Category Archives: Uncategorized

‘Interlaced Fingers’ Traces Roots Of Racial Disparity In Kidney Transplants


Dr. Vanessa Grubbs and Robert Phillips at their wedding in August 2005. Just a few months earlier, when his kidneys were failing, she gave him one of hers.

Courtesy of Vanessa Grubb


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Courtesy of Vanessa Grubb

Dr. Vanessa Grubbs and Robert Phillips at their wedding in August 2005. Just a few months earlier, when his kidneys were failing, she gave him one of hers.

Courtesy of Vanessa Grubb

While she was a primary care doctor in Oakland, Calif., Dr. Vanessa Grubbs fell in love with a man who had been living with kidney disease since he was a teenager.

Their relationship brought Grubbs face to face with the dilemmas of kidney transplantation — and the racial biases she found to be embedded in the way donated kidneys are allocated. Robert Phillips, who eventually became her husband, had waited years for a transplant; Grubbs ended up donating one of her own kidneys to him. And along the way she found a new calling as a nephrologist — a kidney doctor.

Her candid new memoir, Hundreds of Interlaced Fingers: A Kidney Doctor’s Search for the Perfect Match, explores her personal story and some troubling statistics. Roughly 1 in 3 of the candidates awaiting kidney transplants are African American, Grubbs learned, but they receive only about 1 in 5 of all donated kidneys. White people account for about a third of the candidates awaiting kidney transplants, but they receive every other donated kidney.

Grubbs writes of accompanying Phillips in 2004 to meet with members of the transplantation team — including a doctor, a nurse and a financial counselor — for a routine evaluation and update. After being on the waiting list for a kidney for five years, he had neared the top of the list.

Dr. Vanessa Grubbs was a primary care doctor when she met Robert Phillips. She says seeing how difficult life can be for people with chronic kidney disease was part of what led her to further specialize in nephrology.

Courtesy of Vanessa Grubb


hide caption

toggle caption

Courtesy of Vanessa Grubb

Dr. Vanessa Grubbs was a primary care doctor when she met Robert Phillips. She says seeing how difficult life can be for people with chronic kidney disease was part of what led her to further specialize in nephrology.

Courtesy of Vanessa Grubb

“We sat in a clinic exam room listening to a series of people whose job it seemed was to talk Robert out of even wanting a transplant,” Grubbs writes. Such meetings may be meant to make sure patients understand the difficult realities of organ transplantation, she says, but, “… the message we took away was, ‘The kidney transplant system doesn’t like black people.’ “

Grubbs, now a nephrologist at the Zuckerberg San Francisco General Hospital, and assistant professor at the University of California, San Francisco, recently sat down to talk about her experience with NPR.

Interview Highlights

One of the things you write about in the book is that your colleagues did not appreciate that you published a piece in a health policy magazine — Health Affairs — [detailing the inequities in transplantation]. It was called “Good for Harvest, Bad for Planting.” In fact, you got a lot of blowback that you were not expecting.

You know, I’m from a tiny little town in North Carolina, so maybe I was a bit naïve. Because I honestly thought that people would read this piece from a doctor being surprised at how the system was set up, and that they would take a look at it and be reflective and think about what they might be able to do to make the system at least seem more equitable to people on the outside. But clearly that was a naïve thought, because what ended up happening was that people who were very close to the issue became very angry, and they took it personally.

Why do you think that was?

Many doctors can acknowledge that there are race disparities in health care, that people of color do worse across many areas than white people. But I think most of us tend to think that somebody else is responsible for it. So for them, it meant that I was pointing the finger at them. And I think the unfortunate thing that we tend to do is, when we are associated with a bad thing, we spend our time trying to disassociate ourselves from that bad thing, rather than spending our energy in acknowledging that this is a bad thing and we should all work together to try to make it better.

Hundreds of Interlaced Fingers

A Kidney Doctor’s Search for the Perfect Match

by Vanessa, Grubbs

Hardcover, 261 pages |

purchase

And then, you go down the list of common assumptions, and you prove that they are not true. For example, you say it is an assumption that African Americans or blacks don’t donate enough organs. That’s not true. And you also say that even if that were true, anti-rejection drugs are now so effective that gene matching hasn’t been recommended [for transplanted kidneys] since 2002. So what is the deal? Why is it that African Americans are, as you put it, “good for harvest but not for planting?” What conclusion did you come to?

In addition to being inspired to be Robert’s donor, eventually I decided to become a nephrologist — really in an effort to do something for everyone else … to try to do research into the area. And being in nephrology really opened my eyes to just how big the problem is throughout the system. The problems starts way before a person gets to transplant. For example, people have to know that they have kidney disease. We know for a fact that most people aren’t aware that they have kidney disease. From there, you have to be in the care of a nephrologist. You can’t get to even the evaluation unless a nephrologist refers you, and you have health insurance that will pay for the evaluation.

Well — spoiler alert — you and your guy Robert are still together?

Yeah.

How’s he doing?

He’s doing really well. We celebrated our 12th transplant anniversary in April and we celebrate our 12th wedding anniversary in August.

Radio editors Jennifer Liberto and Ammad Omar, radio producer Denise Guerra, digital producer Nicole Cohen and science desk intern Courtney Columbus contributed to this story.

‘Interlaced Fingers’ Traces Roots Of Racial Disparity In Kidney Transplants


Dr. Vanessa Grubbs and Robert Phillips at their wedding in August 2005. Just a few months earlier, when his kidneys were failing, she gave him one of hers.

Courtesy of Vanessa Grubb


hide caption

toggle caption

Courtesy of Vanessa Grubb

Dr. Vanessa Grubbs and Robert Phillips at their wedding in August 2005. Just a few months earlier, when his kidneys were failing, she gave him one of hers.

Courtesy of Vanessa Grubb

While she was a primary care doctor in Oakland, Calif., Dr. Vanessa Grubbs fell in love with a man who had been living with kidney disease since he was a teenager.

Their relationship brought Grubbs face to face with the dilemmas of kidney transplantation — and the racial biases she found to be embedded in the way donated kidneys are allocated. Robert Phillips, who eventually became her husband, had waited years for a transplant; Grubbs ended up donating one of her own kidneys to him. And along the way she found a new calling as a nephrologist — a kidney doctor.

Her candid new memoir, Hundreds of Interlaced Fingers: A Kidney Doctor’s Search for the Perfect Match, explores her personal story and some troubling statistics. Roughly 1 in 3 of the candidates awaiting kidney transplants are African American, Grubbs learned, but they receive only about 1 in 5 of all donated kidneys. White people account for about a third of the candidates awaiting kidney transplants, but they receive every other donated kidney.

Grubbs writes of accompanying Phillips in 2004 to meet with members of the transplantation team — including a doctor, a nurse and a financial counselor — for a routine evaluation and update. After being on the waiting list for a kidney for five years, he had neared the top of the list.

Dr. Vanessa Grubbs was a primary care doctor when she met Robert Phillips. She says seeing how difficult life can be for people with chronic kidney disease was part of what led her to further specialize in nephrology.

Courtesy of Vanessa Grubb


hide caption

toggle caption

Courtesy of Vanessa Grubb

Dr. Vanessa Grubbs was a primary care doctor when she met Robert Phillips. She says seeing how difficult life can be for people with chronic kidney disease was part of what led her to further specialize in nephrology.

Courtesy of Vanessa Grubb

“We sat in a clinic exam room listening to a series of people whose job it seemed was to talk Robert out of even wanting a transplant,” Grubbs writes. Such meetings may be meant to make sure patients understand the difficult realities of organ transplantation, she says, but, “… the message we took away was, ‘The kidney transplant system doesn’t like black people.’ “

Grubbs, now a nephrologist at the Zuckerberg San Francisco General Hospital, and assistant professor at the University of California, San Francisco, recently sat down to talk about her experience with NPR.

Interview Highlights

One of the things you write about in the book is that your colleagues did not appreciate that you published a piece in a health policy magazine — Health Affairs — [detailing the inequities in transplantation]. It was called “Good for Harvest, Bad for Planting.” In fact, you got a lot of blowback that you were not expecting.

You know, I’m from a tiny little town in North Carolina, so maybe I was a bit naïve. Because I honestly thought that people would read this piece from a doctor being surprised at how the system was set up, and that they would take a look at it and be reflective and think about what they might be able to do to make the system at least seem more equitable to people on the outside. But clearly that was a naïve thought, because what ended up happening was that people who were very close to the issue became very angry, and they took it personally.

Why do you think that was?

Many doctors can acknowledge that there are race disparities in health care, that people of color do worse across many areas than white people. But I think most of us tend to think that somebody else is responsible for it. So for them, it meant that I was pointing the finger at them. And I think the unfortunate thing that we tend to do is, when we are associated with a bad thing, we spend our time trying to disassociate ourselves from that bad thing, rather than spending our energy in acknowledging that this is a bad thing and we should all work together to try to make it better.

Hundreds of Interlaced Fingers

A Kidney Doctor’s Search for the Perfect Match

by Vanessa, Grubbs

Hardcover, 261 pages |

purchase

And then, you go down the list of common assumptions, and you prove that they are not true. For example, you say it is an assumption that African Americans or blacks don’t donate enough organs. That’s not true. And you also say that even if that were true, anti-rejection drugs are now so effective that gene matching hasn’t been recommended [for transplanted kidneys] since 2002. So what is the deal? Why is it that African Americans are, as you put it, “good for harvest but not for planting?” What conclusion did you come to?

In addition to being inspired to be Robert’s donor, eventually I decided to become a nephrologist — really in an effort to do something for everyone else … to try to do research into the area. And being in nephrology really opened my eyes to just how big the problem is throughout the system. The problems starts way before a person gets to transplant. For example, people have to know that they have kidney disease. We know for a fact that most people aren’t aware that they have kidney disease. From there, you have to be in the care of a nephrologist. You can’t get to even the evaluation unless a nephrologist refers you, and you have health insurance that will pay for the evaluation.

Well — spoiler alert — you and your guy Robert are still together?

Yeah.

How’s he doing?

He’s doing really well. We celebrated our 12th transplant anniversary in April and we celebrate our 12th wedding anniversary in August.

Radio editors Jennifer Liberto and Ammad Omar, radio producer Denise Guerra, digital producer Nicole Cohen and science desk intern Courtney Columbus contributed to this story.

Not My Job: Eddie Izzard Gets Quizzed On King Gizzard & The Lizard Wizard


Eddie Izzard
Eddie Izzard

Comedian Eddie Izzard — who’s done stand-up in more than 40 countries, in four different languages — has now written a new book called Believe Me: A Memoir of Love, Death and Jazz Chickens.

We’ve invited him to answer three questions about the Australian psychedelic rock band King Gizzard & the Lizard Wizard.

Click the audio link above to see how he does.

More With Eddie Izzard

‘Too Fat, Too Slutty’ Challenges Cultural Expectations Of Women


Too Fat, Too Slutty, Too Loud

The Rise and Reign of the Unruly Woman

by Anne Helen Petersen

Hardcover, 266 pages |

purchase

In the seventh century B.C., the poet Semonides of Amorgos wrote a catalog of unmanageable women. First, there are the women who resemble pigs, “resting in filth and growing fat.” Other women, he writes, are yapping dogs, who won’t shut up even if you knock their teeth out. And then there are the lazy horses, slutty weasels and ugly apes with no necks. The only kind of woman he praises is the bee — industrious, devoted and, most importantly, fertile.

Now, 3,000 years later, everything is different, and nothing is different.

In Too Fat, Too Slutty, Too Loud, cultural critic Anne Helen Petersen has written her own catalog of unruly women: celebrities and other cultural figures who have been called too strong, too fat, too gross, too slutty, too old, too pregnant, too shrill, too queer, too loud and too naked for uncomplicated cultural acceptance. She ranges from Serena Williams (too strong) to Lena Dunham (too naked) and shows how each woman defies norms while still staying close enough to the edges of respectability to achieve mainstream success.

Petersen, who has a doctorate in media studies and now writes for BuzzFeed, has made a career of studying gossip, celebrity and scandal with intelligence and empathy: “Celebrities,” she writes, “are our most visible and binding embodiments of ideology at work.”

The women she has chosen illuminate invisible cultural expectations. “Each of these women is constantly igniting the line of acceptable behavior,” she writes. “You don’t know where it is until she steps over it, at which point it bursts into flames.”

The structure of the essays is consistent. Each begins with an accessible and deceptively restrained short statement of a social problem (tennis is racist, TV is sizeist), and then launches into increasingly sophisticated analyses that ask what compromise between freedom and palatability each woman has negotiated.

“There are hundreds of women in the public sphere who don’t exercise such careful modulation,” she is careful to note, “women who are relegated to niche corners of pop culture because they’ve been figured as too big, queer, loud, smart, sexual, or otherwise abject for mainstream audiences.” Being white and thin radically extends the boundaries of acceptable behavior: Of the women profiled, the two black women — Nicki Minaj and Williams — unquestionably get the cruelest vitriol.

Petersen herself can’t be called an unruly writer per se. In its cautious accessibility, this collection is less exuberant, less spiky and less strange — less unruly, in short — than it could be. She leaves much of the boundary pushing to her subjects. Petersen’s cutting, still-by-still analysis of TV shows and music videos is wrapped in glosses, potted histories and pleasantly readable, if not radical, prose. But if Petersen is dancing on the same line of accessibility and acceptability as her subjects, can we blame her — if she’ll reach more people, change more minds?

To call a writer “responsible” seems like faint praise, but Petersen is responsible in the best sense: She doesn’t just cite her sources but elevates them. She is deeply but quietly unelitist, incorporating academic theory when necessary but with lucidity and care. She acknowledges her debts and her advantages.

And once Petersen has introduced her subjects, her analysis is deeply thoughtful. Sections on Minaj (too slutty) and her unrelenting experimentation with norms are particularly brilliant. When interviewers fail to prepare, Minaj calls them out and in return is described in the press in terms of acting out, letting loose, lashing out. “But Minaj wasn’t acting out or behaving outlandishly so much as revealing the crude framework behind the manufacture of celebrity, and her natural frustration when someone else fails to match her work ethic in the critique of her art, or when the system itself shows its underlying racism,” Petersen writes. When another interviewer suggests Minaj might have had a bad acid trip, she responds: “I didn’t have a bad trip. I’m a businesswoman, and I have too many partners out there for me to be out here joking about s*** like that.”

At first glance, the subtitle “The Rise and Reign of the Unruly Woman” seems misapplied — ahistorical, even, given how these women, especially black women, have paid for their unruliness in public humiliation and harassment — when the person reigning is not Hillary Clinton (too shrill) but Donald Trump. But after a few chapters of Petersen’s cautious, intelligent optimism, it feels instead like an instruction, a warning, a promise, a threat. Rise and reign. Maybe we could.

Unconscious Prejudice Meets Real-World Horror In ‘The Exception’


Christopher Plummer as the exiled Kaiser Wilhelm II in The Exception — a man with the outward trappings of power, who hasn’t made a real decision in decades.

Marc Bossaerts


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Marc Bossaerts

Christopher Plummer as the exiled Kaiser Wilhelm II in The Exception — a man with the outward trappings of power, who hasn’t made a real decision in decades.

Marc Bossaerts

Berlin, 1940. A young Nazi officer is given a new mission: The Reich is sending him to Holland, to guard the exiled former German emperor, Kaiser Wilhelm II. That’s the premise of a new feature film, The Exception — it’s a spy story, with steamy sex, intrigue and history rolled in.

Director David Leveaux says the Kaiser was a complicated figure, someone who bore a lot of the responsibility for the conflagration that was World War I. “It’s interesting that a man carrying that degree of guilt on his shoulders, at the same time as being almost unremittingly hubristic and reflexively culturally anti-Semitic — all the things that he had about him make him quite a complex character to tell a story about, simply because he is neither good nor wholly bad.”

Interview Highlights

On the Kaiser’s dreams of resurrecting the monarchy

That is the premise of the film, which is that with the ascendance of National Socialism and Hitler in Germany, the completely delusional notion that possibly they might want their former emperor back, even in a sort of symbolic way. And the film turns very much, ultimately, on the Kaiser coming to recognize that the Germany as represented by National Socialism and the Nazis has nothing whatsoever in common with the Germany of his own memory.

On directing Christopher Plummer

He was really quite fearless about wanting to play, sometimes, some of the ludicrously foolish aspects of this old man … he’s a man who has a hundred uniforms, but hasn’t made a decision since 1918, about anything except possibly what’s for dinner. And Christopher’s sense of the theatrical nature of the man, in other words, a man wearing the outer garments of power, but with no power himself, was also an inherently comedic idea. … Also, by the way, he was known very fondly by the younger actors as “One-Take Plummer.”

On portraying the Kaiser’s anti-Semitism

We felt it was very important to be clear and honest about the fact that that man had an almost knee-jerk, reflexive, and I’ll call it cultural anti-Semitism. He grew up with it, it was part of his set of beliefs, but one of the things we were also aware of was that in the entire time of his reign, there was never a directly, specifically organized campaign made against the Jewish community in Germany, that obviously came with the rise of National Socialism.

And the reason why I’m putting it in those terms was that it was passionately important to me, and to Christopher, to be able to show what happens when a person harbors any form of uninterrogated racism or bigotry, what happens when that person encounters a person who is willing to take that reflex prejudice and bigotry to the next level. … I was interested in delving into the psychological processes of a lethal kind of bigotry, and the way it can lie dormant in a character like the Kaiser, who thinks of himself as being Christian and good.

‘The Force’ Is Basically ‘Game Of Thrones’ With Cops — And That’s Pretty Great


“How do you cross the line? Step by step.”

Internal monologue is a staple in cop books. There are rules, things you do and things you don’t, and if the cop in your cop book can’t talk to himself in his own head, how are the readers going to know that he’s tortured? That he’s a good man going bad (or a bad man going worse)? That he has hopes and dreams that extend beyond these streets and the barrel of this gun?

Don Winslow knows this. In his new novel, The Force, detective sergeant Denny Malone talks to himself a lot. Constantly. Unendingly. His voice is the narrator’s voice, commanding all past and all present. There’s no trickery here, no multiple POV characters or bloated monologuing. Denny, he’s a cop — born to be, bred to be, Staten Island Irish with blue all over his family tree — and his voice is like a short panic run over broken ground. Clipped observations. Single lines. Paragraphs that break so fast your eye trips, falling to the next line (and the next and the next) before you know what’s happening.

“How do you cross the line?” Denny asks himself. And then he answers, with perfect, earned truth, “Step by step.”

Because Denny is crooked (that’s no spoiler). He is decorated, famous, viciously loyal, brutally protective, loves his job and his partners at the Manhattan North Task Force, where he and his boys have been given carte blanche to go after drugs and guns and the people who sell drugs and use guns. He’s the face behind the biggest heroin bust in the history of the city — which would’ve been twice as big if half the product and half the cash hadn’t wound up in the possession of Denny and his team. That’s retirement money for them, college for their kids. The only problem? Not getting caught.

But forget all that. Everything above? That’s just the details. Trust me when I tell you that you gotta read this book not because it’s beautiful (it isn’t) and not because Winslow is a virtuoso stylist (he isn’t) and not because it’s one of those Important Books that everyone will be talking about (they will), but because it is just fantastic. Like can’t-put-it-down, can’t-get-the-voices-out-of-your-head fantastic. An instant classic, an epic, a goddamn Wagner opera with a full cast and buckets of blood and smack and Jameson whiskey.

Except none of that is quite right. I mean, it is all those things, but that’s not what makes it most interesting.

Winslow is good, no doubt. He’s smart enough to be tricky without looking like he’s being tricky. He’s clever enough to get away with what is essentially a double prologue (in a universe where, most times, one is too many), but his best trick is a buried, pulsing, live-wire second plot that hums just beneath the surface of the first: The Force is basically Game of Thrones without the dragons. The Wars of the Roses played out with New York City cops and robbers.

Hang with me a second here. At many points throughout the novel, Denny Malone is referred to as “the king of Manhattan North.” He refers to himself that way, and talks (often, internally and externally) about ruling the streets of his kingdom. The cops have their castles. The bad guys have theirs. There’s turf, divvied up between mobsters and gangsters and the police — all of them lords and barons of their territory, ruling with violence, struggling to keep a status quo where everyone earns, everyone eats, and no wars break out.

There’s even a scene toward the back third, just before everything starts unraveling toward the bloody, cinematic conclusion, where two groups of furious, heavily-armed cops are meeting for an open-air parlay, and one of them makes a joke, that this is their Runnymede, where King John made peace with rebellious English barons by sealing the Magna Carta. And the joke works because it is absolutely true.

It’s a weird thing when you first realize it, brilliant and almost subversive as you watch it play out across the pages. Amid all the drugs and guns and skyscrapers and cop bars, there’s this shimmering image of an ancient tale hovering just at the edge of things. Knights and lords. Kings and vassals. A story that is as new and vital as 2017, as the latest police shooting trial, but as old as feudalism.

And that is the thing that makes The Force special: Its reach. Its understanding that those steps we take across the line are not lonely ones at all. Because they have been taken many, many times before.

Jason Sheehan knows stuff about food, video games, books and Starblazers. He is currently the restaurant critic at Philadelphia magazine, but when no one is looking, he spends his time writing books about giant robots and ray guns. Tales From the Radiation Age is his latest book.

Unconscious Prejudice Meets Real-World Horror In ‘The Exception’


Christopher Plummer as the exiled Kaiser Wilhelm II in The Exception — a man with the outward trappings of power, who hasn’t made a real decision in decades.

Marc Bossaerts


hide caption

toggle caption

Marc Bossaerts

Christopher Plummer as the exiled Kaiser Wilhelm II in The Exception — a man with the outward trappings of power, who hasn’t made a real decision in decades.

Marc Bossaerts

Berlin, 1940. A young Nazi officer is given a new mission: The Reich is sending him to Holland, to guard the exiled former German emperor, Kaiser Wilhelm II. That’s the premise of a new feature film, The Exception — it’s a spy story, with steamy sex, intrigue and history rolled in.

Director David Leveaux says the Kaiser was a complicated figure, someone who bore a lot of the responsibility for the conflagration that was World War I. “It’s interesting that a man carrying that degree of guilt on his shoulders, at the same time as being almost unremittingly hubristic and reflexively culturally anti-Semitic — all the things that he had about him make him quite a complex character to tell a story about, simply because he is neither good nor wholly bad.”

Interview Highlights

On the Kaiser’s dreams of resurrecting the monarchy

That is the premise of the film, which is that with the ascendance of National Socialism and Hitler in Germany, the completely delusional notion that possibly they might want their former emperor back, even in a sort of symbolic way. And the film turns very much, ultimately, on the Kaiser coming to recognize that the Germany as represented by National Socialism and the Nazis has nothing whatsoever in common with the Germany of his own memory.

On directing Christopher Plummer

He was really quite fearless about wanting to play, sometimes, some of the ludicrously foolish aspects of this old man … he’s a man who has a hundred uniforms, but hasn’t made a decision since 1918, about anything except possibly what’s for dinner. And Christopher’s sense of the theatrical nature of the man, in other words, a man wearing the outer garments of power, but with no power himself, was also an inherently comedic idea. … Also, by the way, he was known very fondly by the younger actors as “One-Take Plummer.”

On portraying the Kaiser’s anti-Semitism

We felt it was very important to be clear and honest about the fact that that man had an almost knee-jerk, reflexive, and I’ll call it cultural anti-Semitism. He grew up with it, it was part of his set of beliefs, but one of the things we were also aware of was that in the entire time of his reign, there was never a directly, specifically organized campaign made against the Jewish community in Germany, that obviously came with the rise of National Socialism.

And the reason why I’m putting it in those terms was that it was passionately important to me, and to Christopher, to be able to show what happens when a person harbors any form of uninterrogated racism or bigotry, what happens when that person encounters a person who is willing to take that reflex prejudice and bigotry to the next level. … I was interested in delving into the psychological processes of a lethal kind of bigotry, and the way it can lie dormant in a character like the Kaiser, who thinks of himself as being Christian and good.

‘The Force’ Is Basically ‘Game Of Thrones’ With Cops — And That’s Pretty Great


“How do you cross the line? Step by step.”

Internal monologue is a staple in cop books. There are rules, things you do and things you don’t, and if the cop in your cop book can’t talk to himself in his own head, how are the readers going to know that he’s tortured? That he’s a good man going bad (or a bad man going worse)? That he has hopes and dreams that extend beyond these streets and the barrel of this gun?

Don Winslow knows this. In his new novel, The Force, detective sergeant Denny Malone talks to himself a lot. Constantly. Unendingly. His voice is the narrator’s voice, commanding all past and all present. There’s no trickery here, no multiple POV characters or bloated monologuing. Denny, he’s a cop — born to be, bred to be, Staten Island Irish with blue all over his family tree — and his voice is like a short panic run over broken ground. Clipped observations. Single lines. Paragraphs that break so fast your eye trips, falling to the next line (and the next and the next) before you know what’s happening.

“How do you cross the line?” Denny asks himself. And then he answers, with perfect, earned truth, “Step by step.”

Because Denny is crooked (that’s no spoiler). He is decorated, famous, viciously loyal, brutally protective, loves his job and his partners at the Manhattan North Task Force, where he and his boys have been given carte blanche to go after drugs and guns and the people who sell drugs and use guns. He’s the face behind the biggest heroin bust in the history of the city — which would’ve been twice as big if half the product and half the cash hadn’t wound up in the possession of Denny and his team. That’s retirement money for them, college for their kids. The only problem? Not getting caught.

But forget all that. Everything above? That’s just the details. Trust me when I tell you that you gotta read this book not because it’s beautiful (it isn’t) and not because Winslow is a virtuoso stylist (he isn’t) and not because it’s one of those Important Books that everyone will be talking about (they will), but because it is just fantastic. Like can’t-put-it-down, can’t-get-the-voices-out-of-your-head fantastic. An instant classic, an epic, a goddamn Wagner opera with a full cast and buckets of blood and smack and Jameson whiskey.

Except none of that is quite right. I mean, it is all those things, but that’s not what makes it most interesting.

Winslow is good, no doubt. He’s smart enough to be tricky without looking like he’s being tricky. He’s clever enough to get away with what is essentially a double prologue (in a universe where, most times, one is too many), but his best trick is a buried, pulsing, live-wire second plot that hums just beneath the surface of the first: The Force is basically Game of Thrones without the dragons. The Wars of the Roses played out with New York City cops and robbers.

Hang with me a second here. At many points throughout the novel, Denny Malone is referred to as “the king of Manhattan North.” He refers to himself that way, and talks (often, internally and externally) about ruling the streets of his kingdom. The cops have their castles. The bad guys have theirs. There’s turf, divvied up between mobsters and gangsters and the police — all of them lords and barons of their territory, ruling with violence, struggling to keep a status quo where everyone earns, everyone eats, and no wars break out.

There’s even a scene toward the back third, just before everything starts unraveling toward the bloody, cinematic conclusion, where two groups of furious, heavily-armed cops are meeting for an open-air parlay, and one of them makes a joke, that this is their Runnymede, where King John made peace with rebellious English barons by sealing the Magna Carta. And the joke works because it is absolutely true.

It’s a weird thing when you first realize it, brilliant and almost subversive as you watch it play out across the pages. Amid all the drugs and guns and skyscrapers and cop bars, there’s this shimmering image of an ancient tale hovering just at the edge of things. Knights and lords. Kings and vassals. A story that is as new and vital as 2017, as the latest police shooting trial, but as old as feudalism.

And that is the thing that makes The Force special: Its reach. Its understanding that those steps we take across the line are not lonely ones at all. Because they have been taken many, many times before.

Jason Sheehan knows stuff about food, video games, books and Starblazers. He is currently the restaurant critic at Philadelphia magazine, but when no one is looking, he spends his time writing books about giant robots and ray guns. Tales From the Radiation Age is his latest book.

Imagining Daniel Day-Lewis In A Life Without Acting


Daniel Day-Lewis, the three-time Oscar winner and incomparable film chameleon announced his retirement from acting.

Jason Merritt/Getty Images


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Jason Merritt/Getty Images

Daniel Day-Lewis, the three-time Oscar winner and incomparable film chameleon announced his retirement from acting.

Jason Merritt/Getty Images

He brooded, as Lincoln.

He seduced in The Unbearable Lightness of Being. And he murdered, in There Will Be Blood.

This week, Daniel Day-Lewis — a three-time Oscar winner, and incomparable film chameleon — announced he is retiring from acting at 60.

A statement released by his spokeswoman gave no explanation, saying this is a private decision, and that Day-Lewis will have no further comment.

The actor has often taken lengthy sabbaticals between films, but this time it’s apparently permanent.

So what will he be doing?

Well, we know that Day-Lewis has a number of deep passions outside of acting. Woodworking for one, dating back to when he was in boarding school.

Back then, he imagined a life making furniture and even applied for an apprenticeship with a cabinetmaker — before drama drew him in.

Years later, he apprenticed with a master cobbler — learning the craft of shoe-making, in Florence.

I asked Day-Lewis about these pursuits in 2012, when I interviewed him about his role as Abraham Lincoln. He demurred, politely. As a private person, he said, he didn’t like to cast attention on his life off the screen.

But eventually, he opened up — just a little bit.

“Yeah, I’m handy. You give me a tool belt, I know what to do with it,” Day-Lewis said.

He told me he fell in love with arts and crafts woodworking at his boarding school — the posts and beams, benches and chairs.

“And it was something I felt immediately drawn towards and I discovered that my hands were good, that I could make things and I’ve always loved to do that,” he said. “I just remember that my middle son … overheard on the radio somebody saying, ‘Yeah, I think he makes chairs in his spare time,’ which he thought was one of the funniest things he ever heard and … he imagined me setting up a shop somewhere with ‘Dan’s Chairs’ as the shingle outside.”

But about shoe-making? Day-Lewis was mum.

I even played my “I’m the daughter of a sandal-maker” card.

No dice.

“I tell you what,” he said. “If we meet one of these days then we can talk about it. I’d happily talk about it to you in private.”

Now, I’m picturing Daniel Day-Lewis in retirement — on his farm in Ireland, cobbling away. Or maybe — just maybe — he’ll finally get to hang that shingle for “Dan’s Chairs.”

Shakespeare Companies Suffer Backlash After ‘Julius Caesar’ Controversy




KELLY MCEVERS, HOST:

The controversy over a production of “Julius Caesar” depicting Caesar as Donald Trump is spreading. In the play, Caesar is assassinated. The production in question was by New York’s Public Theater, part of its Shakespeare in the Park program. And the protests have now spread to theater companies in other cities around the country apparently just because they have Shakespeare in their name. In Texas, staff at Shakespeare Dallas have received death threats. From member station KERA, Hady Mawajdeh has the story.

HADY MAWAJDEH, BYLINE: Here’s a clip from Fox News last week.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: A play appearing to depict the murder of the president has made its official debut. The New York Public Theater has lost some of its sponsors over “Julius Caesar.”

MAWAJDEH: That got some folks in the Texas area riled up. Raphael Parry is the artistic director of Shakespeare Dallas.

RAPHAEL PARRY: We started receiving emails – like, a drove of them started flowing into our mailbox. And at first they were, you know, I hate you; I hate what you’re doing in your production. So we were a bit confused because we hadn’t even had a public performance yet.

MAWAJDEH: Parry’s company was set to perform “The Merry Wives Of Windsor” the next day. That’s a Shakespeare comedy. Anyways, shortly after the first few emails, more people began contacting Parry and his staff. And the emails got nasty. Here’s an excerpt of one read by an actor.

UNIDENTIFIED ACTRESS: (Reading) You truly are a bunch of freaks and bottom suckers. We should send all you freaks to ISIS. They would eliminate your stint on this earth with real knives.

MAWAJDEH: Some of the emails are more graphic than that, and honestly, some of them are just silly. But this still stunned the staff at Shakespeare Dallas. Here’s the company’s program and media manager, Jessica Helton.

JESSICA HELTON: It was just totally violent and disturbing and shocking because they didn’t even have the right company.

MAWAJDEH: Shakespeare Dallas isn’t the only company dealing with the fallout from the New York Public Theater’s production. Parry’s been contacted by companies across the country. Here’s his best guess why, at least for Texas.

PARRY: If you type in Shakespeare in the Park in Google, we pop up. Geographically, in probably a three- or four-state area, Shakespeare Dallas pops up as Shakespeare in the Park.

MAWAJDEH: It hasn’t had a negative effect on attendance. In fact, the company says it might have had a positive effect. Last night’s preview of “Quixote,” which is a modern interpretation of Cervantes’ “Don Quixote” – not Shakespeare – had more than 300 attendees.

(SOUNDBITE OF PLAY, “QUIXOTE”)

UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR #1: (Singing, as Don Quixote) I am the sole custodian of a vanished time.

UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR #2: (As Sancho Panza) But where are you going?

UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR #1: (As Don Quixote) To find myself a – Sancho Panza. Will you come?

MAWAJDEH: Jared Cobb was in the audience with this family. He says you have to be conscious of the dangers when threats are made. But he felt safe enough to come out and support local theater. Besides, Texas is an open-carry state, and his father told me that he had his gun nearby.

JARED COBB: The probability that somebody’s going to come into an open park full of Texans and try something – anything – is very unlikely. And if they would do something like that, it’d be very ill-advised (laughter).

MAWAJDEH: Most of the people I spoke with said they hadn’t even heard about the hullabaloo. But Robert Cantu seemed to sum up their thoughts.

ROBERT CANTU: It’s a non-controversy in that it is so ludicrous that they would confuse it. Anyway, I guess you can’t fix stupid.

MAWAJDEH: You probably can’t. But you can try to make sure that your messages get sent to the right people. From NPR News, I’m Hady Mawajdeh.

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