One day Virginia Holman's mother announced she was taking Virginia and her little sister to their cottage at the beach. At the time, Virginia didn't realize they were being kidnapped—that they'd be held for months, hostage to her mother's mental illness.
Writer Shalom Auslander reads his short story about how he decided to start forgetting the dead, even though his job required him to remember. Shalom's most recent book is Hope: A Tragedy.
Shalom Auslander reads his true story, "The Blessing Bee." It's about the time when, as a third-grader at an Orthodox Jewish school, Shalom saw his chance to both make his mom proud, and push his drunken father out of the picture. Part of his scheme involved winning the school's bee on the complicated Hebrew blessings you say before eating certain foods.
David Sedaris wishes he could take back a wish. He's the author of Me Talk Pretty One Day and other books.
Sarah Vowell introduces you to a magazine that—if you're lucky—you've never had to read. A magazine called Living Without. Her story is part of the Hearing Voices project, which gets funding from the Corporation for Public Broadcasting.
Sometimes it's hard to figure out if you're doing something of your own choice or because someone wants you to do it.
We play a 1959 original recording of Truman Capote reading his holiday story A Christmas Memory—and sounding eerily similar to David Sedaris.
Jonathan Goldstein retells the story of Cain and Abel. Finally we get to hear Cain's side of things.
There are squatters who've built entire neighborhoods on top of rotting trash heaps in Mexico. They scavenge in the garbage piles for their living.
Robin Epstein visits people who define this thing called love—for a living. She attends the annual convention of the Romance Writers of America.
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.
Andrea Morningstar tells the story of a ten-year-old girl from small town Michigan named Sarah York, and how she became pen pals with a man who was considered an enemy of the United States, a dictator, a drug trafficker, and a murderer: Manuel Noriega.
When Janice Powell's husband went to prison, he wrote her a letter every day for eight years. When he was at home, he'd drink and get violent, but Janice said that the years in prison were the best of their relationship.
A story by John Hodgman about returning to the beach after a very bad year.
Davy Rothbart reads from letters, notes, scraps of paper and school papers, which have been lost by their original owners. He collects and publishes things like this in his magazine, Found Magazine.
Jeffrey Brown wrote a comic novel called Clumsy, a beautiful and intimate account of his relationship with his ex-girlfriend. He talks with Ira about the relationship and why he chose to draw cartoons about it after it ended.
A guy who writes under the pen name Greg Tate wrote a book called 11 Years, 9 Months and 5 Days, which is nothing more than a year-by-year account—one vignette after another—of things that happened to him in his minimum-wage job as a janitor in a fast food burger place that he calls "The Burger Store." Justin Kaufman reads surprisingly riveting excerpts. The book was self-published at xlibris.com.
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.
Michael Bernard Loggins, a developmentally disabled man in his 50s, tried to battle his fears by listing them, and came up with a list 138 items long. With the help of an arts program, Creativity Explored, he published his list in two zines called Fears of Your Life and Fears of Your Life: A Whole New One.
Anthony Swofford reads an excerpt from his memoir, Jarhead: A Marine's Chronicle of the Gulf War and Other Battles, about his experience fighting in the first Gulf War in 1991, as a Marine sniper.
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.
Genevieve Jurgensen and her husband Laurent lost their two daughters—Elise and Mathilde—at the ages of 4 and 7. Actress Felicity Jones reads from her book The Disappearance: A Memoir of Loss, in which Jurgensen tries to explain their lives and their deaths to a friend, in a series of letters.
A father and daughter (Adrian LeBlanc and his daughter Adrian Le Blanc) decide to write his obituary—together—not really thinking very seriously at first about the real meaning of what they were doing.
Writer John Hodgman in New York tells the story of how he dreamt of getting to know the B-movie star Bruce Campbell, and how his unlikely dream accidentally came true, partly to his delight, partly to his horror.