Fresh Air on The News And Ideas Network

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Fresh Air with Terry Gross, the Peabody Award-winning weekday magazine of contemporary arts and issues, is one of public radio's most popular programs. The show is well known for Terry's interesting and intimate conversations with a wide variety of guests.

My daughter starts full-time preschool next week, and we are all prepared. Her California grandma sent her a new backpack festooned with flowers and embroidered with her name. We bought sunflower-seed butter for her school lunches, because peanut butter is now banned so that no allergic child has to break out his EpiPen. And we also scrambled to find a week of afternoon child care, because even though this is a program with an extended day that lasts until 6, during the first week, school ends at noon.

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Copyright 2015 Fresh Air. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/programs/fresh-air/.

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TERRY GROSS, HOST:

To listen to the media tell it, "so" is busting out all over — or at least at the beginning of a sentence. New York Times columnist Anand Giridharadas calls "so" the new "um" and "like"; others call it a plague and a fad.

In 1938, an Austrian pediatrician named Hans Asperger gave the first public talk on autism in history. Asperger was speaking to an audience of Nazis, and he feared that his patients — children who fell onto what we now call the autism spectrum — were in danger of being sent to Nazi extermination camps.

As Asperger spoke, he highlighted his "most promising" patients, a notion that would stick with the autistic spectrum for decades to come.

About two-thirds of the way through Jonathan Franzen's big new novel, Purity, we're told about an "ambitious project" conceived by a young artist named Anabel. Anabel finds it strange that people can go through their lives without "having made the most basic acquaintance with [their bodies] ...

For novelist Jonathan Franzen, writing isn't just an escape from himself, it's an "escape from everything." He tells Fresh Air's Terry Gross: "It's like having this dream that you can go back to, kind of on demand. When it's really going well ... you're in a fantasy land and feeling no pain."

Neurologist Oliver Sacks, who died Sunday, once described himself as an "old Jewish atheist," but during the decades he spent studying the human brain, he sometimes found himself recording experiences that he likened to a godly cosmic force.

Such was the case once when Sacks tried marijuana in the 1960s: He was looking at his hand, and it appeared to be retreating from him, yet getting larger and larger.

Fresh Air Weekend highlights some of the best interviews and reviews from past weeks, and new program elements specially paced for weekends. Our weekend show emphasizes interviews with writers, filmmakers, actors and musicians, and often includes excerpts from live in-studio concerts. This week:

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DAVID BIANCULLI, HOST:

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DAVID BIANCULLI, HOST:

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TERRY GROSS, HOST:

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TERRY GROSS, HOST:

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TERRY GROSS, HOST:

If the detective was the defining pop hero of the 20th century, in the 21st, it's the hacker. From The Matrix to The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo — not to mention Julian Assange and Edward Snowden — hackers have become inescapable.

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TERRY GROSS, HOST:

Copyright 2015 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

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TERRY GROSS, HOST:

Copyright 2015 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

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TERRY GROSS, HOST:

My grandmother worked all her life cleaning houses and offices, so it's hard for me to resist a short story collection called A Manual for Cleaning Women. Cleaning ladies are rare characters in literary fiction; so, too, are clerical workers, hospital staff and switchboard operators, but they populate Lucia Berlin's stories because Berlin herself held those kinds of jobs. In addition, she was a divorced mother of four and an alcoholic. Unlike cleaning ladies, divorcees and alcoholics are a dime a dozen in fiction, but Berlin puts her own jagged imprint on their tales.

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