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Let book podcasts ease your travel anxiety

November 25, 2008 | 12:45 pm

Christopherplummer_2 The Wednesday before Thanksgiving has traditionally been the busiest travel day of the year. If you're heading out, you might want to gird yourself for long lines, jostling, traffic or whiny children. The best defense, in all of these circumstances, may be your iPod/MP3 player. Just put on your headphones and imagine you're in a better, more literary place.

(Warning: if the whiny kids are yours, ignoring them while wearing headphones may be frowned upon.)

Two literary podcasts I adore are Michael Silverblatt's Bookworm and Edward Champion's The Bat Segundo Show; both focus on author interviews. That's really the only thing the two share.

Bookworm has been a radio show on public radio station KCRW for many years; while years of shows can be heard online, the podcast archives go back to June 2006. Silverblatt's delivery is arresting: He. Speaks. Slowly. As. If. Each. Word. Were. Quite. Important. While his style may take some getting used to, it is just like his reading -- careful, measured, precise. He's a tremendously insightful reader, one who brings a microscopic -- yet gentle and generous -- attention to the work at hand. Recent Michael Silverblatt interviews include Grégoire Bouillier ("The Mystery Guest") and two other French authors; Diane Johnson ("Lulu in Marrakech"), Francine Prose ("Golden Grove") and James Wood ("How Fiction Works").

The Bat Segundo Show is run independently by Edward Champion, a New York litblogger and freelance writer who has contributed to our book section. Most shows include an introduction from the louche Bat Segundo, a down-on-his heels radio host lifted from the pages of a David Mitchell novel. Then Ed takes over to do the interview; his persona is decidedly more caffeinated than Silverblatt's. Bubbling over with questions, sometimes interrupting his guests, Champion is a high-octane host driven by a passion for literature. Recent Bat Segundo shows feature actor Christopher Plummer (his memoir "In Spite of Myself" was released this month), Alison Bechdel ("The Essential Dykes to Watch Out For"), Porochista Khakpour ("Sons and Other Flammable Objects") and David Rees ("Get Your War On"). All of The Bat Segundo Show archives are online; he's got an interview with Francine Prose, too.

-- Carolyn Kellogg

Photo of Christopher Plummer. Credit: Carolyn Cole / Los Angeles Times