Arts: Literature

Actor Jim Tobolowwsky poses for a portrait.

If Stephen Tobolowsky looks familiar, it’s for good reason. The character actor has appeared on screen countless times, with credits ranging from the HBO comedy series “Silicon Valley” to “Spaceballs.” But his new project, “My Adventures With God” is more personal. The book is series of stories from Tobolowsky’s life that affected his relationship to Judaism. He chases water moccasins as a young boy in Texas, and almost dies while riding horseback on an active volcano. Tobolowsky joins us to talk about his acting career and the events that have shaped his relationship with God.

Author Omar El Akkad poses for a portrait.

“You fight the war with guns, you fight the peace with stories.” That’s from Omar El Akkad’s novel, “American War,” which takes readers 50 years into the future, where the effects of climate change and limited natural resources have caused a second Civil War and split America in two. El Akkad, a longtime journalist who covered Guantanamo Bay, the Arab Spring and the aftermath of Michael Brown’s killing in Ferguson, Missouri, joins us to talk about the novel and how his work as a journalist influences his fiction.

Stephen Curry of the Golden State Warriors looks on during a game against the Miami Heat at American Airlines Arena on January 23, 2017 in Miami, Florida.

Stephen Curry was once labeled too small to make an impact in the NBA. Now, he’s the reigning MVP and has led the Golden State Warriors to back-to-back league championships, taking home the trophy in 2015. And veteran sports columnist Marcus Thompson was along for the entire ride, working as the Warriors beat reporter for the Bay Area News Group. In his new book “Golden,” Thomson traces the story of how Curry went from a too small underdog to the superstar leader of a record-breaking team, transforming the nature of the game along the way. As the Warriors prepare to take on the Portland Trailblazers in the playoffs this Sunday, we talk with Thompson about Steph Curry’s life on and off of the court.

Oakland Athletics celebrate in Cincinnati after beating the Reds in the 7th game of the 1972 World Series. Pouring champagne over their heads from the left are: Mike Epstein, catcher Dave Duncan, left fielder Joe Rudi, and third baseman and captain Sal Bando.

Long before Billy Beane’s numbers-based “Moneyball” system of choosing baseball players, and way before people expected the SF Giants to make the World Series every other year, the wild antics of an early-70s Oakland A’s team captivated the Bay Area. The A’s moved from Kansas City to Oakland in 1968, and proceeded to introduce new uniforms, grow mustaches and fight in the locker room, on the field and with the occasional journalist. They also won the World Series three times in a row — in 1972, ’73 and ’74. Veteran sports reporter Jason Turbow recounts the winning – and losing – streaks of the A’s first decade in Oakland in his new book “Dynastic, Bombastic, Fantastic: Reggie, Rollie, Catfish, and Charlie Finley’s Swingin’ A’s.”

Author Joe Di Prisco poses for a portrait.

When Joe Di Prisco was 10 years old, cops swarmed his relative’s home looking for his father. His dad was a gambler, a bookmaker and an FBI informant, rubbing shoulders with mob associates in a Brooklyn neighborhood reminiscent of ‘Goodfellas.’ But Di Prisco says his father was also a mystery – a man later afflicted with Alzheimer’s whose life Di Prisco pieced together through FBI transcripts. In his latest memoir, ‘The Pope of Brooklyn,’ the Lafayette writer reflects on his father’s narrative and his own parallel path into gambling, drugs and a run-in with the FBI.

Vanessa Hua is the author of "Deceit and Other Possibilities."

A Hong Kong movie star forced to return home to Oakland after a sex scandal. A boy from Mexico reunited with his parents in San Francisco, only to find his family splitting apart. An obedient Korean-American daughter who failed to get into Stanford and fakes her way onto campus. These are the characters in Vanessa Hua’s debut collection of short stories, “Deceit and Other Possibilities,” which centers around the lies people tell themselves and others. The San Francisco Chronicle columnist joins us to talk about her fiction writing and breaking away from stereotypes of first- and second-generation immigrants.

Ariel Levy

“It has been made overwhelmingly clear to me now that anything you think is yours by right can vanish, and what you can do about that is nothing at all.” So writes New Yorker staff writer Ariel Levy, who built her own successful, but unconventional life, which eventually came crashing down with an affair, a miscarriage during a Mongolian reporting trip and the breakup of her marriage. Levy shares these stories — and some less painful ones about writing for The New Yorker — and ponders her future in her new memoir, “The Rules Do Not Apply.” Ariel Levy joins us in-studio to discuss her life and work.

Related Links:

Thanksgiving in Mongolia (The New Yorker)

Author Yiyun Li poses for a portrait.

Oakland-based writer Yiyun Li has a resume that many writers would covet: she’s just published her sixth book and was awarded a 2010 MacArthur Foundation Award. Less enviable, however, is her struggle with suicidal depression, a battle which she explores in her new memoir, “Dear Friend, from My Life I Write to You in Your Life.” Li joins us today to talk about confronting her two essential questions: Why write? And why live?

Megan Marshall poses for a portrait.

Poet Elizabeth Bishop once famously told fellow poet Robert Lowell that “when you write my epitaph, you must say I was the loneliest person who ever lived.” Bishop must have understood what it was to be lonely: She was an infant when her father died and a child when her mother was institutionalized. Pulitzer Prize-winning author Megan Marshall sheds light on the life and legacy of the poet in “Elizabeth Bishop: A Miracle for Breakfast.” We’ll talk with Marshall, a former student of Bishop’s, about the very private and reticent poet.

Author Roxane Gay poses for a portrait.

Roxane Gay has never shied away from writing about racism, being overweight, sexual assault or her bisexuality. Her new book of short stories, “Difficult Women,” dives deep into these same topics. She joins us to talk about her work, the language of protest and Simon & Schuster canceling Milo Yiannopoulos’ book. Gay pulled out of her deal with the publisher in January after it extended a $250,000 contract to the provocateur associated with Breitbart News.

George Saunders poses for a portrait.

Award-winning author George Saunders joins Forum to talk about his debut novel, “Lincoln in the Bardo.” Set in a graveyard at the outset of the Civil War, the story centers on Abraham Lincoln as he grieves for his son Willie, who died of typhoid was he was eleven years old. “Bardo” refers to the Tibetan concept of purgatory, a state Lincoln finds himself in as he mingles with spirits and tries to make sense of his son’s death. We’ll talk to Saunders about the novel, its Buddhist themes and what inspired it.


For more than 20 years, neurologist Suzanne O’Sullivan has treated
patients who have debilitating physical symptoms — such as pain
and seizures — with no identifiable cause. These patients,
O’Sullivan notes, “find themselves trapped in a zone between the
worlds of medicine and psychology, with neither community taking
responsibility.” O’Sullivan joins Forum to talk about her new book
“Is It All in Your Head?,” an exploration of psychosomatic disorders
and their causes.


Zadie Smith’s latest novel “Swing Time” follows the lives of two biracial girls who dream of becoming dancers, though only one has enough talent to succeed. The two take very different paths into adulthood, one becoming a personal assistant to a pop star, while the other slips back into poverty. Smith, whose debut novel “White Teeth” was widely celebrated, joins us to talk about her writing, her own multiracial background and why the results of America’s presidential election resonate so personally for her even though she is English.

Information on Zadie Smith’s Book Passage Appearance

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