Ari Shapiro

"Florida in the summer is a slow hot drowning." That's one way Lauren Groff describes the state in her new collection of short stories. In another part of the book, she calls Florida "a damp, dense tangle. An Eden of dangerous things." Why Florida? "I've lived here for 12 years and it's still so alien and fecund and steamy and strange to me," she says. "Reptilian, dangerous, teeming — I mean, there are so many things that you could call Florida."


Interview Highlights

On the dangers of Florida

It's nightfall in Washington, D.C., at the end of the evening shift, when the throngs of students on school field trips have slowed to a trickle at the Vietnam Veterans Memorial.

With a flashlight in one hand and a clear plastic bag in the other, Bob Herendeen walks the length of the austere, black granite wall. The National Park Service ranger surveys the things visitors have left at the memorial: American flags, wreaths, flowers.

More than a decade ago, author Neil Gaiman wrote a short story that captures some of the strangeness of being a teenager discovering the world. It's called "How to Talk to Girls at Parties," and it's really only one scene: Two boys stumble upon a party where the girls seem rather alien. As it turns out, the girls are actual aliens.

For decades, Americans have seen celebrities through photographer Mark Seliger's lens. His work has appeared in magazines such as Vanity Fair, GQ and Rolling Stone.

"Having a sense of humor" is important to the work, he says. "Whether it's a big concept or whether it's a wink."

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ARI SHAPIRO, HOST:

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