Note: The audio and text of this review describe a major plot point that is not revealed until partway into the book.
If you know Karen Joy Fowler's writing only from her clever, 2004 best-seller, The Jane Austen Book Club, you're in for a shock. Fowler's new novel, We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves, is a different literary creature altogether — still witty but emotionally and intellectually riskier, and more indebted to Fowler's other books that toy with the sci-fi genre.
Brian Castner arguably had one of the most nerve-wracking jobs in the U.S. military. He commanded two Explosive Ordnance Disposal units in Iraq, where his team disabled roadside IEDs, investigated the aftermath of roadside car bombings and searched door to door to uncover bomb-makers at their homes.
In 1953, 27-year-old Henry Gustave Molaison underwent an experimental brain surgery in an attempt to alleviate his severe epileptic seizures. The surgery left him with a form of amnesia; he could remember many things from the past, but was unable to form new memories.
"He could tell us about where he was born, [that] his father's family was from Thibodaux, La., his mother came from Ireland," says neuroscientist Suzanne Corkin. "He talked about the towns in Hartford where he lived and about his specific neighbors. He knew the schools he attended, some of his classmates' names."
When Jason Isbell was part of Drive-By Truckers, his guitar contributed to the band's sometimes magnificent squall of noise, while his songwriting contributed to the eloquence that raised the band high in the Southern rock pantheon. But the group was led by two other first-rate songwriters, Patterson Hood and Mike Cooley.
The Bluth family of the cult show Arrested Development can be oblivious, mean — to each other and anyone who enters their orbit — and eccentric. But that, says show creator Mitch Hurwitz, is in some ways the point.
"The goal with the show has always been that the Bluths are wrong," he tells Fresh Air's Terry Gross. "[They're] self-centered. They haven't had to develop. [Their] money allowed them to stop developing."
The civil war in Syria is attracting fighters from all over, increasing sectarian tensions in other Muslim countries, threatening the region's tenuous stability, bringing the threat of Russian missiles, and leaving the U.S with few good options.
More than 80,000 people have been killed so far in Syria's civil war, and 4 million of Syria's 20 million people have been displaced. Robert Malley, the program director for Middle East and North Africa for the International Crisis Group, calls it "one of the most catastrophic humanitarian disasters we're facing."
When Mitch Hurwitz and his collaborators began making the Fox sitcom Arrested Development 10 years ago, it was loaded with jokes — in-jokes, recurring jokes and just plain bizarre jokes — that rewarded viewers who watched more than once. But even though it won the Emmy for best comedy series one year, not enough viewers bothered to watch it even once, so the show was canceled in 2006 after three seasons. And that would have been it, except for a loyal cult following that built up once the show was released on DVD and the Internet.
While these days it's not uncommon to meet children with gay parents, in the 1970s it was. Alysia Abbott was one of those kids. When her parents met, her father — Steve Abbott — told her mother he was bisexual. But when Alysia was a toddler, her mother died in a car accident and Steve came out as gay. He moved with his daughter to San Francisco, just as the gay liberation movement was gaining strength.
While her father had not initially wanted a child, Abbott says he enjoyed spending time with her when she was a baby. Her mother's death brought the two of them even closer.
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:
The second collaboration between writer-director Zal Batmanglij and actress and co-writer Brit Marling is called The East, which happens to be the name of the movie's anti-corporate terrorist cult. Marling plays Sarah, an agent who infiltrates the group. She doesn't work for the FBI. Her employer is a private security and intelligence firm run by the sleek, profit-oriented Sharon, played by Patricia Clarkson. Its clients are Big Pharma, Big Oil, or Big Rich Any Corporation that, according to the group The East, poisons the world and everyone in it.