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Reviews » DVD Video Reviews » Bill Moyers: World of Ideas - Writers
Bill Moyers: World of Ideas - Writers
Acorn Media // Unrated // February 15, 2011
List Price: $79.99 [Buy now and save at Amazon]
Review by Casey Burchby | posted March 8, 2011 | E-mail the Author
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As an interviewer, Bill Moyers is probing, informed, and just a touch provocative. He is not looking for teary confessions like Barbara Walters, nor is he as presumptive or obsequious as Charlie Rose. He is dignified, tactful, and restrained. He lets the subject speak freely, interjecting only occasional and thoughtful prompts. He never makes a show of being interested in the people he interviews, because he is interested, absorbing their points of view with the attentiveness afforded by a genuine curiosity about the world, the people in it, and their varied ideas and opinions.

This set from Acorn Media collects sixteen half-hour episodes of Moyers' 1980s interview series "A World of Ideas," comprising conversations with thirteen prominent writers. Each of these interviews is some fascinating mixture of writerly self-importance, intelligent talk, revealing insight, and deep dissection of specific worldviews.

Anyone who's heard a beloved and well-known writer interviewed for the first time is familiar with the immediate loss of respect that follows such an experience. Writers are full of themselves and their egos are at the center of their individual universes. (I should know.) Although their personalities can disappoint in this sense, their egotism is a sometimes regrettable necessity. Despite his courtliness, Moyers never allows his subjects to get out of control, pressing them on their key issues, forcing them to be specific and concrete when they drift toward vast, abstract generalization (novelists in particular seem to be prone to do this). Tom Wolfe, known for extraordinary flights of fictionalized journalistic fancy, is reined in and made to speak more practically.

From Isaac Asimov and Chinua Achebe to E.L. Doctorow and Toni Morrison, these interviews survey much of the literature of the second half of the twentieth century. Revealing and entertaining, they form a lasting body of work that will be sought by readers and scholars well into the future.

The DVD

Image and Sound
Acorn presents this set across four discs in slim cases inside a glossy card box. The image and sound quality is perfunctory, but the content does not require a tip-top technical presentation in order to be enjoyed. The '80s-era source material has survived intact, and was probably never "pristine" to begin with. The image and sound both suffer from a grayish muddiness, but it's nothing awful.

Bonus Content
Acorn has bundled a hefty selection of additional interviews from Bill Moyers' later programs: "NOW" and "Bill Moyers' Journal." These feature more recent conversations with Barbara Kingsolver and Isabel Allende, among others.

Final Thoughts

A valuable set of insights from some of the leading writers of our time, this set will make a valuable addition to any litterateur's library. Highly recommended.

Casey Burchby lives in Northern California: Twitter, Tumblr.

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