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Book Nook: Bettyville, by George Hodgman


George Hodgman was living his life in New York City. Hodgman had been working in publishing for years-he had come a long way from his roots in a small town in Missouri. Then he went back home for his mother's birthday and he stayed. His mother Betty had been fiercely independent for years but on this visit her son had noticed that time was beginning to catch up with her. Although his mother would have probably denied it, she needed her only child to stick around this time, to look out for her. 

His transition back to small town life left him with a lot of time to ponder his existence, this current reality, and his relationship with Betty. He observed her and started taking notes. Soon he began to understand that he needed to write about Betty and their relationship. That's how his memoir "Bettyville" came about.

Hodgman had a secret when he was growing up. He was gay. He could not talk to his parents about it. Or his neighbors. It became his guilty secret. In his loneliness he went to the library to try to find out who he really was. He had to be in there somewhere, right?

His memoir is witty, poignant, sad, uplifting, devastating, amusing, powerful, and fabulous. And if I had to choose my favorite interview of 2015 (so far) it would have to be this one. Here's why:

For the first ten years that this program aired on WYSO (1994-2003) the show was live. There were no edits done, everything came out of the radio exactly the way it happened, warts and all. I love doing live radio for that reason, it is immediate, instantaneous, current. For the last eight years the program has been recorded in advance. Now the programs are edited. If a guest is an ummmmer, with lots of ums between words we can clean those up and make that person sound a bit more articulate. Inadvertent sounds like coughs and the clearing of throats can often be excised. Years ago one of my guests belched during a live interview. There it was; an enormous sausage powered exhalation. Quite lovely actually. After he did it he laughed heartily and explained that he had just eaten some Louisiana smoked specialty. Then there are the pauses. Guests will pause for various reasons, to gather thoughts, to find a place in a book, etc. When we do our edits these pauses are often shortened for the sake of continuity. But the right pause can be a magnificent thing. In this interview with George Hodgman we left in some of those pauses. When you listen to the interview I hope that you understand and appreciate why we chose to do that.

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Vick Mickunas introduced the Book Nook author interview program for WYSO in 1994. Over the years he has produced more than 1500 interviews with writers, musicians, poets, politicians, and celebrities. Listen to the Book Nook with Vick Mickunas for intimate conversations about books with the writers who create them.  Vick Mickunas reviews books for the Dayton Daily News and the Springfield News Sun.