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
11:55 am
Wed October 3, 2012

When Words Were Worth Fighting Over

In 1961, the publication of Merriam-Webster's Third International Dictionary sparked an uproar with its inclusion of the word "ain't."
Flickr User Greeblie

Originally published on Wed October 3, 2012 1:10 pm

I have a quibble with the title of David Skinner's new book, The Story of Ain't. In fact, that pariah contraction plays only a supporting role in the story. The book is really an account of one of the oddest episodes in American cultural history, the brouhaha over the appearance of Merriam-Webster's Third International Dictionary in 1961.

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The Fresh Air Interview
11:23 am
Tue October 2, 2012

Paul Thomas Anderson, The Man Behind 'The Master'

Paul Thomas Anderson (left) works with actor Joaquin Phoenix on the set of The Master.
Phil Bray The Weinstein Co.

Originally published on Tue October 9, 2012 8:38 am

For Paul Thomas Anderson, moviemaking is not just an art; it's also about time management.

"At its best, a film set is when everybody knows what's going on and everybody's working together," he tells Fresh Air's Terry Gross. "At its worst, [it's] when something's been lost in communication and an actor's not sure how many shots are left or what's going on, and the makeup department's confused."

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Music Reviews
1:52 pm
Mon October 1, 2012

Out Of Industrial Wasteland, The English Beat Was Born

The English Beat.
Adrian Boot Urbanimage.tv

Originally published on Mon October 1, 2012 3:40 pm

In 1978, it seemed that every kid in Britain wanted to be in a punk band. But in Birmingham, that blighted industrial scar in the middle of the island, there wasn't much punk to be seen. The oasis was a club called Barbarella's, and that's where Dave Wakeling and Andy Cox hung out.

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The Fresh Air Interview
12:13 pm
Mon October 1, 2012

In Memoir, Neil Young Wages 'Heavy Peace'

Neil Young.
Pegi Young

Originally published on Mon October 1, 2012 2:00 pm

At age 66, Neil Young has taken the advice of his doctor and stopped smoking marijuana — though he's not "making any promises," he says.

The Canadian singer-songwriter and guitarist has a new memoir titled Waging Heavy Peace, in which he talks about his music, family and medical conditions, including polio, epilepsy and a brain aneurysm. In the book, he describes a particularly painful procedure he went through, which has since been banished.

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Books
9:29 am
Mon October 1, 2012

Being 'Joseph Anton,' Rediscovering Salman Rushdie

Salman Rushdie is the author of The Satanic Verses, which inspired a fatwah calling for his death. His novel Midnight's Children has been adapted into a film that opens in the U.S. on Nov. 2.
Johannes Eisele AFP/Getty Images

Originally published on Tue October 9, 2012 8:39 am

In the fall of 1989, I was walking down a London street when someone handed me a flier that asked, "Should Rushdie Die?" The following afternoon, I headed over to the Royal Albert Hall to hear that question answered by a renowned Islamic scholar.

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Fresh Air Weekend
7:03 am
Sat September 29, 2012

Fresh Air Weekend: J.R. Moehringer, Mindy Kaling

Dr. Mindy Lahiri (Mindy Kaling) must juggle a variety of responsibilities as an obstetrician-gynecologist in the new comedy The Mindy Project.
Jordin Althaus Fox

Originally published on Sat September 29, 2012 10:38 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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Interviews
12:13 pm
Fri September 28, 2012

Steve Martin: From Standup To Movie Star And Writer

Steve Martin at the Grammy Awards in Los Angeles in February.
Joe Klamar AFP/Getty Images

This interview is an combination of broadcasts from Oct. 22, 2008 and Oct. 6, 2003. His early standup routines, TV specials and other TV appearances have been released in a new DVD box set.

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Television
11:22 am
Fri September 28, 2012

Fall TV's Returning Series: A Cause To Rejoice

A phone call from her former boss, Saul (Mandy Patinkin), delivers Carrie Mathison (Claire Danes) back into the action of Homeland's second season.
Ronen Akerman Showtime

Originally published on Fri September 28, 2012 12:05 pm

Right now, as we near the end of the 2012 fall TV premiere week, there's a tendency for a sense of weariness to set in. So many of the new TV series are so bad this year, and not one of them is outstanding. It tends to get a little depressing.

But then you think about the rich bounty of returning series, and how good television drama has gotten lately, and there's cause to rejoice all over again.

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Movie Reviews
2:12 pm
Thu September 27, 2012

'Looper': Time-Travel Nonsense, Winningly Played

Old Joe (Bruce Willis) and his younger self (Joseph Gordon-Levitt), two iterations of the same assassin, play a particularly personal game of cat and mouse in the time-travel thriller Looper.
Alan Markfield Sony Pictures

I adore time-travel pictures like Looper no matter how idiotic, especially when they feature a Love That Transcends Time. I love Somewhere in Time with Christopher Reeve and Jane Seymour, The Time Traveler's Wife, even The Lake House with Keanu Reeves and Sandra Bullock in different years sending letters through a magic mailbox. So terrible. So good. See, everyone wants to correct mistakes in hindsight, and it's the one thing we cannot do. Except vicariously, in movies.

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Author Interviews
12:07 pm
Thu September 27, 2012

British Scientist Driven To Find 'Spark Of Life'

W. W. Norton & Company

Originally published on Tue October 2, 2012 1:47 pm

One night in 1984, British scientist Frances Ashcroft was studying electricity in the body and discovered the protein that causes neonatal diabetes. She says she felt so "over the moon" that she couldn't sleep.

By the next morning, she says, she thought it was a mistake.

But luckily, that feeling was wrong, and Ashcroft's revelation led to a medical breakthrough decades later, which now enables people born with diabetes to take pills instead of injecting insulin.

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Movie Interviews
11:22 am
Thu September 27, 2012

From Sweet To Steely: Amy Adams In 'The Master'

Adams is also currently starring in Trouble with the Curve as a lawyer with the makings of a pro baseball scout.
Warner Brothers

Originally published on Wed February 20, 2013 10:58 am

When Amy Adams read the script for Paul Thomas Anderson's new movie, The Master, she saw an opportunity to play a character type she'd never played before.

"Somebody who on the surface was very, very mothering, almost genteel, and then underneath, there was this boiling almost rage," Adams tells Fresh Air's Terry Gross.

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Author Interviews
12:12 pm
Wed September 26, 2012

'Sutton': America's 1920s, Bank-Robbing 'Robin Hood'

Hyperion

Originally published on Wed September 26, 2012 12:49 pm

After the global financial crisis hit in 2008, Pulitzer Prize winner J.R. Moehringer was so angry at banks, he says, he decided to write about the people who rob them — in the form of fiction, since he's not an economist.

"I thought it would be healthy to live vicariously through a bank robber at that moment that bankers were ruining the world," Moehringer tells Fresh Air's Terry Gross.

In his first historical novel, Sutton, Moehringer writes from the point of view of Willie Sutton, whom he calls the "greatest American bank robber."

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Music Reviews
10:59 am
Wed September 26, 2012

After 26 Years, The Sam Rivers Trio Resurfaces

Sam Rivers' trio with Dave Holland and Barry Altschul (not pictured) recently released its 2007 reunion show on CD.
Ken Weiss Courtesy of the artist

Originally published on Wed September 26, 2012 12:12 pm

Jazz multi-instrumentalist Sam Rivers, who died at 88 in December 2011, recorded with many trios in the 1970s. But his most celebrated trio was barely recorded at all. In 2007, it played a reunion concert — its first in 26 years.

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Television
11:59 am
Tue September 25, 2012

Mindy Kaling Loves Rom-Coms And Being The Boss

Dr. Mindy Lahiri (Mindy Kaling) must juggle a variety of responsibilities as an obstetrician-gynecologist in the new comedy The Mindy Project.
Jordin Althaus Fox

Originally published on Tue September 25, 2012 1:02 pm

Mindy Kaling says she loves romantic comedies, even though she wrote last year in The New Yorker that saying so "is essentially an admission of mild stupidity."

Her new Fox TV show, The Mindy Project — which she created, stars in, writes and runs as co-executive producer — is essentially a serialized romantic comedy, where each week, viewers can check in with the character to see how her life is going, Kaling says.

Except she hopes her show is "actually funny," she tells Fresh Air's Terry Gross.

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Book Reviews
11:24 am
Tue September 25, 2012

A Lifetime Of Love In 'My Husband And My Wives'

Farrar, Straus & Giroux

Originally published on Tue September 25, 2012 11:58 am

Given the glut of autobiographies, a provocative subject alone isn't enough to snag a reader's attention, although, admittedly, the title of Charles Rowan Beye's new memoir, My Husband and My Wives, is certainly arresting. It's Beye's charming raconteur's voice, however, and his refusal to bend anecdotes into the expected "lessons" that really make this memoir such a knockout.

Beye won me over in his "Introduction" when he admitted that, looking back at the long span of his life — he's now over 80 — the big question he still asks himself is, "What was that all about?"

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Music Reviews
11:06 am
Tue September 25, 2012

Analog Players Society: A Party Cooked Up In A Studio

The Analog Players Society was assembled by a producer and percussionist in his mid-30s who calls himself Amon.
Courtesy of the artist

Originally published on Tue September 25, 2012 11:58 am

Albums made by collections of professional studio players once had a bad reputation with the traditional rock audience. Such works were supposedly arid and chilly — more like the results of a board meeting than the recorded adventure of an organic group of fabulous friends. Some music fans may still feel that way, but they are few. Nowadays, a tight-knit gaggle of session musicians like the Analog Players Society gets points from traditionalists simply because the music is made by flesh and blood.

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Politics
12:15 pm
Mon September 24, 2012

Redistricting: A Story Of Divisive Politics, Odd Shapes

Robert Draper is the author of Do Not Ask What Good We Do: Inside the House of Representatives and Dead Certain: The Presidency of George Bush.
Dena Andre

Originally published on Mon September 24, 2012 12:47 pm

Journalist Robert Draper says the 27th Congressional District in South Texas looks like a Glock pistol. It's just one of several "funny shapes" you will see in states across the U.S. as a result of the redrawing of congressional boundaries — otherwise known as redistricting.

"These maps can be very, very fanciful — they're these kinds of impressionistic representations of the yearnings and deviousness of politics today," Draper tells Fresh Air's Dave Davies.

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Music Reviews
9:16 am
Mon September 24, 2012

Aimee Mann: The 'Charmer' And The Disciplined Id

Ken Tucker says Aimee Mann's latest album, Charmer, is a song cycle about getting rid of a cynical frame of mind.
Sheryl Nields

Originally published on Mon September 24, 2012 12:16 pm

If you listen to the music on Charmer, hearing Aimee Mann's vocals as just another lilting instrument, you'd probably think the album was just what the title suggests: a charmer. The melodies have an airy quality, at once floating and propulsive, and even without fixing on the words, you can hear that they're metrically precise, with carefully counted-out syllables and tight rhymes.

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Fresh Air Weekend
7:49 pm
Sun September 23, 2012

Fresh Air Weekend: Andrew Rannells, Bob Dylan

Bob Dylan's Tempest features 10 new songs with many feisty, baffling, sometimes beautiful moments.
Courtesy of the artist

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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NPR Story
10:15 am
Sat September 22, 2012

Fresh Air Weekend

Fresh Air Weekend

History
10:57 am
Fri September 21, 2012

Civil War Historian Drew Gilpin Faust On PBS

Historian Drew Gilpin Faust speaks onstage at the American Experience Death and the Civil War panel in July.
Frederick M. Brown Getty Images

Originally published on Thu November 8, 2012 9:57 am

This interview was originally broadcast on Jan. 9, 2008. Gilpin is featured in PBS's American Experience called Death and the Civil War. It premiered Sept.

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Movie Reviews
9:21 am
Fri September 21, 2012

The Art Of Preserving A High School 'Wallflower'

Charlie (Logan Lerman), Patrick (Ezra Miller) and Sam (Emma Watson) navigate the joys and pains of high school in The Perks of Being a Wallflower.
John Bramley Summit Entertainment

Originally published on Fri September 21, 2012 10:57 am

The hero of both the novel and the film The Perks of Being a Wallflower is a high school freshman loner named Charlie whose best friend committed suicide the previous spring. He's on psychiatric meds, lots of them, and still has blackouts and mysterious visions of a doting aunt who died when he was 7.

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Music Reviews
7:48 am
Fri September 21, 2012

Vince Guaraldi Didn't Just Play For 'Peanuts'

Vince Guaraldi had range, as well as an instrumental hit right when jazz was vanishing from AM radio.
Courtesy of the artist

Originally published on Fri September 21, 2012 10:57 am

There must have been times in 1963, when Vince Guaraldi was riding high on his surprise hit "Cast Your Fate to the Wind," when he thought, "This is what I'll be remembered for." Not that he minded. He said taking requests for the tune was like signing the back of a check. The song's got a great hook tied to a poppy, uplifting chord sequence.

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Author Interviews
12:46 pm
Thu September 20, 2012

A Close Look At Your Bills' 'Fine Print'

Originally published on Thu September 27, 2012 12:20 pm

Americans are paying high prices for poor quality Internet speeds — speeds that are now slower than in other countries, according to author David Cay Johnston. He says the U.S. ranks 29th in speed worldwide.

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Television
12:07 pm
Thu September 20, 2012

Kelly Macdonald: Strong Woman On The 'Boardwalk'

In Boardwalk Empire, Margaret Schroeder (Kelly Macdonald) is married to corrupt political boss "Nucky" Thompson (Steve Buscemi.)
Macall B. Polay HBO

Originally published on Thu September 20, 2012 12:24 pm

When Kelly Macdonald landed her first acting gig in Danny Boyle's critically acclaimed 1996 film, Trainspotting, her lack of experience made it hard for her to relax on set.

"I don't think I spoke very much — I was very, very shy," Macdonald tells Fresh Air's Dave Davies. "I kind of hid in the toilets most of the time when we weren't required on set."

Before Trainspotting, Macdonald was working at a bar in Glasgow, Scotland. After two friends separately handed her fliers for the movie's open casting call, she decided to audition.

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Author Interviews
12:40 pm
Wed September 19, 2012

Debunking The 'Myth Of The Muslim Tide'

Philippe Huguen Getty Images

Originally published on Sat September 22, 2012 4:36 am

The violent protests that erupted in North Africa and the Middle East over a video insulting the Prophet Muhammad were in part a reflection of conflicting values — Islamic strictures on images of the prophet versus the Western principle of respect for free speech.

But journalist Doug Saunders says that the video itself reflects a troubling current in Western political discourse — an irrational fear of Muslim communities in Europe and the United States.

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Music Reviews
12:40 pm
Wed September 19, 2012

Dwight Yoakam: Weary And Wary On '3 Pears'

Dwight Yoakam recently released his new record, titled 3 Pears.
Courtesy of the artist

Originally published on Fri December 14, 2012 3:06 pm

Dwight Yoakam persists in mixing genres in a way that may leave him out of the country mainstream, but puts him in a good position to make a personal album with some of his best music.

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Book Reviews
11:35 am
Wed September 19, 2012

'Life Of Objects' Tells A Cautionary WWII Fairy Tale

Knopf

Originally published on Thu September 20, 2012 9:25 am

Susanna Moore's latest novel, The Life of Objects, is a slim World War II saga that reads like a cautionary fairy tale: It's packed with descriptions of ornate furniture and paintings, lavish banquets, demons and diamonds. At the center of the story is a young girl bewitched by her own desire to live a larger life, a wish that's granted with grim exactitude.

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Middle East
1:01 pm
Tue September 18, 2012

Journalist Examines Chaotic Fighting In Syria

Ghaith Abdul-Ahad is a correspondent for The Guardian reporting for PBS Frontline.
Martin Argles/The Guardian AP

Originally published on Tue September 18, 2012 5:23 pm

The battle in Syria is being fought by rebel fighters who lack many of the basics typically associated with warfare: helmets, a large supply of ammo, and military planning.

"I was with one fighter who had 11 bullets, and he was, like, roaming as a freelance fighter along the front line trying to pick up a fight somewhere," journalist Ghaith Abdul-Ahad tells Fresh Air contributor Dave Davies.

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Music Reviews
11:00 am
Tue September 18, 2012

Brad Mehldau: (Unlikely) Songs By Other People

Brad Mehldau's latest covers project, Where Do You Start, came out Tuesday.
Michael Wilson Courtesy of the artist

Originally published on Tue September 18, 2012 5:23 pm

At this point, there's nothing special about jazz musicians playing post-Beatles pop: It's just the new normal. But one of the trendsetters on that score was pianist Brad Mehldau and his versions of Radiohead and Nick Drake tunes. Now, Mehldau's trio has a new covers album out.

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