By the time Wendy Plump learned from a friend that her husband had a longtime mistress and an 8-month-old son living just a mile away, their union was already pockmarked with the scars of adultery — both his and hers. She divulges all this and more in Vow, her at times jaw-droppingly frank but ultimately instructive post-mortem on their 18-year marriage.
This Valentine's Day, if you're feeling lonely, heartbroken, or just a bit jaundiced, we've got some archive treasures for you — tempestuous relationships, cartoon heartbreak, and a few books that may make you feel less alone — plus a bonus playlist from our good friends at NPR Music.
I know plenty of people out there think Valentine's Day is an overly commercial faux holiday, and to some extent I can see why. After all, it is a day when people (especially men?) can feel forced to celebrate romance. Call me an overly sentimental romantic if you want to, but I still adore the idea and practice of a day devoted to romance and love.
Hollywood's biggest night is in just a few weeks. People tend to focus on the glitz, the glamour and — of course — the gowns. But we thought we'd take a moment to focus on the gags.
Or rather what goes into writing both the jokes that fall flat and the jokes that soar. For a bit of Oscars Writing 101, NPR's All Things Considered turned to Dave Boone, who has written for the Academy Awards eight times.
Originally published on Thu February 14, 2013 2:42 pm
The Dead Sea Scrolls are the ancient manuscripts dating back to the time of Jesus that were found between 1947 and 1956 in caves by the Dead Sea. Since they were first discovered, they have been a source of fascination and debate over what they can teach — and have taught — about Judeo-Christian history. In his new book, The Dead Sea Scrolls: A Biography, Yale professor John J. Collins tells the story of the scrolls, their discovery and the controversies surrounding the scholarship of them.
"Girdles and red nail polish and intestinal cleansing and bar fights and sewer pipes and wiretaps and eternal life and decay all around. It was insanity. It was outrageous. It was a reporter's wet dream. Where the hell was I?
"I paid the bill and left.
"The sign outside said DETROIT CITY LIMITS."
The corrupt, crime-addled Detroit of Charlie LeDuff's new memoir, Detroit: An American Autopsy, isn't the same city that I left a month ago.
Originally published on Wed February 13, 2013 1:50 pm
Porridge doesn't get a lot of love and respect. It's the fairy tale stuff of Goldilocks, or the pauper gruel of Oliver Twist. But really, porridge can be a beautiful thing, especially during the cold slog of winter. It's a comforting way to start the morning, a nice warm hug of a breakfast. And, dare I say, it actually can be kind of exciting.
James Lasdun was born in London and now lives in upstate New York. He has published two novels, as well as several collections of short stories and poetry, and was the winner of the inaugural U.K./BBC Short Story Prize.
Over the past week or so, I've mentioned James Lasdun's new book, Give Me Everything You Have to a bunch of colleagues; they've all heard about it already and they're all dying to read it. What Amy Chua's Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother was to parenting a couple of years ago, Lasdun's Give Me Everything You Have may well be to teaching: a controversial personal reflection on the professor-student relationship — except Lasdun, unlike Chua, really has no advice to offer; no certitude, nor help for pain.
Originally published on Tue February 12, 2013 12:25 pm
As reported on Tuesday's Morning Edition, KRTV in Great Falls, Mont., was apparently the victim of hackers who broke in and broadcast a warning of attacking zombies. The station now says that it was a hoax, fortunately.
There's a popular misconception that literary fiction is supposed to be staid, boring, realistic to a fault. Like all stereotypes, it's deeply unfair, but it endures, perhaps because readers keep having traumatic flashbacks to novels, like Sister Carrie, that they were forced to read in high school.
Domenica Ruta's memoir, With or Without You, chronicles her youth in a working-class Massachusetts town, the daughter of a wildly flamboyant mother who drove a beat-up lime green hatchback, and held impromptu storm-watching parties on the porch.
If you can't find pennette, use the small bulging crescents that are chifferi, or regular elbow macaroni, instead.
Credit / Courtesy Random House
Instead of going to the butcher and asking for a huge hunk of steak cut specially, you can make one supermarket strip steak (it still should be good meat, or don't bother) stretch to feed two of you with no suggestion of scrimping.
Credit Courtesy Random House
Serve this handmade coffee ice cream with a chocolate sauce, or squidge it into little brioches, like sweet burger buns, as they do in the south of Italy.
Credit Courtesy Random House
Don't be tempted to let the cheesecake come to room temperature before serving. It slices and eats better with a bit of refrigerator chill on it.
Before the roses and the romance, Valentine's Day commemorated the Roman Saint Valentine — Valentinus, in Latin. And in her new cookbook, Nigellissima: Easy Italian-Inspired Recipes, chef Nigella Lawson offers up simple recipes that celebrate the cuisine of the country Saint Valentine called home.
Lawson joins NPR's Renee Montagne to share some recipes for a romantic dinner for two, and describes the time she spent in Italy.
For some, Detroit may be a symbol of urban decay; but to Charlie LeDuff, it's home. LeDuff, a veteran print and TV journalist who spent 12 years at TheNew York Times, where he shared a Pulitzer Prize in 2001, returned home to the city after the birth of his daughter left him and his wife — also a Detroit native — wanting to be closer to family.
I'm Michel Martin and this is TELL ME MORE from NPR News. It's almost Valentine's Day and we realize that, along with the avalanche of pink hearts and stuff, there's also an avalanche of questions at this time of year from whether it's OK to romance by text message to how do you decide who pays for dinner to how to figure out whether you're in love or just, you know, stuck in the friend zone.
Craig Morgan Teicher's latest collection of poetry is called To Keep Love Blurry.
Fifty years ago today, Sylvia Plath ended her life as a major poet and an artist of the highest order. But one could hardly have predicted, from her taut yet unfocused first book, The Colossus, her only book of poetry published in her lifetime, that she would, or even could, become the poet we know, revere — and maybe even fear — as Sylvia Plath.
When the Oscars are handed out later this month, the ceremony will most likely be punctuated by music that has pretty much come to stand for movies and Movieland. Ironically, the composer grew up in Detroit, and the lyricist came from Savannah, Ga. — yet together they wrote the quintessential Tinseltown anthem.
"Hooray for Hollywood" was written for the Warner Brothers film Hollywood Hotel. It was a corny little "let's-go-to-Hollywood-and become-stars" movie from 1937, with some cute dialogue.
You have until 11:59 p.m. ET Sunday to send in your original short fiction. The challenge this round is to write a story in the form of a voice mail message. Submit your story here: https://npr3mf.submittable.com/submit
Flotsam and Jetsam: of such things are stories made. Writers use objects to give their stories weight, attachment and verisimilitude, like Gary Paulsen's The Hatchet; Jean Shepherd's Red Ryder BB Gun inspired A Christmas Story; and how about Dashiell Hammett's The Maltese Falcon?
Originally published on Mon February 11, 2013 6:16 am
Ann Leary's latest book is The Good House.
I tend to read funny books when I'm happy and tragic books when I'm sad, but when I'm truly depressed, when I want to be fully immersed in the horrible splendor of the most desperate human suffering, I always return to Brian Moore's The Lonely Passion of Judith Hearne.
On a Virginia plantation in 1852, a young house slave tends to her ailing mistress, creates exquisite paintings and plans her escape. In 2004 New York, an ambitious young lawyer works night and day on the biggest case of her promising career.
Tara Conklin's debut novel, The House Girl, intertwines these women's narratives in a story of art and injustice.