Writers & Writing

Author interviews, poetry and storytelling.

Essay: Black Coffee

5 hours ago

In my family, dinner ended with the children being excused to go play while the parents and grandparents stayed at the table to drink coffee and talk. At first, I was eager to leave but as I got older, I yearned to stay and listen.

When I was finally invited to join the adults (somewhere in adolescence) I discovered the price of admission. If I drank half my milk, I could fill the glass with coffee. What a privilege! And what an awful taste!

Novelist Richard Powers lives in a house perched on a hillside, just on the edge of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. "It's very much a tree house," he says with a laugh. "That's why I live here."

His latest book, The Overstory, brought him to the old growth forests of Tennessee. The novel follows the lives of nine different people, all determined to save ancient trees from destruction. Their lives become entwined as they fight to save virgin forests, with unforeseen consequences.

If you grew up in Texas, chances are you've heard the old joke about the man teaching his son about good manners. "Never ask a man if he's from Texas," the father said. "If he is, he'll tell you. And if he's not, there's no use in embarrassing him."

It's not about the numbering.

You'll be hearing a lot this week about the publishing milestone DC Comics' Action Comics has achieved, with the publication of issue #1000, on shelves (physical and digital) today. And I don't mean to dismiss that achievement, believe me. It's 2018, and periodical publishing is a lot like the Man of Steel in the penultimate panel of 1992's "Death of Superman" storyline: Beaten to a bloody pulp and hovering at death's door.

Two-thirds of the way through Alexander Chee's How to Write an Autobiographical Novel, I abandoned my sharpened reviewer's pencil in favor of luxuriating in the words. Chee's writing has a mesmerizing quality; his sentences are rife with profound truths without lapsing into the didactic.

Ronan Farrow just won the Pulitzer Prize for stories he wrote for The New Yorker, but before uncovering sexual assault allegations against Harvey Weinstein for the magazine, he worked at the State Department as a special adviser in the Obama administration.

Copyright 2018 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

ARI SHAPIRO, HOST:

In a new interview, fired FBI Director James Comey tells NPR that holding the job in 2016 felt like a 500-year flood. And there was no manual to tell him how to operate in it.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED BROADCAST)

It's been almost a year since since James Comey first learned that President Trump had fired him. The former FBI director was in Los Angeles visiting the field office for a diversity event when a ticker announcing his ouster scrolled across the bottom of a TV screen.

"I thought it was a scam," Comey says. "I went back to talking to the people who were gathered in front of me."

Childbirth is sometimes treated like a specialty interest for women, like ceramics or cross country skiing. You know the contours, vaguely, but you wouldn't seek out information unless you were thinking about doing the thing yourself. Obviously, when it comes to motherhood, this is deeply dumb: Someone gave birth to each of us, probably while in a lot of pain.

Copyright 2018 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:

In a year that hasn't exactly been full of joyful tidings, Julian Barnes' latest novel struck me as one of the saddest books I've read in some time. Beautifully done, but heartrending. It isn't about belligerent politicians, refugees fleeing for their lives, or schoolchildren being gunned down, but it's a tragedy nonetheless — albeit on a much smaller scale. The Only Story concerns the pained recollections of an aging Englishman's life-changing only love.

Nearly a year after President Trump fired James Comey, the former FBI director is out with a new memoir, A Higher Loyalty: Truth, Lies, And Leadership. Morning Edition host Steve Inskeep and NPR Justice Correspondent Carrie Johnson talked to Comey about his book, his role in shaping the outcome of the 2016 election and where the FBI's credibility stands. Here's the full transcript of their conversation.

In an interview with NPR's Morning Edition, fired FBI Director James Comey defended his controversial decisions during the 2016 campaign and asserted that the reputation of his agency — which operates under near daily siege from the president and his allies — "would be worse today had we not picked the least bad alternatives."

"I saw this as a 500-year flood, and so where is the manual? What do I do?" he said.

Copyright 2018 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

ARI SHAPIRO, HOST:

Copyright 2018 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

ARI SHAPIRO, HOST:

When it's closing time at Literati Bookstore in Ann Arbor, Michigan, co-owner Michael Gustafson runs through a checklist that, for the most part, is pretty routine. First, make sure all the customers have gone, lock the doors and take out the garbage and the recycling. Shelve any stray books, adjust the tables, turn off the music.

Activists Jeremy Heimans and Henry Timms have noticed that as the world changes, the idea of power is shifting. They argue that the forces behind this shift are either “wildly romanticized or dangerously underestimated.”

Old power works like a currency. It is held by few. Once gained, it is jealously guarded, and the powerful have a substantial store of it to spend. It is closed, inaccessible, and leader-driven. It downloads, and it captures.

Updated at 4:44 p.m. ET

Out of more than 2,400 submissions, distinguished projects in just 21 categories earned gold Monday as winners of the 2018 Pulitzer Prizes.

Copyright 2018 Fresh Air. To see more, visit Fresh Air.

TERRY GROSS, HOST:

Call them the Mighty Marvel Movie MacGuffins. They're the glittery objects that drove the plots of several individual Marvel movies and that collectively shaped the direction the entire Marvel Cinematic Universe has been heading (almost) since its inception.

They are the Infinity Stones — immensely powerful gems that contain and channel elemental forces of the universe. They're what the villains crave and what the heroes protect. They can be used to destroy or create.

Mmmmmostly that first thing.

'Circe' Gets A New Motivation

Apr 15, 2018

Copyright 2018 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

LULU GARCIA-NAVARRO, HOST:

Author Madeline Miller first encountered Circe, the dangerous, irresistible witch of Greek mythology, when her class read "The Odyssey" in eighth grade.

Is it spring yet? While we're impatiently waiting for warmer weather and sunnier skies, here are three romances that will provide a delightful way to pass the time inside.

In April 2016, former President Barack Obama singled out the "worst mistake" of his presidency: his administration's lack of planning for the aftermath of the 2011 military intervention in Libya.

When Libyan dictator Moammar Gadhafi was toppled, author Frederic Wehrey says, the country was initially seized by euphoria.

The White House sought to discredit James Comey ahead of the release of his memoir next week, lashing out at the former FBI director in deeply personal terms on Friday.

Calling Comey a "disgraced partisan hack," White House spokeswoman Sarah Sanders told reporters that the American people would be able to see through the "lies" in Comey's book, which offers a scathing assessment of President Trump.

"This is nothing more than a poorly executed PR stunt by Comey to desperately rehabilitate his tattered reputation," Sanders said at a briefing.

Pages