From NPR News, this is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED. I'm Robert Siegel. This year's Nobel prize for literature was announced today. It went to Chinese writer Mo Yan. The Swedish academy praised what it called Mo's hallucinatory realism. As NPR's Neda Ulaby reports, Mo's work is also brutal, raunchy, funny and, unlike many Nobel literature laureates, relatively well known.
NEDA ULABY, BYLINE: Mo Yan is probably best known for writing what would become the movie "Red Sorghum."
Mars Attacks: 50th Anniversary Collection, an anthology of the 1962 trading card series from the Topps Company and Abrams Comic Arts, comes packaged in a jacket made from the same wax paper as '60s bubble gum wrap. The packaging establishes an air of honeyed nostalgia that the cards themselves are mercifully quick to demolish. The 55 violent images of interplanetary slaughter in the "Mars Attacks" series were controversial in their day, but have atrophied in the popular consciousness as kitsch relics of the Kennedy era.
A.M. Homes is a writer I'll pretty much follow anywhere because she's indeed so smart, it's scary; yet she's not without heart. It's been a while since her last book, the 2007 memoir The Mistress's Daughter, which is certainly the sharpest and most emotionally complex account of growing up adopted that I've ever read.
Originally published on Thu October 11, 2012 12:25 pm
Dr. Victoria Sweet began working at an almshouse more than 20 years ago. She found that the missing component of today's health care system is time — for doctors to care for patients, and for patients to heal. Host Michel Martin speaks with the doctor about her memoir, God's Hotel: A Doctor, A Hospital, And A Pilgrimage To The Heart Of Medicine.
Chinese writer Mo Yan won the Nobel Prize in literature on Thursday. The Swedish Academy, which selects the winners of the award, praised Mo's "hallucinatory realism," saying it "merges folk tales, history and the contemporary." The award is a cause of pride for a government that disowned the only previous Chinese winner of the award, an exiled critic.
Peter Englund, the academy's permanent secretary, said the academy contacted Mo, 57, before the announcement. "He said he was overjoyed and scared," Englund said.
Originally published on Thu October 11, 2012 1:38 pm
(In this third and final part of a series, pianist Jonathan Biss explores the idea of musical longing in Robert Schumann's music. Click the audio link above to hear Biss play Schumann and discuss the composer with Performance Todayhost Fred Child.)
Originally published on Thu October 11, 2012 4:20 pm
During a college visit to Colorado in September, Ruth Bader Ginsburg told students that she expects to rule this coming term on the Defense of Marriage Act. The 1996 law is already on its deathbed — since last year, the Justice Department has refused to argue in court for its constitutionality — but it remains on the books. That means the 130,000 or so married gay couples in America receive none of the federal benefits that straight married couples do.
Originally published on Thu October 11, 2012 7:22 am
Mo Yan was one of three writers favored to win. He is perhaps best known in the West as the author of Red Sorghum, which was made into a film. He is only the second Chinese writer to win the Nobel — the other is poet Gao Xingjian, who won in 2000.
Emma Thompson isn't just an Oscar-winning actress; she's also an Oscar-winning writer. Thompson authored the 1995 film adaptation of Jane Austen's Sense and Sensibility, and now she's taken on another period project — reviving the classic children's book character Peter Rabbit.
It's been a tumultuous time for American orchestras. Labor disputes have shut down the Minnesota Orchestra and Indianapolis Symphony, and strikes and lockouts have affected orchestras in Chicago, Atlanta and Louisville in the past year.
Originally published on Wed October 10, 2012 1:56 pm
No one has a crystal ball, but Nate Silver has perfected the art of prediction. In 2008, he accurately predicted the presidential winner of 49 of the 50 states, and the winners of all 35 Senate races. Before he focused on elections, Silver developed a sophisticated system for analyzing baseball players' potential and became a skilled poker player — which is how he made his living for a while.
Originally published on Tue October 16, 2012 3:39 pm
(Pianist Jonathan Biss decodes the unconventional relationship between Robert Schumann and his wife Clara in this second essay for our week dedicated to this composer. Click the audio link above to hear him play Schumann and discuss his work with Performance Today host Fred Child.)
Originally published on Wed October 10, 2012 10:59 am
Young Ever Williams hears a negative voice every day in her head, telling her just how fat and disgusting she is. Ever is the heroine of Skinny, Donna Cooner's new novel for young adults — and "Skinny" is the name she gives that awful voice. Navigating high school is difficult for most kids, but Ever has an additional challenge: She weighs 300 pounds. Her classmates taunt her cruelly, and the boy she likes ignores her.
Richard Branson is not your average entrepreneur. He dropped out of school at 15 and, despite suffering from dyslexia and attention deficit disorder, went on to found Virgin Group, a business empire that includes airlines, cellphone companies, banks, hotels, health clubs and even a space travel business.
Originally published on Mon October 21, 2013 3:13 pm
Rebecca Harrington is the author of the book Penelope.
As a young child, I was very much enamored with romance (my Barbies were subjected to appallingly long balls — Ken was very urbane in his own way). So it was with a kind of relief that I first discovered Jane Austen. I was 9 years old when I stole my mother's copy of Pride and Prejudice and read it very late at night. I didn't really understand much or even who was speaking (old J.A. was never one for attribution) but I knew it was extremely romantic and that was all I needed.
Originally published on Tue October 9, 2012 10:56 am
For the characters of Chris Ware's astonishingly ambitious comics project Building Stories, leading lives of quiet desperation is surprisingly noisy business. Plaintive, regretful and bitterly self-recriminating thoughts play on shuffle-repeat inside their heads, like a mordant Litany for the (I Wish I Were) Dead:
"Lately, I've been thinking a lot about the end of the world."
"At that point I was starting to get acquainted with the unfairness of life and learning it was better not to expect anything rather than set yourself up for disappointment."
Originally published on Wed March 27, 2013 11:03 am
(For our week dedicated to Robert Schumann, pianist Jonathan Biss defends this misunderstood composer in the first of three essays. Click the audio link above to hear him play Schumann and discuss the composer with Performance Today host Fred Child.)
A lot of would-be professional writers dream of someday getting a book contract that includes an advance, enough money, paid upfront, to let them quit their day job and write full time.
Of course, those advances do come with an expectation that an author will actually write the book. The Penguin Publishing Group recently filed suit against a dozen authors who failed to produce manuscripts after getting an advances.
Author Robin Sloan has spent time on both sides of the digital divide, both as a short-story writer and an employee at Twitter — where he described his job as "something to do with figuring out the future of media."
At a recent academic conference, Michigan State University professor Natalie Phillips stole a glance around the room. A speaker was talking but the audience was fidgety. Some people were conferring among themselves, or reading notes. One person had dozed off.
Originally published on Mon October 8, 2012 9:25 am
All this week, we'll be focusing our lens on the music of Robert Schumann and the lasting impact of his work. Leading the conversation is pianist Jonathan Biss, who's making a 30-concert project out of this Schumann exploration all season long and who has written a series of essays on Schumann. Starting things off for us today is musicologist and Schumann expert Eric Frederick Jensen.
Things go wrong in most stories. It would be a dull plot that did not include an upset, a setback or an obstacle.
But it takes a special kind of reversal to turn one of these plots into a black comedy. Often it's a tiny slip that becomes a vortex of disaster; sometimes it's a growing avalanche of humiliation.
But it's always hewn from the stuff of everyday life, which we see transformed into a minefield using only the slightest shift in perspective. And it allows us to laugh while giving thanks it's not happening to us.
In the mid-1970s, a man approached singer Kenny Rogers after a performance in the lounge at the Las Vegas Hilton. The mysterious stranger simply said, "Hey, man, I really like your music." Rogers learned later that the fan at the dressing-room door had been Elvis Presley.
Colin Meloy is best known as the front man for the band the Decemberists. His music is praised for its lyrical quality and the stories the songs tell, so it may not be a surprise to learn Meloy is also a writer.
His newest book is a collaboration with his wife, illustrator Carson Ellis. The book is intended for young readers, the second in a series called Wildwood Chronicles.