Victoria Wilson (BSS #531)

Barbara Stanwyck was one of the most legendary Hollywood stars that the 20th century has ever known. Veteran editor Victoria Wilson, author of a very large biography on Stanwyck, reveals Stanwyck’s remarkable work ethic, her toughness, her shyness, how Zeppo Marx encouraged her to go into comedy, the moralistic assault on unmarried couples living together, and nude appearances at surprise birthday parties. Read More

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Blake Bailey II (BSS #530)

Literary biographer Blake Bailey and Our Correspondent may be the only two people in the United States who have read everything Charles Jackson has published. Who was he? Well, in 1944, Jackson wrote THE LOST WEEKEND — a pioneering masterpiece that was among the first to depict the devastating effects of alcoholism. But seven decades later, Jackson has been largely forgotten, outshadowed by the Billy Wilder movie. We spend 73 minutes pinpointing Jackson’s forgotten legacy and considering the risks of waning literary posterity. We also talk about Bailey’s work on the Philip Roth bio, as well as his forthcoming memoir, THE SPLENDID THINGS WE PLANNED. Read More

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Alissa Nutting (BSS #529)

Alissa Nutting’s TAMPA was one of the most controversial books of 2013. It is also one of the best books of the year. In this bold and variegated 76 minute conversation, we reveal how Celeste Price was created, the torment it brought Nutting in life and after publication, and why America remains needlessly hostile to fictitious viewpoints which dare to reveal the truth about human aberration. Read More

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Elissa Wald (BSS #528)

What happens when you meet somebody and all of your assumptions proved to be wrong? That’s precisely what happened with this conversation with Elissa Wald, author of THE SECRET LIVES OF MARRIED WOMEN. She’s a novelist who wrote a noir novel without reading any noir and who depicted class violence without being conscious of it. The result is one of the strangest conversations we’ve ever aired, a chat that absolutely fails (which is entirely our fault) before hobbling back to an unanticipated grace. Read More

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Simon Winchester II (BSS #527)

In 2007, we aired an infamous program with Simon Winchester, in which he argued with us over the finer points of local history. His new book, THE MEN WHO UNITED THE STATES, shifts the action to a bigger stage, taking on the entire United States. With greater historical stakes, the affable Englishman returns for a conversational rematch six years later. This program features an affably argumentative and cheerfully divergent chat between two wildly energized men united by the common belief that history is always worth returning to. Read More

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Wendy Lower (BSS #526)

More than seven decades after World War II, we’re still deeply uncomfortable about the idea that women under the Nazi regime committed barbaric acts. We talk with Holocaust scholar (and National Book Award finalist) Wendy Lower about the realities she confronts in her new book, HITLER’S FURIES. How much are the women who were socialized under Nazi policies to blame? Why did the postwar courts allow these women, some of whom massacred children, to return to society without consequence? Read More

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Terry Teachout II (BSS #525)

Duke Ellington was a composer who ranked alongside George Gershwin, influencing everyone from Jimi Hendrix to Thelonious Monk. We talk with biographer Terry Teachout about Duke’s legacy, his sexiness, his philandering, his politics, the way in which he exploited poor Billy Strayhorn, and his indelible hold on American music. Read More

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Eleanor Catton (BSS #524)

What if a 900 page novel incorporated Zeno’s dichotomy paradox, the golden ratio, set its action in 1865 and 1866 while aligning character temperament to astrological signs and planets, and incorporated massive strands of storytelling? Well, THE LUMINARIES does just this. In this wide-ranging 71 minute conversation, we talk with Booker Award-winning novelist Eleanor Catton about the benefits of an overly planned structure, considering reader intentions, Douglas Hofstadter’s GODEL, ESCHER, BACH, how old newspapers reveal history in unique ways, the Otago Gold Rush, mystery novels, Shakespeare, eccentric forms of tax evasion, and the real impact of politics and history on everyday lives. Read More

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J. Michael Lennon (BSS #523)

It’s easy to dog on Norman Mailer for his indiscretions, which include stabbing his wife and Jack Henry Abbott. But he was also one of the most fiercely impetuous, wildly original, and unapologetically emotional writers the 20th century has ever known. We talk with Mailer’s biographer, J. Michael Lennon, to discuss the conflicts and contradictions within Mailer’s legacy. Read More

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Samira Kawash (BSS #522)

This is the second of two shows devoted to Halloween. Did you know that there was once a chocolate bar called the Chicken Dinner? That cigarette companies once considered candy to be a threat to discretionary spending? Or that candy was used by the military for safety purposes? We didn’t either, until we read Samira Kawash’s CANDY: A CENTURY OF PANIC AND PLEASURE. We discuss the serpentine history of candy with the Candy Professor herself! Read More

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Paul Harding II (BSS #521)

Over the course of a few centuries, prayers for the dead have transformed into less uptight celebrations. But what candor did we lose in the transformation? In the first of two shows devoted to Halloween, we discuss this American relationship to grief and impermanence with Pulitzer Prize-winning author Paul Harding. The talk revolves around Harding’s second novel, ENON, and gets into candlepin bowling, the oneiric morass inside the skull, our national history of religiosity, and John Cheever. Read More

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Nicholson Baker II (BSS #520)

Nicholson Baker returns to our program for a rip-roaring 78 minute conversation. We discuss TRAVELING SPRINKLER, the many parallels between Baker and Paul Chowder. There is quite a bit of music and audio talk, vivacious arguments for and against Robin Thicke, a lively dialectic on whether or not Algebra 2 should be an educational requirement, and a vital discussion on alternative names for sexual organs. Read More

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