Sharon Olds with Michael in 2002; Photo: Don. J. Usner
"I feel jolly when I hear from younger listeners," he says, over a quesadilla in a Santa Monica strip mall. "Kids are the great idealists of the world."
Even so, Michael has had a rough spell. His father died in June 2008. In November much of the show's funding flew out the window, along with many other nonprofit endowments hard hit by the recession. He's since raised money for the rest of this year, and KCRW has chipped in. But come January, he's not so sure.
A friend told me, "Do what you love; the rest will follow." Well, here's a man doing what he loves and doing it well. The rest remains to be seen. But sometimes when you ask for help the real magic begins.
Six tapes, 80 minutes each, eight hours of our recorded conversation. Let's face it—I don't want to let him go. Because talking to Michael feels like an embrace—his well of empathy is awe-inspiring.
The last thing he said to me: "It's one of the secrets of the world. We all have the key to one another's locks. But until we start to talk, we don't know it."
An American Bookworm in Paris
David Foster Wallace
For Bookworm's first five years, Michael volunteered as the host of the show while working a slew of other jobs. Then The Lannan Foundation—a family endowment that supports the arts—stepped in to help with funding, and to ask Michael if he'd host the foundation's "Readings & Conversations" series. (Above: Poet Sharon Olds speaking to Michael in 2002 as a part of the series. Listen to her interview. ) For more author interviews, check out Lannan's online archive: Lannan.org/lf/audio/
To support Bookworm: checks can be made payable to KCRW Foundation with the check memo to read "earmarked for Bookworm," and sent to the attention of Dan Sy at KCRW, 1900 Pico Blvd., Santa Monica, CA 90405.
We Hear You!