Welcome to Barren Island Books, an interview show in no way related to a popular music-based radio programme. Every Thursday, I will be exiling my latest guest to a remote island with only five books for company, selected from the categories I give them. It’s up to them to make sure they choose wisely, because they’re going to be stuck with these books for a long, long time …
My interviewee this week is Bennet Pomerantz, author, long-time critic from AUDIOWORLD, A Piece of the Page and Amazon, and host of the Blog Talk Radio show Anything Goes. He is also known for his columns in Affaire De Coeur Magazine and Night Owl Reviews. When he's not being banished to a desert island, Bennet can be found at www.blogtalkradio.com/bennetpomerantz and audioworld.wix.com/bennet-pomerantz.
Bennet, thanks for joining us. First of all, could you please tell us a little bit about yourself – just so we know who it is we’re sending into exile. Illogical fears, unusual birthmarks, whether you’d rather wrestle a bear or punch a shark, that kind of thing.
Well I tend to go where angels fear to tread, exile is a place to get away from it all. As Food Network's Guy Fieri says, “Go big or go home”. Plus I'd rather punch a shark, bear when hit is too tough to eat and harder to skin.
I am the one who wants others to come up the mountain. In my thirty-year career, I've been at the top, I've been at the bottom. My biggest illogical fear is to die brain empty of Alzheimer's disease because I have lived many adventures in this lifetime. I do not want to lose the memories and I do not assume I will.
And what about your own work? What are the inspirations behind it? What would make someone else choose it to accompany them into exile?
I have an opinion, the public needs opinions to make great choices. I am a cog in the wheel, right or wrong; my job is to explain what I think to help someone make a buying choice, whether it be a book, a DVD or an audio production.
My inspirations for me and my work are authors like Ray Bradbury, Harlan Ellison (who was/is also a great medium critic), Mark Twain, George Carlin and film-maker/writer and director Jerry Lewis. You need to be honest with the public is what all have taught me. Reviews are NOT personal to me. The media artist who does not like what I say may take it personally, but my words are my opinion. It is not a dislike of the person him or herself … it is their work I am reviewing.
And I would think exile is a party for those who want to get away from it all. Like Gilligan's Island. No lights, no cars, just a good time … and Mary Ann making coconut cream pies. It would be a great time.
Well, I'm glad you're looking forward to it! Now let’s move on to the books you’re going to take to the island with you. First up, it’s your favourite childhood book – perhaps the one that got you interested in reading in the first place, or the one you read over and over when you were young. Which will you choose, and why?
The book that I read over and over again is Roald Dahl's
Charlie and Chocolate Factory. It struck a chord in me very
young. I still read it yearly to refresh myself. I do not think
of it as a children's book. I think of it as a boy's adventure in his own wonderland. Alice in Wonderland was a great delusion with a Red Queen and a Mad Hatter, whereas Charlie's adventure was realer for me. There are no white rabbits, just Oompa Loompas. In a way I am still that boy wanting to visit that factory.
Next, the book that made the greatest impact on your life. This could be one that inspired you to become a writer, or one that made you look at the world in a whole new way – maybe even one that resulted in real-life romance or adventure.
It is a tie (and I do cheat regarding my books): Ray Bradbury's The Martian Chronicles and Harlan Ellison's The Glass Teat.
The Martian Chronicles is Bradbury's written voyage to the planet of Mars. This collection of short stories strung together by a single element, the planet Mars, amazes me. It made me want to write. It made me want to use my imagination and go to Mars, play in the house of Usher and eat a hamburger on the red planet. Read the book, you will understand those references.
I love Ellison. He is bold, brash and honest. He pulls no punches whether he is writing opinion or fiction. The Glass Teat is about television. Ellison does not mock it. This book shaped me. It is a nostalgic peek at Harlan's days as a TV critic and socio-political activist. He taught that a critic, right or wrong, is meant to teach as well as inform.
For your third book – and you’re probably going to need this one, all alone on a remote island – I’d like you to choose your greatest comfort read. You know, the one you turn to when you’re sad or ill or just need a little pick-me-up.
Other than the Bible, I told you I cheat, so I would think the George Carlin box set of his books culled from his stand-up
comedy, including his biography Last Words. He makes me laugh, makes me think, and isn't that what a great book collection should do?
Fourthly, it’s your unexpected treasure: a book you didn’t expect to like but did, maybe one outside your usual genre or that you picked up with low expectations but were pleasantly surprised …
A Pen Warmed-Up in Hell: Mark Twain in Protest (edited by Frederick Anderson) is one of those books. I was in my Twain period of reading (Diary of Adam & Eve, Huck Finn, Tom Sawyer). We all go through periods of reading authors. I am on a James Patterson (yes, Alex Cross books) period now. The Twain book touched on the subject of being an atheist. I was younger then, was uncomfortable with the subject matter. The book was a treasury of his short works written in protest of hypocrisy, mean-spiritedness, and unbridled power of people and religion. I think Every Day is an Atheist Holiday!: More Magical Tales from the Author of God, No! is a modern-day version of Twain's Pen … and written by Penn Jillette.
And finally, I’d like you to choose your instant classic – the book you think most deserves to be read and reread by future generations. It’s up to you whether this book is already considered a classic or is something more obscure.
Well I suggest a very obscure book, A Canticle of Leibowitz by Walter Miller. Written in 1961, this satirical eye on the relentless progression of a human race is almost as fun as Douglas Adams's The Hitchhiker's Guide to The Galaxy, without as much techno pop.
Right. We’ll get those five (well, more than five) books packaged up ready for your journey. Since we’re not completely heartless here at Barren Island Books, we’ll also let you take one song/piece of music, one film and one other item of your choice into exile with you …
I did tell you that I cheat a lot, didn't I? The piece of music is Wagner's Der Ring des Nibelungen (Ring Cycle) as a box set. It is only 14 CDs of music. Sir Georg Solti must be conducting. I need a good CD/DVD player to go with this piece of music.
The film is the Star Wars box set with all six films of Star Wars. I consider this one long epic film that Hollywood will never make again since Lucas sold his company to Disney. And if you guys were really nice you could throw in the Clone Wars TV series and the 1977 Star Wars Christmas Special.
The other item would be a good working pen(s) and reams of paper. Computers tend to break down or get virus-ed. A pen never does. I would need an outlet to put my words on paper.
Hmm, you weren't lying when you said you cheat! But we're feeling generous today, so OK. Now, before we whisk you away, you have one last decision to make: where you want your remote island to be located. You can choose anywhere you like for your exile, in this world or another.
Blame Ray Bradbury … one place comes to mind, Mars … either that or Gilligan's Island.
That’s it, then – you’re ready to go. Thank you for joining us, and enjoy your trip!
If you are an author and would like to take part in a future edition of Barren Island Books, please get in touch with me via the Contact page.