Scott Simon

Scott Simon is one of America's most admired writers and broadcasters. He has reported from all fifty states, five continents, and ten wars, from El Salvador to Sarajevo to Afghanistan and Iraq. His books have chronicled character and characters, in war and peace, sports and art, tragedy and comedy.

Simon's weekly show, Weekend Edition Saturday, has been called by the Washington Post, "the most literate, witty, moving, and just plain interesting news show on any dial," and by Brett Martin of Time-Out New York "the most eclectic, intelligent two hours of broadcasting on the airwaves." He has won every major award in broadcasting, including the Peabody, the Emmy, the Columbia-DuPont, the Ohio State Award, the Robert F. Kennedy Journalism Award, and the Sidney Hillman Award. Simon received the Presidential End Hunger Award for his coverage of the Ethiopian civil war and famine, and a special citation from the Peabody Awards for his weekly essays, which were cited as "consistently thoughtful, graceful, and challenging." He has also received the Barry M. Goldwater Award from the Human Rights Fund. Recently, he was awarded the Studs Terkel Award.

Simon has hosted many television specials, including the PBS's "State of Mind," "Voices of Vision," and "Need to Know." "The Paterson Project" won a national Emmy, as did his two-hour special from the Rio earth summit meeting. He co-anchored PBS's "Millennium 2000" coverage in concert with the BBC, and has co-hosted the televised Columbia-DuPont Awards. He also became familiar to viewers in Great Britain as host of the continuing BBC series, "Eyewitness," and a special on the White House press corps. He has appeared as a guest and commentator on all major networks, including BBC, NBC, CNN, and ESPN.

Simon has contributed articles to The New York Times, The Los Angeles Times, The New York Times Book Review, The Wall Street Journal, The Sunday Times of London, The Guardian, and Gourmet among other publications, and won a James Beard Award for his story, "Conflict Cuisine" in Gourmet. He has received numerous honorary degrees.

Sports Illustrated called his book Home and Away: Memoir of a Fan "extraordinary...uniformly superb...a memoir of such breadth and reach that it compares favorably with Fredrick Exley's A Fan's Notes." It was at the top of several non-fiction bestseller lists. His book, and Jackie Robinson and the Integration of Baseball, was Barnes and Nobles' Sports Book of the Year. His novel, Pretty Birds, the story of two teenage girls in Sarajevo during the siege, received rave reviews, Scott Turow calling it, "the most auspicious fiction debut by a journalist of note since Tom Wolfe's. . . always gripping, always tender, and often painfully funny. It is a marvel of technical finesse, close observation, and a perfectly pitched heart." Windy City, Simon's second novel, is a political comedy set in the Chicago City Council. Baby, We Were Meant for Each Other, an essay about the joys of adoption, was published in August 2010.

Simon's tweets to his 1.25 million Twitter followers from his mother's bedside in the summer of 2013 gathered major media attention around the world. He is completing a book on their last week together that will appear in time for Mother's Day 2015.

Simon is a native of Chicago and the son of comedian Ernie Simon and Patricia Lyons Simon. His hobbies are books, theater, ballet, British comedy, Mexican cooking and "bleeding for the Chicago Cubs." He appeared as Mother Ginger in the Ballet Austin production of The Nutcracker.

Travis Meadows has done a lot of living. The Nashville-based artist has battled both addiction and cancer, the latter of which claimed his right leg below the knee. He spent years as a missionary, wrote and performed Christian music, then tumbled back into alcoholism. And he's made a name for himself as someone who can spin dark poetry into some of country music's most heart-wrenching songs. (He based his 2011 album Killin' Uncle Buzzy on journal entries he made while in rehab.)

Some of the great roles for sopranos are often compellingly fragile — and disarmingly forceful – women: Gilda, the favored daughter in Rigoletto; Violeta, the doomed love in La Traviata.

Charity Tillemann-Dick has sung those roles onstage, but her greatest role may be her own life. She is one of 11 brothers and sisters of a Mormon-Jewish family, and was studying at the Franz Liszt Academy of Music when she was diagnosed with a debilitating and ultimately fatal lung disease.

George Moses Horton published a book of poetry in 1829, when he was still a slave in North Carolina. He went on to write several volumes, which never earned enough money to buy his freedom — though he became a frequent presence on campus at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, where he wrote love poetry on commission for students. Horton was finally set free by the Union Army in 1865, moved to Philadelphia and continued to write until he died.

Hugh Hefner made history, and then tripped over it. When I was growing up in Chicago, the formidable women who were my mother's friends considered Playboy a good place to work for a single woman. Women at the Playboy Club were well-paid, got chauffeured home in cabs, and customers — stars, politicians, even, it was rumored, spoiled Middle Eastern princes — were thrown out if they weren't gentlemen.

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(SOUNDBITE OF FILM, "CASABLANCA")

HUMPHREY BOGART: (As Rick Blaine) Here's looking at you, kid.

(SOUNDBITE OF FILM, "GONE WITH THE WIND")

CLARK GABLE: (As Rhett Butler) Frankly, my dear, I don't give a damn.

(SOUNDBITE OF FILM, "ON THE WATERFRONT")

This week, I went to the Peabody Institute of The Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore to sit in on a conducting class led by Marin Alsop, the music director of the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra. The Maestra was showing several Peabody students — aspiring young conductors — some of the fine points of leading an orchestra, as they led musicians through Don Juan, the dramatic tone poem by Richard Strauss.

The husk and soul that characterizes Michael McDonald's voice is recognizable anywhere: alongside the jazz-rock of Steely Dan, during his stints as front man for the Doobie Brothers, or alone, as on Wide Open, his latest solo album.

Nathan Englander's latest novel, Dinner at the Center of the Earth, is set amid the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. It winds together the stories of a prisoner, a guard, mothers, sons, spies, statesmen, traitors and lovers. Sometimes they're even the same person.

"I call this novel sort of like a turducken of a novel," Englander tells NPR. "It's like a political thriller that's wrapped up in a historical novel that's really a love story that ends up being an allegory."

Vijay Iyer is an acclaimed jazz pianist, MacArthur winner and Harvard professor of music. His new album, recorded with a six-person band, is called Far From Over. With the band, he says, he wanted to write with "different dance rhythms and dance impulses" in mind; the record also reflects Iyer's belief that jazz is "a category that keeps shifting."

My Absolute Darling is Gabriel Tallent's first novel, and no less than Stephen King has called it a "masterpiece" to rank with To Kill A Mockingbird and Catch-22.

It's the story of a clever, resourceful, and lonely 14-year-old girl named Turtle Alveston. Her mother took her own life when Turtle was a child, and she's grown up in the woods of Mendocino County, Calif., with her father, Martin, who taught her how to hunt, shoot, and survive.

Ayobami Adebayo's debut novel, Stay with Me, begins in the midst of Nigeria's political turmoil in the 1980s.

"It's a period of time that I've always been interested in because I think it can help us understand Nigeria even right now," she says.

The book tells the story of Yejide and Akin, a couple who will do anything to have a child — including trying to find love with others.

"They live in a society where having children validates not just the individual but the marriage itself," Adebayo explains.

Marjorie Prime is a science fiction film — sort of. It opens with an elderly woman, played by Lois Smith, who is getting to know the lifelike hologram of her late husband, played by Jon Hamm. It's a low-key but highly intense drama that asks: If holograms can learn, carry memory and form personality, are they creations or are they us?

Great scandals often begin in passion or ambition. But how do you explain France's l'affaire Bettencourt?

Liliane Bettencourt, one of the richest women in the world, is now locked off from the world by Alzheimer's disease. She is heir to the L'Oreal cosmetics fortune of nearly $40 billion. Why would she have given perhaps as much as a billion dollars in cash, real estate, and art to François-Marie Banier, an artist and photographer who is a quarter of a century younger and openly gay? Was it extravagant support for a friend — or the cruel swindle of a senior citizen?

Michael Angelakos founded the musical project Passion Pit as a college student in his dorm room at Emerson College. A decade and four albums later, Angelakos is more than just a musician: He has become an advocate for mental health, too.

If he had to choose two teams to play in the World Series based only on their home stadiums, Rafi Kohan would like to see the Boston Red Sox versus the Pittsburgh Pirates. The Red Sox's Fenway Park "really is a magical place and they've done a tremendous job with their renovations" he says, and the Pirates' PNC Park is "just a beautiful little park."

New People is a novel where infatuation gnaws at what looks like happiness.

Maria lives in Brooklyn with Khalil, her fiance. They met at Stanford — and they love each other, the light skin color they share, and the life they begin in the late 1990's, Khalil an up and coming dot-commer, Maria a grad student studying the Jonestown Massacre. They're called the "King and Queen of the Racially Nebulous Prom." But Maria's eye wanders to a poet who is vividly and distinctly different from her fiance.

It's rare to talk to a celebrity who hits as many demographic heights as Baddiewinkle. She's an Instagram influencer with more than 3 million followers; she's been featured by two major cosmetics lines; and she turned heads when she wore a bedazzled nude bodysuit to the 2016 MTV Video Music Awards.

For parents, the thought of a child being sick or hurt can be a heart-stopper. Fortunately, for those who do confront such realities, there are doctors like Kurt Newman.

Newman is president and CEO of Children's National Health System, known as Children's National, in Washington, D.C. He started there as a surgeon more than 30 years ago.

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SCOTT SIMON, HOST:

A mother leaves her 9-year-old son locked in an airless apartment for a week with no food, water or light. He breaks out through a window, and police find him weak and bleeding; they also find his mother passed out in a nearby crack house.

Shtum is a Yiddish word that means silence. It's also the title of a novel that centers around three generations of men who get thrown together in a small space and can't talk to each other. Jonah, the little boy, has the best reason: He's profoundly autistic and can't speak. The story has a personal resonance for author Jem Lester, who says that while he bears no resemblance to the father in Shtum, Jonah's story has parallels to his own son.

Known for his work with Weather Report, Joni Mitchell and Pat Metheny, Jaco Pastorius was one of the most inventive bass players in music history. He is the only electric bassist in DownBeat magazine's Jazz Hall of Fame.

Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf is a brilliant, scalding and essential play that is often revived. But the Complete Works Project in Oregon won't present the play this fall because the estate of the playwright, Edward Albee, won't give permission for them to cast an African-American actor in the featured role of Nick, a young professor.

The play's director, Michael Streeter, refuses to fire an actor for the color of his skin.

"I am furious and dumbfounded," he wrote on Facebook.

How does Rez, a laid-back stoner surfer dude from Laguna Beach, get drawn into a web of fanaticism?

Laleh Khadivi's new novel A Good Country tells the story of Alireza Courdee from the time he's a 14-year-old chemistry whiz, the son of Iranian immigrants, to his transformation into an American kid who leaves America behind, in all ways, to disappear into a forbidding and destructive life.

Brockmire is back! Jim Brockmire, the beloved old voice of the Kansas City Royals baseball team, who became one of the first Internet sensations 10 years ago when he shared the shock of walking in on his wife in the middle of an orgy without dropping a moment in his play by play.

Jeffrey Tambor has been a professional working actor since the early 1970s — and he says that's all he's ever wanted to do.

He's done Shakespeare, Avis commercials, Hollywood Squares, Arrested Development and La Cage aux Folles. He's still often remembered as Hank Kingsley, the self-adoring announcer on The Larry Sanders Show. Now, he stars as Maura, a divorced, transgender parent of three in the Amazon series Transparent.

Tambor's new memoir, about his life as an actor, is called Are You Anybody?

Harold Evans sees a lot of fog all around us: Murky words, qualifiers, and subordinate clauses that clog a sentence and route expression into obscurity. Puffed up phrases, passive voices, misused words and words with no meaning, verbs twisted into nouns, buzzwords and hackneyed terms that make the language we use to deliver news, exchange opinions, trade stories, give direction, and declare love into a pea-souper of imprecision and cliche.

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