Andre Previn, Boo! Paul Gugenheimer, Yay! I heard an interview today with Andre Previn, conducted by a local interviewer who is excellent at drawing out his guest with perceptive questions. Previn made me gasp, a word I’ve learned to avoid in literary contexts for overuse and excessive drama. But I clearly gasped, after Previn snapped, “These questions are ridiculous.”

            I heard an interview today with Andre Previn, conducted by a local interviewer who is excellent at drawing out his guest with perceptive questions.  Previn made me gasp, a word I’ve learned to avoid in literary contexts for overuse and excessive drama.  But I clearly gasped, after Previn snapped, “These questions are ridiculous.”

            They simply were not ridiculous, but very pertinent and well-considered.  For the past month Paul Gugenheimer has begun a daily show on our new NPR station called “Essential Pittsburgh,” and he lives up to the reasoned, astute interviews made famous by Robert Siegel and others on the national NPR shows.

            When gugenheimer turned to Previn’s biographical material and asked what memories he had of his first 8 years in Germany under the Nazi party, Previn responded, “That’s a question you wouldn’t ask a sick dog. What’s the purpose of asking that?”

            Gugenheimer never wavered—not a single gasp.  He expressed such control and never leaked any irritation with Previn’s reactions.  Smoothly he explained why he thought the question was relevant.  He displayed such grace and class.

            By the end of the interview, Previn must have realized how out-of-line he’d been and how out-classed.  He said, “I’m sorry if I snapped at you.  I, well, I didn’t understand the questions.”

            Gugenheimer absolved him of any need to apologize, saying that He’d enjoyed interviewing him.

            Even though my husband and I had already pledged twice to our local NPR station since September, we called again and pledged in honor of the eloquent, magnanimous Paul Gugenheimer.  We won’t be spending any money on PSO concerts that feature the small-minded, ill-tempered, pompous Previn.

            Authors, like musicians, can have their heads turned by success.  Being grateful and aware of early struggles, a writer or composer doesn’t just show a generosity and great-heartedness of spirit, a self-actualization, but a kind of practicality, as well.  Unpleasant and insulting reactions don’t attract us to a celebrity.  The famous Andre Previn appeared so small today, while the local unknown, Paul Gugenheimer, just towered.

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About Sally Hobart Alexander

Blinded at the age of twenty-six, I left California and elementary school teaching for life in Pittsburgh, Pa. There, I met my husband, got a Masters' degree in social work, had two kids, now 35 and 32, and became a writer. Surprisingly, the writing career led me full-circle to teaching, and I teach in Chatham University's M.F.A. program and lead two writing critique groups. Always, since the age of 26, I have traveled, not in the stereotypic darkness attributed to blindness, but a mist. My blog then, "traveling through the mist" will deal with issues in my culturally different life as a blind writer, teacher, speaker, and human being.
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