NEAL CONAN, host:
This is Talk of the Nation. I'm Neal Conan in Washington. Actor Evan Handler endured a lot in the last few decades. When he was 23 years old, he was given six months to live. After intensive chemotherapy, a long-shot bone-marrow transplant, and a 50-percent chance of remission, he survived. More recently and happily, he's endured the sudden fame of professional success.
He had a regular role on "Sex and the City" as Harry Goldenblatt, Charlotte's husband, a character described as brash, hairy, sweaty and known to sit naked on white furniture. Evan Handler's written a new memoir about his journey between the hospital and HBO, breaking up with 10 women 27 times, offering to volunteer at the cancer center he hated, becoming an unlikely sex symbol and then, even more improbably, a father at age 46.
Later in the hour, a new ambulance service for organs. But first, if you have questions for Evan Handler about surviving life after surviving leukemia, or about his work on TV and the movies, our phone number is 800-989-8255. Email us, email@example.com. You can also join the conversation on our blog at npr.org/blogofthenation.
Evan Handler's new memoir is called "It's Only Temporary: The Good News and the Bad News of Being Alive." He joins us from the studios of NPR West in Culver City, California. Nice to have you on Talk of the Nation today.
Mr. EVAN HANDLER (Author, "It's Only Temporary: The Good News and Bad News of Being Alive): Great to be here, Neal. Thanks for having me.
CONAN: And you write that you and your wife talk a lot about death. How come?
(Soundbite of laughter)
Mr. HANDLER: Well, I know why I do. I'm not sure why she's so vividly connected to it. You know, I had the odd experience of living life kind of backwards. In my mid-20s, instead of living my young adulthood, I was reduced to essentially a dying, old man. I escaped that situation and came back to life, and then the story, to me, becomes interesting from the moment I was kind of declared cured of what I was told was an incurable illness.
Because you have a young guy heading into his 30s who's haunted by and running from where he's been, but really in no hurry to get where he's learned we're all eventually going. So I lived my life really ping-ponging between not knowing whether to live for the moment or invest in the future, kind of living my 20s in my 30s, and having, as you mentioned, you know, a certain amount of difficulty in relationships and in life, in general, because of those conflicts.
CONAN: And it's interesting, some might expect - you are the luckiest man in the world, these incredibly long odds you survived to get over your cancer. Yet you also write about the rage that you felt for losing so much of your life.
Mr. HANDLER: Yeah. I mean, the first book that I wrote, "Time on Fire," is more about those experiences and about that rage. Because I really emerged as a guy who was extremely lucky to have survived, but very angry about how much more difficult surviving the supposedly incurable illness was made than I thought it needed to be, in ways that I thought needed to be exposed. And this is a book about how long it took me to shed a lot of that anger and the feelings of loss.
I mean, I did lose five or six years of my 20s. I had a lot of catching up to do emotionally, professionally, personally, and those experiences, just like returning from a war, and in fact, kind of like returning from a very covert war that not many people know or see, leave one, or left me, bruised. And this book is about the long journey, but thankfully the very, very successful journey to break through that, to let go of those feelings, and to find my way to an incredible sense of gratitude and happiness beyond that I really thought I ever would be able to achieve.
CONAN: Well, let's go back to the misery first.
(Soundbite of laughter)
Mr. HANDLER: Please, please.
CONAN: There's a moment in your book - that first book you mentioned was also a stage play that you wrote and starred in, "One Man Show." You excoriated Memorial Sloan-Kettering Hospital in New York, the place where you got a lot of your cancer treatment, not because they weren't brilliant doctors.
Because they were abusing you, you thought, not giving you the kind of treatment you needed, letting an IV needle stay in your arm as it was still infected for days, even though it was still infected, and things like that. Yet at some point in this book you find yourself going back to Memorial Sloan-Kettering and offering to volunteer.
Mr. HANDLER: Yeah. I had really brutal experiences there. Those cultures are very difficult to survive, in addition to the difficulty of the illnesses. I mean, I was mismedicated. I had to go to - on missions on other floors to steal sheets and pillow cases because there weren't enough to go around. They're very, very difficult cultures to survive. And like many institutions, they are geared to helping the institution thrive rather than individuals who might be trying to benefit from the institution.
I found myself going to Sotheby's to auction off a returned engagement ring, one of my 27 breakups, and found myself within three blocks of the entrance. And this was days after the September 11th attacks in New York and I wandered in. And I thought, well, OK, I'm closing the chapter on one part of my life. Maybe I'll reexamine another. And the experience I had was fascinating because the place seemed so much less toxic to me when I reentered it, as many times things do, you know.
And I even saw some of the individuals I'd represented as among the most evil, there in the cafeteria hiding, like I was, you know, like on a - like a surreptitious mission. And I really started to question whether my experiences in the past had been as accurate - my memories had been as accurate as I thought they were. And I was encouraged by a nurse there, who I had remained somewhat friendly with, to try to volunteer.
I had told her that I was interested in volunteering and offering something back. And she said why don't you do it here? And I thought, well, that's insane. But I went to the volunteer's office, had a great meeting with someone. I was open about the book I had written. I told her about the difficulties of my experiences and why I thought that might even help me to be a good volunteer, to talk to patients who are having a hard time of their own.
And I left really feeling reborn and rejuvenated, and walked through Central Park and got home and had a phone message that said I won't be able to interview you further on Friday. And when I was able to get hold of that volunteer coordinator, I was told there was a lot of controversy about the care that I had received 13 years earlier and that they felt that it wouldn't be a good idea for me to be a volunteer there. So, yeah, I got rejected.
CONAN: Rejected as a volunteer. Not easy.
Mr. HANDLER: You know, a lot of the book is about the changes in perspective. The change of walking back in there and seeing it differently, and then within an hour, the complete flip that happens again of realizing that, oh, maybe, maybe nothing really has changed. That if you've got constructive criticism, it's not wanted. You're an enemy as opposed to an ally. So, that's really a good example of the ways that I try, in the book, to examine perspective, because that flipped around 360 degrees, you know, and got me from every angle within just a few hours time.
CONAN: And tell us what, I think, has to be the most absurd moment in the book, and this involves a long story about movie rights to your first book, and how it was going to be made into a picture, and your meeting with an agent in California who's trying to persuade you to go along with this, in part by promising that, hey, you know, we also represent some amusement parks and we could make a ride out of this.
Mr. HANDLER: Yeah. "Time on Fire" is a book about a 24 year old's really angry journey through acute myeloid leukemia. And a good friend of mine wanted to option it to make a movie. And I was on board for that, and I was signed up to write the screenplay. But things turned difficult, as they often do in creative endeavors, and we had our differences.
And - well, actually, before we even go to that, in trying to get me on board to sign the rights over, I met with the guy who was the president of the William Morris Agency at the time, with all kinds of fantasies of having my life transformed. And I was told that they also represented Busch Gardens, and that perhaps they could convince them to create a ride out of my book about my leukemia and how badly I'd suffered from it.
(Soundbite of laughter)
Mr. HANDLER: I wondered if it would be called "Patients of the Caribbean."
CONAN: Our guest is Evan Handler. His book is "It's Only Temporary: The Good News and the Bad News of Being Alive." If you'd like to join...
Mr. HANDLER: It's just - it's just a lesson that, you know, people will say just about anything to get what they want from you.
CONAN: I think that's the lesson.
(Soundbite of laughter)
CONAN: I'd love to take the ride.
Mr. HANDLER: In the book, what I say is that, you know, what I did is try to really hide how absurd I thought it was, because it's a habit of mine - I'm still unhappy with to this day - that I try not to insult the person who's insulting me. And I wind up pretending that I'm less intelligent than I am in order not to insult the person who's insulting me.
CONAN: If you'd like to join the conversation, 800-989-8255. Email is firstname.lastname@example.org. Steve joins us, Steve calling us from Grass Valley in California.
STEVE (Caller): Hi, Neal.
STEVE: I just heard the comment at the beginning of the show about Evan's journey with the bone-marrow transplant and how you kind of return to normalcy with getting - losing that whole appreciation for having made it through kind of like the valley of the shadow with the bone marrow transplant. And I went through one in '96 for a chronic form of leukemia, and you feel kind of, you know, you feel kind of bad and petty afterwards, a couple years after, when you find yourself in traffic and you're getting angry at regular things just like normal people do.
And it's amazing to go through that process and make it, but you do return to just being a normal person within a few years. And, in some ways, you feel kind of bad, like you've been through this process and you're supposed to be so appreciative of life and you are, but...
Mr. HANDLER: You know, I don't see anything - the clip that was played was from many years ago. So it's not really, you know, my emotional makeup today, but it certainly was for a long time. I don't think there's anything to feel so badly about. I mean, to me, trying to live every day as if it might be my last, like the kind of cliche that people say, really just, well, one, it made me too sad to enjoy them, thinking it might be my last.
And two, you know, they're not the rules that most people play by, and if you want to have playmates, it's pretty hard to play be a different set of rules then everybody else. So, getting re-caught up in life and getting, you know, annoyed, again, about the mundanity of life and stuff like that, it's all normal. It's what a lot of life is, and the trick of the game, the object of the game, is to splash through the puddles of fun as much as you can when they present themselves and not get too down by the other parts. It's just something that took me a very long time to find a balance to which is what this book is about.
CONAN: And Steve, Evan writes in his book that people after this experience expected him to have a, you know, a special relationship with God or something like that, did they ask you about your philosophy all the time?
STEVE: Shortly after the transplant, some people did. And I felt like I was falling short because I didn't have any, like, great words of wisdom about, you know, having been through this tremendous experience and, you know, just getting back to average life.
Mr. HANDLER: Well, if it's any comfort to you, I've written a 220-page book that offers no great words of wisdom. So, there you go.
STEVE: I haven't read that book, but I'm curious about it.
CONAN: Yeah, his conclusion after all of this is, "I don't know."
STEVE: I tell you one thing. It has - having read through stories about World War II and what combat veterans went through, I've never been in the military, but I think I can relate to them a little bit more than the average person can, with what the infantry went through and what my father's on experience with flying B-24s in World War II was like. So...
Mr. HANDLER: With all the talk now about posttraumatic stress disorder and what people are coming to understand about veterans, I think it's a really, really valid parallel. You know, that's why I used it about returning from a war because it's the same thing. It's having to shed experiences that you've been exposed to that your peers possibly haven't. And you know, some glimpses of some of the darker sides of life that can be chilling and that can interfere with your enjoyment of the brighter sides.
CONAN: Steve, thanks very much for the call and continued good luck.
STEVE: Thank you, Neal.
CONAN: We'll be back with more with writer and actor Evan Handler, Charlotte's hubby Harry Goldenblatt on "Sex and the City," about his new memoir, "It's Only Temporary." 800-989-8255, if you'd like to join us. Email is email@example.com. I'm Neal Conan. It's Talk of the Nation from NPR News.
(Soundbite of music)
CONAN: This is Talk of the Nation. I'm Neal Conan in Washington. Evan Handler survived acute leukemia in his 20s, dating in his 30s, and is now pleasantly engaged in marriage and fatherhood and professional success. You can read all about it in his new book, "It's Only Temporary: The Good News and the Bad News about Being Alive."
He joins us today. If you have questions for him about surviving life after surviving leukemia or about his work on TV or in the movies, 800-989-8255. Email firstname.lastname@example.org. You can also join the conversation on our blog at npr.org/blogofthenation. And let's get Gregory on the line, Gregory is with us from Paducah, Kentucky.
GREGORY (Caller): Hi, Evan. I'm a very big fan. As a matter of fact, I've been a big fan of yours since you were doing like Broadway plays, I think it was back in the late '80s.
Mr. HANDLER: The 1880s, yeah, thank you.
GREGORY: And I was always like, God, is this guy really talented, and I started trying to pursue a career as an actor at that time, and I kind of gave up. And now, I'm 42-years-old, and I went back to school last year. I went to Bennington College in Vermont, and I got a master's degree, and I studied theater there, and I did a play. And people were like, you're really talented.
But the reason I gave up, and this is kind of really strange, and this is why, when I look at the "Sex and the City" show and I see your character, I'm just always so positively - it gives me this like burst of energy. I guess the thing is that people always say the reason that I never quite get the big part is because they say, you're very ethnic looking, or he's too Jewish looking.
And I remember back in the "Sex in the City" show, you were in that scene where you gave Charlotte the ring, and I think you were in the synagogue. And there was a comment back there, someone had said, one of the women, there's only baldies and the uglies left. And I guess when I look in the mirror, I see this balding and ugly guy, but who's amazingly talented. Do you have any comments or suggestions for me how to deal with things like that?
CONAN: And I think there was a compliment in there, but go ahead, Evan.
Mr. HANDLER: It's like most of the compliments I get. They're multi-layered. You know, you're putting your finger on something that's very valid and very vivid. And something I even talk about in the book because I talk about the casting of "Sex and the City." You know, my life, and this book outlines a lot of crazy relationships I've had in my life with very volatile and, I like to think, very beautiful women, and most of my five-foot-seven-inch friends have had many adventures with women, men, whatever they like to have.
But there's a conceit in show business where, you know, I'll never get to play the Hank Moody part, which is the role David Duchovny plays on the show I'm on now, "Californification," even if my life might have resembled Hank Moody's life more than anyone else's. So, that's just something that I view with amusement. I mean, I don't expect to get to play those roles. If I was casting a role, I wouldn't cast myself. It's just not what the public expects.
The oddity to me is how the public seems to have accepted for themselves in their own lives those rules, whereas I know plenty of people who are breaking those rules all the time. And there's guys who seem to think that they can never be with beautiful women because they don't look like a Duchovny or a George Clooney. In my life, and the lives of my friends, I haven't really known that to be the case. So, I think what you need to cultivate is a spirit of defiance, and go out there and show them what you're made of, right?
GREGORY: That sounds really good. Thank you so much.
CONAN: Good luck, Gregory.
GREGORY: Thank you, Evan.
CONAN: And would you tell us a little bit about - this involves a bunch of other stories, but tell us a little bit about how an actor experiences pilot season, a strange period of time every year in Hollywood.
Mr. HANDLER: Yeah, well, hopefully, you don't experience it like I did. One of the pieces in the book is called, "The Two-Month Second Date." I started dating a woman who lived 12,500 miles away from me, which - I've studied the geography, so it's 57 times farther than the International Space Station. It's as far away from a person as you can get without leaving Planet Earth.
But we met up in Los Angeles to share an apartment during pilot season, which is a huge influx of actors into Los Angeles to audition for roles in shows that will possibly never be aired, in fact, probably never be aired, and oftentimes are shot two and three times with different casts. And it's extremely competitive, and it sort of reduces the world of actors to, you know, migrant workers much like grape workers. And I'm really not even sure whose union is more powerful.
So, we lived there together tempestuously. Someone from Sydney, Australia, completely out of her element, and me only slightly less out of mine. Pilot season is rough, and it's very funny to me every year with the strikes and economic crises, the way networks talk about revamping the whole system because it really is from another era.
But most of all, the way it impacts me and actors' lives is that, before you go into the room to audition for the network executives, you have to sign what is called a "test deal," in which they have the option to hire you for the pilot and for every one of six subsequent seasons before you even get to meet the people that you might be working for.
CONAN: Sight unseen?
Mr. HANDLER: Well, yeah, exactly. I mean, you've met probably the creator of the show, but before you go in and meet the network executives who are going to decide whether that person gets to hire you or not, the people who are actually going to be deciding your fate, yeah, you have to sign this very thick document that entitles them to the option on your services, and at the end of each season, to either pick you up or drop you.
And it's done to just about everyone, even people who have long, long track records in network television. I happen to think, you know - I don't know how much trouble I'll get for saying this on the radio - I think they're patently illegal, because what it does is it prohibits you from selling your services to the highest bidder. You can't apply for two jobs at once. Once you've signed one test deal, you can't apply for any other TV shows until they've either exercised that option or dropped you. So, it's one of the many ways that the mega-corporations keep the striving individuals in line.
CONAN: Yeah, it sounds like baseball, in the old reserve clause, in a lot of ways.
Mr. HANDLER: Yeah, pretty similar, actually, yes, except I don't have much of a fastball or curve ball.
CONAN: Let's see if we can get another caller on the line. This is Kelly, Kelly calling us from Jacksonville in Florida.
KELLY (Caller): Hi. Listen, I just want to tell you that I love your character on "Sex in the City," and I cannot wait to read your book. I was diagnosed a couple of years ago with ovarian cancer, and I just wanted to, hopefully, find out if part of the message in your book, because I haven't read it yet, was how you stay on normalcy when you were sick on a daily basis, exercise and working and getting up and just, you know, just keep on trucking without kind of letting the cancer take over your life. And on another note, I wasn't impressed at all, either, with the pain management with Memorial Sloane-Kettering.
Mr. HANDLER: You know, this book doesn't deal with the nitty-gritty of the treatment. This is from years beyond. The first book, "Time on Fire," has a lot of that information and stuff that I did, from dancing in my room, to putting notes on the door not to be disturbed, to insisting on the privacy to have sex with my girlfriend when I was, you know, institutionalized for months at a time.
This book is really about the journey away. You know, it takes place from being cured on, and starts with me getting cast in the Broadway production of "Six Degrees of Separation," which was my first real, big, comeback thing. So, the happy part of that is, you know, I know Neal wanted to concentrate on the misery, but it really does find its way to some great beauty and a fantastic marriage and relationship.
And there are efforts for me to get in shape years after the illness, although they don't go too well either. There's a passage in the book where I talk about trying to run faster around Central Park's reservoir. There's a running track there, and trying to get myself in shape and realizing that I'm the slowest human being on the track, including the overweight and the elderly. But I suppose the good news there is, having a 15-month-old daughter, I've learned that I can beat toddlers in foot races.
KELLY: Well, I'm looking forward to reading the book.
Mr. HANDLER: Thanks very much. I wish you the best.
KELLY: You, too. Thanks.
CONAN: Good luck, Kelly. There is a moment in the book - and I've now forgotten whether at that point you were - you met up with the woman you were eventually going to marry - I don't remember if she was your fiancee at that point or not - but you're walking through Time Square, and you were inundated with the reality, suddenly, of being famous.
Mr. HANDLER: Yeah, that was the first date with the woman who turned out to be my wife, and I was completely smitten, knew that this woman had qualities that I hadn't located before, and that I absolutely had, you know, something with really huge potential here, and I had the first experience of my life where women, young women, were calling out from across the avenue, Harry, we love you! We love you!
And wanting to have their picture taken with me and wondering, was this really the moment to meet the woman that I wanted to settle down with? Luckily, I had achieved some degree of maturity and restraint by that point in my life, which is not saying much, because I was 41-years-old and realized that I was in the presence of something great. But that's been sort of the, you know, interesting, existential dilemma of this later part of my life, is having this popularity appear that I would have loved to have had earlier in my life.
At the same time, what I've been searching for my whole life has appeared, which is a real, solid, steady partner that I can really make a comfortable life with, and I mean, I play up the comedy of the conflict, but it's really been a very, very easy trade off. I'm married to a beautiful biochemist from Bologna, Italy, which is a lot of alliteration, but it's all true.
CONAN: And do you - I presume you have a big part in the upcoming movie of "Sex in the City."
Mr. HANDLER: You know, not a huge part. Harry's there and he's kind of held out as what you'd expect him to be, the really ideal, solid, steady husband. And some adventures happen with he and Charlotte that I think are going to be very heartwarming, that oddly echo aspects of my own life, much like the marriage did when the TV show was on. But Harry is not the main plot line of the movie.
Mr. HANDLER: Surprisingly enough.
CONAN: Let's see if we can get another caller on the line. Iris is with us, Iris calling us from Phoenix, Arizona. Go ahead.
IVA (Caller): Yeah, this is Iva. Hi, I just turned this on while I was driving home for lunch, and actually, you know, everything you said about bone-marrow transplant is so applicable to the caregiver as well. My husband's first anniversary of his bone-marrow transplant at the Hutch in Seattle is this Thursday, and I'm going to, you know, really write him a beautiful note. And I was thinking about what I'm going to write him this morning and everything.
But what you said about posttraumatic stress is totally, totally true. True for the caregiver, too. I mean, I came back to Phoenix from being at the Hutch in Seattle and it took me several months to just realize, you know, what is normal again. And it was really, really tough. And the same kind of empathy that you talked about for, you know, the soldiers and infantrymen and you know, I think the caregivers feel that, too.
It's almost, I think, more difficult on a caregiver, because you really don't know how this person is going to feel and it's your sense of loss, you know, if the patient doesn't get through it. So I'm really looking forward to reading your book, and thank you for being on.
Mr. HANDLER: Thank you so much. I do want to stress, though, you know, that although a lot of people - we're taking calls from a lot of people who had really close encounters with cancer - this isn't a book about cancer, or even exclusively about being a survivor of cancer, not to my mind. I mean, I wouldn't have written a book simply for that population or about that.
To me, the experiences that I've had are simply, you know, they simply give a more heightened example of what everyone goes through. I mean, everyone has to make the same choices about living for the moment or investing in the future. Everyone has to wrestle with the day-to-day issues of life and relationships and the search for love that sometimes can take too long.
And what I found is that my experiences simply really, really distilled the very, very human aspects of those things, and whenever you have heightened experiences it just makes for good storytelling. But certainly I think it's a journey that is relatable to anybody who's living a life.
CONAN: Iva, hang in there.
IVA: Thank you so much.
CONAN: Thanks for the call. We're talking with Evan Handler about his book "It's Only Temporary: The Good News and the Bad News of Being Alive." 800-989-8255, if you'd like to join us. Email us, email@example.com. This is Talk of the Nation, coming to you from NPR News. And let's get Mimi on the line, Mimi's calling us from Aiken in South Carolina.
MIMI (Caller): Hi, good afternoon. My question has to do with Evan's role on the show "Lost," and what his feelings or comments might be about the repeated thematic material on life, death and faith on the show.
Mr. HANDLER: I'm a big fan of that show. I really wasn't very aware of it until they offered me to do that part. I played the part of Dave, which is Hurley's imaginary friend from his days in the mental institution, who shows up one day on the island. And I had a really great time working with those people, and I watched those episodes four, five, six at a time on DVD in getting ready to go and work with them.
And I found them just fascinating and thrilling, and really filled with all kinds of mystical messages and I've since become a devoted watcher of the show. I think it's, you know, like a lot of TV shows, it struggles to maintain some of the consistency that it had early on, but - yeah, I just - I found it fascinating, I was really glad to be part of it.
MIMI: Well, thank you so much. I thoroughly enjoy your work, on both "Sex and the City" and on - your role that you had on "Lost."
Mr. HANDLER: Thanks so much. Thanks for calling.
CONAN: Thanks, Mimi. We've also seen you as a murderer on "Law & Order."
Mr. HANDLER: Yes, that's true.
CONAN: And you did it.
Mr. HANDLER: I did it, yes. I didn't - I don't know what to say about that because there wasn't a lot of research done, but there you go. Yes, I did it.
CONAN: Let's get Lynn on the line, Lynn with us from Salt Lake City.
LYNN (Caller): Yes, I wanted to thank you for going outside of some of the stereotypes about cancer. My mother got breast cancer, begged the most renowned specialist in Salt Lake City to give her chemotherapy, and he told her she was fine with just radiation and lumpectomy. And it turned out she still had the cancer. It went to bone.
She had a miserable, miserable death and three years prior to death. And when I tell people that this happened, that she begged him to give her chemotherapy and offered to pay it out of pocket, they kind of look at me and think things like this don't happen. But they do. The ideas that people have about the cancer experience are just a stereotype. They're not at all what actually can happen to people.
Mr. HANDLER: Well, look, I'm terribly sorry to hear about those experiences. Those sound absolutely gruesome and horrible, and my heart goes out to you. I know there are people who've had wonderful experiences, because they tell me so. And I know they are people who've had horrible experiences because, obviously, like you, they've told me so, and I've had some horrible experiences myself. I am more interested in the underside of the story, as opposed to the one that's traditionally told.
I mean, I think in both my books I've tried to tell what people might categorize as Hallmark-type stories in the most un-Hallmark way possible. You know, the guy who survives but is still angry about the way he was treated. Or in this book, the guy who's lucky to be alive, but still takes a long time to find the kind of gratitude and contentment he believes life should hold for him. And that's largely because, well, I think there's truth to those stories.
And I think they have wider application than just to the cancer community, because everybody struggles with issues of gratitude and whether they're getting enough out of their life. And certainly to read about someone who had his life nearly taken away, who still struggles with that stuff, could, I think, offer some comfort and guidance and insight and hopefully a lot of laughs and humor for people as well. But mostly, I'm terribly sorry that you had to suffer in those ways.
LYNN: You've put it beautifully, and I thank you.
CONAN: Thanks, Lynn.
Mr. HANDLER: Sure, thank you.
CONAN: Let's see if we can get one last call. This is going to be Alan, Alan with us from Des Moines.
ALAN (Caller): Hi, thanks for taking my call. I'm wondering - my question is sort of a philosophical one, I guess. How come, do you think, that these insights that we get at certain moments in our lives, certain very important moments in our lives, that we can't hold on to them or that we can't recapture them in some way?
I mean, it seems to me that when you put in the work, you know, that you did to come to moments like that, that somehow you should be able to hold on to them. You should be able to put them together again. And the fact that you can't seems to take away from the insight just a bit, so...
CONAN: And we're going to give you...
ALAN: I'm wondering if you have any ideas as to how that might be done?
CONAN: And we'll give you 30 seconds to answer it.
Mr. HANDLER: You know, I'm no great Buddhist master, as I make very clear in my book. I think denial of death is a healthy thing. I think it's why it was difficult to come out of this experience for me. I think that human beings are geared to really - at least in my culture, Western culture, are geared and wired to thrive through denying death, as opposed to really coming to a clear acceptance of it. And so it's very difficult to incorporate, you know, finality into your everyday life. And I've tried to regain a denial of death as a way of helping me live my life better.
CONAN: Thanks very much for the call, Alan. And Evan Handler, good luck with the book, called "It's Only Temporary," and also with the movie, "Sex and the City," which comes out shortly, May 28th. Thanks very much for being with us today.
Mr. HANDLER: Thank you so much. It's been great.
CONAN: Even Handler was with us from Culver City at NPR West. Coming up, New York City's ambulance for organs. This is Talk of the Nation, NPR News. ..COST: $00.00
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