Writers & Writing

Author interviews, poetry and storytelling.

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.

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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.

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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.

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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, 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.

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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.

Maria Hinojosa has dedicated her career to telling the stories of Latinos and other communities often ignored by the media.

The Emmy award-winning journalist and longtime host of Latino USA on NPR is now telling her own story in a raw, very personal memoir, titled Once I Was You: A Memoir of Love and Hate in a Torn America.

When you were in college, did you ever study abroad? The numbers say you probably didn't — only 1.7 percent of American undergrads studied overseas in 2017-18 — and that probability decreases with your parents' income bracket. Even so, among the college-educated classes, the experience of traveling to another country for a semester has far more mythic resonance than the numbers can justify. That's because it's the perfect adventure at the perfect time, for those lucky enough to afford it.

A new book and museum exhibition celebrate the work of North Carolina luthier Freeman Vines. His handmade guitars are crafted from found materials and hunks of old wood, including some from a tree once used for a lynching.

"There was something about that wood that was mental, spiritual," Vines says.

It made him uneasy working with the black walnut – acquired from an elderly white man, something that had likely been passed down as a memento.

"Working with that wood was a spiritual thing," he says. "Not good, not bad, and not ugly. But just strange."

Does the Upper Peninsula of Michigan seem creepy to you? You might think so after reading Karen Dionne’s novels. Her latest two psychological thrillers are set in the U.P., and a third one is in the works. Karen’s best known for her novel “The Marsh King’s Daughter,” which has been translated into 25 languages. Her latest book is “The Wicked Sister.” Karen appeared at a virtual National Writers Series event and spoke with Cynthia Canty, former host of Michigan Public Radio’s Stateside. In the second half of the program, we'll hear from Brad Thor.

As U.S. poet laureate Joy Harjo was working on the Norton Anthology of Native Nations Poetry, she and the other editors decided they needed to hear the whole collection.

"At one point in the editing, we decided to read the whole manuscript aloud," Harjo says. "That's how I revise, so that's what we did — is we took it into our mouths and took it to our bodies."

The result of that work is When the Light of the World Was Subdued, Our Songs Came Through -- an anthology of poetry from more than 160 poets, representing close to 100 indigenous nations.

'Arrow' Creates Beauty From What Hurts Us Most

Sep 12, 2020

An arrow at once symbolizes love, as fired from Cupid's bow, and death, as a weapon. It carries passion and direction, both as a way of providing service and demanding attention. In Sumita Chakraborty's debut collection of poems, the arrow adapts to each of its forms by striking the subconscious and giving birth to a new universe.

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