When NPR listeners want to test their knowledge of current events β and laugh in the process β they tune in to Wait, Wait...Don't Tell Me!, NPR's news quiz. In every episode, host Peter Sagal quizzes panelists and contestants on a smattering some of the week's most oddball events, from the eccentricities of world leaders to failed robberies.
Originally published on Thu September 5, 2013 8:45 am
Stanley Kunitz, one of our great poets, planted a spruce tree next to his house in Provincetown, Mass., and over the years that tree attracted some tenants, a family of garden snakes. I didn't know garden snakes climb trees, especially needly ones like a spruce, but they do.
Originally published on Thu September 5, 2013 1:15 pm
A father's illness, a girlfriend's mental breakdown and abuse by a priest, all set against a background of class conflict and nationalist tensions: Jim, the 14-year-old protagonist of The Fields, faces catastrophe after catastrophe. But Kevin Maher's debut novel is hardly dour. Instead, the jokes β simultaneously funny and brave β never stop coming.
The Ozarks mountain town of West Plains, Mo., is the kind of town where a person can stand in his front yard and have a comfortable view of his past.
"My mom was actually born about 150 or 200 feet that way, and my grandfather's house is I guess 200 yards that way," says Daniel Woodrell, author of Winter's Bone, and most recently, The Maid's Version.
Get ready to give your mind and your mouth a workout. In this game led by host Ophira Eisenberg, all the answers have a guttural "ch" sound in them. For instance, the painter that had an eye for sunflowers but cut off his left earlobe is Vincent Van Gogh.
Plus, Jonathan Coulton concludes the game with a version of The Beatles' "Help!" that is also quite guttural.
Now we're going to crown this week's grand champion. Let's bring back from Mind in the Gutteral Scott Bergeron; from All in the Cards, Melissa Kalwanaski; from Charming Old Moviehouse Justin Sheen; from I Am Not the Walrus, Jonathan Firestone; and from Down With O.P.P, Stacey Molski.
EISENBERG: I'm going to ask our puzzle guru Art Chung to take us out.
Endurance, going the distance, sucking up the solitude and the brine: I'm not talking about the glorious Diana Nyad and her instantly historic swim from Cuba to Key West, but of the ordinary heroine whose life is the subject of Alice McDermott's latest novel, Someone. "Ordinary" is a word that's used a lot to describe McDermott's characters, mostly Irish and working class, mostly un-heroic in any splashy way.
Michael Gruber began his fiction career as a ghostwriter for a well-known American judge. A former federal civil servant, chef, environmentalist, and speechwriter, Gruber had a varied career before he took up writing his own novels, and it shows in his work, in the broad and capacious subject matter and cast of thousands.
For centuries, biographers have relied on letters to bring historical figures to life, whether Gandhi or Catherine the Great. But as people switch from writing on paper to documenting their lives electronically, biographers are encountering new benefits β and new challenges.
Originally published on Tue October 1, 2013 5:38 pm
OK, people, I do not love corn on the cob. Yes, I know this tags me as vaguely un-American. And yes I know the summertime staple is a beloved culinary icon. And I'm also aware that corn on the cob fans often rhapsodize over the pairing of fresh, sweet corn and melted butter.
But when I'm offered an ear, I politely decline. That's the point at which family and friends look at me as if I'm slightly daft. "What? You don't want any?" No, sorry. Just pass me the potato salad, please.
You're walking your dog in a suburb that may or may not exist in this dimension. The dog whines. You ignore him. Anyway, you're too busy looking out for that sexy, evil sorcerer. Suddenly, a gray rabbit appears, and you realize: the world is ending.
Ben Dolnick's previous two books β Zoology (2007) and You Know Who You Are (2011) β have mostly dealt with young people coming of age. In his latest novel, At the Bottom of Everything, the writer's youthful coming-of-age tales start to themselves come of age. As teenagers, the waifish, ascetic Thomas Pell is the smartest kid at school, but socially awkward. Adam has just moved to Washington D.C. with his mother and new stepdad. The two boys quickly become fairly inseparable, getting up to fairly standard young person shenanigans.
Asheville, a mountain town in North Carolina, is known for at least two important native sons: writers Thomas Wolfe, whose 1929 novel Look Homeward, Angel eviscerated some locals, and Charles Frazier, whose 1997 civil war novel Cold Mountain is set in the nearby hills. But there is also a little-known story of another writer β F. Scott Fitzgerald β who, along with his wife Zelda, had devastating connections to the town.
For the last in a summer series of grilled food from around the world, we head to Mexico, where a small doughy treat is found everywhere from street corner grills to high-end restaurants. It's called a tlacoyo (pronounced tla-COY-yo) and although it may sound novel, it's an ancient food that's older than Hernan Cortes.
In the fall of 1938, radio was huge. That Halloween, Orson Welles scared listeners out of their wits with his War of the Worlds. And on November 10, 1938 β the eve of the holiday that was known then as Armistice Day β the popular singer Kate Smith made history on her radio show. She sang a song that had never been sung before, written by the composer Irving Berlin.
South Africa's commercial capital, Johannesburg, is a mixture of the old Wild West and a complex, modern African hub β at least, that's how crime novelist Jassy Mackenzie describes it. Mackenzie was born across the border, in Zimbabwe, but she moved to Johannesburg β Joburg for short β as a child, and she's a passionate champion of the city.
"I love the energy of Johannesburg," Mackenzie says. "People are open. People communicate. People are friendly in a brash, big-city way, which I love. ... [it's] the New York of South Africa!"
The poet Seamus Heaney died Friday. Heaney won the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1995 and has been described as the "most important Irish poet since Yeats." Heaney was 74 years old. Host Jacki Lyden spoke to Heaney in 2008, and has this remembrance.
"J.D. Salinger spent 10 years writing The Catcher in the Rye and the rest of his life regretting it," according to a new book about one of America's best-known and most revered writers.
Salinger died three years ago at the age of 91, after publishing four slim books. But Catcher in the Rye has sold more than 65 million copies and has become a touchstone for young people coming of age around the world. It still sells hundreds of thousands of copies every year.
Ann Kirschner is the university dean of Macaulay Honors College and the author of Lady at the O.K. Corral: The True Story of Josephine Marcus Earp.
I returned to reading Anthony Trollope's "Palliser" novels after more than 20 years. I was longing for a deep, luxurious Victorian bath, and immersion in these six long novels seemed a perfect prescription.
On-air challenge: Every answer is a familiar two-word phrase with the consecutive letters of S-H-H. Specifically, the first word in the answer will end in SH, and the second will start with H.
Last week's challenge: Think of a business that's found in most towns. Its name consists of two words, each starting with a consonant. Interchange the consonants and you'll get two new words β neither of which rhymes with the original words. What business is it?
"Can a cholesterol-conscious matron from the west side find happiness at the East Side Dairy Queen?" So begins Marilyn Hagerty's review of the national creamery franchise for her local paper, The Grand Forks Herald, in Grand Forks, N.D.
The 87-year-old Hagerty has reported on food, events, and local profiles at the Herald for more than 25 years, but she earned 15 minutes of national fame last year with a positive review of her local Olive Garden restaurant.
It's not exactly a building boom, but several public libraries around the country are getting makeovers. The Central Library in Austin, Texas just broke ground on a new building that promises such new features as outdoor reading porches and a cafe. In Madison, Wis., they're about to open a newly remodeled library that has, among other improvements, more natural light and a new auditorium. Historic libraries in Boston and New York City are looking at significant renovations.
Originally published on Sun September 1, 2013 3:48 am
The first I ever heard of soup dumplings was 15 years ago in this New York Times story, which described xiao long bao as "the star of the show" at Joe's Shanghai in New York's Chinatown. It was a different era of New York food, when Szechuan peppercorns were still contraband, and the selection of Chinese restaurants was less diverse.