Whenever I think of the circus (which, admittedly, is rarely), the first thing that comes to mind is Bruce Davidson's famous photograph of a forlorn clown smoking a cigarette and clutching a fistful of wilted flowers in the mud outside a ratty circus tent. Fittingly, I first saw this striking image on the cover of Heinrich Boll's 1963 novel, The Clown. The titular protagonist isn't the creepy backyard children's entertainer we've come to associate with the form. He's troubled and high-strung, and sees himself first and foremost as an artist — and something of a mystic, to boot.
This is not the first time Pakistani author Mohsin Hamid has taken a risky approach to a novel. His The Reluctant Fundamentalist was written entirely in the second person. The bearded narrator of that book sits at a tea stall in Lahore, talking about his drift toward extremism while directly addressing "you," the reader, who is taken to be an increasingly jumpy and terrified American across the table.
Mohsin Hamid's newest novel, How to Get Filthy Rich in Rising Asia, takes its structure from the genre of self-help tutorials. Chapter 1: Move to the City. Chapter 2: Get an Education. Chapter 3: Don't Fall in Love (the book's nameless protagonist, who transforms from rural peasant to corporate tycoon, fails to follow this last directive). After all, the dogged pursuit of success doesn't happen in a vacuum.
Originally published on Wed March 6, 2013 10:42 am
I've always thought caraway to be an underappreciated spice. It holds none of the historical significance of cinnamon, cloves, pepper or other prized spices that for centuries drove commerce among Asia, Africa and Europe (and that ultimately led to the discovery of the Americas).
In flavor, it lacks the Mediterranean perfume of its cousin fennel or the allure of cumin, another close relative. Its aroma is sharp and slightly aggressive, and if you bite into a seed on its own, there is, at first, a certain soapiness to its flavor.
Twenty years ago, theatrical clowns Bill Irwin and David Shiner collaborated on a Broadway show called Fool Moon — a giddy mixture of slapstick, improv and audience participation that proved such a success that it came back to Broadway for two more runs and toured both the U.S. and Europe. Now Irwin and Shiner have put together a new show called Old Hats, and it's been receiving rave reviews off-Broadway.
Irwin and Shiner's rubber-faced, loose-bodied clowning hasn't gotten easier over two decades.
Some months ago, a fellow writer told me that Joyce Carol Oates was writing a vampire book. It turns out there is some truth in this seemingly far-fetched statement, just as there are grains of truth sprinkled throughout The Accursed, a sprawling tale of terrible events afflicting Princeton high society between 1905 and 1906. Oates began drafting the novel in 1984, when she first moved to this best-known of New Jersey college towns and became interested in its history. She put the project aside for many years but returned to it — and completed it — in 2012.
On Dec. 26, 2004, Sonali Deraniyagala was vacationing with her husband, her two sons and her parents in Yala, Sri Lanka. The day was just beginning when she and a friend noticed that something strange was happening in the ocean. Within a matter of minutes, the sea had wiped out life as she had known it. In a new memoir, called simply Wave, she recalls her experience with the tsunami that killed more than 200,000 people, including her own family.
The cost of college can range from $60,000 for a state university to four times as much at some private colleges. The total student debt in the U.S. now tops credit card debt. So a lot of people are asking: Is college really worth it?
There are several famous and staggeringly successful college dropouts, including Mark Zuckerberg, Bill Gates and Larry Ellison. You may not end up with fat wallets like them, but Dale Stephens says you can find a different education path.
The image of Pat Summitt for many fans is that of a madwoman, decked out in orange, yelling to her players from the sideline. In 38 years as the head coach of the University of Tennessee Lady Vols basketball team, Summitt shouted her team to more victories than any other coach in the history of college basketball — men's or women's.
Now the famously fierce coach is facing an opponent unlike any other: In 2011, she was diagnosed with early-onset Alzheimer's disease.
Former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, the son and brother of presidents, says the United States should overhaul its laws to make immigration easier and to give illegal immigrants a way to legal residence, not citizenship.
Bush lays out his plan with co-author Clint Bolick in the new book Immigration Wars. Bush tells NPR's Steve Inskeep that they propose legalizing undocumented immigrants "after there is a recognition that if people come here illegally, they have to pay a fine or do community service [and] make sure they don't commit any serious crimes."
As early as silent film, directors attempted to create widescreen images. But in the 1950s it became a commercial necessity to give the multitude of new TV watchers what they couldn't get on a small screen. So even before CinemaScope, VistaVision, Todd-AO and Panavision, there was Cinerama — a process in which three projectors threw three simultaneous images onto a gigantic curved screen. Cinerama offered what no TV or movie screen could provide before — peripheral vision, which could make you feel as if you were really in the midst of the action.
In HBO's <em>Enlightened, </em>Laura Dern stars as corporate executive Amy Jellicoe, who returns from a post-meltdown retreat to pick up the pieces of her broken life. Series creator Mike White stars as Tyler, Amy's friend and co-worker.
Credit Lacey Terrell / HBO
White based much of the story of <em>Enlightened </em>on his own workplace frustration and resulting therapy. The show has just completed its second season on HBO.
The HBO series Enlightened wrapped up its second season Sunday night. The show began as the story of a woman — the naive, idealistic, manipulative, determined and sincere Amy Jellicoe, played by Laura Dern — trying to put her life back together in the wake of a breakdown. After spending a couple of months at a New Age recovery center in Hawaii, Amy attempts to apply what she has learned to her life back in the real world of corporate America.
I'm Michel Martin, and this is TELL ME MORE, from NPR News. Now we'd like to tell you about a film that took an unusually long and winding path to the big screen. The film is called "Bless Me, Ultima." It's based on the best-selling novel by Rudolfo Anaya. It's both one of the most loved, most popular and most controversial novels in the modern American canon.
The March issue of The Atlantic features an essay from Christopher Orr called "Why Are Romantic Comedies So Bad?"* In it, Orr asserts that romantic comedies have been "lackluster for decades." Decades.
It feels so good to root for the golden-hearted guy. To imagine that in a crisis you'd be just like Harry Potter — noble, self-sacrificing, flaunting rules only in the service of Good. But most of us also harbor secret, selfish thoughts we're certain Mother Teresa never had. Those failings are what make the morally flawed heroes of these books ring uncomfortably true. And if we, the readers, refuse to empathize with these very human characters, does that make us nobler than they, or merely self-delusional?
On-air challenge: You will be given two words starting with the letter P. Name a third word starting with P that can follow the first one and precede the second one, in each case to complete a familiar two-word phrase. For example, given "peer" and "point," you would say "pressure," as in "peer pressure" and "pressure point."
Documentary filmmaker Roberta Grossman traveled to Ukraine, Israel, Greenwich Village and Hollywood to explore the origins and legacy of a famous Jewish song in <em>Hava Nagila (The Movie).</em>
Credit Robert Zuckerman / Katahdin Productions/More Horses Productions
Harry Belafonte, whom Grossman dubs the "ambassador" of <em>Hava Nagila</em>, reflects on performing the song in postwar Germany. "And here were these young German kids, singing this ... Hebrew song of rejoicing. 'Let us have peace.' And I got very emotional."
Whether you love it or you hate it, you know it: "Hava Nagila." Maybe you grew up listening to Harry Belafonte's rendition, or found yourself in a chair being hoisted into the air by a singing crowd at your wedding or bat mitzvah. The kitschy Jewish standard lends itself particularly well to group singalongs and celebrity covers — but where did it come from?
Before the fight to win women equal footing in the workplace, there was the fight against Hitler and Hirohito. In the depths of World War II, everyone in America had to pitch in, men and women alike. And in 1943 the government offered war jobs, lots of them, in a town called Oak Ridge, Tenn.
Where is it on a map? What do they do there? What will I do there? The government didn't give any answers to those questions — and still the recruits, many of them young women, streamed in.
For seven years, Mary Robinson served as the first female president of Ireland. Yet, she also has a long record of service as a human rights advocate.
After leaving office in 1997, she was appointed as the High Commissioner for Human Rights at the United Nations. She now runs The Mary Robinson Foundation — Climate Justice. This week, she has a new book out called Everybody Matters: My Life Giving Voice.
There's a new book about an American hero that's not just about the man behind the myth, but about the myth behind that myth.
Davy Crockett really was from Tennessee, really was a skilled frontiersman and really killed American Indians in battle. (When he became a congressman, however, he opposed President Andrew Jackson's Indian Removal Act.) And then, after losing a re-election campaign, Crockett really lit out for Texas and eventually died at the Battle of the Alamo — more or less