Scott Simon

Scott Simon is one of America's most admired writers and broadcasters. He is the host of Weekend Edition Saturday and is one of the hosts of NPR's morning news podcast Up First. He has reported from all fifty states, five continents, and ten wars, from El Salvador to Sarajevo to Afghanistan and Iraq. His books have chronicled character and characters, in war and peace, sports and art, tragedy and comedy.

Weekend Edition Saturday has been called by the Washington Post, "the most literate, witty, moving, and just plain interesting news show on any dial," and by Brett Martin of Time Out New York, "the most eclectic, intelligent two hours of broadcasting on the airwaves." Simon has won every major award in broadcasting, including the Peabody, the Emmy, the Columbia-DuPont, the Ohio State Award, the Robert F. Kennedy Journalism Award, and the Sidney Hillman Award. He received the Presidential End Hunger Award for his coverage of the Ethiopian civil war and famine, and a special citation from the Peabody Awards for his weekly essays, which were cited as "consistently thoughtful, graceful, and challenging." He has also received the Barry M. Goldwater Award from the Human Rights Fund. Recently, he was awarded the Studs Terkel Award.

Simon has hosted many television specials, including the PBS's "State of Mind," "Voices of Vision," and "Need to Know." "The Paterson Project" won a national Emmy, as did his two-hour special from the Rio Earth Summit meeting. He co-anchored PBS's "Millennium 2000" coverage in concert with the BBC, and has co-hosted the televised Columbia-DuPont Awards. He also became familiar to viewers in Great Britain as host of the continuing BBC series, "Eyewitness," and a special on the White House press corps. He has appeared as a guest and commentator on all major networks, including BBC, NBC, CNN, and ESPN.

Simon has contributed articles to The New York Times, The Los Angeles Times, The New York Times Book Review, The Wall Street Journal, The Sunday Times of London, The Guardian, and Gourmet among other publications, and won a James Beard Award for his story, "Conflict Cuisine" in Gourmet. He has received numerous honorary degrees.

Sports Illustrated called his book Home and Away: Memoir of a Fan "extraordinary...uniformly superb...a memoir of such breadth and reach that it compares favorably with Fredrick Exley's A Fan's Notes." It was at the top of several non-fiction bestseller lists. His book, and Jackie Robinson and the Integration of Baseball, was Barnes and Noble's Sports Book of the Year. His novel, Pretty Birds, the story of two teenage girls in Sarajevo during the siege, received rave reviews, with Scott Turow calling it, "the most auspicious fiction debut by a journalist of note since Tom Wolfe's. . . always gripping, always tender, and often painfully funny. It is a marvel of technical finesse, close observation, and a perfectly pitched heart." Windy City, Simon's second novel, is a political comedy set in the Chicago City Council. Baby, We Were Meant for Each Other, an essay about the joys of adoption, was published in August 2010.

Simon's tweets to his 1.25 million Twitter followers from his mother's bedside in the summer of 2013 gathered major media attention around the world. They inspired his New York Times bestseller book Unforgettable: A Son, a Mother, and the Lessons of a Lifetime. Laura Hillenbrand, the author of Unbroken and Seabiscuit, called the book "poignant, funny, intimate, and unforgettable." Scott Turow called it "a treasure. It is as poignant and tender and wise as Tuesdays with Morrie, with the added virtues of being unflinching and, quite often, very funny." Laurie Halse Anderson just called the book, "Amazing. Breathtaking. Affirming. This book will change lives, restore hopes to the brokenhearted, and remind the rest of us what is truly important." Carlos Lozado of The Washington Post called it, in a rave review, "a book that easily matches its title."

Simon also wrote the book Just Getting Started with Tony Bennett. His latest books is My Cubs: A Love Story about his lifelong fandom of the Chicago Cubs, and their historic World Series victory.

Simon is a native of Chicago and the son of comedian Ernie Simon and Patricia Lyons Simon. He is married to Caroline Richard Simon, and their daughters are Elise and Paulina. His hobbies are books, theater, ballet, British comedy, Mexican cooking, and "bleeding for the Chicago Cubs." He has thrown out the first pitch at Wrigley Field (low and outside) and appeared as Mother Ginger in the Ballet Austin production of The Nutcracker. Scott received the Order of Lincoln from the State of Illinois in 2016, the state's highest honor. He adds, "If you prick me, I'll bleed Chicago Cubs blue."

For Clarence Castile, the death of George Floyd has felt all too familiar.

In 2016, Castile's nephew, Philando Castile, was pulled over while driving in a suburb of St. Paul, Minn. The officer asked to see his license and registration, and he was reaching for them when the officer shot him five times.

"It is very painful to see another black man killed at the hands of the police for basically doing nothing worthy of dying for," Castile said in an interview with NPR's Weekend Edition.

Larry Kramer was angry, irascible, and indispensable. He was a playwright and novelist in 1983, as he saw friends around him die of what you then had to spell out as Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome. And he wrote a call to action in the New York Native, a gay bi-weekly paper: "1,112 and Counting," was the title.

It was the number of people diagnosed with serious complications from AIDS - nearly half in and around New York.

Andrea Hoehn of Waseca, Minnesota, told us this week, "I just want to wake up from this nightmare."

Many may feel that way right now. But the experience of the Hoehn family, and other livestock farmers, may be distinctly telling and tragic.

The Hoehn family has run a hog-farm for 6 generations. They can feed and care for about 20,000 hogs at a time, until they're sent to a packinghouse, where, yes, the pigs are slaughtered and packed for food. Hog-farming is a tough business, physically and financially, even in good times.

Monty and Rose met last year on a beach on the north side of Chicago. Their attraction was intense, immediate, and you might say, fruitful.

Somewhere between the roll of lake waves and the shimmer of skyscrapers overlooking the beach, Monty and Rose fledged two chicks. They protected their offspring through formative times. But then, in fulfillment of nature's plan, they parted ways, and left the chicks to make their own ways in the world.

Author and bookstore owner Emma Straub's new novel reminds us how lives can change in an instant — not that we may need that reminder too much right now.

All Adults Here is a modern family saga of three generations thrown together, whether they like it or not — and a lot of the time, they don't. It begins with a bang, when Astrid Strick sees a lifelong friend she'd never much liked get hit and killed by an empty, speeding school bus. And at the age of 68 she realizes — as she tells her children — that "there are always more school buses."

The New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival, one of this country's greatest musical gatherings, would have celebrated its 50th anniversary this year. But instead the stages at Jazz Fest, as it is more commonly known, will be empty for the first time since 1970 after the organizers were forced to cancel due to the coronavirus pandemic. But there is still music coming from New Orleans.

As I read news reports this week that health care workers in several states said they don't have enough protective gear, including face masks, an email pinged in.

"PUT ON YOUR GAME FACE," it said. A sport merchandise site now sells face masks in the colors and logos of NFL teams.

Let me just note that some masks looked more appealing than others. The dancing Miami Dolphin could make you look like a bear with a fish in its mouth.

Jerry Seinfeld says he's "adjusted pretty comfortably" to his new life in quarantine.

"I think there's something to be said for not socializing," he tells Weekend Edition. "It's kind of a rest for your face and your fake emotions and your repeating the same stories."

Seinfeld's new standup special, 23 Hours to Kill, starts streaming May 5 on Netflix.

He jokes in the special: "I could be anywhere in the world right now. Now you be honest. If you were me, would you be up here hacking out another one of these?"

Humans came from dust, says Ecclesiastes.

But writer Bonnie Tsui reminds us that humankind also once sprang from — and still seeks — water.

Why do we swim? Tsui takes us from ponds to pools to surfers, racers and a few who have survived icy currents, seeking the answer in her new book, Why We Swim.

Interview Highlights

On the story of Iceland's Guðlaugur Friðþórsson

Tom Misch and Yussef Dayes, whose new album What Kinda Music was released on Friday, are two "very different musicians," in the words of the latter. Dayes is a jazz drummer with a flair for the experimental, and Misch is a producer and guitarist whose dreamy R&B melodies pushed his 2018 debut Geography to be certified silver in the U.K.

Our oldest daughter turned 17 yesterday. It's quite a time for a young person to have a birthday.

I've covered wars where I got to know families with teenagers, and I would ask parents, "What do you want your children to remember of these times?" The answer was almost always: "Nothing. I want my children to remember nothing of all this."

This coronavirus is not a war. Yet, as in war, there are long spells of tedium, interrupted by episodes of anxiety and sometimes danger, loss and grief. No parent wants their children to carry that load through their lives.

Lots of writers have said, in lots of ways, that an unhappy childhood made them writers.

Sopan Deb had a childhood in suburban New Jersey that doesn't sound unhappy — more like he was often unhappy with his parents: Bishakha, his mother, and his father, Shyamal. And his parents were almost always unhappy with each other. They had an arranged marriage, but Deb calls them mismatched souls.

In this time of social distancing, hunkering down and chatting remotely, we might learn some new things about each other. For example, you might know Marin Alsop as the longtime music director of the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra, one of the leading figures in classical music around the world and a frequent guest on Weekend Edition. But you might not know that back in the 1980s, she also led a swing band.

Americans like to think of ourselves as rolling up our sleeves to do a hard job.

But these days, we have to remind ourselves first: wash your hands!

The coronavirus has made some of our long-time slogans and clichés about confronting a crisis sound a just a little tinny.

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SCOTT SIMON, HOST:

Copyright 2020 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

SCOTT SIMON, HOST:

Copyright 2020 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

SCOTT SIMON, HOST:

Copyright 2020 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

SCOTT SIMON, HOST:

Copyright 2020 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

SCOTT SIMON, HOST:

The coronavirus pandemic has created a lot of unscheduled time for people who are sheltering in place. Some are using these unscheduled hours to spoil their pets.

Our world has problems.

But have you heard about the planets of the Interdependency? The collapse of the Flow is at hand — that interstellar pathway of commerce between those inhabited orbs governed by the Interdependency.

Emperox Grayland II has to fight off a coup while her inamorato — or however it's said in the Interdependency — eminent physicist Lord Marce Claremont, tries to figure out how to halt the collapse of a whole system of planets and save the worlds. Note the "s."

If you were trying to start a music career in the early 1970s — when so many songs were aimed at the rising tide of young people — a producer probably wouldn't advise a young talent to "write a song about old people."But that's what John Prine did.

Julia Alvarez has written what she calls her first novel as "an elder."

"It took a while to sort of process this stage of life that I'm in," she says. "And you know, what are the stories that I can tell now, from the hindsight and the insights that I've gained that is different. And you have to, you know, learn that."

The author of beloved and bestselling novels for adults and children, including How the García Girls Lost Their Accents and In the Time of the Butterflies, has brought out her first novel for adults in a decade and a half.

Nurses, doctors, paramedics, technicians and other hospital workers earn the gratitude of the world right now. They risk their lives for others — what genuine heroes do.

But, there are many other people we might overlook who are also essential in these extraordinary times.

I took a run the other morning. It was still and quiet, but I was surprised to see how many people were up, about, and still working in a city in which "nonessential workers" have been told to stay at home.

The losses of the coronavirus pandemic became personal for many Americans this week. More people lost jobs. More people had to worry about their health. And more people died. These names are just a few among so many who gave something to our lives.

Emily St. John Mandel's last novel was set in a world devastated by a worldwide flu epidemic. Station Eleven has sold more than a million and a half copies — though Mandel recommends you not read it right this minute.

Instead, try her latest: The Glass Hotel takes us through tunnels of carelessness, corruption, moral compromise, and a global financial crisis to pose the question: How many chances do we get in life?

I miss work. I know as I say this that I'm blessed to have rewarding work as a lot of Americans suddenly don't. Working from home for most of the week has made me marvel at how much so many can do these days, on laptops and small screens.

But spending most of the workday in bedroom slippers, pondering whether to shave, shampoo or even brush my teeth — because after all, who'll see me besides my family? — also reminds me how much we can miss the walls, cubicles, hallways and, most of all, the people in our workplaces.

The toll of coronavirus in the U.S. and around the world is being told in the numbers of people who have died, been infected, tested or quarantined — and the economic costs of canceled events, vacations and travel. But there's another consequence that's harder to categorize.

At least 10 residents of the Life Care Center of Kirkland, Wash., have died from the virus; more may have died without being tested. Older people, including those with respiratory problems, are considered to be especially vulnerable.

I asked Louise Erdrich to introduce the main character of her new novel, The Night Watchman. His name is Thomas Wazhashk.

She reads:

Years ago, I covered a protest by thousands of people in their underwear.

Civil servants in Calcutta, now called Kolkata, opposed a plan to replace the nylon kurta, that loose, long blouse worn by many Indian government workers, with kurtas made of cotton khadi cloth. Millions of government workers wearing home-spun khadi could help build India's village industries. It seemed such a right thing to do.

"In the real world, villains too often succeed and heroes, too often die," says writer James McBride — and that's one of the great things about being novelist. "In novels you can move matters around ... you get to show the best side of people. You get to show redemption, and forgiveness, and you get to show the parts of people that most of us never get to see."

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