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May 2014

Thursday, May 1, 2014

For ten months, Kevin Spacey toured the world performing Richard III in a production directed by Sam Mendes.  Cameras went along for the ride and the result is a film that feels like the Shakespeare version of a behind-the-scenes concert tour video, minus the groupies.  NOW: In the Wings on a World Stage will be released May 2 in theaters and will be available for download on nowthefilm.com on the same date.  Spacey joins Bob to talk about the film, the experience, and the first time working with Mendes since the film American Beauty for which they each won an Academy Award. Then, we revisit Bob’s interview with scholar, literary critic and best-selling writer Stephen Greenblatt about his book Will in the World: How Shakespeare Became Shakespeare.

 

Friday, May 2, 2014

Doyle McManus, Washington columnist for the Los Angeles Times, joins Bob to discuss the latest political news. Then, beautiful voices, compelling songwriting, and expert musicianship: listeners encounter all of these attributes from the very first song of Rebecca Frazier’s album When We Fall. With this record, the Virginia-born musician roars back from a personal tragedy and a ten-year recording absence.  Frazier and her superlative band, including her husband John, join Bob for a performance from SiriusXM’s Nashville Studios.

 

Monday, May 5, 2014
 
Vanity Fair contributing editor Lisa Robinson knows something about rock and roll. As a long-time music journalist, Robinson has interviewed just about everyone in the business from Led Zeppelin to Michael Jackson to Kanye West. She writes about her experiences in her new memoir There Goes Gravity: A Life in Rock and Roll. Then, Jason Padgett acquired savant syndrome with mathematical synesthesia after he was attacked outside a karaoke club twelve years ago. He talks to Bob about his experience and his book, Struck By Genius: How A Brain Injury Made Me a Mathematical Marvel.
  
 
Tuesday, May 6, 2014
 
In 2003, Richard Rubin set out to interview every last living World War I veteran. There were only a few dozen left, aged 101 to 113. The result is a unique tribute to the men who shared their memories and heart-wrenching stories. Rubin’s book is titled, The Last of the Doughboys: The Forgotten Generation and Their Forgotten World War and it’s now available in paperback. Then, Bob talks with bestselling author Curtis Sittenfeld about her new novel. Sisterhood tells the story of identical twin sisters with psychic abilities. It sounds like Stephen King’s latest idea, but Sittenfeld doesn’t go for creepy thrills, instead the ESP seems perfectly normal. Sittenfeld’s book is available in paperback.
  
 
Wednesday, May 7, 2014
 
The Thomas Jefferson Center for the Protection of Free Expression celebrates the ideals of its namesake by recognizing those who, in the past year, forgot or disregarded Mr. Jefferson’s admonition that freedom of speech ‘cannot be limited without being lost.’ Announced on or near April 13 — the anniversary of the birth of Thomas Jefferson — the Jefferson Muzzles are awarded to the most egregious subverters of the First Amendment. Bob talks to the Director of the Center, Josh Wheeler. Then, George Howe Colt explores the complexity of fraternity in his book Brothers. The book is part memoir – Colt grew up in a family of four brothers — and part history of iconic brothers—the Booths, the Van Goghs, the Kelloggs, the Marx Brothers, and the Thoreaus. Colt’s book has just been release in paperback.
  
 
Thursday, May 8, 2014
 
Once upon a time in the United States, people flocked to sold-out arenas to watch star athletes with endorsement deals… . walk. Matthew Algeo tells the peculiar story in his new book, Pedestrianism: When Watching People Walk Was America’s Favorite Spectator Sport. Then, thanks to the centuries of bad press the Borgia name is synonymous with duplicity and immorality— a family that would go to any lengths to retain its power. But historian G.J. Meyer challenges what we know about this Italian papal family in his book The Borgias: A Hidden History which is now available in paperback.
  
 
Friday, May 9, 2014
 
Doyle McManus, Washington columnist for the Los Angeles Times, joins Bob to discuss the latest political news. Then, although it’s been over 70 years since the start of World War II, it’s not unusual to read in the news about people recovering art and valuables stolen by the Nazis from European Jews. Writer Ayelet Waldman’s new novel, Love and Treasure, uses this history to tell the stories of seemingly disparate characters brought together by objects that they thought were long gone. 
 
 

Monday, May 12, 2014

On May 13, 1985, a bomb was dropped on a house in West Philadelphia, starting a fire that would destroy three city blocks and kill 11 people, 5 of them children.  It was the culmination of a botched attempt by city leaders to root a controversial radical group called MOVE out of their urban compound.  Jason Osder revisits the tragic story in a new documentary, Let the Fire Burn, premiering on PBS’s Independent Lens, Monday, May 12, 2014 (check local listings).  Then, best-selling writer Francine Prose found inspiration for her most recent novel, Lovers at the Chameleon Club, Paris 1932, in the well-known Brassai photograph “Lesbian Couple at Le Monocle, 1932.”

 

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

75 years ago today, the MS St. Louis set sail for Cuba and freedom with some 900 Jewish refugees aboard.  Dubbed “the saddest ship afloat” by the New York Times, the St. Louis was denied entrance by Cuba, the United States, and Canada before returning to Europe.  Martin Goldsmith, the author of Alex’s Wake: A Voyage of Betrayal and a Journey of Remembrance, shares with Bob the tragic tale of St. Louis.  Next, Bob talks to award-winning journalist Caroline Clarke, the long-lost granddaughter of legendary singer Nat King Cole, about her memoir Postcards from Cookie: A Memoir of Motherhood, Miracles, and a Whole Lot of Mail.  Then, with graduation season in full swing, Bob looks at commencement addresses that have become subjects in their own right.  To end today’s show, he talks with Wellesley High School English teacher David McCullough Jr. (son of the famous historian) about his 2012 commencement speech titled “You are not Special.”  McCullough Jr. expanded it into his new bookYou are Not Special: … and Other Encouragements.

 

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Continuing our look at notable commencement addresses, Bob talks with best-selling writer George Saunders about his new book, Congratulations, By the Way: Some Thoughts on Kindness.  It’s an expanded version of Saunders’ 2013 Syracuse University speech that went viral.   Then, writer David Foster Wallace’s 2005 speech at Kenyon College has been called the best commencement address ever.  It might have been all but forgotten, but after he took his own life in 2008, the text surfaced on the internet. It was later published as a book, called This is Water: Some Thoughts, Delivered on a Significant Occasion, about Living a Compassionate Life.

 

Thursday, May 15, 2014

A Short History of Decay is the first feature film written and directed by long-time journalist Michael Maren.  Starring Bryan Greenberg, Linda Lavin, and Harris Yulin, story follows a struggling Brooklyn writer who goes to Florida to visits his ailing parents.  Bob talks with Maren and Lavin about the film, which opens May 16th.  Then, Bob sits down with Tony award-winning actress Linda Lavin to discuss her long career.

 

Friday, May 16, 2014

Doyle McManus, Washington columnist for the Los Angeles Times, joins Bob to discuss the latest political news. Then, it’s been twenty years since the Rwandan genocide.  Bob talks to survivorEdouard Kayihura and co-writer Kerry Zukus about their book, Inside the Hotel Rwanda: The Surprising True Story…and Why It Matters Today. We end today’s show by remembering documentarian Malik Bendjelloul.  In 2012, Bob talked with Bendjelloul and with the subject of his documentary, a musician from Detroit named Rodriguez. Their film, “Searching for Sugarman,” won the Oscar for Best Documentary in 2013.  Malik Bendjelloul died Tuesday at the age of 36.

 

Monday, May 19, 2014
 
In his new book, The Tale of the Dueling NeurosurgeonsSam Kean traces the history of neuroscience though the strange but true stories of the poor souls whose brains were studied after experiencing some sort of misfortune. Then, Bob talks to The New Yorker cartoonist Roz Chast about her new memoir, Can’t We Talk About Something More Pleasant?
  
 
Tuesday, May 20, 2014
 
Aaron Yeger’s film A People Uncounted is a portrait of the culture and history of the Roma people, commonly referred to as “Gypsies.” An estimated 500,000 Roma were murdered during the Holocaust, yet most people only know of them from pop-culture stereotypes. The film plays at The Quad Cinema in NY May 16 to 22. It is available on iTunes in Canada and will be available on iTunes in the US sometime later this year. Then, Laurence Leamer’s book, The Price of Justice: A True Story of Greed and Corruption, tells the story of two lawyers’ attempt to hold Don Blankenship, the most powerful coal baron in American history, accountable for the death and destruction he has caused. Blankenship was head of Massey Energy, a company that provided nearly half of America’s electric power, since the early 1990s. Leamer’s book is available in paperback.
  
 
Wednesday, May 21, 2014
 
Andrew Carroll is a man on a mission.  After discovering that there are thousands of historical landmarks that are not just unmarked but in danger of being forgotten, or worse, destroyed, he founded Here Is Where. This volunteer initiative encourages people to find and mark unmarked historical sites across the United States. Carroll’s book, Here is Where: Discovering America’s Great Forgotten History, is now available in paperback. Then, Sena Jeter Naslund has written a novel-within-a-novel, The Fountain of St. James Court; or, Portrait of the Artist as an Old Woman, and it tells the tales of two women—-one a fictional contemporary writer, the other, a renowned historic painter. The book explores the transformative power of art, history and love in the lives of creative women and it’s available in paperback.
      
 
Thursday, May 22, 2014
 
As the founder of the Veterans Writing Project Ron Capps has helped thousands of soldiers cope with their war-time experiences through the written word.  Now he’s sharing his personal story in a new book, Seriously Not All Right: Five Wars in Ten Years. Then, Bob talks with award-winning novelist Brian Doyle about his book, The Plover, a harrowing tale of a man stranded on the high seas with only ghosts for company.
  
 
Friday, May 23, 2014
 
Doyle McManus, Washington columnist for the Los Angeles Times, joins Bob to discuss the latest political news.  Then, singer and songwriter Rodney Crowell stops by our performance studio to visit with Bob and to play a few songs from his new album titled Tarpaper Sky.
 
 

Monday, May 26, 2014

Nearly 70 years ago, a British bomber was shot down and crashed in The Netherlands…one of more than six-thousand planes lost over the tiny country during World War Two. The tail gunner of the Lancaster ED 470 was able to parachute to safety, but the rest of the crew perished. Last fall, local authorities finally decided to excavate the crash site near the village of Zelhem. Bob talks with Dutch journalist Sandrina Hadderingh about the documentary she produced called Forever 21.  It features interviews with family members of the Australian and British crew.  Then, Jon Mooallem traveled all over North America to study the plight of three endangered species – polar bears, whooping cranes and Lange’s metalmark butterflies. He uses their stories to frame a larger one about American’s precarious relationship with wild animals, one that starts when we are very small and surrounded by animal imagery on everything from bouncy seats to PJ sets.  Mooallem’s book is titled Wild Ones: A Sometimes Dismaying, Weirdly Reassuring Story About Looking at People Looking at Animals in America and it’s available in paperback.

 

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Bob talks to bestselling novelist Colson Whitehead about his latest book The Noble Hustle.  Then,Sonia Manzano was the only Maria on Sesame Street in the 1970’s. She’s racked up 15 Emmy Awards since then, and now Manzano has published her first novel. The Revolution of Evelyn Serranois a young girl’s coming-of-age tale set in Spanish Harlem circa 1970 as young Evelyn struggles with adolescence… and ancestry.  Manzano’s book is available in paperback.

 

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Bob talks with new author Alena Graedon about her debut novel titled The Word Exchange.  The story takes place in the near future, after our smart phones become even smarter, leaving us perhaps a little dumber.  The printed word is finally dead – bookstores, libraries, newspapers and magazines are things of the past.  The “word nerd dreamscape” created by Graedon mixes mystery and love stories with a dystopian thriller.

 

Thursday, May 29, 2014

Soviet leader Vladimir Lenin envisioned a Communist Western Europe, turning his attention first to the United Kingdom. Writer Giles Milton tells the story of the men who stopped him in Russian Roulette: How British Spies Thwarted Lenin’s Plot for Global Revolution. Then, Bob remembers renowned poet, author, and civil rights activist Maya Angelou, who died yesterday at the age of 86. Angelou is known best for her award-winning writing, including her memoir I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings and her collection of poetry, Just Give Me a Cool Drink of Water ‘Fore I Diiie. In 2010, President Obama awarded her the Presidential Medal of Freedom, our highest civilian honor. Bob spoke to Maya Angelou in 2006 and we share their conversation on writing, aging, and being an American.

 

Friday, May 30, 2014

Doyle McManus, Washington columnist for the Los Angeles Times, joins Bob to discuss the latest political news.  Next, Bob talks with Ralph Nader about his new book, Unstoppable: The Emerging Left-Right Alliance To Dismantle The Corporate State.  Then, the latest installment of our ongoing series This I Believe.