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All I Did Was Ask: Conversations with Writers, Actors, Musicians, and Artists    by Terry Gross order for
All I Did Was Ask
by Terry Gross
Order:  USA  Can
Hyperion, 2004 (2004)
* *   Reviewed by Mary Ann Smyth

Terry Gross, of National Public Radio's program Fresh Air, has compiled a collection of interviews she has conducted over the years with writers, actors, musicians and artists. Her extremely popular show has enabled her to speak with such diverse luminaries as Nicolas Cage and Chris Rock, Johnny Cash and Uta Hagen, Ann Bannon and Walter Mosely, George Clinton and Dustin Hoffman.

I have been a loyal fan of the author's for a long time. I admire her manner of interviewing. Her introspective questions are probing without being invasive. She does her homework and comes to the microphone with a working knowledge of her interviewee. Her gentle questioning of Carol Shields about her stage IV breast cancer was insightful to me - having survived breast cancer myself. I'm not sure I could have faced the end with the equanimity that Shields projected. Terry Gross's knowledge of music and musicians is as vast as it is eclectic. Gene Simmons certainly proved to be a difficult subject, whom Gross handled with diplomacy and firmness.

I enjoyed these interviews presented in book form, but I have to admit I missed the tone of voice, the nuances evident in the spoken word, the laughter, the sudden silences, the tightness of controlled anger, or the delight in either questions or answers. Gross mentions on the back cover that she picked up some things while rereading the interviews that went right past her in the studio. I know that I too stopped many times to reread an answer or turn of phrase that pleased or puzzled me.

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