Monday, October 17, 2011

Remembering Rebecca Bain, Longtime Host of WPLN's The Fine Print

Posted By on Mon, Oct 17, 2011 at 12:49 AM

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All weekend long on Legislative Plaza, the Southern Festival of Books appeared to be breaking attendance records, drawing crowds for authors ranging from Clyde Edgerton and Ann Patchett to Tayari Jones and Justin Torres. But at a time when Nashville was turning out in force to celebrate the written word, there was one person whose absence was sadly noted.

Rebecca Bain, the longtime host of WPLN's literary talk show The Fine Print and a local public-radio staffer for three decades, died Saturday in hospice care of what friends described as systemic failure. She was 58.

On the air, Bain came across like a favorite aunt, fussing over every guest and taking care to show she'd given their work a close read. Off the air, she was saltier, funnier and more opinionated than she allowed herself to be as a host. (Just one example: She delighted in keeping a list and checking it twice of sick, sick Christmas movies.) Yet no matter how dry the subject, for the duration of each author's slot, Bain made them feel like the most scintillating person alive.

And people noticed — not just listeners and authors, but publishers and publicists. A touring writer's representative told the Scene many years ago that an appearance on Bain's show was a huge help in breaking new talent, and that she could increase an author's sales by thousands.

When the show ended, the city lost a major supporter of its literary community. As WPLN colleague Nina Cardona noted in a remembrance:

You could tell Rebecca knew each book inside and out. And sometimes, like in this interview with Bobbie Ann Mason, the result was a conversation that could have been between a pair of old friends.

“Writing this book in which my mother is really the hero of the story, it’s not enough.”
“No, I see why you say it’s not enough. But it’s a lot.”

By the end of her time at the station, Rebecca had a reputation among publicists as not just the kind of interviewer you want to try to schedule if your author happens to be in Nashville, but the kind of interviewer that was sometimes the primary reason for making a swing through the city.

A memorial service is planned for Thursday. We'll pass along details as they're made available. In the meantime, we offer her family, friends and colleagues our condolences.

UPDATE, 11:57 a.m. 10/17: Rebecca Bain's memorial service will be noon Thursday, Oct. 20 at the Downtown Presbyterian Church, 154 5th Avenue North, Nashville. In lieu of flowers, donations may be made to the Book'em children’s literacy organization, 161 Rains Ave., Nashville, TN 37203 or the charity of your choice. Many thanks to Galyn Glick Martin for the information.

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