Walter James Miller (1918-2010) was Professor Emeritus at New York University and host of WNYC’s Reader’s Almanac (1970-1985) and WNYC-TV’s Book World (1968-1970). He conducted early interviews with writers such as Nadine Gordimer, Erica Jong, Kurt Vonnegut, Dorothy Gallagher and Jerzy Kosinski.
The Kosinski interview above is from September 29, 1975, where Kosinski discusses his novel Cockpit. This exchange and the others that follow are typical of Miller's approach to interviewing. Drawing out his subjects by thoroughly knowing their work, underscoring universal themes, and always being curious about each author’s distinct approach to character and narrative was signature Miller.
A poet, playwright, critic and translator, he created and taught the Great Books course at New York University where he held forth for more than 40 years with very popular classes. As a young man during World War II, he was a public affairs officer for General George Patton honing his skills as a writer of both prose and verse. Miller wrote hundreds of stories about men in combat and life in the infantry. He was the recipient of a writing prize for his short story, Two Soldiers Stopped for Water, published in the anthology, Fighting Words.
After the war he taught at engineering schools in Brooklyn and Colorado and was appointed a full professor at New York University largely because of his pioneering research on the work of Jules Verne. Professor Miller authored, co-authored or contributed to some 67 volumes including book-length studies of Vonnegut, Heller, Sinclair, Beckett, Doctorow and Bradbury. Long considered the dean of American Jules Verne scholars, his annotated translations of four of Jules Verne’s novels are noted landmark works.
Erica Jong talks about her third book and first novel, Fear of Flying on December 23, 1973.
Piri Thomas is the author of Seven Long Tunes. He spoke with Walter James Miller on August 24, 1975.
Dorothy Gallagher is the author of Hannah's Daughter. She spoke with Walter James Miller on October 18, 1976.
Some of Professor Miller's favorite links: