When we first meet Nasser Ali, the protagonist of Chicken with Plums, he's a mess. He loves his children, but doesn't support them. He has never really loved his wife — though he likes a dish she makes, chicken with plums. He was an accomplished violinist, but his wife shatters his violin to hurt him; she believes his instrument is the only thing that he truly loves.
As Nasser Ali peels back his life, in 1958 Tehran, we begin to learn about the broken heart that's beneath his sadness, madness and flights of genius.
Cambodian author Vaddey Ratner was just a child when the Khmer Rouge came banging on the doors of her aristocratic family's compound in Phnom Penh. She's fictionalized that experience — and the years of hardship that followed — in her new novel, In the Shadow of the Banyan.
She survived — and so does her heroine, Raami — in part because she remembered the poems and stories her father loved.
This interview was originally broadcast on July 26, 2011. Donald Ray Pollock's The Devil All the Time is now out in paperback.
Knockemstiff, Ohio, is a tiny hamlet in southern Ohio. In the 1950s, Knockemstiff had three stores, a bar and a population of about 450 people. Most of those people, says fiction writer Donald Ray Pollock, were "connected by blood through one godforsaken calamity or another."
This interview was originally broadcast on May 21, 2012. Sacha Baron Cohen's The Dictator is now out on DVD.
Actor and writer Sacha Baron Cohen is famous for taking his characters — Ali G., Borat, Bruno — into the real world, interacting with people who have no idea that they're dealing with a fictional character. But his new movie, The Dictator, is a scripted comedy about a tyrant on the loose in New York.