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.
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.
This Veterans Day, NPR Books went into the archives to find stories of combat and coping. A mother describes the emotional minefield of having a child at war, a Marine writes a memoir of a mortuary, and a photojournalist pays tribute to two centuries of Native-Americans in the military.
On-air challenge: Sunday is Veterans Day, so we have a game of categories based on flags. Given some categories, for each one name something in the category beginning with each of the letters F, L, A, G and S.
For example, if the category were chemical elements, you might say fluorine, lead, argon, gold and sulfur.
When Katherine Marsh was a young girl, she was mesmerized by the dwarfs of Diego Velazquez's paintings. Years later, that obsession inspired Jepp, Who Defied the Stars, her latest novel for young adults.
Marsh joins NPR's Guy Raz to discuss her book, which is rooted in history, yet speckled with fantasy. It carries her readers to the Spanish Netherlands in the late 16th century to tell the coming-of-age story of Jepp of Astraveld.
In the new movie Lincoln, actor Daniel Day-Lewis is getting a lot of attention for his spot-on portrayal of the 16th president. But Ben Burtt, the sound designer, also deserves credit for the film's authenticity. You may not know his name, but you surely know his work.
Burtt is something of a legend in the movie sound world. He has won numerous Oscars, including for his work on Star Wars.
Burtt invented that iconic swoosh of the light saber, using the hum of an old projector and the buzz of a television set.
Superstorm Sandy has put the topic of climate change front and center once again.
Just after Sandy staggered his city, New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg wrote "Our climate is changing. And while the increase in extreme weather we have experienced in New York City and around the world may or may not be the result of it, the risk that it might be — given this week's devastation — should compel all elected leaders to take immediate action."
Lyle Talbot was born in 1902, just around the time when movies were getting started. He joined a traveling carnival, toured in theater troupes and wound up in Hollywood, where he became a reliable B-movie player. Eventually, Talbot became a fixture of family-friendly television on Leave It to Beaver and Ozzie and Harriet.
Author Ian McEwan's latest creation, Serena Frome, isn't much of a spy. She got recruited into MI5 by her Cambridge history tutor, whom she wanted to dazzle. But he dumps her, and she never sees it coming. She winds up on the clerical side of the operation, cross-filing schemes and plots to stop terrorists, until one day, in the middle of the Cold War, she's summoned to the fifth floor of the agency, where five wise men ask her to rank three British novelists according to their merit: Kingsley Amis, William Golding and David Storey.
For 30 years, Martha Stewart has been teaching people how to be classy, useful, attractive and elegant, with her books, TV shows, magazines and websites. Though we'd like her to declare Wait Wait one of her trademark "good things," we can't promise that's going to happen.
Today at All Things Considered, we continue a project we're calling NewsPoet. Each month, we bring in a poet to spend time in the newsroom — and at the end of the day, to compose a poem reflecting on the day's stories.
Daniel Day-Lewis has won two Academy Awards for fully immersing himself in his characters in There Will Be Blood and My Left Foot.
Now the British actor is taking on one of America's most iconic figures in Steven Spielberg's Lincoln, playing the 16th president during the final months of his life. Day-Lewis tells NPR's Melissa Block that it was a daunting prospect — but that ultimately Lincoln was a surprisingly accessible figure.
This interview was originally broadcast on Nov. 1, 2011. Don't Shoot is now out in paperback.
In 1985, David M. Kennedy visited Nickerson Gardens, a public housing complex in south-central Los Angeles. It was the beginning of the crack epidemic, and Nickerson Gardens was located in what was then one of the most dangerous neighborhoods in America.
Two icons, Abraham Lincoln and James Bond, make triumphant appearances this week in movies with more in common than you'd expect. True, Lincoln is a titan of history, liberator of slaves, and as such an adversary of Western colonialism, while 007 is an outlandish stereotype embodying white male Western authoritarian power. But the makers of these films do a sterling job of testing their respective subjects in front of our eyes — before pronouncing them fit to carry on in our collective imagination.