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Courtesy of Jenny Jimenez

Author Claire Dederer was 44-years-old and living a successful life — literary accomplishment, comfortable marriage, family and home — when something caught up to her. 

Courtesy of W.W. Norton & Company, Inc.

Yes, you were promised a jet pack. Your disappointment around that may still sting, or you may be more concerned about global warming, or a robot taking your job, or finding affordable housing. Or you might be reasonably concerned that the digital revolution will leave you somewhere on the global trash heap of history.

A new book will help you find out what’s happening now and next in technology and maybe how to stay ahead of the curve.

Mathematical physicist and educator Robbert Dijkgraaf on the importance of the 'pursuit of useless knowledge' in both the sciences and the humanities.
Courtesy of Andrea Kane/Institute for Advanced Study, Princeton, NJ USA

In 1939 the influential American education reformer Abraham Flexner published an essay in Harper’s Magazine titled “The Usefulness of Useless Knowledge.” In it he promoted the well-funded, free pursuit of scientific inquiry, arguing that great scientists were “driven not by the desire to be useful but merely the desire to satisfy their curiosity.”

In an essay on Jane Austen, Virginia Woolf observed, "Of all great writers she is the most difficult to catch in the act of greatness."

To that double-edged and astute assessment, one can add, she is also the most difficult to catch in the act of tea-time.

This observation might seem irksomely contrarian to the legions of Janeites in hats and bonnets gathered around tea and scones to pay fealty to the novelist on the bicentenary of her death, which falls today.

Author and filmmaker Sherman Alexie waits with dancers backstage for his turn on stage as the keynote speaker at a celebration of Indigenous Peoples’ Day Monday, Oct. 10, 2016, at Seattle's City Hall.
AP Photo/Elaine Thompson

Sherman Alexie, author and friend of KUOW, posted this letter to his Facebook page on Thursday.

Arundhati Roy in 2017.
Flickr Photo/Chris Boland (CC BY NC ND 2.0)/www.chrisboland.com

When an acclaimed novelist publishes their first new work in 20 years, people take notice.

When the first book was Arundhati Roy’s “The God of Small Things,” the interest is especially intense. She was awarded the esteemed Booker Prize for the best novel in the English language in 1997.

Roy’s new work is “The Ministry of Utmost Happiness.” The novel concerns, as she suggests in the text itself, “the vast, violent, circling, driving, ridiculous, insane, unfeasible, public turmoil of a nation.”

Bill Radke speaks with Mary Mann, author of "Yawn: Adventures in Boredom." Mann discusses her research into why we get bored, the good that can come out of boredom and some of the ways people have tried to fight boredom through the years. One of those ways involves a study where people chose to give themselves electric shocks rather than sit silently in a room. 

Courtesy of Democracy Now!

Journalist Amy Goodman has been an influential voice in independent media for the past 20 years. Her efforts to inform, defy and edify resonate with many audiences. She co-hosts the award winning program Democracy Now!, where she is often seen reporting from the front lines of progressive action.

Courtesy of Paul Bongaarts

One of the truisms about living in the Great Northwest is that wherever you are, it doesn’t take long to get out into the mountains. Whether we’re from here or migrated here, we crow about the natural beauty and adventure that surround us.

When Kelly Barrales-Saylor was a new mom, she got a lot of children's books as gifts. Most were simple books about shapes, colors and letters. There were none about science — or math.

"My editorial brain lit up and said there must be a need for this," says Barrales-Saylor, who works as an editor for a publishing company outside Chicago.

Halfway across the world, Chris Ferrie was similarly unsatisfied.

When reading to his kids, Ferrie noticed that most books used animals to introduce new words. In today's world, that just didn't make sense to him.

Keeanga-Yamahtta Taylor and Naomi Klein move past their shock at Trump's election at the Neptune Theatre
Courtesy of Debra Heesch

Journalist and author Naomi Klein is famous for her 2007 book, “The Shock Doctrine: The Rise of Disaster Capitalism.” The shock she explored there was the manipulation of international crisis situations to implement so-called neo-liberal, free market policies.

On a recent stop in Seattle, Klein considered another kind of shock. She read from her new book, “No Is Not Enough: Resisting Trump's Shock Politics and Winning the World We Need.”

The first book of the Harry Potter series went on sale in the U.K. 20 years ago today. It offers a convenient excuse to reacquaint yourself with a world before anyone on this side of the Atlantic had heard of muggles, horcruxes or pensieves, before tourists would crowd into London's Kings Cross railway station simply to peer wistfully at the space between Platforms Nine and Ten.

Here's the first story NPR ever aired about Harry Potter — a wonderful piece by the late Margot Adler, from All Things Considered in 1998.

Some gems, from that bygone era:

Courtesy of The Hachette Book Group

It’s still a little hard to believe, but 17 years ago a comedian famous for his contributions to Saturday Night Live ran to become a U.S. Senator from Minnesota, and won, barely. At first it appeared he had lost, but after a recount and a protracted legal dispute, Senator Al Franken went to Washington. And not because he’s such a funny guy.

Several years ago, when Garrett Graff was working at Washingtonian magazine, a coworker brought him a lost ID badge that he'd found on the floor of a parking garage.

"It was a government ID for someone from the intelligence community, and he gave it to me since I write about that subject, and he's like, "I figure you can get this back to this guy,' " Graff recalls.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kurt_Vonnegut#/media/File:Kurt_Vonnegut_1972.jpg

 

Kurt Vonnegut (1922-2007) was grim about the future in a hilarious way.

Brian Weiss

Six years ago Seattle poet Tara Hardy was blindsided by a mysterious chronic illness. It nearly killed her. She talks with KUOW's Elizabeth Austen about what it was like to live with that mystery, what changed once the disease had a name, and why she believes we're all living with a diagnosis of "human frailty."

Author and filmmaker Sherman Alexie waits with dancers backstage for his turn on stage as the keynote speaker at a celebration of Indigenous Peoples’ Day Monday, Oct. 10, 2016, at Seattle's City Hall.
AP Photo/Elaine Thompson

In Sherman Alexie’s deeply personal memoir, “You Don't Have to Say You Love Me,” he tells the story of growing up as the son of Lillian Alexie on the Spokane Indian Reservation.

Brett Lowell/Courtesy of Viking/Penguin Books

Tommy Caldwell understands risk and adventure better than most. Two years ago, he became the first person to free climb the Dawn Wall of El Capitan in Yosemite National Park.

The wall is more than half a mile of sheer, vertical granite — and Caldwell made the climb with nothing but a rope tied around his waist.

Twitter War vets Lindy West and Scaachi Koul at SPL
KUOW Photo/John O'Brien

Seeing as there’s not much going on down here in the States, perhaps it’s a good time to check in with one of our neighbors to the north. Toronto-based author Scaachi Koul was in town recently for a chat with Seattle writer Lindy West.

Courtesy of Libby Lewis Photography

The idea of getting up on stage may terrify most of us, but actor Jeffrey Tambor knew from a very young age that was exactly what he wanted to do.

As long as he can recall, he’s wanted to give people his autograph.

Civic boosters in an Olympic Peninsula rainforest town are looking to a trove of movie props and costumes to maintain the flow of vampire tourism. A collection related to the bestselling "Twilight" teen vampire romance series, which was set in real life Forks, Washington, opened to the public there Thursday.

Updated at 3:12 p.m. ET

Denis Johnson, the author behind the seminal collection Jesus' Son, has died at the age of 67. A protean stylist who made a career of defying readers' expectations, he crafted fiction, poetry and reportage that was often as unsparing as it was unconventional.

Bishop Scott Hayashi: 'Three men entered. One jumped behind the counter where I was standing, put a gun to my side and pulled the trigger. Pffft! It was that fast.'
Courtesy of Kathy Shorr

To say the least, the statistics surrounding gun violence in the United States are disturbing. On an average day, 93 Americans are killed with guns. Seven of those are children.

For every person killed with guns, two more are injured.

'Passion in Red.'
CREDIT XANDRISS SINGLE LINE ARTIST HTTPS://FLIC.KR/P/N7B6V7 (CC BY-SA 2.0)

Claire Dederer’s book “Love and Trouble: A Midlife Reckoning” is a memoir. But unlike “Wild” or “Eat, Pray, Love,” it’s not the kind of memoir where a woman of a certain age goes traipsing off into the unknown to start a new life.


Farmland near Ritzville, Washington.
Flickr Photo/John Westrock (CC BY NC ND 2.0)/https://flic.kr/p/GwCkwW

Ten years ago, University of Washington professor David Montgomery published his influential book “Dirt: The Erosion of Civilizations.” One year later, he received a MacArthur Genius fellowship, and continued his research in geomorphology: “the branch of geology that is concerned with the structure, origin, and development of the topographical features of the earth's surface.”

Courtesy of Libby Lewis Photography

Yes, poetry month is over. But how about some more poetry anyway?

We’ve collected readings from the Seattle Arts & Lectures poetry series over the last two months. You’ll hear the work of poets Ellen Bass, Ross Gay and Alice Notley. Each spoke at Seattle’s McCaw Hall.

Would a universal basic income solve poverty?

May 12, 2017

Bill Radke talks with historian Rutger Bregman and author of the new book "Utopia for Realists." The book details, in part, Bregman's belief that there should be a universal basic income, where everyone is given enough money to put them above the poverty line, even if they don't work. Bregman believes this would solve multiple problems while costing a fraction of what is spent on poverty measures now. He also believes a basic income for everyone would allow people to rethink the true value of work. 

KUOW Photo/Sonya Harris

Author Thomas Frank made his mark on the book world by taking Republicans to task for the state of the nation. Last year, well before Donald Trump’s presidential win, Frank shifted his gaze to the Democrats. He didn’t like what he saw there, either.

Meredith Heuer

Bill Radke speaks with Daniel Handler, aka Lemony Snicket, and his wife Lisa Brown about their new book, "Goldfish Ghost." Handler wrote the story and Brown did the illustrations. And as you might guess from the title, it's a kid's story about a dead goldfish. Handler and Brown discuss the new book, why we don't really want happy endings, and the need for loneliness and bewilderment in our daily lives. 

Courtesy of Dave Hardwick

Civic Saturday is the brainchild of Eric Liu and Jená Cane, co-founders of the Seattle-based non-profit Citizen University. They call it the civic analog to church.

Like church, it brings people together but to ponder our civic lives. And like church, the gathering includes songs, readings of “scripture” taken from great American texts, silent reflection and a “sermon” given by Liu.

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