Robert Gottlieb begins his biography of the legendary actress Sarah Bernhardt with something that should be fairly straight forward - her birth date. She was born, as he says, "in July or September or October of 1844. Or was it 1843? Or even 1841?" Gottlieb says Bernhardt wasn't really concerned about accuracy; she was much more interested in a good story. Monday, we're talking with Gottlieb about the fascinating life of Sarah Bernhardt - on and off the stage. (Rebroadcast)

Thursday, Doug is joined by journalist Jeff Sharlet for a conversation about his most recent foray into the world of American religious life. Sharlet's book is a collection of 13 essays that profile people on the fringes of religion - from a devoted evangelist to a Holocaust survivor and from a congregation of urban anarchists to a banjo player. Doug talks to Sharlet about the people he encountered and about the spectrum of America's faith and doubt.

Judge Thomas Buergenthal has said that when we talk about the Holocaust in numbers, the six million Jewish victims become a "mass of nameless, soulless bodies." And that's why he decided it was time to tell his story. Buergenthal has had a distinguished career as a scholar of human rights law and an international judge, but he's also one of the youngest survivors of the Auschwitz concentration camp. Thomas Buergenthal joins Doug to talk about his memoir A Lucky Child. (Rebroadcast)

Photo of Jad Abumrad. / Kris Krug

Radiolab co-host Jad Abumrad is a genius. People in the radio business have known that for years. But last month he was certified when the MacArthur Foundation awarded him a "genius grant" for "bringing a distinct new aesthetic" to broadcast journalism by melding music and storytelling into a singular audio experience. Jad thinks public radio should be more chaotic, more joyous and more lifelike. On Thursday, Doug's talking with Jad to find out what goes on inside the mind of a radio genius.

Thursday, We're talking about the life and career of Robert Redford. Biographer Michael Feeney Callan says he became interested in Redford because the actor is more than just a pop icon. As much as he's recognized for his legendary film roles, he is also known for his environmental activism and his impact on filmmaking through The Sundance Institute. But for all that, Redford has remained an enigmatic figure. Callan joins us to talk about the man he came to know in 15 years of writing "Robert Redford." (Rebroadcast)

Tuesday, Doug talks to the scholar Nadja Durbach about the age of the freak show. She's written a book that examines the era when so called "freaks of nature" were marketed and displayed for paying customers - figures like The Elephant Man and Laloo the "Double-Bodied Hindoo Boy." Durbach's interest goes beyond the questions of taste and exploitation. She found that these displays revealed something deeper about body differences and the idea of otherness. (Rebroadcast)


Sep 9, 2011

Friday on RadioWest we're talking about the eccentric chess genius Bobby Fischer. Frank Brady is our guest; he knew Fischer and has written a biography that explores his life. In 1972 at the height of the cold war, Bobby Fischer became the world chess champion by defeating the Soviet Boris Spassky. His success created a phenomenon. He became a superstar. but then he practically disappeared. His life came to be dominated by paranoia and fanatacism. The book is called "Endgame". (Rebroadcast)

Prisoner of Zion

Aug 31, 2011
Qala-i-Jangi, Afghanistan. Photo by Scott Carrier

Wednesday, Doug is joined by independent radio producer Scott Carrier. When the US invaded Afghanistan after the attacks on 9/11, Carrier decided to go there too. He wanted to meet the enemy himself and find out what life is like in their world. But when he returned, he also found an enemy at home. It was the fear and anger that he says Americans have towards others. Scott Carrier has just published a book of stories from the post-9/11 world. It's called "Prisoner of Zion."

Boys of Bonneville

Aug 24, 2011

Wednesday, we're talking about Ab Jenkins, a Utah man who pushed the limits of speed. More than 70 years ago, Jenkins raced his custom-built Duesenberg Special called the "Mormon Meteor" across the Bonneville Salt Flats. Jenkins set 26 records in that car and half of them still stand today. Now, there's a new documentary about Ab Jenkins and the Boys of Bonneville. We'll talk to director Curt Wallin and others about the film and about the newly restored Mormon Meteor.

Lost in Shangri-La

Aug 19, 2011

Doug talks to Mitchell Zuckoff, author of the book Lost in Shangri-La. In 1945, a site seeing plane of American soldiers crashed in a remote, mysterious valley in Dutch New Guinea. The local tribe was rumored to be head-hunters and had never before been in contact with white people. But the three survivors were caught between the valley and the Japanese enemy. Zuckoff joins us to tell the story of the time they spent with the Dani tribesmen and the daring rescue that brought them home. (Rebroadcast)