Learning to Drive; Mysterious Ingredients in Popular Foods

Sep 17, 2015

Katha Pollitt, is best known for her column in The Nation, where her work has appeared since 1980. She's a feminist, a keen observer of American culture, and the author of two books of poetry and four essay collections. One of those essays, “Learning to Drive,” appeared in The New Yorker 13 years ago, and has recently been adapted into a film starring Patricia Clarkson and Sir Ben Kingsley. 

It’s about Pollitt, a New York native, learning to drive at age 52 -- a sturdy framework for a story to begin with -- but it's interwoven with moments from her life that are revealing, poignant, and at times hilarious. We caught up with Pollitt after a screening of the film at Madison Art Cinemas in Connecticut, where she took questions from the audience afterward. We sat in the back of the emptied theater and talked about writing, the film, and what it’s like to see a movie based on your work.

The film is written, directed, and edited by women. It’s out now in select theaters.

A little later we talk with the author of This Is What You Just Put in Your Mouth? Patrick Di Justo uncovers the truth behind the mysterious ingredients found in everyday products. He looks at familiar items like Easy Cheese — you know, the stuff in the can? It's been around since the 1960s and the design is ingenious. The book is full of interesting and often shocking facts about the food we eat and the products we use.

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  • Katha Pollitt – author of the essay "Learning to Drive" and the collection of essays Learning to Drive: And Other Life Stories
  • Patrick Di Justo – author of This is What You Just Put in Your Mouth? From Eggnog to Beef Jerky, the Surprising Secrets


  • “Gne Gne,” Montefiori Cocktail
  • “Can't Run, But,” Paul Simon
  • “Chili Hot,” Us3
  • “Kalimba,” Mr. Scruff