In his slim but beguiling novel Equilateral, Ken Kalfus places us inside the heads of his characters with such deftness that the line between what is true and what they believe to be true fades to obscurity. It's no coincidence that the heads in question belong to scientists who pride themselves on their evidence-based worldview; Kalfus delights in having readers continually gauge and recalibrate the distance between the world and his characters' seemingly objective observations of it.
In The Dispensable Nation: American Foreign Policy In Retreat, former State Department adviser Vali Nasr describes veteran diplomat Richard Holbrooke being all but frozen out by President Obama's inner circle, for whom Nasr believes diplomacy was a "lost art."
Instead of engaging civilians to find political solutions in Afghanistan and beyond, they would look first to the military and intelligence agencies for solutions that were politically popular — that includes getting U.S. troops out of Afghanistan.
Literary magazine Granta has just released its latest Best of Young British Novelists issue. It's a hefty volume that comes out only once a decade, so making the cut is a major feat, putting its chosen in the company of modern literary legends like Salman Rushdie and David Mitchell.
Each year, the town of Verona, Italy — home of Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet — receives thousands of letters of heartache and unrequited love addressed to the play's star-crossed heroine.
The tradition of sending letters to Juliet very likely goes back centuries. People started by leaving notes on a local landmark said to be Juliet's tomb. Later, many started sending mail directly to the city. By the 1990s, Verona was receiving so many letters, it created an office to deal with it. And each letter — the Juliet Club office gets more than 6,000 a year — is answered by hand.
It's safe to say that most Americans are familiar with the classic film featuring a stumbling Scarecrow, a rusted Tin Man, the Cowardly Lion and Dorothy, played by actress Judy Garland, clad in gingham and braids.
Originally published on Mon April 15, 2013 5:36 pm
Once every decade, the literary magazine Granta publishes an issue called "Best of Young British Novelists," with short excerpts from the novels of 20 emerging authors. In the past, the list of names has proved unusually prescient, with authors such as Salman Rushdie, Martin Amis and Zadie Smith featured before they were widely read.
It's fair to say that the bakery employees who hooted and jeered "tax maaaaaan" when mild-mannered auditor Will Ferrell showed up in Stranger than Fiction were no fans of the Internal Revenue Service. In that, they're like a lot of us, no?
So it's intriguing that Hollywood generally treats tax inspectors as nice guys. On the big screen, it's typically their IRS bosses who are the bad ones.
Originally published on Tue April 16, 2013 7:37 am
The new batch of Pulitzer Prize winners has just been announced, with novelist Adam Johnson winning the fiction prize with The Orphan Master's Son. The winners of the prizes for Americans' best work in journalism, drama, music, and writing also receive a $10,000 cash award.
In 2003, police in Somerset County, N.J., arrested a hospital nurse named Charlie Cullen who was suspected of injecting patients with lethal doses of a variety of medications. Cullen would turn out to be one of the nation's most prolific serial killers, murdering dozens, perhaps hundreds of people in nine hospitals over a 16-year period.
Journalist Charles Graeber spent six years investigating the Cullen case, and is the only reporter to have spoken with Cullen in prison. In his new book, The Good Nurse, Graeber pieces together the elements of Cullen's story.
Oh Sit! (The CW, 8:00 p.m.): When the CW first announced that it was going to have a show called Oh Sit!, which would basically be a game of musical chairs with a punny scatological name, it seemed like it would be exciting in its sheer stupidity. But as it turns out, having seen the previews, it seems like it's really just ABC's Wipeout in disguise. I feel defrauded somehow, as if I was promised a wretchedness diamond and received a cubic zirconia.
Next, the latest in our series Muses and Metaphor. That's how we're celebrating National Poetry Month. We're hearing your Twitter poems of 140 characters or less. Today, we hear from renowned poet Elizabeth Alexander. You might remember her from President Obama's first Inauguration in 2009. She composed and read the poem, "Praise Song for the Day" for that occasion. Not only that, she's published six volumes of poetry. She's chair of the African-American Studies Department at Yale University.
Originally published on Mon April 15, 2013 12:41 pm
Any comics fan of any seriousness can rattle off female superheroes who have either had their own books or appeared in other or ensemble books.
But what about ordinary absorbers of culture?
The same people who don't actually read comics but can tell you that Superman is the idealized, square-jawed fighter for good, while Batman is the darker, more conflicted survivor of tragedy and Spider-Man is the scrapper barely concealing an ordinary kid — how many women can they name who have worn capes, particularly ones that aren't superhero derivatives like Supergirl or Batgirl?
Originally published on Mon April 15, 2013 7:38 am
Ahmir "Questlove" Thompson is the drummer and co-founder of the Grammy-Award winning band The Roots, which now serves as the house band for the talk show Late Night with Jimmy Fallon. Questlove is coming out with a memoir in June called Mo' Meta Blues, co-written with Ben Greenman. After reading it, you'll feel like you know Questlove. The book is intimate and funny. Plus, you'll come away with a crash course in hip-hop history.
As a kid in Chicago, director William Friedkin liked to frighten little girls with scary stories. When he grew up, he scared the rest of us with a little girl — Regan MacNeil, who is possessed by the devil in his horror classic The Exorcist.
And in The French Connection, he put knots in our stomachs with one of the great movie chases in American cinema.
You may find a hint to the era in which you were born (as well as your taste in entertainment) in Linda Wertheimer's clarification that on the '80s nighttime soap Dynasty, actress Linda Evans played Krystle Carrington — Krystle with a K, that is. (And, she does not add, an L-E.) If that surprises you at all, you were almost surely not paying attention to the television of the 1980s, when Evans, John Forsythe and Joan Collins made up the wealthiest, nuttiest, most notorious and most rhinestone-covered love triangle ever bedazzled for prime time: Krystle, Blake and Alexis.
For centuries, pilgrims have made their way along the El Camino de Santiago de Compostela, or St. James' Way. It's an ancient route honoring St. James of Compostela and can take a traveler on foot for hundreds of miles to what is believed to be the apostle's burial site in northwestern Spain.
American travel writer David Downie and his wife, Alison, decided to begin their trek from their longtime home in Paris. For Downie, this wasn't necessarily a religious pilgrimage. He stresses he wasn't looking for God, though maybe enlightenment.
Alex Espinoza is the author of The Five Acts of Diego León.
Before becoming a novelist and educator, I was a manager at a shop in Santa Monica, Calif., selling sofas and custom-framed art to movie stars and wealthy Angelinos. Eventually I grew frustrated and, determined to reinvent myself as a writer, I quit and went back to school.
Christina Baker Kline's new novel, Orphan Train, is partially set in 1929, mere months before the stock market crash that would trigger the Great Depression. A young Irish girl, Niamh (pronounced "Neeve"), has just lost her entire family after a fire ripped through their tenement building. She is turned over to authorities who put her on a train bound for the Midwest. The train is filled with dozens of other children who have lost their families in one way or another; they are now hoping that their journey will connect them with new parents and a new, better life.
In celebration of National Poetry Month, Weekend Edition is hearing from young poets about what poetry means to them. This week, they spoke with Harmony Holiday, a New York poet and dance choreographer who's spending this month archiving audio of overlooked and often misunderstood poetry for The Beautiful Voices Project.
On-air challenge: Every answer is a two-word phrase in which the first word starts with O. Drop the O, and you'll get a new word that ends the phrase.
Last week's challenge: Name something in nine letters that is commonly read on Sunday morning. If you have the right thing, you can rearrange all the letters to name a bygone car model that you still see on the road today. What are they?
Nobody actually knows what dinosaurs sound like. But if you can imagine the roar of a T. Rex or the bellow of a brachiosaurus, it's probably thanks to the 1993 blockbuster Jurassic Park, which turns 20 this summer.
The 400-year-old plays of William Shakespeare are constantly being reinterpreted and re-envisioned for new generations. Recently, England's Royal Shakespeare Company produced a Julius Caesar set in contemporary Africa that was a hit at the World Shakespeare Festival, presented in conjunction with the London Olympics. Now the RSC has brought it to America.