Stream Podcasts – Aspen Ideas to Go

Jane Mayer

A recent blockbuster article by journalist Jane Mayer examines close ties between the White House and Fox News. The piece, published in The New Yorker, spurred the Democratic National Committee to choose not to allow Fox to hold any of its presidential debates. In this broad conversation, Mayer touches on the Fox News article, another piece on Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh, and her book “Dark Money.” She speaks with Carolyne Heldman, former president of Aspen Public Radio. The views and opinions of the speakers in the podcast do not necessarily reflect those of the Aspen Institute.

Elaine Pagels + Kate Bowler

Kate Bowler and Elaine Pagels both teach religion, write about religion, and have experienced immense hardships. In this frank and funny conversation, they explore why people still seek ancient religious teachings in our modern age. In moving and relatable moments, they explain how they overcome loss, illness, and isolation. Pagels is the author of “The Gnostic Gospels” and “Why Religion?: A Personal Story.” Bowler is the author of “Blessed: A History of the American Prosperity Gospel” and “Everything Happens for a Reason (and other lies I’ve loved).” They speak with Gina Murdock, a writer, yoga teacher, and community organizer.

Colson Whitehead

Nearly two decades ago, author Colson Whitehead began thinking about writing about the Underground Railroad. “I remembered when I was a kid, I first heard those words…I thought it was a literal train beneath the earth,” he says. He put pen to paper and the result was the Pulitzer Prize-winning novel The Underground Railroad. In it, the historic secret network of safehouses for runaway slaves becomes a make-believe set of tracks and tunnels beneath southern cities and towns. The book tells the story of Cora, a runaway slave who makes various stops along the railroad in her search for freedom. Whitehead recreates the terror black people in the pre-Civil War era faced. It’s an essential read to understand America’s past and present, according to The New York Times. In this episode, he talks about the novel and about the process of writing.

Tommy Caldwell

What does it take to rock climb one of the world’s hardest routes at night in the bitter cold? Tommy Caldwell, an accomplished climber, says he summoned focus, drive, and endurance to summit Yosemite’s nearly vertical 3,000 foot Dawn Wall. He completed the climb with partner Kevin Jorgeson in January of 2015. Since then, he’s written a memoir, The Push, that chronicles the climb and the life experiences that led to it. Caldwell is also featured in two films: “The Dawn Wall” and “Free Solo,” which is considered to be on the short list for an Oscar nomination. In this episode, he speaks with mountaineer and climber Penn Newhard about conquering fear, cultivating tenacity, and turning failure into growth.

Luis Alberto Urrea

The author of the Pulitzer Prize finalist The Devil’s Highway is out with a new work of fiction. Luis Alberto Urrea‘s The House of Broken Angels focuses on a Mexican-American family, but the complicated and loving relationships it highlights comprise every family, no matter the country of origin. The story unfolds over a few days as friends and family members travel to a San Diego neighborhood to celebrate a birthday and a funeral. The family’s patriarch Big Angel is dying of cancer but wants to celebrate his birthday, likely his last. At the same time, his elderly mother dies in the weeks leading up to the birthday party. While it seems like such a birthday-funeral combination would be depressing, Urrea creates a joyful story that’s both funny and touching.

In this episode, Urrea talks about how his own family, particularly his brother Juan, inspired the book. His on-stage presentation in Aspen, Colorado, will make you, the listener, laugh and cry. He spoke as part of Winter Words, an author lecture series held by Aspen Words. Aspen Words is the literary program of the Aspen Institute.

US Poet Laureate Tracy K. Smith

Last year the US Library of Congress named Tracy K. Smith as the country’s Poet Laureate. She follows in the footsteps of notables who have held the position like Billy Collins, Rita Dove, and Juan Felipe Herrera. In January, she read her poetry and talked about her creative process at Winter Words. Smith is the author of three books of poetry and the memoir Ordinary Light. Her latest book, Wade in the Water, is due out in April. In it, she looks back at moments in history where the human race failed to choose compassion. She wonders what it would take to love others in a truly generous way. “Love is the animating force of the universe and compassion is what we’re here to embody,” she says, “That’s been a really consoling mantra to have at the back of the mind in an age when that’s the opposite of what we hear most of the time.”

Living The Creative Life 

How is creativity cultivated in childhood? And, does a creative culture at home result in a creative career later on? Authors Jess Walter, Dani Shapiro, and Jericho Brown explain how their early years contributed to a life of writing. Such a life isn’t easy, with rejection, confusion, and disappointment making the pursuit an uphill battle. The writers describe how they find time to put pen to paper, and they read from their works. Don’t miss this funny, reflective, and inspiring discussion moderated by Adrienne Brodeur, author and executive director of Aspen Words.

Aspen Insight: Finding Power

The second half of this episode features Adrienne Brodeur in conversation about the twenty nominees for the Aspen Words Literary Prize celebrating mission-driven fiction. The works cover topics including immigration, inequality, incarceration, climate change, and much more.

War Reporting, Novel Writing, and How to Tell a Great Story

Powerhouse literary couple Geraldine Brooks and Tony Horwitz didn’t start their careers writing books. The two were war correspondents covering events like the Gulf War in the 1990s. In this episode, Brooks and Horwitz are onstage for a lecture series held by Aspen Words, the literary organization of The Aspen Institute. Besides recalling their reporting experiences, the duo discuss what it takes to write a great book. Brooks is a Pulitzer Prize-winning historical novelist. Her first book Year of Wonderswas an international bestseller. Her latest work The Secret Chord, is based on the life of King David. Horwitz is a Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist and has written several bestsellers, including Midnight Risingabout a raid in the slaveholding South that sparked the Civil War.

Poetry, Justice, and Alienation

Can art tackle some of the most difficult social-justice questions we face today? Over the past year we have witnessed images of our country at war with itself; how can poetry dispel alienation and give rise to a new level of citizenship in America? This podcast features three of America’s most powerful poetic voices, beginning with an excerpt from U.S. Poet Laureate Juan Felipe Herrera’s 2016 Winter Words talk, and followed by an Aspen Ideas Festival conversation with Elizabeth Alexander (author of The Light of the World) and Claudia Rankine (author of Citizen: An American Lyric).

Winter Words Author Series

Three authors shed light on the writing life and the stories behind their works. New York Times bestseller Jess Walter (Beautiful Ruins), former US Poet Laureate Natasha Trethewey (Thrall), and LA Times Book Prize winner Ruth Ozeki (A Tale for the Time Being). They spoke at the 2015 Winter Words series.

Flash Boys and the Human Piranha

Michael Lewis is the author of the bestsellers Flash Boys: A Wall Street Revolt, The Blind Side: Evolution of a Game, and Moneyball: The Art of Winning an Unfair Game, among other books. After graduating from Princeton University and the London School of Economics, Lewis worked on the bond desk at Salomon Brothers, an experience he recounted in Liar’s Poker, his first book. He left the financial world to become a journalist, writing on politics, finance and more for the New Republic, the New York Times Magazine, Slate and other publications. He is a contributing editor at Vanity Fair and columnist at Bloomberg View. Recorded live at Winter Words. NOTE: This episode contains explicit language.

Wild Author Cheryl Strayed at Winter Words

For our inaugural podcast, we are thrilled to present Cheryl Strayed, bestselling author of the memoir Wild. The film adaptation of Strayed’s memoir stars Reese Withersoon as Strayed and Laura Dern as her mother. Both actresses were nominated for Academy Awards at the 2015 Oscars.