Off Mike: A Memoir of Talk Radio and Literary Life

Plenty of successful fiction writers have slaked our thirst for more intimate knowledge of the creative process by giving us tell-all memoirs. KQED's Michael Krasny has penned a lively and humorous variation on the theme. His new book might more straightforwardly have been titled Confessions of a Loquacious, Star-Struck Bookworm. In Off Mike, the cerebral host of the morning radio talk show Forum laments not having enough inner spark to achieve his life's dream and write the Great American Novel. The tenured San Francisco State English professor realized early on in his career that if he could not be a great writer, he "would at least be a great interviewer of writers." So from his time at a small Marin station, then battling commercial crassness at talk leader KGO, and briefly on Bay TV, he crafted his niche as emcee of an idealistic "classroom of the airwaves." His book features an impressive array of capsule interviews with the literary superstars he has cultivated as on-air and personal confidantes: Joyce Carol Oates, David Mamet, Michael Chabon, Alice Walker, Studs Terkel, Tom Stoppard, Louise Erdrich, Kazuo Ishiguro, Amy Tan, Art Spiegelman, Barbara Kingsolver, and Umberto Eco. Krasny's true literary accomplishment is befriending America's intellectual elite in a public forum, giving the lay audience aural Cliffs Notes of modern classics without condescending to them. In that sense, Krasny is to literature through Off Mike what Al Gore is to global warming in An Inconvenient Truth: a trusted communicator of profundities, whose one excusable mistake is that he tells us more than we wanted to know about himself in the process.

 
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