More than a dozen short-story collections since Canada's Alice Munro published her first book, and she now seems as much an institution as any living writer. We count on her for a particular variety of short story, the sort that gives us so much life within the bounds of a single tale that it nourishes us almost as much as a novel does.
Journalist Katherine Boo won this year's National Book Award for Behind The Beautiful Forevers: Life, Death And Hope In A Mumbai Undercity. She talks with host Michel Martin about the award, and the story behind her book.
The National Book Awards announced Wednesday night honored both longtime writers and new authors, from Louise Erdrich who won for her novel The Round House to Katherine Boo, who was honored for her debut nonfiction work, Behind the Beautiful Forevers.
Erdrich has been a highly regarded author for nearly 30 years. She'd been a finalist twice before but said being honored is "all the more meaningful when you're older ... because you don't know if your years of writing at your very best are behind you."
Think Mom's same old Thanksgiving mashed potatoes are boring? Jejune? Predictable?
Debbie Lee's are anything but. And they all started with a happy accident.
Lee is the owner and operator of the Los Angeles-based Korean-American restaurant Ahn Joo, and the author of Seoultown Kitchen: Korean Pub Grub To Share With Family And Friends. While Korean by heritage, Lee didn't grow up eating traditional Korean foods.
In 2009, Susannah Cahalan was a healthy 24-year-old reporter for the New York Post, when she began to experience numbness, paranoia, sensitivity to light and erratic behavior. Grasping for an answer, Cahalan asked herself as it was happening, "Am I just bad at my job — is that why? Is the pressure of it getting to me? Is it a new relationship?"
But Cahalan only got worse — she began to experience seizures, hallucinations, increasingly psychotic behavior and even catatonia. Her symptoms frightened family members and baffled a series of doctors.
Ian McEwan's other books include <a href="http://www.npr.org/books/titles/138049397/solar">Solar</a>, <em>For You</em> and <a href="http://www.npr.org/books/titles/138308921/on-chesil-beach">On Chesil Beach</a>.
Ian McEwan's Sweet Tooth is that oddest of literary achievements: an ingenious novel that I compulsively read, intellectually admired and increasingly hated. By the time I got to McEwan's last sneer of a plot twist, I felt that reading Sweet Tooth is the closest I ever want to come to the experience of watching a snuff film. Think that's harsh? Open up Sweet Tooth and find out what McEwan thinks of you, Dear Reader, particularly if you're a woman, as most readers of fiction are.
I'm Michel Martin and this is TELL ME MORE from NPR News. Later, we heard a lot this past election season about the so-called war on women, but if you want to know what I think about one of the real battles women are fighting that politicians don't talk much about, I'll tell you. It's my Can I Just Tell You essay at the end of the program.
Originally published on Fri November 16, 2012 10:12 am
Publishers, reporters and authors gathered Tuesday at the New School in New York City to celebrate this year's exceptional nominees for the National Book Awards. In advance of the awards on Wednesday night, NPR recorded the 10 nominated authors for fiction and nonfiction reading from their works.
These 10 books — which tell the stories of a young drug smuggler, lovable philanderers, holograms in the Saudi desert, and more — inspired, informed and entertained readers in 2012.
Originally published on Wed November 14, 2012 1:14 pm
It's a cold March night in New York, and journalist Susannah Cahalan is watching PBS with her boyfriend, trying to relax after a difficult day at work. He falls asleep, and wakes up moments later to find her having a seizure straight out of The Exorcist. "My arms suddenly whipped straight out in front of me, like a mummy, as my eyes rolled back and my body stiffened," Cahalan writes. "I inhaled repeatedly, with no exhale. Blood and foam began to spurt out of my mouth through clenched teeth."
In the Gospels, the Virgin Mary is the alabaster embodiment of grace and suffering, the mater dolorosa — but also largely voiceless. We know little about her except for her virginity and her grief.
In the grim and lovely Testament of Mary, Colm Toibin gives voice to the mother of Jesus. Elderly and isolated in Ephesus, menaced by the persecutors of her dead son as well as by his followers, Mary narrates her memories of the Crucifixion in cold, vivid detail.
Originally published on Wed November 14, 2012 1:41 pm
Da Chen is the author of My Last Empress.
In fiction, setting is a local goddess you must kowtow to before you lift up your pen and attempt to create an authentic fictional world. It is a lofty stage to be erected — an ornate frame within which a masterful painting will be hung.
Get recipes for <a href="#biscuits">Buttermilk Biscuits</a>, <a href="#dressing">Cornbread and Andouille Dressing</a>, <a href="#cranberry">Stevie Lee Webb's Cranberry and Port Relish</a>, <a href="#beans">Green Bean Casserole</a> and <a href="#pumpkin">Pumpkin Pie</a>.
Originally published on Wed November 21, 2012 7:21 am
I love Thanksgiving. It is the best food holiday on the calendar. However, one thing has always bothered me. Even the most accomplished cooks take unnecessary short cuts when it comes to preparing the Big Meal.
We're heading toward that time of year when self-help industry publishers rub their hands together in anticipation. The holiday season and the inevitable New Year's resolutions that follow tend to turn our minds toward happiness — getting it, keeping it and maintaining it. But journalist Oliver Burkeman says whatever your plan, you are most likely doing it wrong.
As I'm currently separated from most of my earthly possessions for the rest of this week, some of my cultural intake has been interrupted. (There's this great Hitchcock Blu-ray set I wanted to tell you about, and I will, but it has to come out of storage first.) Also, I don't know if you've noticed, but the news is really weird, and we're coming off a time where it's contentious over very serious things.
Originally published on Tue November 13, 2012 10:03 am
Hindus from New Jersey to New Delhi are celebrating Diwali. The holiday has its own traditions, customs, and most importantly, food. Host Michel Martin speaks with writer and cookbook author Anupy Singla about the dishes she's bringing to the table for this year's Diwali celebration.
A woman sits on a bed in a dim, wallpapered room. There's an old rotary phone on a nightstand, a prescription pill bottle by the foot of a lamp. Her long wavy hair is brushed back, and the moonlight peers in from between the curtains, illuminating the flowery pattern of her nightgown and the small tattoo on her fleshy arm. Curled sleeping on the bed is a baby, and the woman's head is turned towards the child. But the expression on her face is unclear. Perhaps it's a look of resentment and exhaustion, of alienation and despair.
Originally published on Tue November 13, 2012 12:49 pm
Ian McEwan's 15th book of fiction, Sweet Tooth, is a Tootsie Roll Pop of a literary confection — hard-boiled candy enrobing a chewy surprise at its core. The novel is set 40 years ago, when communism was still perceived as a threat, and takes its title from a fictional clandestine mission by Britain's MI5 intelligence service to sponsor writers espousing the Cold Warrior cause.
The Virgin Mary is one of the most familiar icons of Christianity. For centuries, artists have depicted her on everything from backyard statues of a rosy-cheeked innocent to paintings of magnificent Madonnas hanging in museums all over the world. But few writers have taken up her story or tried to create their own version of the events of her life.
Now, Irish writer Colm Toibin does just that. His novella, The Testament of Mary, raises questions about the life of Jesus' mother and the stories that laid the groundwork for the creation of a church.
When Andrew Solomon started his family with his husband, John Habich, he says, people were surprised that he wasn't afraid to have children, given the topic of the book he was writing. That book, Far From the Tree: Parents, Children, and the Search for Identity, explores what it's like for parents of children who are profoundly different or likely to be stigmatized — children with Down syndrome, deafness, autism, dwarfism, or who are prodigies, become criminals, or are conceived in rape.
Originally published on Mon November 12, 2012 1:53 pm
Skyfall, the 23rd canonical James Bond movie, came out in the U.S. this weekend. I am pleased to reaffirm what you've already read about it if you care at all about James Bond movies: The film is good and occasionally great, restoring the character to his rightful station as the grandest of screen spies — or at least the one most likely to take time to introduce himself to the targets of his spycraft by his last, then his first-and-last, names. I assume he formed this habit after people began showing a quite sensible reluctance to accept his business card.
Four U.S. soldiers, runners for the 315th Infantry, pose in France in November 1918. The troops reportedly carried official orders to Lt. Col. Bunt near Etraye, France, shortly before noon, Nov. 11, 1918, announcing that the armistice had been signed, thereby ending World War I.
English poet Rupert Chawner Brooke died of dysentery aboard a troop ship headed for Gallipoli in April 1915. His poem "The Soldier" is one of the most famous poems written during World War I.
Veterans Day — originally Armistice Day — was renamed in 1954 to include veterans who had fought in all wars. But the day of remembrance has its roots in World War I — Nov. 11, 1918 was the day the guns fell silent at the end of the Great War. On this Veterans Day, we celebrate the poetry of World War I, one of the legacies of that conflict.
Daily Show host Jon Stewart recently called writer Jon Ronson an investigative satirist. As Ronson himself puts it: "I go off and I have unfolding adventures with people in shadowy places. I guess I tell funny stories about serious things."
Ronson has collected many of these stories in his new book, Lost at Sea. He talks to Guy Raz, host of weekends on All Things Considered, about the characters and places he has encountered along the way.
Time, now, another story you have probably never heard before; this one though, absolutely true.
(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)
NIKOLAJ ARCEL: There's this young, beautiful British princess. She's married off to a king in Denmark who she hasn't even met.
MARTIN: This is Nikolaj Arcel. He's a Danish filmmaker. And his latest movie is about the king of Denmark back in the late 1700s, and of course, that beautiful princess who is shipped off to a foreign land.
Two hundred years after the Brothers Grimm first published Children's and Household Tales, Jacob and Wilhelm Grimm are getting another rewrite.
Philip Pullman, who wrote The Golden Compass of theyoung-adult fantasy series His Dark Materials, took on the challenge of retelling 50 of the original Grimm stories for his latest book, Fairy Tales from the Brothers Grimm.
The second act of Puccini's opera Madama Butterfly opens with the aching aria"Un Bel Di," one of the most famous in the Italian repertoire. Onstage, an abandoned young woman sings longingly for "one fine day" when her lover might return to her and their young son in Nagasaki, Japan.