Monthly Archives: April 2016

Poetry Behind Bars: The Lines That Save Lives — Sometimes Literally


Most of the poets who submitted to the Words Unlocked contest are between the ages of 14 to 18.i

Most of the poets who submitted to the Words Unlocked contest are between the ages of 14 to 18.

Richard Ross/Courtesy of CEEAS


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Richard Ross/Courtesy of CEEAS

Most of the poets who submitted to the Words Unlocked contest are between the ages of 14 to 18.

Most of the poets who submitted to the Words Unlocked contest are between the ages of 14 to 18.

Richard Ross/Courtesy of CEEAS

The way Jimmy Santiago Baca tells it, poetry saved his life — but he’s not speaking in hyperbole. Long before the poet won an American Book Award, Baca was in prison on a drug conviction, where he was facing down a prison-yard fight with another inmate.

Baca sought padding however he could get it.

“So I got a bunch of tape and a bunch of books on the library cart and strapped them around my stomach,” he recalls, “and when this guy pulled out his shank, I was like, wow, this ain’t just a fight — this guy wants to kill me.”

The guy he was fighting connected on a few swipes, he says, but each time, the books — and one big one, in particular — took the blow.

“Had the book not been there, I would have been dead; it would’ve cut all the way to the tailbone. When i went back to my cell, I looked at this one book where he had gouged it about an inch deep. And it was a thick anthology of Romantic poets.”

Jimmy Santiago Baca's latest book is Singing at the Gates. Baca, who was illiterate when he entered prison in the '70s, won the Before Columbus Foundation's American Book Award in 1988.i

Jimmy Santiago Baca’s latest book is Singing at the Gates. Baca, who was illiterate when he entered prison in the ’70s, won the Before Columbus Foundation’s American Book Award in 1988.

Esai Baca/Courtesy of Jimmy Santiago Baca


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Esai Baca/Courtesy of Jimmy Santiago Baca

Jimmy Santiago Baca's latest book is Singing at the Gates. Baca, who was illiterate when he entered prison in the '70s, won the Before Columbus Foundation's American Book Award in 1988.

Jimmy Santiago Baca’s latest book is Singing at the Gates. Baca, who was illiterate when he entered prison in the ’70s, won the Before Columbus Foundation’s American Book Award in 1988.

Esai Baca/Courtesy of Jimmy Santiago Baca

William Wordsworth, Lord Byron, Percy Bysshe Shelley — “I thought, ‘Wow, you guys saved my life!’ “

“That’s when I sat down on the cot in my cell and started looking at this book that saved my life and realized that these poets had in a very real, real way saved me,” he says. “And when I began to read the words, I was astounded by their beauty and eloquence, and how the arrangement of words made me happy.”

It’s no coincidence, then, that these days — decades after that prison term — Baca serves as the final judge in a contest designed to encourage some of the country’s youngest prisoners to turn to poetry themselves. He hopes poetry, that vessel of a million meanings that saved his own life, may do the same for them.

‘Children Of Whitman’

Words Unlocked — an annual poetry curriculum and competition launched in 2013 by the Center for Educational Excellence in Alternative Spaces — draws submissions from students in juvenile correctional centers across the country. Poets in facilities from Alaska to Florida have sent in their work this year, according to CEEAS Director David Domenici, and the number of submissions has reached 1,000 and counting.

Baca hasn’t gotten a look at this year’s poems yet; he won’t make his selection until a crew of other judges, led by Christy Sampson-Kelly, first whittle that number to just 10 or 15 finalists. But this isn’t his first experience with the contest. He judged last year’s crop, as well.

“Last year, when Christy sent me the submissions, I was just blown away by the high standards of the writing, and by the depth of emotion that was expressed in the poems,” he says. “You would think that they were all the spawn children of Whitman or something!”

Though this year’s contest hasn’t been decided yet, several of the young poets did record their entries for All Things Considered. And while NPR does not have permission to use their names, their voices give life to the words they’ve put to paper — which you can listen to via the audio links on this post.

Baca believes these poems will serve them well on the outside.

“Literacy is probably the foremost resource that they need to become successful human beings. To be able to deal with sorrow, joy, loneliness and isolation, the first step is that you have to be able to put your feelings into words — and you have to share those words with people,” he says.

“If you can write this out and give it to society, it’s going to allow them to take the blinders off and see what’s really going on with you in your life. They’re going to begin to understand what’s really going on in your heart. So let’s give them this gift.”

And that gift, like Baca’s story, may be more than a metaphor. The poets recognized by the contest will be included in an anthology of their own — not unlike that poetry anthology that Baca says saved him.

Not My Job: Journalist Lesley Stahl Gets Quizzed On ‘Star Trek’




PETER SAGAL, HOST:

And now the game where important people are asked about unimportant things. So Lesley Stahl was hired by CBS News back in 1973 as part of an affirmative action program of a kind. But because she was just a girl, they gave her something unimportant to do, like covering Watergate. She has been a correspondent for “60 Minutes” for 25 years. She’s won multiple Emmys and many other rewards. We are so pleased to have her with us. Lesley Stahl, welcome to WAIT WAIT… DON’T TELL ME.

LESLEY STAHL: Oh, thank you. Thank you.

(APPLAUSE)

SAGAL: So I don’t want to cast aspersions, Lesley, but you’ve said that you were hired by CBS as sort of a diversity outreach thing. Is that true?

STAHL: Well, it is true. And they always wanted to prove that they had hired women and minorities. And I was one of the early ones, so I was always thrust out forward. And you’re right, they gave me Watergate.

SAGAL: Did they say you, Lesley, Watergate, you do that.

STAHL: Well, actually, what they said was Watergate is not a big story. It’s not a big deal. It’s just a local break-in, so we’ll give it to the new girl.

SAGAL: Really?

STAHL: That’s exactly what they said, yeah.

FAITH SALIE: A star was born.

SAGAL: Did you have any difficulty, especially back in the ’70s, sort of breaking into the old-boys club that was journalism at the time?

STAHL: There was one – I was going to anchor on election night very early in my career ’cause they wanted to show there was a woman around.

SAGAL: Yeah.

STAHL: And the president of CBS News brought me up to the set just before they painted it to show me that I had no reason to be nervous. It was a big drum, and he said Walter’s going to sit there. And of course, it said Cronkite right in front of the seat. And he said Roger will sit there. It said Mudd. Dan will sit there. It said Rather. And he said you’ll sit there, and it said female.

(LAUGHTER)

STAHL: But the president of CBS was so horrified and apologetic, I just laughed it off. What can you do, right?

SAGAL: Right. You’ve written a book. It’s about grandparenting.

STAHL: Yes.

SAGAL: And do you have – how many grandchildren do you have currently have?

STAHL: I have two.

SAGAL: Right. And did you – when you first became a grandparent, did you go after them with the same zeal that you do on “60 Minutes?” Where is that binky?

(LAUGHTER)

STAHL: (Laughter) I didn’t. I was actually completely transformed by it. And I say that in all seriousness. I don’t think that any of us ever love the way we love a grandchild. It just takes us over. If we were strict parents, we become mushballs.

(LAUGHTER)

STAHL: We are – we seem to have the word no disabled. We cannot say it. Whatever they want – our own children don’t recognize us. And we…

SAGAL: Is this true of you? Do you find yourself to be a nicer grandparent than you were a parent?

STAHL: Infinitely, infinitely.

SAGAL: Really? Do your kids assume – I’m just going to take your word for it that you’re a nicer grandparent than a parent – do your kids – i.e. the parents of your grandchildren – do they ever look at you and go, like, you were never this nice to me?

STAHL: Oh, always.

SAGAL: Really?

STAHL: Oh, yes.

SAGAL: And what do you say? Do you think well, you weren’t this adorable? Oh, look at your little face.

(LAUGHTER)

STAHL: Well, there are a lot of jokes about how parents – I mean, grandparents and children – and the grandchildren have a common enemy in the parents.

(LAUGHTER)

STAHL: But I don’t buy that.

SAGAL: The old joke is the great thing about being a grandparent is you can play with your kids – the grandkids that is – you can have fun with them; you can do whatever you want. And then when you’re done, you hand them back to the parent and you walk away.

STAHL: Well, there’s a little of that.

SAGAL: Really?

STAHL: But I’ll – yeah.

SAGAL: So you can…

STAHL: But I’ll give you a better joke .

SAGAL: Please.

STAHL: …OK? If God had asked Abraham to sacrifice his grandson…

SAGAL: Yeah.

STAHL: …He would have said no way.

SAGAL: Oh, I see.

STAHL: Not on Earth.

SAGAL: My lousy, good-for-nothing son, you can have. But my little grandson…

SALIE: It seems like being a grandparent is the only time in your life you’re allowed to choose what you’re called. So what are you called as a grandma, Lesley?

STAHL: OK, well, I’m going to tell you, it’s a little – you know, it’s a little icky-sweet. But I’m Lolly…

SAGAL: Awww…

STAHL: …And my husband is Pop.

SAGAL: Awww…

ADAM BURKE: It could’ve been so much worse. They could’ve just called her female.

SAGAL: Yeah, it’s true.

(LAUGHTER)

SALIE: That’s good.

(LAUGHTER)

SAGAL: What is the most ridiculous thing that you have done besides spoil one of your grandchildren?

STAHL: Oh, my goodness, ridiculous.

SAGAL: Yes.

STAHL: Oh, it’s – none of it’s ridiculous. You know, we were down on the floor talking baby talk and Googling…

SAGAL: I want to hear about presents here. I want to hear about presents.

STAHL: Anything – oh, OK. Well, I just – I just sent them a piano.

SAGAL: Ho-ho…

BURKE: Wow.

ALONZO BODDEN: Nice. Now, how…

STAHL: My daughter – my daughter wouldn’t practice the piano.

SAGAL: Yeah.

STAHL: And I’m trying again.

BODDEN: How old are your grandchildren?

STAHL: Two and 5.

(LAUGHTER)

SAGAL: Well, Lesley Stahl, it is a delight to talk to you.

STAHL: Well, thanks.

SAGAL: But we have asked you here to play a game we’re calling…

BILL KURTIS: To Boldly Go Where No Man Has Gone Before.

STAHL: Oh.

SAGAL: This year marks the 50th anniversary of the original series “Star Trek,” meaning that since its debut in September 1966, entire generations of fans have grown up and even died without ever losing their virginity.

(LAUGHTER)

SAGAL: So we’re going to ask you three questions about “Star Trek” taken from a new oral history of the show called the “50 Year Voyage. Get two right, you’ll win our prize for one of our listeners – Carl Kasell’s will sing Damn’t Jim on their voicemail.

(LAUGHTER)

SAGAL: Bill, who with Lesley Stahl playing for?

KURTIS: Shawn Wilson of Denver, Colo.

SAGAL: All right, are you ready to do this?

STAHL: Yep.

SAGAL: All right, “Star Trek” owed its existence to an unlikely celebrity of that time, the 1960s. Who was it? Was it A, ventriloquist Edgar Bergen, B, comedienne Lucille Ball, or C, Flipper the dolphin.

(LAUGHTER)

STAHL: Oh, my God. Oh, my God. Edgar Bergen…

SAGAL: You’re going to go with Edgar Bergen.

STAHL: Why not?

SAGAL: Well, it was actually Lucille Ball…

STAHL: Oh.

SAGAL: …Because Lucille Ball had been divorced – just been divorced from her now former husband Desi Arnaz. She had gotten their production company, Desilu, and she needed something to produce. So she green-lit “Star Trek.”

STAHL: On no, I never knew – oh, wonderful.

SAGAL: I know.

STAHL: But I’m losing.

SAGAL: Not yet.

(LAUGHTER)

STAHL: OK.

SALIE: Stay in the game, Lolly.

SAGAL: Stay in the game. Stay in the game.

STAHL: I’m in, I’m in.

(LAUGHTER)

SAGAL: All right, I have a question for you – and it’s something that I’ve noticed about my parents rather being grandparents of my children – when you play a game with your grandchildren, do you let them win?

STAHL: Of course.

(LAUGHTER)

SAGAL: OK, does it hurt a little bit?

STAHL: It hurts a lot (laughter).

SAGAL: All right.

STAHL: All right.

SAGAL: All right, so here’s your next question. You still have two more chances. Despite its early success, “Star Trek” almost didn’t make it to its second season because of what crisis? A, the entire cast broke out into hives from being allergic to the italic-looking costumes, B, the studio wanted to add a sexy space alien in a bikini named Tina XP4, or C, the two stars – William Shatner and Leonard Nimoy – were having an insane diva catfight?

STAHL: (Laughter) I have to go with number three.

SAGAL: You’re exactly right, of course.

(SOUNDBITE OF BELL)

STAHL: Great.

SAGAL: Watch that show for a minute…

STAHL: Great.

(APPLAUSE)

STAHL: I’m back in the game.

SAGAL: It began with an early review saying hey, this Mr. Spock character played by Nimoy, he’s the real star of the show. This made Bill Shatner, who played Kirk, incredibly upset. They started arguing, trying to steal lines from each other on the set. And the creator of the show told them if they didn’t stop it, they could both be replaced. All right, here’s your last question. If you get this right, you win.

STAHL: OK.

(LAUGHTER)

SAGAL: Leonard Nimoy was cast as the Vulcan Mr. Spock because why? Because A, Gene Roddenberry, the show’s creator, had to pay off a huge poker bet to him, B, as Roddenberry said, he had no emotional range as an actor so we cast him as a character with no emotion…

STAHL: Oh, my God.

(LAUGHTER)

SAGAL: …Or C, he already looked so much like an alien that they could save money on special effects.

(LAUGHTER)

STAHL: Oh, my goodness. OK, let me go with number two.

SAGAL: You’re going to go with number two?

STAHL: Yes.

SAGAL: That Leonard Nimoy had no emotional range as an actor?

STAHL: (Laughter) Are you try to get me off this answer?

SAGAL: Who me?

(LAUGHTER)

STAHL: I’m staying there, yeah.

SAGAL: All right, I tried.

(GROANS)

SAGAL: The answer was C, actually. Roddenberry says he met Nimoy producing another show. And he said to himself, quote, “if I ever do a science-fiction thing, he would make a great alien.

(LAUGHTER)

STAHL: Oh.

SAGAL: Oh, Bill, how did Ms. Stahl do?

KURTIS: Well…

STAHL: No…

KURTIS: …Lesley got two wrong, one right. She’s going to have to answer to a 2-year-old.

(LAUGHTER)

STAHL: Oh, thank you.

SAGAL: You’re welcome.

STAHL: By the way…

(LAUGHTER)

SAGAL: By the way…

STAHL: By the way…

SAGAL: Yes.

STAHL: …Can I just say one thing?

SAGAL: You may.

STAHL: In closing…

SAGAL: Please.

STAHL: That the name of the book is “Becoming Grandma,” and it’s a wonderful Mother’s Day present.

SAGAL: Yes.

(LAUGHTER, APPLAUSE)

STAHL: I’m plugging. I’m plugging.

SAGAL: You can go ahead and plug. You know what?

STAHL: Thank you.

SAGAL: I’ll do it again. Lesley Stahl’s new book is called “Becoming Grandma,” and it’s a wonderful Mother’s Day gift.

STAHL: Thank you.

SAGAL: Lesley Stahl, thank you so much for joining us on WAIT WAIT… DON’T TELL ME.

STAHL: Thank you. Thank you. Thank you. Thank you.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC, APPLAUSE)

SAGAL: In just a minute, your dog would like to have a word with you in our Listener Limerick challenge. Call 1-888-WAIT-WAIT to join us on the air. We’ll be back in a minute with more of WAIT WAIT… DON’T TELL ME from NPR.

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Not My Job: Journalist Lesley Stahl Gets Quizzed On ‘Star Trek’


Lesley Stahli
Lesley Stahl

This year is the 50th anniversary of the original Star Trek, so mark the occasion, we’re going to play a game called “To boldly go where no man has gone before!” We’ll ask pioneering journalist Lesley Stahl three questions about the original Star Trek, taken from a new oral history called The Fifty-Year Mission. Stahl covered the Watergate scandal in the 1970s and has been a 60 Minutes correspondent for 25 years.

Weeping For All That Is Lost: A Harsh Migration Out Of India


Sunjeev Sahota has written what I suspect will be finest novel of the year. I know, it’s still early in 2016, but hear me out. The subject at the heart of The Year of the Runaways is illegal immigration, which is currently the source of much hand-wringing both here in the U.S. and across the world. Sahota, a British writer of Indian origin, has written not only a timely book, but a gut-wrenching, emotionally honest one, as well.

The Year of the Runaways, as the title suggests, chronicles a year in the lives of four people who have left home. Three have left India to establish themselves in the United Kingdom under one subterfuge or another: Tochi is a low-caste man who travels to the U.K. illegally; Avtar arrives on a student visa, but intending to work; Randeep, Avtar’s friend and neighbor, is the beneficiary of a sham marriage. The fourth, the only woman, is looking to aid this migration at great personal cost. Narinder is a deeply pious girl, born and brought up in England. She will marry Randeep and become his “visa wife.”

The book oscillates between the year that these four spend in England, and the intertwined stories of their respective migrations. They are young — in their late teens and early 20s — and life has already been cruel to them. Tochi has lost everything, Randeep and Avtar have essentially given up school, and moved, hoping to support their families in India. As Randeep says to Avtar, at one point, “It’s not work that makes us leave home and come here. It’s love. Love for our families.” Avtar, demonstrating Sahota’s deep understanding of India and Indian families, replies, “Duty. We’re doing our duty. And it’s shit.”

The book is littered with moments like this, exposing inner lives that are raw and real. There are plenty of twists and turns to the story but Sahota’s tension is created instead through the tenderness of his characters — their enormous restraint and empathy, their depth of feeling, combined with a willingness to hurt, to make bad decisions, to wound. In Sahota’s hands the angry, Tochi, who has lost his family to mob violence in India, is as capable of stealing another man’s job as he is of profound tenderness; towards the end of the book after a an altercation at a Sikh temple has caused him to question, and perhaps puncture, Narinder’s commitment to religion (“where was god when they set me on fire?” “When they knifed my sister’s stomach open?”), he knelt beside her and “put his head in her lap. He felt her hands lightly touch him and they both wept for all they had lost.”

Sahota also does a masterful job of dissecting the immigrant experience. These are economic migrants in search of better lives, but by exposing the casual violence inflicted on these people, their wariness, their isolation, their daily humiliations and fears, their desperation to keep their dignity intact, Sahota also demonstrates how complex and often dangerous that experience can be; at least one of them ends up in an hospital; Randeep, stabs another immigrant in a fight. Too afraid of being caught, he leaves the man at the door of a surgery.

Finally, the author demonstrates a deep understanding of South Asian culture: the complex role played by families; the strictures the young feel towards their elders; Narinder provides us a window into the most observant kind of Sikhism. Through her, we also get a penetrating look into the role of women in South Asian society. The way they are often bullied by older brothers; the way many sacrifice everything to please family and sustain their parents’ honor in a society quick to judge.

Sahota has done well. His writing is purposeful — there isn’t an overwrought sentence. Not a big word in sight. I looked. Perhaps the only false note is that occasionally, inexplicably, in a world that is harsh and unforgiving, people are improbably nice. All four characters are helped, sometimes for reasons that are not wholly convincing. Despite that the book carried me with its power and honesty. And I loved the understated yet utterly compelling ending (no, not all the knots get tied up neatly). The stories of Tochi, Randeep, Avtar and Narinder will stayed with me long after I’d put the book down.

Nishant Dahiya is NPR’s Asia Editor.

‘Good Wife’ Creators Say They Wanted To End The Show ‘While It Was Still Good’


As The Good Wife comes to a close, Alicia Florrick (Julianna Margulies) has risen to managing partner at her Chicago law firm and Peter Florrick (Chris Noth) is again facing corruption charges.i

As The Good Wife comes to a close, Alicia Florrick (Julianna Margulies) has risen to managing partner at her Chicago law firm and Peter Florrick (Chris Noth) is again facing corruption charges.

Jeff Neumann/CBS


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Jeff Neumann/CBS

As The Good Wife comes to a close, Alicia Florrick (Julianna Margulies) has risen to managing partner at her Chicago law firm and Peter Florrick (Chris Noth) is again facing corruption charges.

As The Good Wife comes to a close, Alicia Florrick (Julianna Margulies) has risen to managing partner at her Chicago law firm and Peter Florrick (Chris Noth) is again facing corruption charges.

Jeff Neumann/CBS

On May 8, the CBS drama The Good Wife will be ending its seven-year run. Why now? “We wanted to go out while it was still good,” says Michelle King, who created the show with her husband, Robert King.

The series began with a sex scandal that sent State’s Attorney Peter Florrick (Chris Noth) to prison, leaving his wife, Alicia (Julianna Margulies), to pick up the pieces. Over the course of the show, Alicia goes from a former housewife trying to restart her career to a managing partner at her big-time law firm. Now her husband is again facing corruption charges — except this time he’s the governor of Illinois.

Michelle tells NPR’s Scott Simon, “We’ve known for quite a while that there was seven seasons-worth of story to tell in the education of Alicia Florrick, and we’ve come to the end of that story.”

Interview Highlights

On how Alicia has changed over the years

Robert King: She’s become more cynical, tougher, stronger, more powerful, funnier, my guess is. And within the last year or two I think she’s become a little sick of her children. … What I love about her is she feels very real in that way. But I do think this is a woman who has found more and more independence and kind of liked more and more independence.

On how Peter has changed

Michelle King: I think he’s gained more self-awareness than anyone else on the show. I mean, before the series started, he was pretty much doing whatever he wanted, didn’t think anything could splash back on him; and, having gone to prison, [he] sees that that’s not the case and now considers his moves far more carefully and is just a more thoughtful person than he was.

On whether Bill and Hillary Clinton inspired the show

Robert King: Not as a genesis. I mean, it’s kind of interesting to look at the phenomenon of political spouses, and especially political spouses that kind of find their own power center. And that, I think, is interesting.

On what they aimed to accomplish with their final episodes

Michelle King: I would say we’re writing both for ourselves and very specific fans. I mean, the people that work on the show are also rabid fans of the show, and you wanted everyone that was working on it to feel really proud about the way the series ended. So I would say we were acutely aware of trying to make people feel good about what we were doing.

Robert King: We really wanted to say goodbye to a big troupe of actors and characters that we’ve kind of loved over the years. So there’s been this kind of almost series of farewell episodes where you might have Michael J. Fox come in or these NSA guys or, you know, Stockard Channing and Dallas Roberts as Alicia’s relatives. We just kind of wanted to return to things that we enjoyed over the years and really give them a chance to say goodbye.

Rob And Nick Reiner Say ‘Being Charlie’ Is ‘Drawn From Our Lives’


Nick Robinson as the troubled teen lead in Being Charlie.i

Nick Robinson as the troubled teen lead in Being Charlie.

Fred Hayes


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Fred Hayes

Nick Robinson as the troubled teen lead in Being Charlie.

Nick Robinson as the troubled teen lead in Being Charlie.

Fred Hayes

Rob Reiner has a new film about young people who are confused, troubled, searching — and who are sometimes a pain in the rear; not to mention the heart.

Being Charlie is the story of an 18-year-old boy who runs away from rehab — again — while his father, a former film star, runs for governor of California.

Reiner is a producer and the director on the film, which was written by his son Nick Reiner, along with Matt Elisofon. Nick tells NPR’s Scott Simon the story’s only partially based on his own struggles: “I’m also the pain in the rear. But it’s a lot of stuff I experienced, a lot of stuff Matt experienced. And a lot of stuff that we witnessed people say and talk about.”

“What we tried to do is take the essence of our experience and what we all went through and make a theatrical drama about it, comedy too,” his father adds. “It’s a piece of fiction but it’s drawn from our lives.”

Interview Highlights

On Charlie’s lack of likeability

Nick: A lot of people that go through addictions of all kinds are kind of hard to love when they’re doing those sorts of things. I guess his character was to show how ugly it gets.

I’m all for honesty, so I have definitely done things similar to [Charlie stealing OxyContin from a sick old woman]. I can’t say I’ve done that in quite some time but when I was going through a lot of that stuff — sure. You really don’t think about anything — you throw your morals out of the window.

On Charlie’s desire to “kill the noise”

Matt Elisofon, Nick Reiner and Rob Reiner on the set of Being Charlie.i

Matt Elisofon, Nick Reiner and Rob Reiner on the set of Being Charlie.

Fred Hayes/courtesy of Jorva Entertainment


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Fred Hayes/courtesy of Jorva Entertainment

Matt Elisofon, Nick Reiner and Rob Reiner on the set of Being Charlie.

Matt Elisofon, Nick Reiner and Rob Reiner on the set of Being Charlie.

Fred Hayes/courtesy of Jorva Entertainment

Nick: For me that means, and maybe for some other people, that when you’re growing up during those formative years, you have a lot of stuff that pops in your head. And there’s a lot of stuff you don’t know how to deal with because you’re young and you think you know everything. And when you really start to know something is when you say, “I don’t know anything.”

On whether Being Charlie was a hard movie to make

Rob: Well, it was in some ways. But in other ways it was the most satisfying creative experience I ever had because I got to work with Nick and even though we had struggled through some difficult things and the making of the movie certainly drudged those things up, it was also an opportunity to work through a lot of that stuff.

On the harsh realities of rehab

Nick: A lot of the people that pretend that they’re really improving are doing even worse who say, “I don’t care about this. I’m not taking to this.” The people that lie their way through the whole thing, I’ve seen a couple cases in particular, the person would get mad at me and be a stickler for the rules and then I hear six months later they got out and they’re dead.

Rob: Nick was telling me the other day that the programs he was in, that he knew of at least 30 people who had been through it and wound up dead. It’s a rough thing to go through and it requires a lot of care and attention and people who really know how to help people rather than just cookie cutter type programs.

On whether father and son want to work together again

Rob: Yeah.

Nick: Oh yeah. But I think for now, it’s best for me at least to be sort of independent. But that’s not to say I didn’t have an amazing experience.

Rob: Nick — and I said it to his face, I’ll say it on the air — he was the heart and soul of the film and any time I would get an opportunity to work with him I would do it, but I do understand him wanting to forge his own way. I do know what that’s about, I went through it, and he’s brilliant and talented and he’s going to figure out his path.

Rob And Nick Reiner Say ‘Being Charlie’ Is ‘Drawn From Our Lives’


Nick Robinson as the troubled teen lead in Being Charlie.i

Nick Robinson as the troubled teen lead in Being Charlie.

Fred Hayes


hide caption

toggle caption

Fred Hayes

Nick Robinson as the troubled teen lead in Being Charlie.

Nick Robinson as the troubled teen lead in Being Charlie.

Fred Hayes

Rob Reiner has a new film about young people who are confused, troubled, searching — and who are sometimes a pain in the rear; not to mention the heart.

Being Charlie is the story of an 18-year-old boy who runs away from rehab — again — while his father, a former film star, runs for governor of California.

Reiner is a producer and the director on the film, which was written by his son Nick Reiner, along with Matt Elisofon. Nick tells NPR’s Scott Simon the story’s only partially based on his own struggles: “I’m also the pain in the rear. But it’s a lot of stuff I experienced, a lot of stuff Matt experienced. And a lot of stuff that we witnessed people say and talk about.”

“What we tried to do is take the essence of our experience and what we all went through and make a theatrical drama about it, comedy too,” his father adds. “It’s a piece of fiction but it’s drawn from our lives.”

Interview Highlights

On Charlie’s lack of likeability

Nick: A lot of people that go through addictions of all kinds are kind of hard to love when they’re doing those sorts of things. I guess his character was to show how ugly it gets.

I’m all for honesty, so I have definitely done things similar to [Charlie stealing OxyContin from a sick old woman]. I can’t say I’ve done that in quite some time but when I was going through a lot of that stuff — sure. You really don’t think about anything — you throw your morals out of the window.

On Charlie’s desire to “kill the noise”

Matt Elisofon, Nick Reiner and Rob Reiner on the set of Being Charlie.i

Matt Elisofon, Nick Reiner and Rob Reiner on the set of Being Charlie.

Fred Hayes/courtesy of Jorva Entertainment


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Fred Hayes/courtesy of Jorva Entertainment

Matt Elisofon, Nick Reiner and Rob Reiner on the set of Being Charlie.

Matt Elisofon, Nick Reiner and Rob Reiner on the set of Being Charlie.

Fred Hayes/courtesy of Jorva Entertainment

Nick: For me that means, and maybe for some other people, that when you’re growing up during those formative years, you have a lot of stuff that pops in your head. And there’s a lot of stuff you don’t know how to deal with because you’re young and you think you know everything. And when you really start to know something is when you say, “I don’t know anything.”

On whether Being Charlie was a hard movie to make

Rob: Well, it was in some ways. But in other ways it was the most satisfying creative experience I ever had because I got to work with Nick and even though we had struggled through some difficult things and the making of the movie certainly drudged those things up, it was also an opportunity to work through a lot of that stuff.

On the harsh realities of rehab

Nick: A lot of the people that pretend that they’re really improving are doing even worse who say, “I don’t care about this. I’m not taking to this.” The people that lie their way through the whole thing, I’ve seen a couple cases in particular, the person would get mad at me and be a stickler for the rules and then I hear six months later they got out and they’re dead.

Rob: Nick was telling me the other day that the programs he was in, that he knew of at least 30 people who had been through it and wound up dead. It’s a rough thing to go through and it requires a lot of care and attention and people who really know how to help people rather than just cookie cutter type programs.

On whether father and son want to work together again

Rob: Yeah.

Nick: Oh yeah. But I think for now, it’s best for me at least to be sort of independent. But that’s not to say I didn’t have an amazing experience.

Rob: Nick — and I said it to his face, I’ll say it on the air — he was the heart and soul of the film and any time I would get an opportunity to work with him I would do it, but I do understand him wanting to forge his own way. I do know what that’s about, I went through it, and he’s brilliant and talented and he’s going to figure out his path.

‘Zero K’ Freezes At The Edge Of Immortality


Death is the great leveler. All of us — kings, peasants, beggars and billionaires, saints and gnats will all die. It’s the one certainty we share, even if we differ on the fine points of what happens thereafter.

But what if someone set out to circumvent death by having themselves essentially suspended: Technically dead, but ready to be revived? Frozen in some secret location, body and head insulated seperately, against the day a technology is developed to regenerate them, with some memories restored and others cast away?

Such an enterprise — known as Convergence — is at the center of Don DeLillo’s new novel, Zero K. DeLillo tells NPR’s Scott Simon that the novel centers around a healthy man in his 60s who wants to use the technology so that he can be with his already-frozen wife. “The point is that this is a completely illegal process, and takes place in the deepest physical levels of the Convergence, in an area known as Zero K,” he says.

Interview Highlights

On whether we’re headed for Convergence

Science and technology are on that course, and I think they have been for quite a while. I can only expect that it will continue, perhaps in a more refined manner. But I ought to add that I did not do a great deal of research; I did what was necessary.

Don DeLillo has won the National Book Award, the PEN/Faulkner Award, and been nominated for several Pulitzer Prizes. His new book is Zero K.i

Don DeLillo has won the National Book Award, the PEN/Faulkner Award, and been nominated for several Pulitzer Prizes. His new book is Zero K.

Joyce Ravid


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Joyce Ravid

Don DeLillo has won the National Book Award, the PEN/Faulkner Award, and been nominated for several Pulitzer Prizes. His new book is Zero K.

Don DeLillo has won the National Book Award, the PEN/Faulkner Award, and been nominated for several Pulitzer Prizes. His new book is Zero K.

Joyce Ravid

On whether the people of Convergence are trying to avoid death — or life

Well, in general I think what they hope to accomplish is a return to life in 20-30 years, or possibly less. The question ultimately is, what kind of life, what kind of mind does an individual possess after spending 20 years in a cryogenic pod? But they do expect that an individual at the end of the process will have an identity resembling his or her original identity.

On what the possibility of immortality does to art and poetry

I think this is a major question. Do I know the answer? I think it would have to affect novels and poems and stage plays and every other form of art. But to what extent, and would it create an urgency that would benefit the creator of various kinds of art? I don’t know the answer.

On what happens to us when we go

I think peace happens, in the sense of being submerged beneath whatever difficulties, complications and unrest are part of our lives. In essence, I think nothing happens. But I could change my mind.