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Word of Mouth

4.27.16: Ira Glass & The Violet Hour


His voice has become synonymous with public radio. He's built a storytelling empire on radio, podcasts, television and film. This American Life has won 6 Peabody Awards. But - and this is a question that plagues all of us - is it enough? Act one on our program today: can Ira Glass actually dance?

Then, Katie Roiphe on the fantasy of deathbed resolution. 

Listen to the full show. 

Ira Glass

For the past twenty years, Ira Glass has captivated audiences with his radio show This American Life, which just won its 6th Peabody Award. For those in public media and beyond, Glass is a trailblazer icon credited with breathing new life into audio storytelling. He's done television, videos, movies, even had a cameo on The Simpsons…but can he dance?

You can be the judge this Saturday (4/30) when he brings his live show "Three Acts, Two Dancers, One Radio Host" to the Music Hall in Portsmouth.

Ira Glass

Inflatable Tube Men

They dance at gas stations, on street corners, at the car wash. Roman Mars of the podcast 99% Invisible brings us the origin story of inflatable tube men. 

You can listen to this story again at PRX.org


Let Your Freak Flag Fly

Back in the late 1960s, Aspen, Colorado was booming. Its beautiful scenery and top notch skiing made it a plum destination for wealthy tourists and a draw for hippies and ski bums.  The tourists were welcomed with open arms - the hippies, not so much.  The county sheriff cracked down on the un-moneyed newcomers, arresting them for minor crimes, like loitering or hitchhiking. It was a move that inspired one of the most anti-establishment candidates in American history. 

Producer Nina Earnest, from BackStory with the American History Guys, brings us the story. You can listen to it again at PRX.org

The Violet Hour

Death strikes swiftly in some classic novels, like Captain Ahab carried off his boat "ere the crew knew he was gone.” Or boldly, like Helen, unafraid to meet her maker before drifting away in Jane Eyre ...or Beth March's testament to selflessness before drawing her last breath in Little Women. These poignant final scenes rarely take place in real life.

The writer Katie Roiphe regrets not pressing for that last conversation before her father died. She found many others who envisioned the resolution, the catharsis, the absolution sought or granted. Now, she's out with a book on the final days of some influential writers and thinkers - including Susan Sontag, John Updike and Dylan Thomas. It's called The Violet Hour: Great Writers at the End . Virginia spoke with Roiphe about an op-ed she wrote for the New York Times, which reflected on the shared fantasy of the last conversation.

The Violet Hour

Related: Terry Gross' Interview With Maurice Sendak

O Captain! My Captain!

Our final moments may not always be the stuff of great literature, but plenty has been written about drawing our last breaths. From Emily Dickinson's "If I Should Die", to virtually everything by Edgar Allen Poe, death is a gem among subjects for writers, often as a form of mourning or remembrance.  One of the best known death poems, by Walt Whitman, isn't usually thought of as a death poem - it's “O Captain! My Captain!” and we're taking a closer look at it. 

O Captain! My Captain!