Susan Orlean

Bullseye with Jesse Thorn: Susan Orlean and Jazz singer Gregory Porter

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Show: 
Bullseye
Guests: 
Susan Orlean
Guests: 
Gregory Porter

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Photo: Michael Loccisano / Getty Images

Author Susan Orlean on her new book 'The Library Book'

Susan Orlean is a staff writer at The New Yorker. Her work has also appeared in Vogue, Esquire and on This American Life. She's the author of eight books, covering topics like New England and Rin Tin Tin. Her first book, "Saturday Night," used narrative journalism to paint a portrait of how Saturday night in America is lived. She's probably best known for "The Orchid Thief." That book ended up being the basis of the Academy Award nominated film "Adaptation," starring Nicolas Cage and Meryl Streep.

She now lives here in Los Angeles. Being an author and a reader, she's visited the beautiful, historic central library in downtown Los Angeles dozens of times. Her latest book "The Library Book" is about that library and its history.

It wasn't until she took a tour of the library that she was inspired to write this book. The tour guide opened a book and said some of them still smelled like smoke. A bit perplexed she probed and asked more about the smell. This is how she learned of devastating fire that almost demolished the building in 1986. She always hoped someone would tell this story, and unknowingly years later she would be the one to tell it. The book is also also kind of a paean to libraries everywhere – what they mean to her, and why every library is a vital institution.

We're big fans of Susan Orlean at Maximum Fun. A few years ago she gave a talk at Max Fun Con called: "Finding the extraordinary in the ordinary." You can check out that talk here.

Photo: Valery Hache / AFP / Getty Images

Jazz vocalist Gregory Porter on his new album 'Nat King Cole and Me'

Gregory Porter is a Grammy Award winning jazz vocalist. The route he took to get there is really unique. He was a offensive lineman at San Diego State. Then, during his junior year, an injury ended his football career. During that time he could sing, but he wasn't a singer. That changed when his mom, literally from her deathbed, told him to start singing.

In 2010, he moved to New York with his brother and recorded his debut record "Water." Whereas most young jazz singers start their careers recording standards, Porter recorded an album of mostly originals.

Now, almost a decade later, he's laid down an new album with jazz standards. "Nat King Cole and Me" pays tribute to one of the greatest jazz singers of all time. It's music he grew up on. Porter spent a lot of time researching the music of Nat King Cole - his records, books, and documentaries. He'll tell us what made Cole one of the most unique singers of the civil rights era of the 1950's. He'll also tell us what it was like to grow up in Bakersfield, California and how that's influenced his lyrics.

The covers are great, but if you want to hear some more of his original work, check out his 2016 album: "Take Me to the Alley" – the album was inspired by his mothers teachings as a street minister and it's one of our favorites.

The Outshot: Hot Dog Timmy

Jesse explains why great things can come of simple premises and simple situations. Like in this sketch from "The Whitest Kids You Know."

Ep 15: Go Fact Yourself with Paul F. Tompkins and Susan Orlean

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Carl Gotlieb, J. Keith Van Straaten, Paul F. Tompkins, Helen Hong, Susan Orlean
Guests: 
Paul F Tompkins & Susan Orlean
Guests: 
Dr. Linnea Newman
Guests: 
Carl Gotlieb
Guests: 
J. Keith Van Straaten
Guests: 
Helen Hong

Susan Orlean is a staff writer for the New Yorker and the author of books like The Orchid Thief.

Paul F. Tompkins is a comedian whose voice you’ll recognize as the character Mr. Peanutbutter on Bojack Horseman.

In this episode, we learn about why Paul can’t stop spoiling upcoming episodes of Bojack Horseman for his wife, and why he should be considered the king of coining new catchphrases. And we’ll also learn which animals in Susan’s life have been named after characters from Bojack (hint: not horses), and why it’s important to learn the title of an author’s book before interviewing her in a public forum. Plus, Susan explains more about her upcoming book and Paul discusses what makes him love podcasting so much.

Do YOU Know the Difference?

What’s the difference between a “Labyrinth” and a “Maze”?

What’s the difference between “Distinguish” and “Discern”?

Areas of Expertise
Susan Orlean: Women’s fashion, 80’s music from the Congo and chicken husbandry
Paul F Tompkins: SCTV, Neil Gaiman’s comic The Sandman and the film Jaws

Appearing in this episode:

J. Keith van Straaten
Helen Hong
Paul F. Tompkins
Susan Orlean

With guest experts:
Dr. Linnea Newman, Director of Global Technical director of poultry for Merck Animal Health

Carl Gotlieb, Screenwriter of Jaws and author of The Jaws Log.

Go Fact Yourself is coming to New York for two live tapings on July 21st and 22nd at Caveat NYC! For information on guests and to buy tickets go to gofactyourpod.com.

Go Fact Yourself was devised by Jim Newman and J. Keith van Straaten, and produced in collaboration with Maximum Fun. The show is recorded at the Angel City Brewery in downtown Los Angeles.

Theme Song by Jonathan Green
David McKeever is the Live Sound Engineer.
Maximum Fun's Senior Producer is Laura Swisher
The show is edited by Julian Burrell.

The Turnaround: Susan Orlean

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Show: 
The Turnaround
Guests: 
Susan Orlean

New to The Turnaround? Subscribe in Apple Podcasts or with your favorite podcatcher to make sure you automatically get two new interviews a week through August 18th.

Susan Orlean has been a journalist for over 30 years, writing for publications like The Rolling Stone and Vogue. In 1992 she was made a staff writer at The New Yorker and has been contributing ever since. She has also written eight books. One of them, The Orchid Thief, was the basis of Adaptation, Charlie Kaufman's 2002 film starring Nicholas Cage and Meryl Streep.

Susan talks to Jesse about how some of her best pieces start as one thing and end up as another, especially once she begins talking to living, breathing human beings. She did just that in her 1994 piece about disgraced figure skater Tonya Harding, which she wrote by talking to locals in Harding's hometown of Clackamas, Oregon. She also shares about her experiences interviewing celebrities, including the valuable lesson she learned when profiling Tom Hanks for Rolling Stone.

Visit Susan Orlean's website to learn more about her work, including the many articles and books she's written.

The Turnaround is a production of Maximum Fun in partnership with the Columbia Journalism Review. Visit their website to learn more about their "mission to encourage excellence in journalism in the service of a free society," and to read edited transcripts of our other Turnaround episodes.

Hosted and created by Jesse Thorn
Produced by Kara Hart and Nick Liao
Senior Producer: Laura Swisher
Managing Director: Bikram Chatterji

Music for The Turnaround provided by Mobius Van ChocStraw.

Special thanks to Kyle Pope and his team at CJR, Darrel Frost, and Emilie Erskine.

EP. 158 "Running in Circles" ft. Susan Orlean

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Guests: 
Susan Orlean

Susan Orlean (@susanorlean) joins the ladies to discuss The New Yorker, hate reading, accepting praise, the lottery, Dave Coulier, Elmo, Tim Riggins and more! Produced by David Janove, booker Marie Colette, theme song Zach Ames.

Email us your Lady Problem at ladytolady@maximumfun.org

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Subscribe to us and leave us a review on iTunes

Jordan, Jesse, Go! Episode 342: Ham Hynasty with Susan Orlean

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Guests: 
Susan Orlean

New Yorker staff writer Susan Orlean joins Jordan and Jesse for a discussion of pitcher cocktails, overgrooming, and the modern day tukey leg craze.

Bullseye with Jesse Thorn: Jack Black and Bun B

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Show: 
Bullseye

New to Bullseye? Subscribe to our podcast in iTunes or with your favorite podcatcher to make sure you automatically get the newest episode every week.

And if you're looking for a particular segment to listen to or share, check us out on Soundcloud.

Our guest host this week is the author and The New Yorker staff writer Susan Orlean. You can find more from Susan at her website or follow her on Twitter. Thanks, Susan!


ROBYN BECK/AFP/Getty Images

Jack Black on Musical Snobbery, Childlike Innocence, and the Roles He's Yet to Play

Jack Black always seems to be on the verge of breaking into song. Whether he’s a slacker substitute teacher in School of Rock, an earnest funeral director in Bernie, or a snobby record store clerk in High Fidelity, music has a way of seeping into his performances. Maybe that’s because Black’s portrayals often possess an unbridled joy that’s difficult to capture with spoken dialogue.

Although he's known for his comedic strengths and has often played the "shlubby loser", Black has showed that he's capable of much more. For Peter Jackson’s King Kong, he played a 1930s filmmaker intent on creating an epic narrative, no matter how far into the heart of darkness he has to travel. In Noah Baumbach’s Margot at the Wedding, he was a disappointing groom prone to occasional bursts of anger. Most recently, he played the titular character in Richard Linklater’s Bernie, a film based on the true story of a kind, gentle mortician accused of murder in a small Texas town. It’s the subtlety of performances like these mixed with the intensity of a man who also headlines the rock band Tenacious D that truly make Black a unique performer.

Guest host Susan Orlean gets to the bottom of Black’s career, from his early days performing one-man shows in his living room to working with some of the biggest names in show business. They’ll talk about some of his early childhood performances, dissecting musical tastes, a new HBO pilot, and why seeing him on Broadway wouldn’t be entirely out of the question.

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Ian Cohen on New Heavy Music Releases: Death Grips and Iron Chic

Ian Cohen, contributing editor at Pitchfork, stops by to recommend some new heavy music releases.

He suggests a listen to two new records: Government Plates by experimental hip hop and noise group Death Grips, and Iron Chic's The Constant One.

You find Ian's writing at Pitchfork and Grantland, or follow him on Twitter.

If you liked this, let someone know! Click here to share this segment.


Bun B of UGK on Rhyming, Big Breaks and Mourning Pimp C, "The Yin to My Yang"

Bun B was half of UGK and still is one of the South’s greatest hip-hop lyricists. Alongside partner Pimp C, he spent two decades rhyming and recording classic hip-hop and helped establish Texas as a force to be reckoned with in the national hip-hop scene. Pimp C died six years ago this month, but Bun has continued to record and release music as a solo artist. His newest album, Trill Og the Epilogue, was released in November.

Jesse sat down with Bun B in 2009 to talk about underwriting a music career with street crime, rhyming with Jay-Z, and his reaction to Pimp C's frequent arrests, setbacks, and untimely passing.

If you liked this, let someone know! Click here to share this segment.


The Outshot: The Sorcerer of the Guitar

Guest host Susan Orlean goes under the spell of "Franco" Luambo Makiadi, The Sorcerer of the Guitar.

If you liked this, let someone know! Click here to share this segment.

International Waters Episode 2: And the Prince of Thieves

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Susan Orlean
Guests: 
Susan Orlean
Guests: 
Isy Suttie
Guests: 
Dan Antopolski
Guests: 
DC Pierson
Guests: 
Elizabeth Laime

Special guest Susan Orlean joins Isy Suttie, Elizabeth Laime, Dan Antopolski, DC Pierson and host, Jesse Thorn in the transatlantic comedy quiz where land laws do not apply. We learn what Katy Perry took Russell Brand under, compare Hunger Games quotes with 80s pop lyrics and chat about Alsatian-themed fashion. Plus, since it’s the Maxfun pledge drive, some bonus Jordan, Jesse Go!

Think you've got what it takes to write a round of International Waters? Pitch us your round – email it to iw@maximumfun.org. Give us the theme and some sample questions, and maybe it'll pop up on the next episode. Or donate to our pledge drive and we'll write it for you.

And please go and "like" us on Facebook!

Rin Tin Tin with Susan Orlean: Interview on The Sound of Young America

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Show: 
Bullseye
Guests: 
Susan Orlean

Bestselling nonfiction author and The New Yorker staff writer Susan Orlean talks to us about the fascinating life of the iconic screen star, Rin Tin Tin.

Rin Tin Tin went from being an abandoned puppy in a bombed-out dog kennel to being one of the best-recognized and best-loved dogs in recent history. His owner Lee Duncan devoted his life to showing the world the fantastic stunts his dog could do, including jumping 12-foot fences and climbing trees. Rin Tin Tin became "The Wonder Dog" and a star of the silver (and later, television) screen.

Susan's new book, Rin Tin Tin: The Life and the Legend, is not merely a biography of the dogs that took on the mantle of Rin Tin Tin, but an exploration of what our relationships with dogs have to come mean in the past hundred years.

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