Originally published on Mon June 10, 2013 10:46 am
How do I like my summer noir? Hard-boiled, with brooding investigators, sharp wits, danger, crazy fights, bullets, chases and loves lost, unrequited, or dripping with passion. Or perhaps tempered by darkness in a cold, post-revolutionary world filled with intrigue, conspiracy and a resistance hanging in the balance. Even better, it should be part of a series, making it both binge-worthy and binge-able. And if it turns out it's a graphic novel featuring anthropomorphic characters? Best of all.
The stories of One Thousand and One Nights are among the world's most famous works of literature. They start with a king who discovers that his wife is having an affair. In a fit of rage, he has her executed. Lebanese author Hanan al-Shaykh explains what happens next:
"From that night, he decreed a law that he will marry a virgin every single day and deflower her at night, and then kill her at dawn," al-Shaykh tells NPR's Rachel Martin.
The killing continues until Scheherazade, the daughter of the king's vizier, offers herself as the king's bride.
On-air challenge: Categories are given based on the name "Homer," the name of a town in Alaska. Name something in the category beginning with each of the letters H-O-M-E-R. For example, if the category were "Chemical Elements," you might say Helium, Oxygen, Magnesium, Einsteinium, and Radon. You can give the answers in any order.
The love of his life had been married for five years before he met her, and dead for five days before he'd found out. Clandestine lovers weren't notified in the event of a tragedy. The police and medical examiners had waited days before releasing the names of those killed in the concert fire to the public.
The paper had published profiles of the victims, and that's where, halfway through his usual breakfast of a slice of toast and a banana, the news had found him.
NPR's Bob Mondello reads an excerpt of one of the best submissions for Round 11 of our short story contest. He reads Beyond the Fence by Matthew Campbell of Salem, Mass. You can read the full story below and find other stories on our Three-Minute Fiction page or on Facebook.
Over the last 15 years, the South African writer Lauren Beukes has been a journalist, a screenwriter, a documentarian — and most recently, a novelist. Her newest book is called The Shining Girls, a summer thriller about a time-traveling serial killer and the victim who escapes to hunt him down.
Comedian George Carlin liked to say that art doesn't have a finish line. The trio behind Ghost Brothers of Darkland County are the embodiment of that idea. Each is a superstar in his chosen field: rock music legend, best-selling novelist, record producer — trades they could have been content to pursue to the grave. Instead, they went and wrote a musical together, 13 years in the making.
The man was so beautiful. He appeared to be stepping out of the ad on the side of the bus, his hair illuminated in sun. Amelia saw the little slip of paper burst from his pocket when he pulled out his keys. It flipped in the air once, twice before it caught against the cement stairs right in front of her. She quickly shut her mailbox with the very tiny key that made her feel oversized and fumbling.
In June 2012, Nik Wallenda — of the great Wallenda Family circus dynasty — walked across Niagara Falls on a tightrope. On June 23, he plans to cross the Grand Canyon the same way. Wallenda has also recently written a memoir called Balance: Christian Faith and Miraculous Results.
Throughout the entertainment industry, alumni of a tiny, vocational high school program are at work: building sets in Hollywood, mixing sound on Broadway, performing on TV shows like The Office. They're graduates of the Addison Repertory Theater (A.R.T.), an incubator for actors and theater technicians at the Hannaford Career Center in Middlebury, Vt.
Richard Pryor occupies his own special category in comedy. He played Las Vegas and made popular movies, and performed routines that were almost short stories — searing, profane and moving.
Pryor grew up in his grandmother's brothel in Peoria, Ill.; she beat him, too. He was expelled from high school and enlisted in the U.S. Army, but spent much of his military stint in prison. And with a special fever of genius — torched by drugs, fueled by grief and enlivened by exhilaration — he created unforgettable depictions of what it's like to feel left out of American life.
Heard any really good jokes lately? Andrew Hudgins is one of America's most noted poets, but he says he has a hard time recalling any actual lines of poetry. He can, however, recite knock-knock jokes he heard in the third grade. Ever since then, he has favored the kind of humor that can make people squirm or even make them angry. Jokes about religion, race, sex, weight, the O.J. Simpson case, Natalie Wood's death, and punch lines from Adolf Hitler's generals — everything is fair game.
For today's All Things Considered story about people sharing their Netflix or Hulu Plus passwords, producer Sami Yenigun latched on to what could've been an ordinary entertainment-business story and front-loaded it with snippets of sound from Game of Thrones — attacking dragons, evil kings, treacherous harlots. He made it hilarious.
Mention Judy Blume to almost any woman under a certain age and you're likely to get this reaction: Her face lights up, and she's transported back to her childhood self — curled up with a book she knows will speak directly to her anxieties about relationships, self-image and measuring up.
Originally published on Fri April 18, 2014 11:34 am
Actor and singer Cheyenne Jackson is equally at home on Broadway and in front of the camera. He made his Broadway debut as the understudy for both male leads in Thoroughly Modern Millie, and his cabaret debut, a one-man show titled Back to the Start, was a sold-out hit. His love of music comes from digging through vinyl at yard sales around his family farm in Idaho, and his love of Broadway comes from the time he saw a touring production of Les Miserables in Spokane, Wash., with his French teacher.
Most health policy meetings are a dull gray snooze of business suits talking data. They seem a million miles removed from making sick people healthy. But this week in Washington, D.C., some of those meetings was enlivened by a sudden flash of color.
The back of one woman's suit jacket bore a painting, a Renoir-like portrait of a mother and child. A man's blazer showed him reborn after years of despair. Another woman's jacket portrayed a young man holding his organ donor card. A petite redhead's jacket blazed with a scarlet letter "A."
She found her brother's finger in the grass by the shed.
The grass glistened with the morning dew, but the finger did not.
She picked it up. She had seen it fall. He'd been running for the house, away from the toolshed, and he'd been holding onto the finger and onto the space where the finger had been, and despite his concentration, and in his haste, he had let go of the one to hold on tighter to the other.
The door slam is meant to be symbolic, I can tell, one last "take that!" in our roiling argument. But that door never did fit right in the frame, so it swings back open, revealing the heel of his departing shoe and the flick of his coat as he swings around the corner. I hear his footfalls stop, and imagine him pondering a return to slam the door, for real this time.
The Chicago Sun-Times made a surprise announcement last week: it fired its entire photography staff. Pulitzer Prize winning photojournalist John White worked there for more than forty years. He talks to guest host Celeste Headlee about what this news means for him personally and the future of photojournalism.
Originally published on Tue December 17, 2013 7:29 am
Stories ignite our imagination, let us leap over cultural walls and cross the barriers of time. In this hour, TED speakers explore the art of storytelling — and how good stories have the power to transform our perceptions of the world.
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Lizz Winstead has an impressive resume. She's a veteran stand-up comic, co-created both The Daily Show and Air America Radio, and is the author of the book Lizz Free or Die. But Winstead is also a bonafide word nerd and game fanatic. Which means she was right at home on the Ask Me Another stage.
Brian Castner arguably had one of the most nerve-wracking jobs in the U.S. military. He commanded two Explosive Ordnance Disposal units in Iraq, where his team disabled roadside IEDs, investigated the aftermath of roadside car bombings and searched door to door to uncover bomb-makers at their homes.
A sad tale's best for winter, Shakespeare tells us. I'm wondering if perhaps poetry, both lyrical and narrative, isn't best for summer. I'm thinking of how Keats, in "Ode to a Nightingale," describes that wonderfully musical bird as singing "of summer in full-throated ease"; and how, say, in three-time Poet Laureate Robert Pinsky's poem "Ralegh's Prizes," summer "turns her head with its dark tangle / All the way toward us" and however drowsy-making the weather, we pay attention.
All this wonderful poetry, it's filled up my throat as well:
The best twists in The Twilight Zone weren't the ones that came at the end. The real genius of Rod Serling's classic series was how often and how effectively it twisted things up with simple but outlandish "What if?" queries in episode setups.
After the killing of Osama bin Laden in May 2011, the soldiers of theparamilitary force JSOC (Joint Special Operations Command) who carried out the operation were lionized as national heroes.
They earned more ambivalent treatment in Kathryn Bigelow's Zero Dark Thirty. And according to Dirty Wars, a documentary based on a book by investigative reporter Jeremy Scahill, their shadowy outfit has pretty much taken over America's global war on terrorism — and in flagrantly unconstitutional ways, he claims.