For readers new to Daniel Woodrell's work, The Maid's Version is a perfect introduction and an invitation to read more. It's a short book — almost a novella at a mere 164 pages — but there are lifetimes captured here. Woodrell sets the story in his beloved Missouri Ozarks, and he writes with clear-eyed observation, introducing the reader to characters whose lives are shaped as much by their rural landscape as by the moral ambiguities — the collective lies, constraints and collusions — that form the necessary glue holding their community together.
Originally published on Tue September 10, 2013 10:52 am
Here's a bit of news that might make you drop that chicken nugget midbite.
Just before the start of the long holiday weekend last Friday, the U.S. Department of Agriculture quietly announced that it was ending a ban on processed chicken imports from China. The kicker: These products can now be sold in the U.S. without a country-of-origin label.
Devotees of '50s Hollywood comedies could have a great time at Populaire, an intentionally lightweight ode to romance and, uh, typing. But the way to enjoy this French souffle is to concentrate on the scrupulously retro music, costumes and set design, not on the musty fairy-tale script.
Originally published on Mon September 9, 2013 8:48 am
Overused and much misused, the word "provocative" has become a double-edged sword, especially when it's swung in the direction of independent cinema. At its best, the genuinely provocative film — off the top of my head, anything by Bunuel, Shaun of the Dead, Holy Motors -- shocks in order to expand our vision of the world it encompasses. At its most dispiriting, it's an exercise in cheap thrillage, designed to goose a presumptively stuffy bourgeois audience while positioning a director as some sort of iconoclast.
Cats have come a long way from being animals charged with catching mice to treasured, adorable creatures that snuggle with us in our beds. But this relatively new arrangement is creating issues for cats and the people who live with them.
John Bradshaw has studied the history of domesticated cats and how the relationship between people and cats has changed. He's the author of the new book Cat Sense: How the New Feline Science Can Make You a Better Friend to Your Pet, which is a follow-up to his book Dog Sense.
Best Kept Secret is a film that follows a group of young adults with autism during their last year of high school. Host Michel Martin speaks with filmmaker Samantha Buck and Janet Mino, a special education teacher.
Originally published on Thu September 5, 2013 2:44 pm
Monologist Mike Daisey has a new story to tell, and if you want to hear it, then you'd better settle in. It's going to take a month to get through it.
In one sense, All the Faces of the Moon, starting Sept. 5 at the Public Theater in New York, is a collection of 29 different monologues, which Daisey will perform consecutively and for one night only. Each piece has its own narrative, so even if they see just one installment, audiences can have a complete experience.
Pull back, though, and the project becomes a single massive opus — one that runs about 44 hours.
You're listening to ASK ME ANOTHER from NPR and WYNC. I'm Ophira Eisenberg and coming up, we'll find out if Jonathan Coulton is the walrus or the egg man in a game where we desecrate yet another Beatles' tune. Plus, we'll find out how much NPR's quiz show master Peter Sagal knows about his coworkers. But joining us right now are JJ Orgera and Justin Sheen.
EISENBERG: Justin, if you could live in the fictional space of any television show, which one would you like to go into?
Originally published on Thu September 5, 2013 8:45 am
Stanley Kunitz, one of our great poets, planted a spruce tree next to his house in Provincetown, Mass., and over the years that tree attracted some tenants, a family of garden snakes. I didn't know garden snakes climb trees, especially needly ones like a spruce, but they do.
Originally published on Thu September 5, 2013 1:15 pm
A father's illness, a girlfriend's mental breakdown and abuse by a priest, all set against a background of class conflict and nationalist tensions: Jim, the 14-year-old protagonist of The Fields, faces catastrophe after catastrophe. But Kevin Maher's debut novel is hardly dour. Instead, the jokes — simultaneously funny and brave — never stop coming.
The Ozarks mountain town of West Plains, Mo., is the kind of town where a person can stand in his front yard and have a comfortable view of his past.
"My mom was actually born about 150 or 200 feet that way, and my grandfather's house is I guess 200 yards that way," says Daniel Woodrell, author of Winter's Bone, and most recently, The Maid's Version.
Originally published on Wed September 4, 2013 4:52 pm
On the windswept plateau where Madrid is perched, it's too dry to raise cattle and most crops. So pork has long been a mainstay, from jamón ibérico and charcuterie tapas to stews of pigs' ears and entrails.
But when locals want a really special treat, they go for an entire piglet roasted whole — head, hooves and all — on an oak wood fire.
Get ready to give your mind and your mouth a workout. In this game led by host Ophira Eisenberg, all the answers have a guttural "ch" sound in them. For instance, the painter that had an eye for sunflowers but cut off his left earlobe is Vincent Van Gogh.
Plus, Jonathan Coulton concludes the game with a version of The Beatles' "Help!" that is also quite guttural.
Now we're going to crown this week's grand champion. Let's bring back from Mind in the Gutteral Scott Bergeron; from All in the Cards, Melissa Kalwanaski; from Charming Old Moviehouse Justin Sheen; from I Am Not the Walrus, Jonathan Firestone; and from Down With O.P.P, Stacey Molski.
EISENBERG: I'm going to ask our puzzle guru Art Chung to take us out.
Endurance, going the distance, sucking up the solitude and the brine: I'm not talking about the glorious Diana Nyad and her instantly historic swim from Cuba to Key West, but of the ordinary heroine whose life is the subject of Alice McDermott's latest novel, Someone. "Ordinary" is a word that's used a lot to describe McDermott's characters, mostly Irish and working class, mostly un-heroic in any splashy way.
Michael Gruber began his fiction career as a ghostwriter for a well-known American judge. A former federal civil servant, chef, environmentalist, and speechwriter, Gruber had a varied career before he took up writing his own novels, and it shows in his work, in the broad and capacious subject matter and cast of thousands.
For centuries, biographers have relied on letters to bring historical figures to life, whether Gandhi or Catherine the Great. But as people switch from writing on paper to documenting their lives electronically, biographers are encountering new benefits — and new challenges.
Originally published on Tue October 1, 2013 5:38 pm
OK, people, I do not love corn on the cob. Yes, I know this tags me as vaguely un-American. And yes I know the summertime staple is a beloved culinary icon. And I'm also aware that corn on the cob fans often rhapsodize over the pairing of fresh, sweet corn and melted butter.
But when I'm offered an ear, I politely decline. That's the point at which family and friends look at me as if I'm slightly daft. "What? You don't want any?" No, sorry. Just pass me the potato salad, please.