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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."

Today is a milestone of sorts for author Michel Faber: "This is the first time I've used a telephone in perhaps a year and a half."

The power of a president to pardon people for crimes has always been controversial. Some early American leaders thought it smacked too much of royalty.

But Alexander Hamilton argued the law should have avenues for mercy, or "justice would wear a countenance too sanguinary and cruel." He thought one person was more likely to use such power with conscience than a committee.

William Butler Yeats wrote "The Second Coming" a hundred years ago, when the world seemed on the verge. Perhaps like now, perhaps like many years.

The losses of the First World War were still overwhelming when millions more began to die in the waves of a flu pandemic, which infected Yeats's wife, Georgie Hyde-Lees, while she was pregnant. She and their child would survive.

Yeats's poem was published in November 1920. And over the century since, perhaps no poem has been more invoked for vexing times, to convey, in Yeats's own incomparable words, that:

This story was edited for radio by Martha Ann Overland.

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

SCOTT SIMON, HOST:

You know, we could all use a good companion these days. A dog - but they shed. A cat - but they scratch. How about a snail?

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

UNIDENTIFIED PERSON: Snails are so hot right now.

Twelve-year-old Joe Bryant may not be able enjoy a live German soccer match during the pandemic, but he's managed to capture the magic of their stadiums through the fine art form of Lego.

Bryant builds exquisitely detailed models of his favorite Bundesliga stadiums, home to Germany's pro soccer league. He's built more than a dozen models without access to design plans or blueprints.

To open a book by Jan Morris is like popping the cork on a bottle of champagne: pop, fizz, then bubbles of delight.

She climbed with Edmund Hillary and Tenzing Norgay on Mt. Everest, covered wars across deserts, and wrote dozens of books, including the Pax Britannica trilogy — her at once lyrical and irreverent history of the British Empire — fine novels, and scores of essays about the world's great cities. Listen to, or savor, her description of Hong Kong, just before the handover from British to Chinese control:

Shuggie Bain is a novel that cracks open the human heart, brings you inside, tears you up, and brings you up, with its episodes of unvarnished love, loss, survival and sorrow.

It's the story of a little boy, Shuggie Bain, growing up in rough circumstances in the Glasgow of the 1980s, rife with families living under the strain of joblessness and depression, who sometimes deal with it in the worst ways. Shuggie himself lives with his taxi driver father Big Shug and his troubled mother, Agnes.

We don't know when this will all be over. Those may be the hardest words to hear.

We spend most of our lives planning around calendars and clocks, schedules, seasons, schooldays, holidays, ETAs, projections and informed predictions.

I try not to compare any other tests in life to war. But because I've covered wars and conflicts, I think I recognize what many people in places like Sarajevo, Asmara, or Afghanistan always told me: it is not just the danger, but the uncertainty of not knowing when a crisis, the hardship, loss, and peril, will be over.

Evidence of election rigging has roiled New Zealand's "Bird of the Year" competition after a case of ballot-box stuffing has threatened to derail avian democracy.

Suspicion began when organizers received more than 1,500 votes sent from the same email address early Monday — each vote was in favor of the little spotted kiwi (kiwi pukupuku), according to a statement from Forest & Bird, a conservation organization that runs the election.

Does it still pay to "follow the money" in politics? Some of the campaigns that raised the most money in the 2020 elections still lost.

Jaime Harrison's campaign for the Senate in South Carolina raised more than $107 million, according to the Center for Responsive Politics, which tracks campaign money — $40 million more than his incumbent Republican opponent, Lindsey Graham.

Mr. Harrison lost.

Ruby Bridges is a real person who became an indelible image of American history.

She was that six year-old girl, painted by Norman Rockwell, who was escorted into school by stout U.S. marshals, when she became the first Black student at the William Frantz Elementary School in New Orleans on November 14, 1960.

You never know where an act of kindness ends.

Tara Berliski of Magnolia, Texas, offered to donate a kidney to her husband, John Berliski. His were removed in July because of polycystic kidney disease. Doctors at the Houston Methodist Hospital living donor program explained that because John Berliski has type AB blood, he could receive a kidney from almost any donor. But if John and Tara Berliski chose to enter a kidney swap program, they might be able to help someone else, too; someone else might help them.

Sam Smith is known for their soulful voice and its satin falsetto. But the singer's lyrics, whether in a ballad or a bop, aren't just about loving or losing others: They're also about the love of the genuine, the true, the self. The artist joined NPR's Scott Simon to talk about their new album, Love Goes, out Oct. 30. Hear the radio version at the audio link, and read on for an edited transcript.

This interview has been edited for length and clarity.

A lot is going on with Benson and Mike. They have explosive sex, but are not quite sure they get along, or where they're going.

Mike is a Japanese American chef at a Mexican restaurant in Houston. Benson is a Black daycare employee who doesn't really care much for children.

Mike's mother, Mitsuko, has just arrived from Japan to visit. But Mike's about to fly off to Osaka to hold the hand of his father as he dies. So Mitsuko will bunk with her son's boyfriend. What could go wrong?

What could go right?

There's a controversy in Gloucester County, New Jersey, that began at a football game on October 4. The national anthem was about to be played when the running back for the Gibbstown Falcons told his coach, Rashad Thomas, "I want to kneel."

Coach Thomas told his running back, "I'll kneel with you." An assistant coach joined them. Coach Thomas told his players that no one had to kneel, but soon the whole team had joined them, and held hands. They were teammates.

In the torrent of news this week, one line especially pierced me: "Interactions may be less positive when they become artificial."

It comes from researchers at the University of Veterinary Medicine in Vienna and the Johannes Kepler University of Linz, Austria, who compared the vital signs of 28 cows as they were petted while listening to a live human voice, and those same cows being petted while they heard merely a recording. They published their findings in the journal Frontiers in Psychology.

A true reporter knows you don't have to venture to the other side of the world to find great stories. Look right in front of you.

Jim Dwyer was 19, and a Fordham student, when he saw a man on the ground, shaking on a sidewalk in the Bronx. He was having an epileptic seizure. Jim was among the strangers who stopped to try to help. But there were also people who passed by and muttered, "'junkie, 'scumbag,' that sort of thing," he later wrote for the student newspaper, The Fordham Ram.

When the the Nobel Prize for Literature was announced this week, the hopes of many in Kenya were dashed — again — when author Ngũgĩ wa Thiong'o did not win.

Thiong'o is the country's most celebrated poet and playwright. Decades ago, he was jailed in Kenya for writing a play in Gĩkũyũ, his mother tongue, rather than in English.

A lot of Americans may wonder this morning: How could the president, of all people, come down with the coronavirus?

The President of the United States is often called the most powerful person in the world. They can cause armies to march and rockets to soar. They also can hear directly from some of the finest scientific and medical minds in the world. Presidents are surrounded by rings of highly-trained security guards, who protect them at all times.

Congress used to like to pass spending bills before an election. Representatives could return home to campaign and say, "Look what we did for you!"

But with 13.6 million people out of work, Congress may not pass a new coronavirus relief bill. Both parties may feel, in today's fractious politics, they can fire up their supporters best if they don't compromise, and blame the other party.

The dreamscape of California has looked like a hellscape this week. California, America's Golden State — "Warm, palmy air — air you can kiss ..." wrote Jack Kerouac — has had choking air, scalding heat and surreal orange skies.

California has been the dreamland of so many who hope to strike it rich or start over, a state of mind, as well as a state: a place for fresh starts, freeways and free love.

Now and then, two news stories rub up against each other and strike sparks.

This week David Blaine, the magician and illusionist, strapped himself to 52 helium-filled balloons, lifted off into the big, blue skies above Arizona's Great Basin Desert and floated. It was something out of a childhood dream.

"I want to go up and become a tiny dot in the sky," he had told the New York Post.

Gifty tells first dates her job is to get mice hooked on cocaine. She's joking — she actually gets mice addicted to a nutrition drink, which is cheaper. Her mother, from Ghana, lives with her, but mostly under the covers.

Punching the Air is a novel in verse about a 16-year-old boy, Amal, with a budding artistic talent and promising future, who is put away in prison for throwing a punch. But in a way, was he put away before that, by an uncaring and prejudiced system?

Yusef Salaam, who has become a noted educator and activist after spending more than six years in prison for his wrongful conviction in what was known as the Central Park jogger case, wrote the book with author Ibi Zoboi.

The greatest athletes know: Children are watching. They see them in the stands and on the streets, wearing small versions of their jerseys. They hear them shouting their names. They know from their own lives how children can see sports figures as heroes — and imitate how they play, walk and talk — and what they do.

Posthumous pardons don't do much for the people who receive them. They're usually given to try to make a statement for history.

But President Trump's pardon this week of Susan B. Anthony, on the 100th anniversary of the 19th Amendment, which secured the right for women to vote in America, has dismayed some of those who know the most about Susan B. Anthony, and her story.

"A pardon says you've done something wrong," Rutgers Professor Ann Gordon, a leading scholar of the women's suffrage movement, told us. "Susan didn't think a woman voting was wrong."

Sal Khan, the founder and CEO of Khan Academy, built an education enterprise on virtual learning. But as many communities across the country prepare to start the fall with online-only instruction, even he admits that distance learning is a less than perfect substitute for in-person schooling.

The former hedge fund analyst first hatched the idea for Khan Academy as a way to tutor his younger cousins in math. Since its launch in 2008, the site has been providing free video tutorials and lectures. Today, it serves more than 100 million users worldwide.

The new novel A Room Called Earth opens with a young woman as she gets ready for a holiday party in Melbourne, Australia.

Getting ready takes 17 chapters. And every detail has a reason for being. As the narrator tells us, "My inner processes can be visceral to the point of being completely illusory, and absurd."

The series Upright opens with a man hauling an upright piano in a trailer across the bare Australian landscape. He's frazzled and alone at the wheel, guzzling beer and gobbling pills. He gets a text message: "Mate. Time is running out. Don't duck this up."

Ah, spell-check.

Then he drives into a ditch, hears his piano bleat, and the shouts of an angry, profane 16-year-old he's just run into. Upright is the story of two strangers, Lucky and Meg, who take off across the expanse of Australia, scheming, swearing, pilfering, and becoming vital to each other.

Nate Marshall has a new collection of poems. It's called Finna, and he says the title of this new book comes from the Southern phrase "fixing to, right, which is like 'about to.' One of the things that I love about that, and that is a kind of central thing in the book, is it's all about what happens next. It's this thing that is informed by history, but that is all about looking forward, all about possibility. That's sort of what I hope the poems do, is that they I hope they sort of wrestle with history, but also look forward."

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