Writers & Writing

Author interviews, poetry and storytelling.

What is the nature of magic? What is the nature of reason? Must one cancel out the other? And which is cloaked in a greater illusion?

In her new novel Piranesi, British writer Susanna Clarke limns a magic far more intrinsic than the kind commanded through spells; a magic that is seemingly part of the fabric of the universe and as powerful as a cosmic engine — yet fragile nonetheless.

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Copyright 2020 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Let me start by saying I mean no disrespect to Hercule Poirot or Miss Marple. They are the lure, there is a reason they get top billing. (And while I have never fantasized about being Poirot, I have more than once wished I was Miss Marple.)

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An ancient story of love and loss finds new life amongst Afro-Latinx teens in Lilliam Rivera's new young adult novel, Never Look Back.

Pheus — short for Orpheus — has spent his whole life in the Bronx, charming everyone in the neighborhood with his charisma and his beautiful voice. He plans to spend an easy summer singing bachata and playing his guitar on the beach. But all of that changes when he meets Eury.

Terri Cheney did not expect she would be weathering the pandemic so well. The author of Modern Madness: An Owner's Manual has been living with mental illness her entire life. She realizes now, this has been good preparation for the impositions of 2020.

"With anxiety," she said, "you're used to feeling unpredictable and always being afraid of what's going to happen. With depression, there's that loss of interest in things, the lack of productivity, and the loss of hope for the future."

Perhaps you're an avid reader — or you're just stuck at home and suddenly have more time to read. Either way, if you're looking for reading recommendations, why not start with one of the 50 works contending for a National Book Award?

The National Book Foundation released its annual book award longlists over the past few days, ending with fiction on Friday, featuring work from seasoned and debut writers alike, as well as a collection of short stories from an author who died last month.

Don't be fooled by the deceptive simplicity of Graham Swift's latest short novel. Here We Are, which at first appears to be a light little story about a love triangle between three variety show performers in seaside Brighton, England in 1959 — a song-and-dance man, a magician, and the magician's alluring assistant — turns out to be about nothing less than life's frequently baffling illusions and transformations.

Americans tend to think World War II ended cleanly and neatly, with a raucous celebration in Times Square, followed by a pivot to the Cold War. The truth, needless to say, was more complex.

In Europe, the end of the war brought chaos, not closure, with hundreds of thousands of refugees filling the roads, hoping to return to homes that, in many cases, no longer existed.

Unlimited vacation. No dress code (just don't show up naked). No approval needed for expenses. And if you criticize the company, you might get rewarded with a promotion.

"It's risky trusting employees as much as we do. Giving them as much freedom as we do," Netflix CEO and co-founder Reed Hastings said in an interview with NPR. "But it's essential in creative companies where you have much greater risk from lack of innovation."

More than smart strategy, or good timing or simply luck, Hastings credits the company's unorthodox workplace culture for its meteoric rise.

I've been reading and reviewing Sue Miller's novels ever since her debut, The Good Mother, became an instant bestseller in 1986. And for all those many years, I've been frustrated by Miller because her novels are so hard to do justice to in a review, especially on radio.

Decades before Google or Facebook existed, a Madison Avenue advertising man started a company called Simulmatics based on a then-revolutionary method of using computers to forecast how people would behave.

Formed in 1959, Simulmatics charged clients a hefty fee to access its "people machine" — a computer program that drew on polling information and behavioral science to predict mathematically the impact of an advertising pitch or political message.

Updated at 1:56 p.m. ET

A federal grand jury has issued criminal subpoenas to a publishing company and a literary agency in connection with a book by former Trump national security adviser John Bolton, NPR has confirmed.

The move signals the Justice Department has launched a criminal investigation surrounding the publication of Bolton's book The Room Where It Happened after an unsuccessful effort to block it from being published in June.

Unlimited vacation. Submitting expenses without approval. Being promoted for criticizing your company.
These are the perks of working for Netflix, says CEO Reed Hastings.
HASTINGS: It's risky trusting employees as much as we do. Giving them as much freedom as we do. But it's essential in creative companies where you have much greater risk from lack of innovation.
In his new book, "No Rules Rules," Hastings discusses his guiding principle: The Keeper Test.

A picture book about Nazi persecution, air raids and Communist secret police informants seems an unlikely children's bedtime story.

But The House by the Lake by Thomas Harding is also about belonging.

DAVID GREENE, HOST:

Jill Lepore is a historian. Her acclaimed books include "These Truths: A History Of The United States." And something really bugs her about people in Silicon Valley.

JILL LEPORE: It is a commitment of a certain kind of technologist to ignore the past.

GREENE: More than that, Lepore says, they try to predict the future and then shape it. This made her determined to write some overlooked history of computer predictions. She talked about her new book with our co-host Steve Inskeep.

STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:

Susanna Clarke's debut novel, Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell, was a sweeping page turner about ancient magic set during the Napoleonic Wars. That blockbuster book was all about escape. Now, 16 years later, Clarke is focused on feeling locked in.

Her latest is called Piranesi ­­-- that's also her narrator's name — and his whole world is a strange, labyrinthine house. His name comes from a real-life person, Giovanni Battista Piranesi, an 18th-century architect and artist.

Copyright 2020 Fresh Air. To see more, visit Fresh Air.

DAVE DAVIES, HOST:

It's a big election year, and one party's candidate is the successor to a popular two-term president. A little-known company offers the other party, which is in disarray, technology that uses vast amounts of data to profile voters. The election is incredibly close — and the long-shot candidate wins.

This was 1960, not 2016, and the winning ticket was John F. Kennedy, not Donald Trump.

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RACHEL MARTIN, HOST:

Copyright 2020 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

DAVID GREENE, HOST:

Rachel, here in Los Angeles, the air was just nasty all weekend from some wildfires that are not very far from here. But it is so much worse as you go up the coast.

RACHEL MARTIN, HOST:

If you find yourself a little confused by Ayad Akhtar's latest novel, Homeland Elegies, that's by design.

"I wanted to find a form that would express this confusion between fact and fiction which seems to increasingly become the texture of our reality or unreality," he says.

Famed journalist Bob Woodward is addressing criticism he has received for not promptly sharing with the public what the president told him about the coronavirus and the government's response in a series of interviews earlier this year.

Woodward's new book, Rage, which details the interviews, is set for release Tuesday.

When many people think about National Geographic, they think of wildlife photography, and the stacks of magazines their parents collected. Editor-in-chief Susan Goldberg thinks that’s fine, but people should also think about National Geographic’s reporting on topics like gender and climate change. Before her current job, Susan Goldberg was a reporter for several newspapers, including the Seattle Post-Intelligencer, the Detroit Free Press, and the Cleveland Plain Dealer.

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