Originally published on Thu September 20, 2012 9:09 am
Ursula Le Guin comes immediately to mind when you turn the pages of Kij Johnson's first book of short stories, her debut collection is that impressive. The title piece has that wonderful power we hope for in all fiction we read, the surprising imaginative leap that takes us to recognize the marvelous in the everyday.
San Miguel is the name of a treeless island off the coast of California where, in the 19th and early 20th centuries, a few nervy ranchers struggled to raise sheep. San Miguel is also the name of T. Coraghessan Boyle's chilling and beautiful new novel, which is loosely based on the memoirs of those ranchers.
There are essentially two things that can happen with a knuckleball. It can float toward the plate without spin, jerk around like boozy relatives at a wedding hall and make the world's best hitters look like hapless Looney Tunes characters. Or it can float toward the plate with spin, lope with a steady trajectory at 65 mph and give the world's best hitters the juiciest slab of red meat this side of Sizzler.
The violent protests that erupted in North Africa and the Middle East over a video insulting the Prophet Muhammad were in part a reflection of conflicting values — Islamic strictures on images of the prophet versus the Western principle of respect for free speech.
But journalist Doug Saunders says that the video itself reflects a troubling current in Western political discourse — an irrational fear of Muslim communities in Europe and the United States.
Susanna Moore's latest novel, The Life of Objects, is a slim World War II saga that reads like a cautionary fairy tale: It's packed with descriptions of ornate furniture and paintings, lavish banquets, demons and diamonds. At the center of the story is a young girl bewitched by her own desire to live a larger life, a wish that's granted with grim exactitude.
Originally published on Wed September 19, 2012 7:39 am
The novelist Alexandre Dumas — the one known for penning The Count of Monte Cristo and The Three Musketeers — is often referred to as "Alexandre Dumas, pere." This is to distinguish him from his son, also a writer, who is identified as "Alexandre Dumas, fils." The thing is, there is an even older Alex Dumas who, while not a professional writer, made quite a name for himself in Revolutionary France. For the father of Alexandre Dumas, pere, the sword was mightier than the pen, and this larger-than-life figure's story heavily influenced the fiction of his literary offspring.
The second season is about to start for the Showtime series Homeland, a show whose cast and crew are up for numerous honors at the Emmy Awards Sept. 23.
One of them is Claire Danes, who plays a CIA agent who's become obsessed with the idea that an American hero — a Marine returned home after years of captivity in Iraq — has secretly become an operative for al-Qaida. Danes spoke to NPR's Steve Inskeep about preparing for the part, finding the character's body language and being "a big fat ham."
Originally published on Thu September 20, 2012 8:28 am
Apples are the onions of the fruit world: abundant, versatile and a friend to almost any flavor. Apples and onions even go well together.
As we enter the thick of fall, apples will tumble from their bins, a harmony of flavors, textures and hues — reds, yellows, browns and greens — that capture the very essence of the season. But when was the last time you thought of using an apple for anything besides pie, applesauce or cider? Maybe you tossed one into a salad. Maybe.
In <em>Ohio Impromptu,</em> one of three short plays featured in <em>Sounding Beckett,</em> the silent character (Philip Goodwin, left, with Ted van Griethuysen) inspired music based on knocks and repetitions.
Credit Jeremy Tressler / Sounding Beckett
Guitar plinks represent May (Holly Twyford) pacing the floor in the music based on Beckett's <em>Footfalls.</em>
It all began last year, when the Library of Congress presented Samuel Beckett's Ohio Impromptu alongside a piece of music by composer Dina Koston, which responded to the text. A New York group, the Cygnus Ensemble, played the music, while Washington, D.C., director Joy Zinoman staged the play, for one night only.
In an excellent piece at the Press Play blog at Indiewire, Matt Zoller Seitz writes of a screening of From Russia With Love, where he found that much of the audience was too busy guffawing at the elements it found dated to engage the film on its own terms. While he writes eloquently and angrily about the phenomenon of ironic distance, the killer line is this one: "It's up to the individual viewer to decide to connect or not connect with a creative work.
Originally published on Fri September 21, 2012 9:33 am
Nothing like a novel by a young recruit to tell you the truths about an army, as in, say, From Here to Eternity and The Naked and the Dead. In this case it's a book called The People of Forever Are Not Afraid, by Shani Boianjiu, a young female veteran of the Israel Defense Forces. And though it may not be the first of its kind — Moshe Dayan's daughter Yael published some fiction about the Israeli army decades ago — Boianjiu's debut novel has some virtues all its own, and some flaws.
When it comes to healing the wounds of its troubled racial past, the United States is still in its "adolescent phase," says novelist Attica Locke. The 2008 presidential election changed everything she had been taught about race, she says — and, as an African-American writer, she felt compelled to write about that new reality. The result is The Cutting Season, a thrilling, century-spanning story of two murders.
What would happen if two of the biggest names of the Renaissance — Niccolo Machiavelli and Leonardo da Vinci — teamed up as a crime-fighting duo? That's the idea behind Michael Ennis' new historical thriller, The Malice of Fortune. The mystery novel pairs the ruthless political philosopher and the genius inventor and artist together as an unlikely detective team on the trail of a serial killer.
Franklyn Dunbar, 17, practices krumping with his crew at his mother's house in Paynesville, a suburb of Monrovia, Liberia. Dunbar was born in New York, but moved to his home country of Liberia seven years ago.
Barack Obama is sworn in as the 44th president of the United States on Jan. 20, 2009, in Washington.
Credit Tim Sloan / Getty Images
Jeffrey Toobin is the best-selling author of several books, including <em>The Nine: <em>Inside the Secret World of the Supreme Court. </em></em>He is<em> </em>a staff writer for <em>The New Yorker</em> and a senior legal analyst at CNN.
During his 2008 presidential campaign, Barack Obama ran on the platform of "change we can believe in" — but he has a different approach to the Supreme Court's interpretation of constitutional law.
"Obama is a great believer in stability — in the absence of change — when it comes to the work of the Supreme Court," Jeffrey Toobin, author and senior legal analyst for CNN, tells Fresh Air's Terry Gross. "He is the one trying to hold onto the older decisions, and [Chief Justice John] Roberts is the one who wants to move the court in a dramatically new direction."
For generations women have been told, if you want a man, learn to cook. That's exactly why feminist writer Shayla Pierce stayed out of the kitchen. But now she finds herself with a boyfriend, learning to cook, and wondering if that makes her a sellout. She speaks with host Michel Martin about her article and her change of heart.
Originally published on Mon September 17, 2012 11:28 am
Shani Boianjiu is the author of The People of Forever Are Not Afraid.
When I was 11, I found a book that did not know it was a book. It was a yellowing Hebrew translation of Tarjei Vesaas' Norwegian novel The Ice Palace. I found it on the shelf in my room that belonged to my parents' old books. Usually, these books were too long for me.
On Sunday, the annual Toronto International Film Festival came to a close after 11 days of screenings, meetings and, of course, parties. It's become an important place to kick off the fall film season. But this year, the festival wasn't only looking west to Hollywood — it was also sharpening its focus on the East, and the rise of new cinema from India, in particular.
One of the films at this year's Toronto festival was called Shanghai; it comes from Mumbai, and was directed by Dibakar Banerjee.
Just a reminder now that Round 9 of our Three-Minute Fiction Contest is open. It's where we ask you to write an original short story that can be read in about three minutes, so no more than 600 words. In each round, we have a judge with a new challenge. And this time, it's novelist Brad Meltzer, and he's come up with this.
BRAD MELTZER: Your story must revolve around a U.S. president who can be fictional or real.
Campaigns today are collecting information that goes way beyond demographics. Data points as disparate as the catalogs you peruse or the car you drive all make up a picture that campaigns use to find common ground with their candidates — and get you to the voting booth.
Journalist Sasha Issenberg describes this data-driven world in his new book, The Victory Lab. There were two "major innovations" that spurred the modern approach to voter outreach, he tells Weekend Edition guest host Linda Wertheimer.
Originally published on Sun September 16, 2012 7:20 am
Maggie Stiefvater is a young-adult author with a passionate fan base — she describes her subject matter as everything from "homicidal faeries" to "werewolf nookie."
She wrote the best-selling Shiver trilogy and the novel The Scorpio Races. Her most-recent book, The Raven Boys, is the first in a series of four that will follow Blue Sargent, daughter of the Henrietta, Va., town psychic, as she becomes involved with the lives of four students at the local private school who call themselves the Raven Boys.
Harvest season is upon us, but in the U.S.'s northern lakes, it's not just the last tomatoes and first pumpkins. Through the end of this month, canoes will glide into lakes and rivers for the annual gathering of wild rice, kick started with the popular Wild Rice Festival in Roseville, Minn., on Saturday.
The Beverly Hills Hotel as it looked when it opened in 1912. The bleak landscape would eventually be replaced by lush tropical foliage, and after the depression, the white Spanish Mission-style hotel would be painted its now-famous pink.
The Beverly Hills Hotel, a place fondly known as the Pink Palace, has preserved guests' privacy and indulged their every whim for 100 years, and the entire year will be filled with celebrations of its centennial.
There have been parties for the neighbors, parties for the staff, and a celebration this week as the hotel becomes the first historic landmark in the city of Beverly Hills, Calif.
On-air challenge: Every answer is a familiar phrase in the form of "___ and ___." You'll be given the two missing words, each with a letter removed, and you give the phrases. For example, given "lot and fund," the answer would be "lost and found."
Last week's challenge from listener Erica Avery of Wisconsin: Name a world capital whose letters can be rearranged to spell a popular and much-advertised drug. What's the capital, and what's the drug?
Originally published on Sat September 15, 2012 3:50 pm
A reminder from weekends on All Things Considered host Guy Raz that Round 9 of our Three-Minute Fiction, our writing contest where our listeners write an original short story, is now open. The story must be based on the following challenge from our judge Brad Meltzer: The story must revolve around a U.S. president, who can be fictional or real and that the short story has to be 600 words or less. Listeners can submit their story online at www.npr.org/threeminutefiction.