Fresh Air

Weekdays at 11am
Terry Gross

Fresh Air with Terry Gross, the Peabody Award-winning weekday magazine of contemporary arts and issues, is one of public radio's most popular programs. Each week, nearly 4.5 million people listen to the show's intimate conversations broadcast on more than 450 National Public Radio (NPR) stations across the country, as well as in Europe on the World Radio Network.

Though Fresh Air has been categorized as a "talk show," it hardly fits the mold. Its 1994 Peabody Award citation credits Fresh Air with "probing questions, revelatory interviews and unusual insights." And a variety of top publications count Gross among the country's leading interviewers. The show gives interviews as much time as needed, and complements them with comments from well-known critics and commentators.

Fresh Air is produced at WHYY-FM in Philadelphia and broadcast nationally by NPR.

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Commentary
11:23 am
Thu April 4, 2013

Even Dictionaries Grapple With Getting 'Marriage' Right

Geoff Nunberg says a good definition extends to the past as well as the present: It's not just about what "marriage" has come to mean; it's all the word has ever meant.
iStockphoto.com

Originally published on Thu April 4, 2013 12:12 pm

It's a funny thing about dictionaries. First we're taught to revere them, then we have to learn to set them aside. Nobody ever went wrong starting a middle-school composition with, "According to Webster's ..." but that's not how you start an op-ed commentary about terrorism or racism. When it comes to the words that do the cultural heavy lifting, we're not about to defer to some lexicographer hunched over a dusty keyboard.

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Book Reviews
11:16 am
Wed April 3, 2013

'Burgess Boys' Family Saga Explores The Authenticity Of Imperfection

iStockphoto.com

In 1846, Edgar Allan Poe wrote a famous essay called "The Philosophy of Composition," in which he sounds like an interior decorator. I say that because in the essay, Poe insists that all good writing must strive for what he calls "unity of effect." For Poe, it was important that everything in his short stories — characters, setting, narration — add up to one big "color-me-terrified" impact.

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Author Interviews
11:09 am
Wed April 3, 2013

A Father Tells The Story Of His Son's Struggle To Stay 'Clean'

iStockphoto.com

Why do we imprison people who are addicted to illegal drugs instead of treating them for their addiction? That question is at the heart of David Sheff's new book Clean: Overcoming Addiction and Ending America's Greatest Tragedy. It reports the latest medical and scientific research about addiction and recovery, which, Sheff says, shows that drug addicts are gravely ill, afflicted with a chronic, progressive and often terminal disease.

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Television
11:04 am
Wed April 3, 2013

This Spring, Rejoice At Rebirth Of 'Mad Men'

We won't give away any of the details about his personal life, but we can say that the two-hour season premiere of Mad Men shows Don Draper (Jon Hamm, right, with John Slattery's Roger Sterling) as his silver tongue fails him.
Frank Ockenfels AMC

For decades, when broadcast television called the shots and dominated the TV landscape, the biggest event of the year was "the fall season," when networks would unveil their new shows and return with fresh episodes of old favorites. But now, because of cable and satellite TV, the fall season isn't the only game in town.

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World
12:46 pm
Tue April 2, 2013

Hisham Matar: A 'Return' To Libya In Search Of His Father

Transcript

TERRY GROSS, HOST:

This is FRESH AIR. I'm Terry Gross. My guest has often thought of his father as neither dead nor alive. Hisham Matar's family was living in Egypt, in exile from Libya, when Matar's father, a prominent opponent of the Gadhafi regime, was kidnapped, taken back to Libya and imprisoned. That was in March 1990, and it was the last time Matar saw his father.

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Music Reviews
12:25 pm
Tue April 2, 2013

Kacey Musgraves: Country's Blunt And Poetic New Voice

Kacey Musgraves' "Merry Go 'Round" was one of NPR Music's favorite songs of 2012.
Kelly Christine Musgraves Courtesy of the artist

Originally published on Tue April 2, 2013 12:46 pm

Kacey Musgraves is something of an anomaly. A Texas native in her mid-20s, she fits most easily into the contemporary "country" category, but the work she co-writes with a variety of collaborators is really a throwback to an earlier era of singer-songwriters — as much influenced by rock and folk as by country.

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Remembrances
12:03 pm
Mon April 1, 2013

Listening Back To An Interview With Phil Ramone

Phil Ramone in New York in 1997.
Ken Weingart Getty Images

Originally published on Tue April 2, 2013 8:15 am

Transcript

TERRY GROSS, HOST:

This is FRESH AIR. We're going to remember the record producer and engineer Phil Ramone who died Saturday at the age of 79. He won 14 Grammys. He started his career as an engineer, recording singers like Lesley Gore, Dusty Springfield and Dionne Warwick. He went on to produce recordings by Paul Simon, Billy Joel, Barbara Streisand, Ray Charles and Tony Bennett as well as the original cast recording of Stephen Sondheim's "Passion."

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Author Interviews
11:54 am
Mon April 1, 2013

In Digestion: Mary Roach Explains What Happens To The Food We Eat

iStockphoto.com

For all our talk about food, we don't like to think much about it after we put it in our mouths. But Mary Roach — whose latest book is Gulp: Adventures on the Alimentary Canal — did just that. Gulp takes a close look at the human digestive system, from the mouth on down, and Roach writes that she wants readers to say not, "This is gross," but instead, "I thought this would be gross, but it's really interesting. OK, and maybe a little gross."

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Fresh Air Weekend
7:03 am
Sat March 30, 2013

Fresh Air Weekend: Emmylou Harris, Rodney Crowell, Chris Hayes And 'Room 237'

Emmylou Harris and Rodney Crowell have been friends and collaborators since the 1970s. Their new album together is called Old Yellow Moon.
David McClister Nonesuch Records

Originally published on Sat March 30, 2013 9:51 am

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:

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Movie Reviews
10:58 am
Fri March 29, 2013

Hunting For Secrets In 'The Shining's' Room 237

Rodney Ascher, director of the experimental documentary Room 237, leads an exploration of differing interpretations of Stanley Kubrick's classic horror film The Shining.
IFC Midnight

Originally published on Fri March 29, 2013 12:05 pm

Awhile back, I went to the Los Angeles County Museum of Art to see its show on filmmaker Stanley Kubrick. It was jammed with visitors poring over his letters, eyeing the dresses worn by the spooky twins in The Shining, and posing for photos in front of the sexy-futuristic decor of the Korova Milk Bar from A Clockwork Orange.

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Movie Interviews
8:36 am
Fri March 29, 2013

Frank Langella: A Career 'Like A Chekhov Play'

Frank Langella, who earned an Oscar nomination for his portrayal of Richard Nixon in Frost/Nixon, stars in the film Robot & Frank, about an aging ex-burglar. He says he was drawn to the unsentimental role.
Joe Fornabaio

Originally published on Fri March 29, 2013 12:03 pm

This interview was originally broadcast on Aug. 16, 2012.

Frank Langella's career has not been an upward trajectory of success — and he likes it that way. He's had memorable roles on stage and screen, and times when he couldn't find work, or even an agent.

Now 75, Langella tells Fresh Air's Dave Davies, he's never been hungrier to act.

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Music Interviews
8:21 am
Thu March 28, 2013

Emmylou Harris And Rodney Crowell: Harmonizing To That 'Old Yellow Moon'

Emmylou Harris and Rodney Crowell have been friends and collaborators since the 1970s. Their new album together is called Old Yellow Moon.
David McClister Nonesuch Records

Emmylou Harris' first solo album, "Pieces of the Sky," was released in 1975 after the death of her singing partner, Gram Parsons. The opening track on the album is a song called "Bluebird Wine," by a then-unknown songwriter named Rodney Crowell. She recorded two more of his songs on her next album, got him to join her band in the mid-'70s and now, after an almost 40-year friendship, the two musicians have recorded an album together called Old Yellow Moon. The two talk with Terry Gross about their long, enduring careers, their friendship, their influences and singing harmony.

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Book Reviews
12:09 pm
Wed March 27, 2013

The Apathy In 'A Thousand Pardons' Is Hard To Forgive

iStockPhoto

Originally published on Wed March 27, 2013 2:32 pm

Jonathan Dee likes to write about rich, good-looking people falling apart — and who among the 99 percent of us can't enjoy that plot? In The Privileges, the dad of the family was a Wall Street trader, tempted by existential boredom into larceny; in A Thousand Pardons, the dad of the family is a partner in a New York law firm, tempted by existential boredom into a disastrous workplace affair.

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Television
12:09 pm
Wed March 27, 2013

Chris Hayes: From 'Up' In The Morning To 'All In' At Night

Anchor Chris Hayes will host a new MSNBC weeknight show beginning April 1.
Virginia Sherwood MSNBC

On Monday evening on MSNBC, All In with Chris Hayes will premiere, making the 34-year-old the youngest prime-time anchor on any of the major cable news channels. For the past 18 months, he has hosted an early morning weekend show — Up with Chris Hayes — on MSNBC, but he's already a familiar face to MSNBC evening viewers: He has frequently filled in for Rachel Maddow and has been a popular guest on her show.

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Author Interviews
11:33 am
Tue March 26, 2013

'Angry Days' Shows An America Torn Over Entering World War II

Before Pearl Harbor, aviator Charles Lindbergh was so vocal about his opposition to U.S. involvement in World War II that he became an unofficial leader of America's isolationist movement.
AP

Originally published on Tue March 26, 2013 1:30 pm

During the debate over whether to invade Iraq, or whether to stay in Afghanistan, many people looked back to World War II, describing it as a good and just war — a war the U.S. knew it had to fight. In reality, it wasn't that simple. When Britain and France went to war with Germany in 1939, Americans were divided about offering military aid, and the debate over the U.S. joining the war was even more heated. It wasn't until two years later, when the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor and Germany declared war against the U.S., that Americans officially entered the conflict.

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Remembrances
11:32 am
Tue March 26, 2013

Fresh Air Remembers Journalist Anthony Lewis

Anthony Lewis, the New York Times columnist and reporter who covered the Supreme Court in the late 1950s and early 1960s, died Monday. Fresh Air remembers him by listening back to a 1991 interview in which Lewis talks about the responsibilities of a columnist and the importance of a correctly-spelled name.

Fresh Air Interviews
10:39 am
Mon March 25, 2013

How And Why The Hollywood Star Machine Made 'Gods Like Us'

promo image
iStockphoto.com

Originally published on Mon March 25, 2013 12:25 pm

As a film critic for The Boston Globe, Ty Burr has met a lot of movie stars and is often asked what they're really like. What he has realized is that often, the actor's image has little to do with their actual personality, but that's not what interests him; Burr is more curious about why we ask that question to begin with. Burr wants to know "why we respond to these people who we think are larger than life [and] that are — especially in the classic days — manufactured and all their irregularities sanded off and presented to us as some kind of perfection."

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Fresh Air Interviews
10:39 am
Mon March 25, 2013

Remembering Chinua Achebe And The Importance Of Struggle

To remember Chinua Achebe who died last Thursday, Fresh Air listens back to an interview with the great African writer that originally aired on May 10, 1988. In it, Achebe talks about the literary trope of the white explorer or missionary living amongst the savages, and the importance of struggle.

Fresh Air Weekend
7:03 am
Sat March 23, 2013

Fresh Air Weekend: Emily Rapp, Phil Spector, Philip Roth And Sea Chanteys

Emily Rapp is also the author of Poster Child, about a congenital birth defect that led to the amputation of her leg when she was a child, and about how she subsequently became a poster child for the March of Dimes.
Anne Staveley Penguin Press

Originally published on Sat March 23, 2013 8:52 am

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:

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Movie Reviews
11:59 am
Fri March 22, 2013

With Vengeance And Violence, 'Olympus Has Fallen' Flat

Aaron Eckhart and Ashley Judd as the president and first lady in Olympus Has Fallen.
Phil Caruso Millennium Films

What surprises me about the ongoing discussion of violence in cinema and whether it influences violence in the real world is how people fail to engage with the male fantasy behind these films. There's a template for them, a theme; it hinges on violation and vengeance. A seminal action picture of the last 50 years is 1988's Die Hard, in which a lone male cop operates behind the scenes after an ingeniously orchestrated foreign attack on American soil. He's symbolically emasculated — he has no gun or even shoes, his wife is now going by her maiden name.

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Author Interviews
9:56 am
Fri March 22, 2013

Nathan Englander: Stories Of Faith, Family And The Holocaust

Nathan Englander grew up in an Orthodox Jewish family. He now splits his time between New York and Madison, Wis.
Juliana Sohn

Originally published on Fri March 22, 2013 11:59 am

This interview was originally broadcast on Feb. 15, 2012.

The stories in Nathan Englander's short collection that's out now in paperback are based largely on his experiences growing up as a modern Orthodox Jew with an overprotective mother.

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Music Interviews
9:49 am
Fri March 22, 2013

Timberlake On 'N Sync, Acting And Bringing Sexy Back

Justin Timberlake performs at Myspace Secret Show at SXSW on March 16 in Austin, Texas.
Jason Kempin Getty Images

Originally published on Fri March 22, 2013 11:59 am

This interview was originally broadcast on Oct. 6, 2010.

Justin Timberlake has come a long way from the first time he stepped on a stage at the age of 8.

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Television
11:54 am
Thu March 21, 2013

You Can't Trust HBO's 'Phil Spector,' But You Can Enjoy It

Helen Mirren and Al Pacino star in the new HBO film Phil Spector, which was written and directed by David Mamet.
Phil Caruso HBO Films

Originally published on Thu March 21, 2013 12:37 pm

The HBO movie Phil Spector is a production that demands attention because of the heavyweight names attached. First, of course, there's the subject of the drama: Spector himself, the man who invented the "wall of sound," and recorded hits for everyone from the Crystals, Darlene Love and Ike & Tina Turner to the Beatles and the Righteous Brothers. Oh, and who also went on trial, in 2007, for the 2003 shooting death of actress Lana Clarkson.

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Environment
11:46 am
Thu March 21, 2013

'Temperature Rising': Will Climate Change Bring More Extreme Weather?

The Star Jet roller coaster sits in the water on Feb. 19 after the Casino Pier in Seaside Heights, N.J., collapsed from the forces of Superstorm Sandy.
Mark Wilson Getty Images

Originally published on Thu March 21, 2013 12:10 pm

According to the historical record dating back to 1895, 2012 was the hottest year this country has ever seen. But it's not just that the temperature has risen — from deadly tornadoes to the widespread coastal damage inflicted by Superstorm Sandy, we seem to be living through a period of intensified and heightened weather extremes.

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Music Interviews
10:00 am
Thu March 21, 2013

Rock Icons Sing Pirate Songs On 'Son Of Rogues Gallery'

An image for Son of Rogues Gallery's cover art.
Courtesy of the artists

Originally published on Thu March 21, 2013 11:54 am

Transcript

TERRY GROSS, HOST:

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Author Interviews
11:06 am
Wed March 20, 2013

'Sex And The Citadel' Peeks Inside Private Lives In The Arab World

Shereen El Feki is the author of Sex and the Citadel.
Kristof Arasim Pantheon

Originally published on Wed March 20, 2013 12:49 pm

"I know of young women who have been returned to their families by their husbands because, as you say, they did not bleed on defloweration," Shereen El Feki tells Fresh Air's Terry Gross.

El Feki, the author of the new book Sex and the Citadel: Intimate Life in a Changing Arab World, spent five years traveling across the Arab region asking people about sex: what they do, what they don't, what they think and why.

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Music Reviews
10:01 am
Wed March 20, 2013

Barry Altschul: The Jazz Drummer Makes A Comeback

Drummer Barry Altschul writes tunes that play complex games with rhythm.
Dmitry Mandel Courtesy of TUM Records

Originally published on Wed March 20, 2013 11:36 am

The release last year of a 2007 reunion by the late Sam Rivers' trio confirmed what a creative drummer Altschul is. He has been one for decades. Altschul was a key player on the 1970s jazz scene, when the avant-garde got its groove on. Now, as then, he's great at mixing opposites: funky drive with a spray of dainty coloristic percussion, abstract melodic concepts with parade beats, open improvising and percolating swing. He's a busy player, but never too loud — he's also busy listening.

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Author Interviews
12:11 pm
Tue March 19, 2013

Veterans Face Red Tape Accessing Disability, Other Benefits

Originally published on Tue March 19, 2013 3:05 pm

Ten years ago, the United States invaded Iraq and began what the Bush administration said would be a short war.

But it wasn't until December 2011 that the United States officially ended its military mission there.

In addition to the tens of thousands of Iraqis who died, the war cost the lives of nearly 4,500 American service members, and wounded more than 32,200 men and women in America's military. Many of the wounded vets have faced — or are still facing — long waits for their disability and other benefits to begin.

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Music Reviews
11:17 am
Tue March 19, 2013

Justin Timberlake Returns To Music With Enthusiasm And 'Experience'

The 20/20 Experience is Justin Timberlake's first album since 2006.
Tom Monro RCA

Originally published on Tue April 2, 2013 8:03 am

The orchestral swirls, the transition to a soul-man groove, the falsetto croon — there you have some of the key elements to Justin Timberlake's album The 20/20 Experience. The title implies a certain clarity of vision, even as any given song presents the singer as a starry-eyed romantic, bedazzled by a woman upon whom he cannot heap enough compliments, come-ons and seductive playfulness.

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Television
9:27 am
Tue March 19, 2013

A Measured Look At Roth As The Writer Turns 80

A new documentary about Philip Roth premieres on PBS next week as part of a slew of celebrations in honor of the novelist's 80th birthday.
PBS

Originally published on Tue March 19, 2013 12:11 pm

In Chinua Achebe's novel The Anthills of the Savannah, one of the characters says, "Poets don't give prescriptions. They give headaches."

The same is true of novelists, and none more so than Philip Roth. If any writer has ever enjoyed rattling people's skulls, it's this son of Newark, N.J., who's currently enjoying something of a victory lap in the media on the occasion of his 80th birthday. The celebration reaches its peak with a new documentary — Philip Roth Unmasked — that will screen on PBS next week as part of the American Masters series.

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