#79 : October 10, 1997

Stuck in the Wrong Decade

People stuck in the wrong decade — or simply carrying a lot of the props from another decade. NOTE: This episode originally included a story by reporter Stephen Glass (no relation to Ira), which we have removed because of questions about its truthfulness. This story is included in the transcript only for reference.

#78 : October 3, 1997

How Bad Is Bad?

How bad is bad enough to count? To go to hell?

#77 : September 26, 1997


Can the secular world and the religious world understand each other?

#76 : September 19, 1997


The mob as portrayed in movies, and as it is in real life. And its hold over us.

#75 : September 12, 1997

Kindness of Strangers

Stories of the kindness of strangers and where it leads. Also, the unkindness of strangers and where that can lead. All of today's stories take place in the city most people think of as the least kind city in America: New York.

#74 : August 29, 1997


What happens when people with one common interest gather in monstrous, fluorescent -lit halls for the weekend? Sometimes they drive each other crazy, sometimes they fall in love.

#73 : August 22, 1997

Blame It on Art

The darker side of the art world: petty jealousies, competitiveness, failure. And also what's so great about art.

#72 : August 8, 1997


An idiosyncratic first-person travelogue about race relations and tourism from radio producer Rich Robinson and television producer Josh Seftel. Their radio story is about a trip they took to the new South Africa. Rich Robinson is black. Josh Seftel is white. The interracial pair travel through the still mostly-segregated society and have very different opinions about what they see, especially when it comes to some distant relatives of Josh's in South Africa.

#71 : August 1, 1997

Defying Sickness

Stories of people trying to do exactly what the doctors say they can't — or shouldn't.

#70 : July 25, 1997

Other People's Mail

When you read other people's mail, you can't help but try to fill in between the lines. You try to decipher the stories of the people who wrote the letters. We hear four stories of people who read other people's mail, and what happens to them once they get caught up in these other lives.

#69 : July 18, 1997

Dream House

How many of our parents move to some place — some dream house — with some vision of a new life in the new place, and move the family with them, hoping it works out for the kids. Three stories on this theme.

#68 : July 4, 1997

Lincoln's Second Inaugural

A show for July 4th weekend. We begin with perhaps the most moving, poetic inaugural speech in American history, and look at its legacy today. In his second inaugural address, Lincoln wondered aloud why God saw fit to send the slaughter of the Civil War to the United States. His conclusion: that slavery was a kind of original sin for the United States, for both North and South, and all Americans had to do penance for it.

#67 : June 27, 1997

Your Dream, My Nightmare

Could it be more obvious? Stories in which someone's dream is someone else's nightmare. All of us get into these situations with strangers, with the people we love most, with our own parents, with our children.

#66 : June 6, 1997

Tales from the Net

Are people having experiences on the Internet they wouldn't have anywhere else? Several weeks ago, This American Life invited listeners to help answer that question.

#65 : May 30, 1997

Who's Canadian?

Notes and stories about the Canadians among us. Are they in fact any different from red-blooded Americans? They claim they're not. Skeptical Americans put their position to the test.

#64 : May 23, 1997


Stories for the start of summer. We want summer to be this wonderful break, but so often it fails to deliver. We hear Ron Carlson's short story about a summer job delivering tanks of oxygen to the infirm, Scott Carrier takes a river vacation, and more.

#63 : May 9, 1997

One Thing

People whose lives are organized around one thing.

#62 : May 2, 1997

Something for Nothing

Stories of people trying to get rich quick or otherwise make something for nothing. As everyone knows, there's no such thing as something for nothing. You always pay a price.

#61 : April 25, 1997


Stories of when things go wrong. Really wrong. When you leave the normal realm of human error, fumble, mishap, and mistake and enter the territory of really huge breakdowns. Fiascos. Things go so awry that normal social order collapses. This week's show is a philosophical inquiry in the nature of fiascos — perhaps the first ever.

#60 : April 18, 1997

Business of Death

Usually we talk about death as a tragedy, a mystery, a hard-to-comprehend fact of life. But in addition to all that, for all sorts of people it's also ... a job.

#59 : April 11, 1997


Stories about people who are not afraid of fire, though perhaps they should be.

#58 : April 4, 1997

Small Towns

Stories of small town life: the claustrophobia and freedom people feel in small towns, the yearning people feel in small towns. And three teenagers in one of the harshest urban environments explain how the public housing projects are like a small town.

#57 : March 14, 1997


Stories about the delivery business and the people in it. UPS men, bike messengers, FedEx dispatchers. NOTE: This episode originally included a story by reporter Stephen Glass, which we have removed because of questions about its truthfulness. This story is included in the transcript only for reference.

#56 : March 7, 1997

Name Change

Stories of people changing their name — some to create a new identity, some to con people. Name changes are particularly American stories: they're the dream of starting over with a clean slate. They're Ellis Island and 12-step programs, the move westward and self help, Marilyn Monroe and Malcolm X and the Artist Formerly Known as Prince, all rolled up in one.

#55 : February 28, 1997

Three Women and the Sex Industry

A few months ago, radio producer Sandy Tolan was supposed to do a documentary about strippers with an aspiring writer — and stripper — named Susan. A few days before they were to begin working together, Susan disappeared, presumed dead.

#54 : February 21, 1997


Stories, tributes, and attempts to understand the Chairman of the Board.

#53 : February 7, 1997

Valentine's Day '97

For Valentine's Day, stories about our parents falling in love. And troubles with their love. From Hilton Als, Scott Carrier, Julie Showalter, a magazine column called Men My Mother Dated and others. The idea for this show was inspired by Delmore Schwartz's classic 1937 work of American fiction about his parents' courtship: In Dreams Begin Responsibilities and Other Stories.

#52 : January 31, 1997

Edge of Sanity

Stories about the border between mental health and mental illness.

#51 : January 24, 1997

Animals Die, People Ponder

Stories of people who handle dead animals. Don't worry — it's not as gross as it sounds. In fact, not disgusting at all. A story by George Saunders about an animal control man who falls in unrequited love. A woman who studies illuminated manuscripts, whose pages look like paper but are in fact animals. And other stories.

#50 : January 17, 1997

Shoulda Been Dead

Kevin Kelly was in Jerusalem. For reasons too complicated to go into here, he ended up sleeping on the spot where Jesus was supposedly crucified. After Kevin awoke, the thought came into his head: Live as if you'll die in six months. So he did.