Nonfiction

356: Louis Menand

Author of The Free World: Art and Thought in the Cold War, he is as sophisticated an intellectual as any of his colleagues at The New Yorker. The book that set him on his path? A Hardy Boys mystery, The Secret of the Old Mill. “I read this, and my heart was pounding. And I thought, I want to … Continue reading »

Nonfiction

350: Tony Hiss

His most recent book, Rescuing the Planet: Protecting Half the Land to Heal the Earth, is surprisingly upbeat for a book whose title includes the words “rescuing” and “heal.” I discovered him through an earlier work, The Experience of Place, in honor of which we break format and, instead of person place thing, talk place place place. Continue reading »

Nonfiction

344: Bill McKibben

A writer and environmentalist, he counts himself lucky to have worked at The New Yorker with (for? near?) William Shawn, “the greatest editor of the twentieth century.” What contributed to his mastery? “Once he had writers in his stable, he was quite interested in what they were interested in.” Professional skill as a manifestation of individual character. Continue reading »

Nonfiction

323: David Sedaris

Even his setups are funny, like this: “There was a taxidermy kiwi at a store in London.” Or this: “Everybody in the family convinced the youngest child that if she was naked, she was invisible.” Funny, a bit cruel, and entirely delightful. His new book, The Best of Me, will beor perhaps has been published the … Continue reading »

Nonfiction / Television

321: Merrill Markoe

The greatest gift to any humorist is a parent who is impossible to please. This writer, a co-creator of Late Night With David Letterman, describes a note in her mother’s copy of David Copperfield. “It said, ‘Not one of his best works. I was disappointed.’ If she was giving Dickens a hard time, what did I think that I was going to get?” … Continue reading »

Nonfiction

311: Sam Roberts

A reporter and editor for The New York Times for more than 30 years, he began at the Daily News, in the seventies, when the city faced financial collapse, terrorist bombs, a blackout, a psychotic serial killer, and Studio 54. “What a time to be city editor of a tabloid newspaper in New York!” He was 28. A … Continue reading »

Nonfiction

305: E. Jean Carroll

She asserts, boldly if not entirely persuasively, that the supreme literary form is the advice column. She is rightly celebrated for hers, Ask E. Jean, which ran in Elle magazine from 1993 through 2019, and for winning the Miss Cheerleader USA title in 1964, the invariable precursor of an esteemed career in journalism.  Continue reading »

Nonfiction

304: Randy Cohen

From time to time someone suggests that I be a guest on the show and describe my own person, place, and thing. I reply, maybe in season ten, my euphemism for never.  Then I smile and add, sure, if we’re confined to our homes by a horrible pandemic exacerbated by a criminally incompetent White House and can’t … Continue reading »