Roxane Gay's new collection of essays, Bad Feminist, is littered with defiant, regal I's. "I do not care for epigraphs." "I was not impressed."
Gay — novelist, essayist and relentless documenter of her own life — proclaims her I-ness everywhere she goes: On her blog, she describes what she ate for dinner, what made her mad on an airplane, what she's afraid of, what she's ashamed of, what makes her lonely.
Instead of you throwing a curve here instead is a fastball, high and hard.
Ladies and gentlemen, I give you the granddaddy of American poetry; the gray ghost; the big thumper; the barbarian's text with its barbaric yawp; the nation's first truly great mega biblion; the Kosmos; the Civil War witness; the seaside songbook; the irreverent hymnal; the book of the lover; the book of the loafer; the peacemaker; Leaves of Grass.
Stephen Thompson and I are joined this week by our blog siblings Gene Demby and Kat Chow of NPR's Code Switch, which always puts us in an upbeat and playful mood. Fittingly, we take a couple of listener questions this week about youth and play.
It's been nearly 200 years since Francis Scott Key wrote the words of "The Star-Spangled Banner" as he watched America's flag fly over Fort McHenry during the war of 1812. Set to the melody of a popular English tune, it officially became the national anthem in 1931.
But spanning one and a half octaves, America's national song is awfully hard for the average citizen to sing. So NPR went down to the National Mall on Flag Day and asked folks to give it their best shot (without looking up the lyrics, mind you!)
With or without his knighthood, the legendary climber Sir Edmund Hillary stood 6-foot-plus in his stockinged feet and looked a bit like a mountain crag himself. The New Zealand beekeeper — who with his Sherpa guide Tenzing Norgay was in May 1953 the first to reach the top of Mount Everest — was possessed of a jutting lantern jaw, piercing eyes and an obstinate determination that served this self-described "rough old farm boy" well when holding his own against the posh British leaders who ran the expedition to crest the world's highest peak.
For decades, cop dramas have depicted the South Bronx as the devil's playground. Deliver Us From Evil takes that idea all too literally. But then this slow-witted occult thriller takes everything literally, from the Catholic rite of exorcism to Jim Morrison's shamanic posturing.
The movie is derived from a book of the same name by former NYPD Sgt. Ralph Sarchie, who reportedly came to believe that some of the criminals he faced were literally possessed. Wisely, director and co-scripter Scott Derrickson made the on-screen Sarchie (stolidly intense Eric Bana) a skeptic.
Think of Melissa McCarthy playing Megan in Bridesmaids, and you may first remember her defecating in a sink, or driving a minivan full of stolen puppies, or brazenly propositioning an air marshal. McCarthy stole the show with a talent for profanity and pratfalls, but it's a reflective one-on-one scene playing impromptu life coach to Kristen Wiig's character that solidified her star-making performance. For that scene, she dropped the clownish shtick for a real human moment that made Megan into a character, not just a caricature.
In his five decades as a director, Bernardo Bertolucci has tended toward grand political filmmaking. His movies have generally been set in turbulent times: the rise of fascism in Italy in The Conformist and 1900; the leftist youth movements of the 1960s in Partner and Before the Revolution; the years prior to the Chinese Communist revolution in The Last Emperor — moments when social orders are being overturned.
With the onset of summer comes also a bounty of strawberries. Add to those berries a bit of sugar and plenty of sunlight, and you have a strawberry jam recipe fit for the season's best mornings — with a slice of good toast, of course.
Before writing the poems that make up Hustle, David Tomas Martinez was hustling for a long time. In sidelong verses, he compacts his childhood in the Meadowbrook Houses in San Diego, his teenage years running with a gang, his enlistment in the Navy, and then his eventual escape into the world of poetry — a place he admits sometimes surprises even him.
Roger Ebert was often considered the most famous film critic of his generation. Now filmmaker Steve James has produced a documentary about his life and death, called Life Itself.
In 2002, Ebert was diagnosed with cancer. Four years later, he had surgery to remove part of his lower jaw. It left him unable to eat, drink or speak. For the rest of his life, he was fed through a tube.
But his popularity seemed to only increase as he blogged and tweeted about films. Ebert loved movies and went out of his way to champion filmmakers he believed in — including James.
This is FRESH AIR. Director John Carney had a surprise hit with his low-budget musical "Once." And he returns to the musical arena - this time in New York and not Dublin - with his new movie "Begin Again." Keira Knightley plays a heartbroken singer-songwriter who teams up with a down and out drunken producer played by Mark Ruffalo. Film critic David Edelstein has this review.
Writer Walter Dean Myers died on Wednesday after a brief illness at age 76, leaving mourners in the adult world and young readers who saw themselves in his books. He expanded the face of publishing so that many children of color saw themselves reflected in his work.
When summertime rolls around, we're all for eating outdoors, but the American heyday of the picnic may very well have been the 1950s.
Convenience food was newly popular; many mothers stayed home and had time to pack everything just right. Tupperware was taking off, picnic tables popped up on roadsides, and an outing in the fresh country air was often just what the doctor ordered.
If you're a fan of the Maisie Dobbs series — and if you're not, I highly recommend you give them a chance — you already know that Jacqueline Winspear has a formidable command of the history of the Great War, and a stunning ability to take some of the most amazing and horrible aspects of that era and bring them home.
The city of Jericho sits in the hot, flat Jordan Valley down the hill from Jerusalem. Jericho has bragging rights as one of the oldest towns on Earth. But one of its newest homes looks like it might have arrived from outer space.
Ahmad Daoud hired a firm of young Palestinian architects to build this house. Like Jericho's original homes, it is built of dirt. This one has a contemporary twist, though: It's constructed with earth compacted in bags that are then stacked and plastered over.
Daoud loves the domed rooms, the nod to the past and the environmental advantages.
Motorcycles provide an open road for literature — literally and figuratively. They're sometimes the dramatic device writers use to talk about many things: adventure, rebellion, even inner peace. But motorcycles aren't just a metaphor at Bartel's Harley-Davidson shop in Marina Del Rey, Calif. They're loud and shiny and very real.
In the late 1980s and early '90s, Washington, D.C., was a city under siege. As with other cities, it descended into near chaos because of the crack epidemic that claimed even innocent lives. Whole neighborhoods became war zones, and the nation's capital became the nation's homicide capital.
Movie theaters were swarming with Transformers this past weekend, and that'll also be true over the July 4 weekend. So this may not seem to be the best moment to bring out a sci-fi flick made on a budget that wouldn't cover catering for Optimus Prime. But "small" has its virtues sometimes, and the kid flick Earth to Echo is one of those times.
Our book critic, Maureen Corrigan, has a review of the new novel "Friendship" by Emily Gould who made her name in the blogosphere. A recent profile in the New York Times Sunday style section described Gould as a forerunner to Lena Dunham and other confessional female bloggers, writers and filmmakers or whom over-sharing has become an art form.
OutLoud, a new StoryCorps project, records and amplifies the voices of the LGBTQ community.
Now 70, Patty Woods looks back to the late 1970s, when she met a woman who would become her partner — and leave a long-lasting mark on her life, despite the fact they were not able to be open about their relationship.
"I was working in a restaurant and she would come in every day for lunch. I was like, 'Oh my God, I want to know her,' " Woods tells her friend, 22-year-old Cedar Lay.
Just one week after Google Glass went on sale in the U.K., fears of piracy have led to calls to ban the eyewear from being worn in movie theaters.
Criticism of the Google device, which can allow those wearing it to record what they see, has come from the powerful Cinema Exhibitors' Association, which as the BBC reports "has no power to enforce a ban, but instead makes recommendations to most of the country's cinema industry."