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Act One: Baby NOT On Board

Ira plays tape from an interview that he did more than 20 years ago, with the author Doris Lessing, about her novel The Fifth Child, which tells the story of a woman who gives birth to a goblin-like baby. The archival audio appears courtesy of National Public Radio, Inc.Then Ira's conversation with Cheryl, from the top of the show, continues.

Prologue

Host Ira Glass talks with Jane Espenson—who's written for the TV shows Battlestar Galactica and Gilmore Girls—and with J.J. Abrams—one of the creators of the hit shows Lost, Alias, and Felicity—about how we might be in the midst of another Golden Age of television.

Act One: Letters

Ira and playwright David Hauptschein took out advertisements in Chicago inviting people to come to a small theater with letters they've received, sent or found. People came for two nights, and read their letters onstage.

Prologue

Host Ira Glass talks to film critic Jonathan Rosenbaum of the Chicago Reader about an anonymous love letter that turned out to be very different than it seemed.

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Host Ira Glass interviews Lori Gottlieb about the time she sent a letter to a writer in a magazine, a letter packed with white lies. One complication led to another and before long, the writer seemed to be lying to her.

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Ira talks to historian Ted Widmer about two of the first pen pals in the New World. John Winthrop and Roger Williams were both Puritans in Massachusetts in the 1630s.

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Host Ira Glass talks to Neil Chesanow, co-author of Please Read This for Me, a self-help book that doesn't just give you general advice. It gives you actual scripts to use in various difficult situations: Pre-written speeches to deliver if you've fallen out of love with your boyfriend, say, or if you've decided you want to have a baby.

Act Two: Letters To Home

One way to understand what war will be like is to understand what past wars were like. Andrew Carroll recently started something called the Legacy Project, which collects letters Americans wrote home during wartime, from the Civil War up through the conflicts in the Persian Gulf and Bosnia.

Prologue

Host Ira Glass talks with Stephen Nissenbaum, author of a history called The Battle for Christmas, which explains when people started believing in a Santa who arrives Christmas Eve carrying presents. It was in 1822, and incredibly, the poem that created our modern idea of Santa is still around, known by heart by tens of millions.

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Ira talks about one of the purest expressions of ordinary folks' desire to be detectives: a child's detective notebook — full of information, secret codes, cases, and an application to become an FBI agent.

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Evan Harris was entrenched in her life, stalled and going nowhere both personally and professionally. A silly conversation with a co-worker about the letter "Q" led her to start a magazine called Quitter Quarterly. That one conversation changed her life completely.