility of the manufacturing business of stardom and gossip and all of that. And so yeah, we played it and people said 'God, Ramona, you haven't got a sense of humour, or God I'm glad you played that, or wasn't he a pratt', you know, all of that. The funniest things was, two little girls came up at the end, they were 17, and one said 'I thought he was awful, I'm going to tell my mother.' (Laughter) So, yes, I have had things go off the rails, but I wouldn't censor it just because it went off the rail. So, Ramona really interviews people's whose work you adore, Phillip do you go out of your way, you're known as the guy that's got this little left wing radio show at night, but you do actually take oppositional voices don't you? Oh, for heavens sake, yes. Very often the people one agrees with are dead boring. Whereas the people one doesn't agree with are more interesting. But then you get interesting complexities. I'm often, as one of the better known atheists in Australia, I'm equated or bracketed with Hitchens and with Dawkins. Incidentally, Hitchens was on my first ever program, the Iraq war then, and he was wrong about the second Iraq war, but anyway... So, notionally, Dawkins and I agree.

But I find him so disagreeable as a person, that I would rather poke my eye with a fork than ever have him on the program again. I've got another problem, which I want to see how Ramona feels about this. I talked about interviewing someone I detested in Kissinger.

It's often a greater problem to interview someone for whom you have an absolute unlimited admiration, and the most poignant example to me was Arthur Miller. To me, one of the greatest nights of my life was when I was 15 or 16, I went along and saw Death of a Salesman at the Union Theatre in Melbourne. I can see it now, in my mind, as though I was there.

And it was the most astonishing experience, to think that someone like my Uncle, my Uncle Eddie, who was a salesman, could be a tragic figure. He democratised tragedy, for heaven's sake. And I loved his essays. He did essays on Nuremburg, he did wonderful writing. So, when we landed him, and the producer said 'What are you going to ask him about Marilyn?' I said, I'm not going to mention Marilyn Monroe, I'm not a voyeur, I don't want to discuss that. I want to discuss his ideas. So, he settles down and he describes the opening night of Death of a Salesman in New York. And it's a wonderful story, because as the curtain goes down there's a silence. And the audience did not clap, there wasn't any response for five minutes,

then they started to clap and they've been clapping ever since. So, Arthur loves telling that story, and then we meander here and there, and bugger me dead, he keeps bringing up Marilyn Monroe. He said, my wife, Marilyn Monroe, and he must have done it 10 times, no matter what the question was, he came back with this poignant reference to Marilyn. And I thought, the vulnerability of this bloke. He was dead within a few weeks, but he was still haunted by the ghost of Marilyn Monroe. I found that unutterably sad. But I had the same experience with John Kenneth Galbraith, and I interviewed him in his house, and he's a dear old thing and to the end of his life, he was obsessed with Jackie. And after the interview, he took me around the house with a torch,

and shined the torchlight on photographs of him and Jackie, of which there were thousands. What his wife felt about that, I have no idea. Ramona, Phillip mentioning arguably your great literary hero, Arthur Miller, but it was a great interview, you were saying it was disappointing for you? Oh, no, no. I was mortified for him. I wanted to protect him.

You know what I mean? I was a Jewish mother. And it ended beautifully, I re-listened to it yesterday, he said 'I'm too tired to talk now'. I thought that was lovely. Ramona, what about your great heroes? Are there certain living authors that are giants for you, that you've been able to interview and you've been slightly disappointed with? I have to have a hero, I have to interview them and be slightly disappointed? OK, which author has been the one which has given you the most trepidation? Oh, I was trepidatious about interviewing Gore Vidal. I interviewed him in Edinburgh, I was trepidatious because he's so brilliant, he's so acerbic, he can be so vicious and clever, and I didn't think he'd like me. And he arrived, it was an 11 o'clock in the morning interview on a cold Edinburgh day, which they called summer, and I'd heard from the woman who ran the festival, they arrived, he and Howard, his partner, arrived from Italy at 3am,

to Edinburgh, and they were so pissed that they had to be taken off the plane in wheelchairs. They had been drinking Bombay gin all the way from Ravello. And it was 11 o'clock in the morning, and I thought, oh, how's he going to be with a sore head as well? So, I was a bit nervous, and something had just come out in Vanity Fair, a big article that morning,

and I thought, oh God I'm not going to have to read something else, 'cause I'd read a lot. I read this thing in Vanity Fair, it was all about the Oklahoma bomber and I thought, urgh, I'll just take that in with me, and I made a few notes. And I met him, and he was just sort of, he was just magnificent, and he's such a handsome man. And he's quite old,

but terribly handsome and done up in this suit, he looked fantastic and he walked very, very slowly. But he sat down, in front of this huge audience, of maybe a thousand people, and he was marvellous, his brain worked incredibly well until one point where he wanted to quote something and he said, 'I don't know if I've got this right.' And I just went, 'Oh, I think it could be this.' And I thought, ooh, he's either going to go 'what are you doing' but he took it, and went, 'Why don't you follow me around all the time?' Because it was just that piece from that article I'd written and taken in with me, it was just absolutely lucky. When he realised that I was kind of on his wavelength, he was marvellous, he was really fantastic. Oh, look I'm not critical, he's a great show. He's a fantastic performer. But the ultra-famous writers like him, who live on talk shows. And Vidal of course, was a pioneer talk show guest. He knows how to do it. Yes, but I interviewed Joseph Heller at his place in New York, and he was lovely, he made me afternoon tea. One of my heroes.

He would be a hero. You know, Catch 22 is a fantastic book that I read as a young woman. And he was marvellous, he was reading EO Wilson at the time, he was still engaged, he'd been very sick, but he getting better,

except he died the next year so he can't doing that good. Are there any authors that you may have missed in your time

as a journalist, that have passed on and you would have loved to interview?

Probably thousands and millions. Most of my authors died after I interview them. (Laughter all round) Someone like Philip Roth, for instance. I would love to interview Philip Roth, but I don't think he's going to be interviewed.

Have you interviewed Philip Roth? No. He does give interviews though, 'cause I see him giving interviews all the time in America. He said no lots of time to us.

John Updike, you didn't get to - I didn't get to interview John Updike, but I recorded a talk he gave in a book shop and played that. There's some marvellous people I haven't interviewed.

I get them just before they die, or literally they die within a week of me doing them. Arthur C. Clarke, Arthur Miller and Arthur Slezinger, I killed all them off. All the Arthurs, gone. And I also killed off Kurt Vonnegut, who was one of my heroes. Wonderful interviewee. Who's the guy who wrote Fahrenheit 451? Bradbury? I did the most ridiculous interview with Ray Bradbury. He was a hero of mine when I was a kid. OK, well Ray Bradbury, about a year and a half ago. Came out in support of his local library, because they were going to close the library or do something, and of course the man who's written a book about saving books - Fahrenheit 451. And I thought, oh, he'll be great. My producer actually did something which we never do, she said, 'Look, I've suggested a couple of things that we might talk about.' It was only a news story, it wasn't a book. You know, tell us about your stand at the local library, why do you think it's important, why do you think it's happened, just some simple things, and she sent him a note saying this is the sort of thing we'll talk about. And then we rang him, and I did the introduction, he said, 'OK, now, you will introduce me and then I will ask the questions and then I will answer them.' And I said, 'oh, you mean I will ask the questions'. And he went, 'no, you will introduce me, I will ask the questions and I will answer them.' And I said, 'No, Mr Bradbury, I'm going to ask the questions, 'cause I'm the journalist, you're the writer.' I just thought he, you know how people misspeak, as they say in America. And then he just went, 'Mr Bradbury, what do you think about books?' 'Well,' he said, 'I'm glad you asked me that'. And then he gave his answer and then he said, 'Mr Bradbury, and what do you think about the internet?' 'Burn the internet!' he said. 'Burn it, burn it, burn the internet.' The man who didn't want to burn books, he was going to burn the internet. And he just goes on like this, and it was just the whole thing. And we couldn't use it like it was.

So, what we did was, my producer made a little essay, Ray Bradbury, writer of blah, blah, blah, has taken the stance, so what does he think about libraries, da, da, da. So we kind of used it, but it was probably the silliest thing I've ever done. I once interviewed a very famous English performer and she sat in the studio for half an hour and refused to answer any question, and not a word passed her lips for half an hour and then she flounced out. What did you do, what did you do? Well, the audience thought it was great. I was, to say the least, struggling. Who was it? Umm, no I'm not going to say. (Groans of disappointment) No, he's not at liberty to say. She was the star of Evita on the West End, her name was Julie Covington. And Julie was also in The Adventures of Barry McKenzie, as a young performer, so I knew her. And she came to the studio, and she came, and she was opening in Evita the next day, so the essence of the story is she didn't open Evita the next day, she walked off the stage and flew back to London. So, she was having trouble.

So she was having trouble. But I'll never forget it, she sat there I would ask her a question and she would study the studio clock. I'd ask her another and she'd examine with minute detail, a bit of chewing gum pressed into the carpet. It went on for half an hour, it was the longest half hour of my life. Why did it go on for so long, though? Well, I had no alternative. There was no other guests, I didn't have a standby tape. That's the thing, you always have to have a standby tape, don't you? Yes, well you do. Just before we move on, we'll take some questions. I'll ask one more question about Christopher Hitchens,

we were talking earlier about the antagonistic interview, or someone with the opposite set of opinions. You've obviously been stimulated by that relationship with Christopher Hitchens, you obviously disagree with him... Oh no, we agree passionately on Kissinger, he's the one calling for Kissinger to be arrested at any airport as a war criminal - tick. He wrote a scandalous book on Mother Theresa, wonderful - tick. He writes wonderfully on Orwell, Thomas Paine, tick, tick, tick, tick, tick. He's a terrific literary critic, one of the greatest essays I've ever read

was his review of Anthony Powell's books. I mean, I would have died to have written it. He just gets wars wrong. He in fact endorsed the Falklands for Margaret Thatcher. And he was a regular on the program. We can pick them, we pick these youngsters and then they go on to do these great and amazing things. So, Christopher, I'm deeply fond of him, but I just wanted to waterboard him during the Iraq war. Someone else did later, fortunately.

Phillip Adams waterboarding Christopher Hitchens on radio,

that's something, I want to tune in to that one. Well, any questions or I'll keep going. Time now to interrogate the interrogators. Thank you both very much, because for two elderly females, we both welcome - you in particular, Phillip - (Laughter) the punchline is yet to come - into our bedrooms at 10 o'clock. Now the bedrooms are singular and apart, so don't get the wrong idea.

Would you turn the electric blanket up a bit more? It was terribly cold last winter. We really do enjoy it, we certainly listen to you two and enjoy it immensely. So, I just wanted to get in the thank you to both of you. Probably on our death beds, as long as it comes around 10 o'clock, we'll be in with Phillip. (Applause) If you had to choose your number one favourite living author, who would it be now for both of you? Number one living... Living author... Please, don't mention him. He might be dead tomorrow. It's a real problem for me, I believe there should be a moratorium declared preventing any new books being written for about five years, so I can catch up with re-reading the books I love from the past. My favourite novel of all time

is a thing called The Lost Steps by a fellow called Carpentier, who was a Cuban diplomat. I still love, and I know he's dead, The Leopard - Lampedusa, and there's a whole list of books like that

but I don't think I could name a living author, with confidence. Can you? No, I can't, because every new book is my favourite book that I'm grappling with at the moment and then I talk about it and then I have to leave it aside and then I have to open my mind for the next one. And that's really the only way I can do it.

And so, I don't really have favourites. Isn't that terrible? Everyone asks that, but I don't - But authors live forever.

It is the only sort of immortality worth two bob. To me, these people are still alive. Patrick White's still alive, the old bugger, you know, but - (Audience laughter) That's right. So, it's a distinction that's very hard to make. It's sort of like, people say, well what should I read? Tell me what to read. But it really depends on what you love and what you're interested in, and what speaks to you. In a sense, I mean, I can only show you what there is and you have to choose it for yourself. You mentioned earlier on, Phillip, that in your interview with Gore Vidal he had performed as opposed to made a conversation. Is there anything that you do as an interviewer to cut through the performance and try and get to the person behind it of do you simply let them perform?

Well, with someone like Gore Vidal you'd be silly to try, you know, you let it happen.

But if an author - look, there are strange things that go on in a studio to which you are not witnesses. You know, interviews are in a sense structured in the head,

or even on paper, before you start. You know, you've got a rough idea of the architecture of the interview. But often you'll ask question one, and the subject will answer question seven, eight and nine. So, the flow of it, your anticipated sequence, is blown to smithereens. The real trick of interviewing is listening, isn't it? Yes. To intensely listen to what they're saying or trying to say,

and often you've got to help them say it.

So sometimes you intervene for them to get them back on the rails that they've slipped off. You'll see that, I'm sure, here. Particularly with younger writers who haven't had a lot of experience. Imagine what it's like to sit out in front of a whole mob of people.

It is terrifying! So, this is where a good chairman, session chairman, has got to help. And we've got to help as session chairmen. Have we got a question here? Yes. I think I've got the mic. You do. Ramona, I really like, when I listen to you on the radio, well, I'm not surprised to hear that you research your authors and you understand them. Can you give me a bit of a sense - you obviously read the book that you're going to review, and then you said, 'Oh, and I read some essays and I go here and I look at that.' So, I mean, do you just do a general Google search? What is it that you's looking for to understand these authors before you do the interviews?

Well, once I've read the book, I'll read the reviews, but then I might just Google-search their name and see if they've given any interviews. I might put their name plus 'interview' or their name plus 'essay'. And I'm looking - I don't want to ask the same questions that they've been asked before, I don't want to bore them, I want to get them interested and engage them. And, so I try and find an approach or a different angle. There are some things that you will have to ask that most people might have to ask like if you've got an author who's used their own name as the name of the character, well, obviously there's something to be asked there, but you don't start with that necessarily, you might start with something completely different and then that will come in later on. And as Philip says, absolutely, you know, you should see us - there's the desk in front of us, there's all of these pages, and then you have this sort of game plan - 'I'll say this, I'll ask that, they should say that, then I'll ask that, then I'll ask that, over here, and over here, and over here.' And as soon as they start going to number 35, you've gotta go, in your head, you know, cross that out, 'Where am I gonna - ?' you know, you have to be elastic, you have to be an elastic thinker. But that's the fun of it too, isn't it? Yeah. It's unpredictable for us and it should be unpredictable for the author. That's right, and it should be too difficult for the audience because you always have to think that you can't ask that question over there because you thought that they would have already known all of this stuff before you ask that, so you're going to have to give a little bit of that before you ask this question, you're gonna have to summarise that but, you're not, you know - it's just, it's good fun.

Who wrote Flaubert's Parrot? Julian Barnes. OK, the only time I've ever had a killer question was with Julian Barnes.

It was at a radio station that shall remain nameless, called 2UE - (Audience laughter) where I worked with people I never mention, like John Laws, Alan Jones and Stan Zemanek, Julian Barnes walked in - it was a late night show, management didn't give a damn what I was doing, as long as enough people listened, and Julian Barnes sat opposite. I said, 'Why do you write?' And there was this terrible silence. And he said, 'No-one's ever asked me that.' And then there was another silence, and he said, 'Because I'm afraid of death.' And it was a miracle exchange. You know, it was one of those things that was just magic, because clearly he was absolutely gobsmacked by the naivety and stupidity of the question, but out of it came that confession. And I forgot to mention that in my list of why people write. One of them is the hand on the cave wall - you know, 'I am here.' Another is to try and defy death for as long as you possibly can - you know, mortality is a character in almost every piece of writing. Yes? I'd just like to put this forward - you always do post stuff, like, after a book's written, Ramona, you'll do the post - is that right? I do the post? After a book's written?

Yes. I never talk to people before they've written the book.

No, that's right. That's true. And Philip usually plugs into the ideas after they've been published,

and so on. So what would you rather? Well, no, I've never written a book or I've never had an idea. (Uproarious laughter) Are you available next Tuesday?

(Laughter and applause) And I was just wondering if you do any pre stuff, 'cause I'd like to apply! (Laughter) You have a natural gift, I think. There'd be a lot of bookings for you. (Laughs) While we're moving here - Get that fella's name and address. Oh, dear. This is for Philip, because Ramona, you already answered this question. Is there anyone that you have wanted to have on your radio show that has said no, and you've asked again and they've continued to say no? Is there anyone you've wanted to have on the show that they've said no, and continued to refuse? Joh Howard. Repeatedly. Permanently, and I hope forever. The only one I've tried to land and have totally failed,

because I admire him enormously, although, for heaven's sake, he's a Catholic intellectual, is Garry Wills,

who writes the most remarkable books, second only to Vidal, on US politics, but also writes wonderful essays in the New York Review. If anyone's a Renaissance... bloke, person, on this planet, at the moment, I think it's Garry Wills. But I've never got him on. But I saw him the other night doing a John Stewart thing, and I can see why. Despite the vastness of the intellect, he is so excruciatingly shy that obviously it's a torment for him. Why would he go on John Stewart's show? I mean, that's insane! Well, John does all the talking, you know. Yeah, but it's very hard to be with a comedian, don't you think? Yeah. But he's the one I'd like to do. But especially if he's shy, God, is he a masochist and shy? And he's a major academic in Chicago, but he doesn't do interviews. I wish he did. He also wrote a book on John Wayne, I think, as well. He wrote an essay on John Wayne which was so homo-erotic as to be embarrassing.

(Laughter) But he also wrote a devastating explanation of the Catholic Church and its problems with paedophiles which I think was the definitive statement. Hello, Ramona and Phillip. Hello. A question for both of you really, is reading for leisure different to reading for work? Is reading for leisure different from reading for work, Phillip and Ramona? Ramona - Do you want me to answer first? You go first - I want to think about it. I've thought about this. Well, I can't read anything that doesn't translate into minutes on the radio, during the year at all. So there's no reading for leisure at all. Over the first few years of doing The Daily Show, The Daily Book Show - I thought at the end of the year, I would read only dead people because I couldn't interview them. (Chuckles) Though I did that for a few years and that was good because I had to get a bit of a literary education, historical education, because I was trained in science originally so I didn't know any of this stuff that I needed. So I would read the Greeks and the Romans

and all the stuff that I should have but then I suddenly started to think - Oh I could actually get an expert on Suetonius's Twelve Caesars and get them on and I could get an Herodotus expert on and I thought, this is me actually working on the holidays. So last summer I decided to learn French

and go back to the French classes I had at school. So I had a French teacher come over the summer,

every afternoon for an hour and a half and it was so much fun, that every Friday at the end of the show she comes to the ABC and we have an hour and a half of french. And probably, until I can read a book, a novel in French, I'll continue that - but if I can read a novel in French I will start to work again. So then I'm going to switch to Russian. (Laughter) OK, I've thought of an answer and it's true. I travel. I drive immense distances every week, from the farm to Sydney and back. And so what I do, is I listen to recorded novels, I found if I listened to music, I used to drive faster and faster and I was in constant danger of hitting a tree. So I listen to recorded books. Some of them are things I've never got around to reading like Kenneth Branagh doing the Pepys Diaries - which I had never read - wonderful things! I might read The Prince, or have it read to me, by Machiavelli which I've never read.

I also can get away with reading books or having them read to me in the car without anyone knowing. Things I couldn't be seeing dead reading if I was in a coffee shop. So I listen to John le Carre who is a great reader of his own writing. But sometimes there are magic books. I remember I got an audio book of Lauren Bacall reading Dorothy Parker.

And it's better, because it's that husky, cigarette, whisky voice - Who better to read Dorothy? So I think the audio book is a forgotten or under estimated art form - and it is, it can be, an art form. Isn't it a pleasure to read a book that you don't have to tell anyone about? Oh, yes, absolutely. And you don't have to make notes all the way through? I would never publicly confess to reading John le Carre for example... ..Oh!

(Laughter) No. It's good. I interviewed him. But I go back to golden oldies - I read William books, quite often. Phillip I thought you were going to say Bridget Jones's Diary or The Da Vinci Code, not John le Carre, No. No. nothing like that. I do read my grandchildren stories - we've just finished The Faraway Tree with my four-and-a-half year old one. And I must say, I remember that as being such a fantastic book when I was a kid. It's a little bit ho-hum now. But she was really good - she stayed till the end

because it was a big book, full of writing, hardly any pictures. But I do get very scratchy about bad children's books. They know now, that you can't give Bubbe a book - that's Yiddish for grandmother - if it rhymes, it has to be good poetry, and it's got to be a good story or otherwise they won't give it to me anymore. They know that. But anyway - I'm teaching them taste.


I've got every book I have ever read. I've got tens of thousands of books.

There are room after room, after room, after room, after room building, after building, full of books. I'll give you... I'll buy a book for you but I won't lend it to you, because you won't bloody well give it back. So I walk through my books. And I don't have to read them again - I absorb them by osmosis. Phillip Adams and Ramona Koval speaking from their Meeting of Minds session

at the Perth Writers Festival. That's all from Big Ideas for today - but don't forget you can find more debates and talks at our website at our address on the screen. And look out for more Big Ideas on ABC News24 at 1pm on Saturdays and Sundays. I'm Waleed Aly. See you again. Closed captions by CSI

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