Fresh Air

  • Hosted by Terry Gross

Opening the window on contemporary arts and issues with guests from worlds as diverse as literature and economics.

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One of the reasons Katja Blichfeld wanted to make the Web series High Maintenance with her husband, Ben Sinclair, was so he could take on the right role for himself. She's a casting director who has worked on 30 Rock, and she knew early on that Sinclair needed to let his beard grow and act like himself.

A lot of parents start worrying about paying for college education soon after their child is born. After that, there's the stressful process of applying to colleges, and then, for those lucky enough to get admitted into a good college, there's college debt.

Here's only a partial list of great American writers whose names came to mind as I was reading T. Geronimo Johnson's new novel, Welcome to Braggsville: Tom Wolfe, Mark Twain, Toni Morrison, H.L. Mencken, Don DeLillo, David Foster Wallace, Norman Mailer and Ralph Ellison, Ralph Ellison, Ralph Ellison. Johnson's timely novel is a tipsy social satire about race and the oh-so-fragile ties that bind disparate parts of this country into an imperfect and restless union.

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With guitarist Bobby Broom, organist Chris Foreman has recorded several albums with the Deep Blue Organ Trio. Fresh Air jazz critic Kevin Whitehead says Foreman is one of a few Chicago jazz heroes who should be better known outside the city limits.

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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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When journalist Bill Gifford turned 40, his friends gave him a cake shaped as a tombstone with the words, "R.I.P, My Youth." As he reflected on his creeping memory lapses and the weight he'd gained, Gifford got interested in the timeless quest to turn back the aging clock — or at least slow it down.

His latest book, Spring Chicken, explores everything from some wacky pseudo-cures for aging to fascinating research that point to causes of aging at the cellular level.

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My coffee maker is texting me again. It's scheduled to make coffee tomorrow, the message says, but I need to refill its water tank. Welcome to the future.

The Mr. Coffee Smart Optimal Brew Coffeemaker with WeMo — yes, that is its official name — is just one of many household appliances being remade to connect to the Internet and take care of themselves. There are thermostats, smoke alarms, washing machines and even $1,000 Bluetooth-connected toilets.

When writer Philip Connors was in his 20s, he received a call from his mother that later haunted him: "You know, I spoke to your brother and he's been having trouble with his girlfriend — he sounded really down ... you should really call him."

"And when I hung up the phone, I thought to myself: 'Yeah, yeah, kid brother and his silly troubles with women, I'll get around to calling him. I'll call him in a few days, or maybe next week,' " Connors tells Fresh Air's Dave Davies.

The satisfying thing about TV crime shows is that they offer a sense of closure. The unsatisfying thing is how much of life they must leave out to do it. Like, history. Whether you're talking CSI or Sherlock, crime shows tend to take place in a weirdly hermetic universe where the characters may change — like in True Detective — yet the historical moment in which they live remains largely irrelevant background.

A climb "to the top of a greasy pole" are the immortal words coined by 19th century British Prime Minister Benjamin Disraeli to describe his rise to political power. Disraeli was two-time prime minister under Queen Victoria, as well as a novelist and famous wit whose way with a catchy phrase was rivaled in the 19th century only by his younger admirer, Oscar Wilde. But when he entered politics in the 1830s, Disraeli was burdened by debt and, even more seriously, by his Jewish parentage.

David Treuer's latest novel Prudence follows a young man who returns home to visit his family on an Ojibwe reservation before he joins the war as a bombardier. It's the 1940s and a prison camp for Germans captured during World War II has been set up across the river.

Treuer bases the camp on a real-life one that existed near the village of Bena, Minn., on the Leech Lake Reservation where he grew up. The camp was on the shores of Lake Winnibigoshish — the German prisoners used to cut down trees to make roads.

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DAVE DAVIES, HOST:

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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This is FRESH AIR.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "SUNSHINE, LOLLIPOPS AND RAINBOWS")

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Larry Wilmore has been consumed with making his new late-night show prime viewing. And he wants to make one thing clear: He has "no desire" to host The Daily Show when Jon Stewart leaves later this year.

"I'm doing my show right now," Wilmore tells Fresh Air's Terry Gross. "I'm very happy doing it."

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When David Remnick took the job as editor of The New Yorker in 1998, he learned quickly to make firm decisions about contentious stories. Just a few months into the position, Remnick called Si Newhouse, the magazine's owner, to tell him about a piece he was running that was accusing "all kinds of high-level chicanery."

Richard Price used a pseudonym for his new novel, The Whites, but in retrospect, he wishes he hadn't. "It was going to be different from my other books and I wanted to signal that," he tells Fresh Air's Terry Gross. But by the time he realized it was just "another damn book by me" it was too late to withdraw the pen name.

Price is the author of Clockers, the novel about police detectives and drug dealers that Price and Spike Lee adapted into a film. He also wrote for the HBO series The Wire, which was about police detectives and drug dealers.

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