Fresh Air

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Fresh Air opens the window on contemporary arts and issues with guests from worlds as diverse as literature and economics. Terry Gross hosts this multi-award-winning daily interview and features program. The veteran public radio interviewer is known for her extraordinary ability to engage guests of all dispositions. Every weekday she delights intelligent and curious listeners with revelations on contemporary societal concerns.

Keith Richards: The 'Fresh Air' Interview

Sep 18, 2015
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DAVE DAVIES, HOST:

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Lutheran pastor Nadia Bolz-Weber admits that she does not look — or act — like a typical church leader. Heavily tattooed and with a tendency to swear like a truck driver, Bolz-Weber was once a standup comic with a big drinking problem.

But she was drawn to Lutheran theology, and when a group of friends asked her to give a eulogy for another friend who had committed suicide, Bolz-Weber discovered her calling.

Over the past few years, NBC has tried a few times to revive the prime-time variety show, a TV format that once was as popular and ubiquitous as reality TV is today. NBC even has tried to inject the variety television genre with the excitement of live television, in hopes of luring viewers back to their television sets in real time.

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Author Mary Karr has written three memoirs and is often credited with popularizing the genre, but she still jokes that hers is a "low-rent form."

"When I was in grad school, I remember Geoffrey Wolff saying [the memoir] was like inscribing the Lord's Prayer on a grain of rice," Karr tells Fresh Air's Terry Gross. "It was the province of weirdos and saints and film stars with fake boobs — or you could be a prime minister or something."

Four years ago, an American drone strike in Yemen killed Anwar al-Awlaki, an American-born imam. It was a targeted attack; more than a year earlier, the Obama administration and the CIA had placed Awlaki's name on a "capture or kill list."

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Fresh Air Weekend highlights some of the best interviews and reviews from past weeks, and new program elements specially paced for weekends. Our weekend show emphasizes interviews with writers, filmmakers, actors and musicians, and often includes excerpts from live in-studio concerts. This week:

Sleeping With Other People has the arc of a conventional mainstream rom-com, but the beats are scrambled and the movie gets a climactic event out of the way in the prologue. The film actually opens with the male and female protagonists having sex — taking each other's virginity.

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If you don't know Elena Ferrante — and judging by conversations I've had, many readers still don't know her books — it's partly because Ferrante herself doesn't want to be known.

"I believe that books, once they are written, have no need of their authors," Ferrante declared in a letter to her publisher in 1991 when her first novel, Troubling Love, was about to come out. "If [books] have something to say," Ferrante continued, "they will sooner or later find readers; if not, they won't."

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As a medical student, Damon Tweedy noticed that many of the diseases he learned about in class were more prevalent among black people than white people, and that the black patients often fared worse than their white counterparts.

Tweedy, now a psychiatrist and the author of the memoir Black Man in a White Coat, theorizes that those differences spring from the fact that many black patients feel shut out and distrustful of a health care system that has a history of mistreating them.

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First nights on TV talk shows provide quick, and sometimes misleading, first impressions. As Stephen Colbert joked in his opening monologue, he had nine months to plan his first show. But first impressions do count for a lot, especially about the structure — and atmosphere — a new host brings to the job.

Growing up in the 1950s, Margo Jefferson was part of Chicago's black upper class. The daughter of a prominent doctor and his socialite wife, Jefferson inhabited a world of ambition, education and sophistication — a place she calls "Negroland."

That afforded her many opportunities, the Pulitzer Prize-winning cultural critic says. But life was also undercut by the fear that her errors and failures would reflect poorly on her family and, subsequently, her race.

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TERRY GROSS, HOST:

Copyright 2015 Fresh Air. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/programs/fresh-air/.

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TERRY GROSS, HOST:

Fresh Air Weekend highlights some of the best interviews and reviews from past weeks, and new program elements specially paced for weekends. Our weekend show emphasizes interviews with writers, filmmakers, actors and musicians, and often includes excerpts from live in-studio concerts. This week:

My daughter starts full-time preschool next week, and we are all prepared. Her California grandma sent her a new backpack festooned with flowers and embroidered with her name. We bought sunflower-seed butter for her school lunches, because peanut butter is now banned so that no allergic child has to break out his EpiPen. And we also scrambled to find a week of afternoon child care, because even though this is a program with an extended day that lasts until 6, during the first week, school ends at noon.

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To listen to the media tell it, "so" is busting out all over — or at least at the beginning of a sentence. New York Times columnist Anand Giridharadas calls "so" the new "um" and "like"; others call it a plague and a fad.

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In 1938, an Austrian pediatrician named Hans Asperger gave the first public talk on autism in history. Asperger was speaking to an audience of Nazis, and he feared that his patients — children who fell onto what we now call the autism spectrum — were in danger of being sent to Nazi extermination camps.

As Asperger spoke, he highlighted his "most promising" patients, a notion that would stick with the autistic spectrum for decades to come.

About two-thirds of the way through Jonathan Franzen's big new novel, Purity, we're told about an "ambitious project" conceived by a young artist named Anabel. Anabel finds it strange that people can go through their lives without "having made the most basic acquaintance with [their bodies] ...

For novelist Jonathan Franzen, writing isn't just an escape from himself, it's an "escape from everything." He tells Fresh Air's Terry Gross: "It's like having this dream that you can go back to, kind of on demand. When it's really going well ... you're in a fantasy land and feeling no pain."

Neurologist Oliver Sacks, who died Sunday, once described himself as an "old Jewish atheist," but during the decades he spent studying the human brain, he sometimes found himself recording experiences that he likened to a godly cosmic force.

Such was the case once when Sacks tried marijuana in the 1960s: He was looking at his hand, and it appeared to be retreating from him, yet getting larger and larger.

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