When her beloved Aunt Mary passed away, 15-year-old Sheri Booker sought solace in an unusual summer job — at the Albert P. Wylie Funeral Home in the heart of Baltimore.
Booker's new memoir, Nine Years Under, describes the job that became a nine-year career and lifelong fascination with the business of burials.
"After Aunt Mary died, I felt like I needed closure," Booker explains. "I wanted answers. I wanted to make sure that she was in good hands, so I found a way into the funeral home, and it was only supposed to be a summer, but it ended up being nine years!"
The late Mickey Spillane wrote mysteries that practically created the American paperback industry — more than 225 million copies of his books have been sold since he was first published in 1947. Spillane was the best-selling mystery writer of the 20th century — not Dashiell Hammett, Raymond Chandler or other signature writers whose works were sometimes judged to have moved from detective mystery to work of literature.
We've had a lot of impressive people as our guests on this show ... Nobel Prize winners, senators, governors, and two presidents of the United States. But now, for the first time ever, we are honored to welcome a Lord of Immortality, a Keeper of Perfect Health for the World.
Credit Michael P. Manheim / Environmental Protection Agency
Columbia River, Rainier, Ore., in <a href="http://www.flickr.com/photos/usnationalarchives/4272347148/" target="_blank">1973 by David Falconer</a> and <a href="http://www.flickr.com/photos/leaper1/7527285592/" target="_blank">2012 by Craig Leaper</a>
Credit Environmental Protection Agency
Columbia River Gorge, Ore., in <a href="http://www.flickr.com/photos/usnationalarchives/4272398490/" target="_blank">1973 by David Falconer</a> and <a href="http://www.flickr.com/photos/rs_butner/7387100402/in/photostream/" target="_blank">2012 by Scott Butner</a>
Credit Environmental Protection Agency
East Boston, Mass., in 1973 and 2012 by Michael P. Manheim
Credit Environmental Protection Agency
Oxford Paper Company Mill, Androscoggin County, Maine, in <a href="http://www.flickr.com/photos/usnationalarchives/3752347504/in/set-72157621806586940" target="_blank">1973 (left) by Charles Steinhacker</a> and 2012 by Victoria Hampshire.
In 1971, when the Environmental Protection Agency was in its early days, someone at the agency got the idea to send nearly 100 freelance photographers around America to document the country. These weren't postcard shots, but pictures of street corners, freight yards, parking lots, alleyways — wherever people were working and living. It was called Documerica, and it went on for seven years.
Americans often think of World War II as the "good war," but historian Mary Louise Roberts says her new book might make our understanding of that conflict "more truthful and more complex." The book, What Soldiers Do: Sex and the American GI in World War II France, tells the story of relations between American men and French women in Normandy and elsewhere.
There's a part of basic cable that you might call "soft reality" — the unscripted shows where everybody is nice, almost all the stories are happy, the comedy is mostly gentle, and the main characters are meant to be very sympathetic. Soft reality loves pregnancy and childbirth, as seen on shows like A Baby Story and some of the shows about giving birth to multiples. (Jon & Kate Plus 8 started as soft reality and wound up as something else entirely.)
Now why don't we take a little music break with the occasional feature we call IN YOUR EAR. That's where some of our guest tell us about the songs that inspire them or just make them dance. Today we hear from a writer who decided to dig deeper into what we know about Martin Luther King Junior and other prominent African American men.
This is TELL ME MORE from NPR News. I'm Michel Martin. Coming up, we'll head into the Barber Shop to get the buzz on some hot topics in the news. But first we want to hear about another place to hang out to find out about what's going on in the world. That would be the Internet. And while a lot of people might think that that's the domain of the younger set, it turns out that there is a thriving online world catering to 40 and 50-somethings.
Psychopathic killers are the basis for some must-watch TV, but what really makes them tick? Neuroscientist Jim Fallon talks about brain scans and genetic analysis that may uncover the rotten wiring in the nature (and nurture) of murderers. In a too-strange-for-fiction twist, he shares a fascinating family history that makes his work chillingly personal.
It's not every week you get to hear me go full-on fan-crazy. (Okay, it's some weeks, but usually not about the people who are in the studio.) But this week, I am extra-excited because Stephen Thompson and I are joined for our pop-culture roundtable podcast by Gene Demby and Kat Chow, both from NPR's race, ethnicity and culture team that writes the Code Switch blog.
When I recommend books to kids or grown-ups, I can almost always get them interested if I add "Oh, and after you read this book, you could go on a field trip to the museum/zoo/baseball stadium/library ... or just take a little road trip!" Spring 2013 has been a very good year for children's books that spark the imagination and make kids (and grownups) want to do a little more exploring.
Books like these can be the start of amazing adventures. Enjoy!
Mara Alpert is a librarian in the Children's Literature Department at the Los Angeles Public Library.
Magic is compelling when it actually amazes, accomplishing the difficult feat of freeing its viewers from disbelief and letting them bask in the wonder of seeing what they know is impossible. Movies work the same way, and part of the equation for both is developing the right expectations.
James Marsh's Shadow Dancer opens with scenes depicting the lead ups to a pair of violent acts separated by 20 years. The events are connected, both by the involvement of Collette (Andrea Riseborough) and by the fact that guilt created by her role as a child bystander in the first fuels her involvement as an Irish Republican Army operative in the second.
Brit Marling plays Sarah, a former FBI agent working for a private intelligence agency in <em>The East. </em>Shiloh Fernandez plays Luca, a member of the environmentalist vigilante group that Sarah infiltrates.
Credit Myles Aronowitz / Courtesy of Fox Searchlight Pictures
In The East, a slightly batty, weirdly involving new thriller about corporate espionage and eco-terrorism, rising star Brit Marling (last seen as Richard Gere's daughter in the drama Arbitrage) plays Sarah, an ambitious young private intelligence operative and former FBI agent.
<em>The Kings Of Summer </em>stars (from left) Gabriel Basso as Patrick, Moises Arias as Biaggio and Nick Robinson as Joe. The three teenagers escape from their constrictive parents to build a house of their own in the woods.
Like the recent Mud, The Kings of Summer is a tale of feral adolescent pals in search of freedom and adventure. The movies even share essentially the same awkwardly contrived climax. But of the two films, The Kings of Summer is more of a comedy, with a depiction of the eternal war between teen and parent that's downright farcical.
These days, Caine gets smaller roles than he used to, but that doesn't bother him. Back when he did repertory theater, "I did a play a week," he says. "One week I'd be the lord, the next week I'd be the butler." He's pictured above in 1965.
Credit Stephan C. Archetti / Getty Images
Michael Caine plays an investor in <em>Now You See Me, </em>a film about heist-pulling illusionists.
Credit Barry Wetcher / Courtesy Summit Entertainment
Caine and Cybill Shepherd during the filming of <em>Silver Bears</em> in 1978.
Over the course of his career, Michael Caine has played big parts and small parts, all of them memorable. His films include everything from Alfie to The Man Who Would Be King, from The Cider House Rules to The Dark Knight.
"I've been very fortunate," Caine tells NPR's Robert Siegel, "because I spent my life doing something that I love doing so much, I used to do it for nothing. So you can't have a better life than that."
<em>Before Midnight</em> is the third film in Richard Linklater's series that explores the romance and life of a couple, Jesse (Ethan Hawke) and Celine (Julie Delpy). The two previous films were <em>Before Sunrise</em> and <em>Before Sunset</em>.
Credit Sony Pictures Classics
Linklater's three films in the series are separated by nine-year increments that follow Celine (Delpy) and Jesse (Hawke) as they meet and fall in love and pair up. In <em>Before Midnight</em>, the two are the parents of twins.
In the 1995 Richard Linklater film, Before Sunrise, a young American man named Jesse (Ethan Hawke) and a young Frenchwoman named Celine (Julie Delpy) meet on a train from Budapest. Intrigued by one another, they get off the train together in Vienna and spend the night wandering the city, talking and falling in love, before they both return to their respective lives in their respective countries.
Summer vacations are where we do some of our most serious thinking — whether we're sitting by the ocean, cradled in a hammock, or strolling alongside a river. And yet, when it comes to summer reading, we can be quick to grab the latest flashy espionage novel or an earthy romance slathered in buttery prose. Not that there isn't a time and place for brain popcorn, but lately, I find that I want my summer reading material to match my buzzing mind. And for that kind of constant engagement, I turn to memoir.
In 2011, NoViolet Bulawayo was awarded the Caine Prize for African Writing for her short story "Hitting Budapest." In this raw, fierce tale of a gang of near-feral children on the hunt for guavas, the young writer delivered one of the most powerful works of fiction to come out of Zimbabwe in recent years — a clear-eyed indictment of a government whose policies, in the decades since independence, have left many of its citizens destitute.
Vaslav Nijinsky as the faun at the premiere of the Ballets Russes' production of <em>Afternoon of the Faun</em> at the Theatre du Chatelet in Paris in May 1912. <a href="http://www.npr.org/assets/img/2013/05/29/3202983_archive.jpg">Click here to see the full costume</a>.
Credit Edward Gooch / Getty Images
Léon Bakst's 1912 costume design for <em>The Afternoon of a Faun</em>.
Credit Wadsworth Atheneum Museum of Art
Henri Matisse's satin costume for a dancer in <em>The Song of the Nightingale</em> (1920).
Credit Victoria and Albert Museum, London
Set designer Alexander Schervashidze enlarged and reproduced a Picasso painting, to serve as a front curtain for "The Blue Train" (1924).
Credit 2013 Estate of Pablo Picasso/Artists Rights Society (ARS)
This 1910 gelatin silver print by Eugène Druet shows Nijinsky in <em>Siamese Dance</em>. The story goes that when asked how he jumped so well, Nijinsky answered, "It's simple. You just jump up there and wait a little while."
If your idea of ballet is a flurry of tutus and toeshoes, a new exhibition at the National Gallery of Art in Washington will expand your vision. "Diaghilev and the Ballets Russes" shows the revolutionary impact a group of dancers, composers, artists and choreographers made on classical dance at the start of the 20th century.
Open a design magazine or turn on a home decorating show these days, and it's clear: Midcentury modern is hot. It first showed up in the 1950s and '60s — think low-slung sofas, egg-shaped chairs and the set of Mad Men. My first midcentury modern find was a dining set I bought on Craigslist for $75. There was something about the clean lines and gentle curves of the wooden chairs that got me.
Prescription painkillers are among the most widely used drugs in America. In the decade since New York Times reporter Barry Meier began investigating their use and abuse, he says he has seen the number of people dying from overdoses quadruple — an increase Meier calls "staggering."
"The current statistic is that about 16,000 people a year die of overdoses involving prescription narcotics. ... It's a huge problem. The number of people dying from these drugs is second only to the number of people that die in car accidents," he tells Fresh Air's Terry Gross.
Earlier this month, we told you about a U.N. report that makes the case for insects to improve global food security: They're cheap, plentiful and environmentally sustainable. Now, the coming of the 17-year cicadas provides East Coast Americans, for whom bug eating is considered novel at best, with an opportunity to try local insect cuisine.