A fascinating collection of revealing and entertaining interviews by the award-winning host of National Public Radio's premier interview program Fresh Air.
Over the last twenty years, Terry Gross has interviewed many of our most celebrated writers, actors, musicians, comics, and visual artists. Her show, Fresh Air with Terry Gross, a weekday magazine of contemporary arts and issues produced by WHYY in Philadelphia, is one of National Public Radio's most popular programs. More than four million people tune in to the show, which is broadcast on over 400 NPR stations across the country.
Gross is known for her thoughtful, probing interviewing style. In her trusted company, even the most reticent guest relaxes and opens up. But Gross doesn't shy away from controversy, and her questions can be tough--too tough, apparently, for Bill O'Reilly, who abruptly terminated his conversation with her. Her interview with Gene Simmons of Kiss, which is included in the book, prompted Entertainment Weekly to name Simmons its male "Crackpot of the Year."
For All I Did Was Ask, Gross has selected more than three dozen of her best interviews--ones of lasting relevance that are as lively on the page as they were on the air. Each is preceded by a personal introduction in which she reveals why a particular guest was on the show and the thinking behind some of her questions. And in an introductory chapter, the normally self-effacing Gross does something you're unlikely ever to hear her do on Fresh Air--she discusses her approach to interviewing, revealing a thing or two about herself in the bargain.
The collection focuses on luminaries from the art and entertainment world, including actors, comedians, writers, visual artists, and musicians, such as:
Conan O'Brien Chris Rock Michael Caine Dennis Hopper Dustin Hoffman Jodie Foster John Updike Mary Karr Mario Puzo Nick Hornby Chuck Close Eric Clapton George Clinton Sonny Rollins Samuel L. Jackson Johnny Cash Isabella Rossellini Divine Uta Hagen Carol Shields
Conducting a good interview requires exhaustive research, good timing, the ability to steer the interview back on course when it meanders, a knack for close listening and thinking about the next question, flexibility and editing skills. Gross, the polite and generous host of NPR's Fresh Air, is a pro, and here she collects some of her favorite interviews with people in the arts. The result is a wide-ranging and entertaining look into the creative process. With a few exceptions, the interviews are from the show's national broadcast debut year in 1987, but they never seem dated, as many of the guests are still active or well known, and the topics are timeless. Whether she's asking Johnny Cash about the difference between a singer and a song stylist, discussing the role of class in British actor Michael Caine's life or examining the eternal intricacies of the human face with Chuck Close, Gross remains sensitive, engaged and informed. The two notable exceptions are her interviews with cable opinion-slinger Bill O'Reilly and Kiss front man Gene Simmons, whose pugnacity and sexism, respectively, unseat the usually collected host and challenge her to summon interview skills she rarely exercises. Overall, however, this is an often funny and completely fascinating anthology.