Programming Note: Sunday night, we'll be live-blogging the Academy Awards here at NPR.org, and the Wait Wait ... Don't Tell Me! team will be covering the red-carpet fashions, so be sure to join us to share your thoughts and see whether Affleck, Argo, and Daniel Day-Lewis have the big nights predicted for them.
Chris Morgan Jones' latest espionage novel, The Jackal's Share, makes a reader appreciate the attractions of simplicity. There aren't any glitzy tricks here: no over-the-top villains or weapons arsenals; no le Carre-like meditations on the existential identity of the spy.
Tina Brown, editor of the Daily Beast and Newsweek, joins NPR's Steve Inskeep again for an occasional feature Morning Edition likes to call Word of Mouth. She tells us what she's been reading and gives us recommendations.
This month, Brown sent three recommendations that all deal with the post-Sept. 11 world — stories of Iraq, Afghanistan and Pakistan, and the military and political issues that shape the Middle East and the world at large.
Picture Rick's smoky cafe in Casablanca, Lincoln's office at the White House of the 1860s, or the Mos Eisley cantina on the desert planet of Tatooine: A production designer came up with the overall look of those movie sets. But the booze on Rick's bar or the pens on Lincoln's desk — it took a set decorator and a crew to make them look authentic and believable.
Time again for a home-viewing recommendation from NPR movie critic Bob Mondello. Today, Bob suggests a tale of moral crisis — On the Waterfront, in a freshly restored Blu-ray version from Criterion.
Mugs and palookas, racketeers and dockworkers, mob boss Lee J. Cobb running the union with an iron fist, Marlon Brando tripping up its control when Eva Marie Saint urges him to go to the feds and rat out the rats.
Food doesn't matter much in novels. Years will pass in a person's life without a single description of a snack. Not a moment between adverbs for a taco. No wonder so many characters in contemporary fiction are glum: They're not hopeless; they're hungry.
From NPR and WNYC, this is ASK ME ANOTHER, live from the Bell House in Brooklyn, New York.
EISENBERG: I'm your host, Ophira Eisenberg, and joining me later in the hour are our special musical guests Paul and Storm, and our puzzle guru Art Chung. Let's bring up our first two players. Please welcome Ursula Lawrence and Gregory Guity.
These days politics and advertising go hand in hand. Mayors stage photo ops. The Bush administration compared the Iraq war to rolling out a new product. And just last year, Barack Obama and Mitt Romney spent nearly a billion dollars running for president. If you're an American, such wall-to-wall marketing has come to seem a natural phenomenon, like Hurricane Sandy or LeBron James.
Originally published on Wed February 20, 2013 2:26 pm
Friends in Karachi had me over for a beer Sunday evening. It wasn't hard for them to do. Alcohol is broadly outlawed in Pakistan, but with so many exceptions and so little enforcement, you can usually find something — in this case, tallboy cans of Murree's Millennium Brew from a Pakistani brewery.
Originally published on Wed February 20, 2013 8:18 am
As writers churn out novels about zombies and the apocalypse — books that portray our shared anxieties about the early 21st century — Laura Kasischke's first collection of stories, If a Stranger Approaches You, describes a world haunted, not by the undead, but by the phantoms of unemployment, increased airport security and missed credit card payments. The signature confluence between realism and the uncanny found in much of Kasischke's writing, both as poet and novelist, makes this book an important addition to her own body of work and to the contemporary literature of end times.
OK, yes: To gay comics fans like me, DC Comics' decision to hire an anti-gay activist like Orson Scott Card to write Superman — an iconic character who exists to represent humanity's noblest ideals of justice and compassion — is deeply dispiriting.
The movie Beasts of the Southern Wild is a fairy tale of a film. It might not seem to have much in common with documentaries about evangelical Christians in Uganda or the billionaire Koch brothers. But these films were all funded by a not-for-profit group called Cinereach. It was started by a couple of film school graduates who are still in their 20s. And now, with Beasts, it has a nomination for Best Picture at this year's Oscars.
Originally published on Wed February 20, 2013 12:44 pm
I'm not the first to develop recipes using Girl Scout cookies. About 20 years ago, I saw an article in a newspaper using Girl Scout cookies to make cakes. I made one of the recipes, and it came out almost as pretty as the paper's picture, and it tasted really good.
I was hooked. But before I could get started in the kitchen baking and cooking with Girl Scout cookies, I had a hurdle to get over. I had to decide whether I wanted to eat the cookies I ordered shortly after I received them — or delay gratification and experiment with them. It was a tough choice.
When Emily Bazelon was in eighth grade, her friends fired her. Now a senior editor for Slate, Bazelon writes in her new book, Sticks and Stones: "Two and a half decades later, I can say that wryly: it happened to plenty of people, and look at us now, right? We survived. But at the time, in that moment, it was impossible to have that kind of perspective."
In Sticks and Stones, Bazelon explores teen bullying, what it is and what it isn't, and how the rise of the Internet and social media make the experience more challenging.
Economist Sonali Deraniyagala lost her husband, parents and two young sons in the terrifying Indian Ocean tsunami of 2004. They had been vacationing on the southern coast of her home country Sri Lanka when the wave struck. Wave is her brutal but lyrically written account of the awful moment and the grief-crazed months after, as she learned to live with her almost unbearable losses — and allow herself to remember details of her previous life.
Originally published on Tue February 19, 2013 8:53 am
The torture of alleged terrorism suspects at Guantanamo Bay — first reported by the Red Cross in 2004 and since attested in thousands of declassified memos and acknowledged by a top official in the administration of George W. Bush — has never been far from the headlines, and rightly so. But another breach of human rights and American values at the Cuban prison camp gets far less attention: the secretive military commissions that prosecute these suspects away from the American justice system.
Originally published on Tue February 19, 2013 7:51 am
The daily lowdown on books, publishing, and the occasional author behaving badly.
A new James Bond novel by William Boyd will come out in the U.S. in October. The novel will be a return to the "classic" Bond, and will be set in the 1960s. Ian Fleming, the original Bond author, died in 1964.
Quvenzhane Wallis was just 5 years old when she auditioned for a role in the Oscar-nominated film Beasts of the Southern Wild, and 6 when she shot the movie. Now, at age 9, she is the youngest ever to receive a best actress Oscar nomination.
In the film, Quvenzhane plays a wild child named Hushpuppy, who lives with her sick father in a ramshackle, isolated community called the Bathtub, on the fringes of the Louisiana coast.
"I just got the phone call one day," is how poet Richard Blanco describes to Fresh Air's Terry Gross how he learned he had been selected to write and read the inaugural poem for President Obama's second swearing-in on Jan. 21.
Originally published on Wed February 20, 2013 1:02 pm
If you want to see what George Washington might have munched on, then Sandy Levins is your gal. All the foods she whips up look scrumptious, but if you sneak a bite, you'll get a mouthful of plaster or clay.
Levins is one of a handful of frequently overlooked artisans who craft the replica meals you see in the kitchens and dining rooms of historic houses and museums. Adding faux food to a historical site can help visitors connect to the past, she tells The Salt.
"It's something everyone immediately identifies with, because everyone eats," she says.
Dutch author Herman Koch's new novel The Dinner is one meal you may feel a little strange after. The titular dinner is one planned by two couples — two brothers and their wives — at which they must discuss a terrible crime most likely committed by their sons. The crime is not yet public, but grainy video footage exists — and both sets of parents know it depicts their offspring.
As the European editor of Rolling Stone, Jonathan Cott spent his time interviewing legendary musicians like Mick Jagger and Pete Townshend. But in 1968, he finally got the opportunity to meet his hero, John Lennon. Cott was nervous.
"He said, 'There's nothing to be nervous about,'" Cott recalls. "'It's going to be OK, and we're doing it together, and that's what really matters.'"