Writers & Writing

Author interviews, poetry and storytelling.

When the now former British Ambassador to the United States Kim Darroch described Donald Trump's White House as "inept" and "deeply dysfunctional" — and added that the president "radiated insecurity" — an international scandal ensued.

And when his frank assessment became public in the summer of 2019, he became persona non grata in Trump's Washington, overnight.

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There are some experiences that turn your life so completely upside-down that reality feels almost in flux, like the falling down the rabbit hole that is becoming apparent.

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This is FRESH AIR. I'm David Bianculli, editor of the website TV Worth Watching, sitting in for Terry Gross.

Today's first guest is author Donald Ray Pollock whose novel "The Devil All The Time" has just been made into a new Netflix movie premiering next Wednesday. It stars Tom Holland and Robert Pattinson, and here's a taste. In this clip, a young boy has just watched his father pulverize two guys after they made lewd comments about the father's wife, the son's mother. Afterward, the father gives his son some advice.

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How do we build more trusting and empathetic relationships, even during a crisis? This hour, therapist Esther Perel shares ideas on creating lasting bonds in romance, family, and at work.

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Clarissa Ward realized she wanted to be a conflict reporter in the days after the Sept. 11, 2001 terror attacks. A senior at Yale, she had watched the towers burn on a friend's television.

In those moments, Ward, now CNN's chief international correspondent, felt not just horror but shame — "that I had not been paying proper attention to what was happening in the world, that I had been so self-absorbed," she writes in a new book.

The al-Qaida attacks on Sept. 11, 2001, may now seem like a distant memory for some. But not for Ali Soufan, a former FBI agent who interrogated many al-Qaida suspects.

"For me, it has the feeling that it just happened yesterday," Soufan told NPR in an interview.

He has good reasons for feeling that way. This week, Soufan released a new version of his 2011 book, The Black Banners (Declassified): How Torture Derailed The War On Terror After 9/11, which now includes details of interrogations previously censored by the U.S. government.

Many of Jacqueline Woodson's books tackle serious issues in a way that's accessible for kids: Race, drugs, foster care, classism, intolerance.

Her latest book does that, too. It's called Before the Ever After and it's written in the voice of a 12-year-old boy whose father is a professional football player, a big star both on TV and to the neighborhood kids. But his father is also suffering from chronic traumatic encephalopathy, or CTE, the degenerative brain disease that's been diagnosed in many collision-sport athletes.

When Allied troops entered Germany at the end of World War II, they were astounded to learn that more than 6 million people had been stranded in the fallen Reich after the war.

"The number of homeless, shelterless, starving civilians [in Germany] was overwhelming," historian David Nasaw says.

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NPR's Guy Raz is known for bringing us the stories of successful businesses and their founders on his podcast How I Built This.

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An orange glow filled the sky over San Francisco yesterday, one of many signs of fire across the West.

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No reader should skip the prologue to Bob Woodward's new book on President Trump, because the author puts his best scene on its first page.

Woodward's Rage opens on the Oval Office, where the two top officials from the president's national security team are telling him that COVID-19 is a major threat to the U.S. and far worse than the flu.

"This will be the biggest national security threat you face in your presidency," says Robert O'Brien, the national security adviser (Trump's fourth). "This is going to be the roughest thing you face."

Author Yaa Gyasi's family emigrated from Ghana to the United States when she was 2, but it wasn't until she was 9 and her family moved to Huntsville, Ala., that she began to feel like she didn't fit in.

"In every other place that we had lived, there was a decent sized West African immigrant community," Gyasi says. "But when we got to Huntsville, there was, like, one other family in Meridianville that was Ghanaian and that was it."

Here's a beaut of a sentence, one of many, from Lisa Donovan's new memoir, Our Lady of Perpetual Hunger: "[I]f someone values you only when you're about to walk out the door, you should definitely keep walking."

Sigrid Nunez is on a roll. She's tapped into a smart, wry voice which feels right for our times, as do her concerns with friendship, empathy, loss, and loneliness.

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The singer-songwriter George Harrison was known as the quiet member of The Beatles. It was an image that he sometimes promoted in interviews.

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We're human, so we categorize. And throughout this summer of protest and pandemic and politics, we've thought a lot about how race, and class, and gender divide us.

But University of Chicago psychology professor Katherine Kinzler points out that something as simple as an accent can be way more powerful. That we immediately judge people all the time, just on their dialects — and that in fact, we even start doing it as babies.

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It can be helpful to focus on the wonder of the natural world when so much of what is happening around us feels out of our control.

Poet Aimee Nezhukumatathil's new book aims to help introduce readers to nature's marvels — it's called World of Wonders: In Praise of Fireflies, Whale Sharks and Other Astonishments.

Since it was first popularized by Italian dictator Benito Mussolini in the 1920s, fascism, and accusations of it, have been a common theme in American political discourse.

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Journalist Clarissa Ward has reported from Iraq, Gaza, Russia, China, the list goes on. But it is perhaps her work documenting the tragedy and terror in Syria for which she is best known.

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