Friday, November 9, 2012

in praise of terry gross

I'm addicted to Fresh Air. On NPR's daily cultural interview program, Terry Gross has the loveliest way with her guests: She's probing but somehow not too nosy, and she's not afraid to admit when she's a fan. Sometimes that can cross over into what seems like fawning—but I'll take fawning over snide, too-cool-for-you archness any day. Fresh Air's format is definitely old school: one interviewer, one subject, maybe a five-minute book or movie review at the end of the show. Gross never condescends, and she always manages to put people at ease. Just this week she had Oliver Sacks talking about his own experience with hallucinogenic drugs: his vision of the perfect shade of indigo, he explained, was like the color of heaven. (His British lisp made the story even better.) Gross and her best subjects always laugh together: Louis CK has (not really surprising) depth; her conversations with David Rakoff are more moving than ever since his death. And her talk with Jimmy Fallon will crack you up. She's great at getting creative people to talk about their artistic process and background—Jason Schwartzman told her sweet, inspiring stories about his mom, Talia Shire. Maya Rudolph sang, and her husband Paul Thomas Anderson was charming and down-to-earth. Best ever? Maurice Sendak.

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