"I moved to Seattle and was frankly shocked at the lack of a sense of humor I found in almost all the residents," Maria Semple told April Baer at Wordstock. Consider Semple's books, like "Where'd You Go, Bernadette?" a shot of humor in the city's collective arm, then.

“I moved to Seattle and was frankly shocked at the lack of a sense of humor I found in almost all the residents,” Maria Semple told April Baer at Wordstock. Consider Semple’s books, like “Where’d You Go, Bernadette?” a shot of humor in the city’s collective arm, then.

Roxy De La Torre/OPB

Maria Semple on “Today Will Be Different” - 1:23

The world of Maria Semple‘s imagination is a glowing place. Her characters rocket off on madcap adventures; they collide at high speed; they teeter on the edge of emotional cliffhangers. Some passages crackle with the comedic snap she honed writing for TV shows like “Arrested Development” and “Mad About You,” but at the center of her stories are quiet emotional truths. Semple’s last novel was The New York Times best-seller “Where’d You Go, Bernadette?” —  a merry chase on the trail of a formidable heroine that’s currently being adapted into a movie starring Cate Blanchett, Kristen Wiig and Billy Crudup. This year she’s back with another kind of caper, “Today Will Be Different,” which in turn will be made into an HBO limited series starring Julia Roberts and written by Semple.


"I don't know if I call myself a gay man anymore," says Rabih Alameddine. "I'm creating a new sexual and political identity: I'm grumpy."

“I don’t know if I call myself a gay man anymore,” says Rabih Alameddine. “I’m creating a new sexual and political identity: I’m grumpy.”

Roxy De La Torre

Rabih Alameddine on “The Angel of History” - 17:05

Rabih Alameddine possesses the kind of multifaceted mind we all aspire to. His career has spanned engineering, painting and writing, and his six books keenly bridge the Middle East and the West, religion and sexuality, history and pop culture. In “The Angel of History,” Alameddine mixes many different currents to tell the story of a young Yemeni-born, gay man who weathers San Francisco’s AIDS epidemic through an unusual relationship with Satan and a gaggle of saints. Alameddine talks about the gray areas between good and evil, Satan as a protagonist, and the importance of remembering the past, particularly the hardest moments, in order to move into the future.

“The Angel of History” recently won the Lambda Literary Award for Gay Fiction.


Alexander Chee told Aaron Scott that most the operatic escapades in "Queen of the Night" are firmly grounded in the gossip and excesses of the times.

Alexander Chee told Aaron Scott that most the operatic escapades in “Queen of the Night” are firmly grounded in the gossip and excesses of the times.

Roxy De La Torre

Alexander Chee on “The Queen of the Night” - 35:47

Alexander Chee’s new book, “The Queen of the Night,” is a waltz through a kaleidoscopic 19th-century world of opera, romance and intrigue that The New York Times called a “post modern bodice ripper.” It follow the journey of a 19th-century American girl from a circus to a brothel to the service of France’s empress to the glamorous life of a star soprano. Chee tells us how he interwove his own characters with historic giants of France’s Second Empire, like Verdi, famous courtesans and the Emperor Napoleon the Third, as well as his own journey from boy soprano to novelist.