Ay-yi-yi, what is it with these Dominican men? Their hands — and eyes — never stop roving, even as they're slipping engagement rings on their true loves' fingers.
If that sounds like negative stereotyping, don't complain to me: I'm just passing along the collective cultural verdict of the women and men, most of them themselves Dominican, who hustle through Junot Diaz's latest short story collection, This Is How You Lose Her. A good man is hard to find in these stories, and when you do find him, he's always in bed with someone else.
Originally published on Thu October 4, 2012 8:48 am
It's been a big year — well, a big few years — for young adult fiction, which I'm not going to complain about in the slightest; nothing beats a good YA novel for pure storytelling punch. But I might complain, just a little, about the overwhelming sameness of some of the plots. Dystopian futures, quiet-yet-spunky teenage girls, doomed love triangles — sound familiar? Suzanne Collins has a lot to answer for. Luckily, you can crack open The Last Dragonslayer and spend time with a protagonist who has a refreshingly different set of priorities.
If you saw Stephen Tobolowsky on the street, you might think you know him from somewhere. The character actor has appeared in over 100 films and TV shows, with recurring roles in Heroes, Deadwood, Glee and now The Mindy Project.
In his memoir, The Dangerous Animals Club, Toboloswky charts the highs and lows of life as a character actor. Some of his roles have been so small, he says, his characters didn't even have names — as, for example, with his turn as "Buttcrack Plumber."
I have a quibble with the title of David Skinner's new book, The Story of Ain't. In fact, that pariah contraction plays only a supporting role in the story. The book is really an account of one of the oddest episodes in American cultural history, the brouhaha over the appearance of Merriam-Webster's Third International Dictionary in 1961.
Julia Keller's latest novel is A Killing in the Hills.
When the actor James O'Neill played the title character in a stage version of The Count of Monte Cristo, it was a piece of "good bad luck," his son Eugene O'Neill later said. James O'Neill could never escape the shadow of the role that made him famous.
It's been five years since the Amazon Kindle started one of the most enduring literary controversies of recent times: the fight between e-books and printed books. If you're a devoted reader, you're probably already sick of the back and forth between the excitable technophiles and the stubborn Luddites. The proponents of e-books rave about the unexplored avenues, the hypertext, the entire world of literature accessible with just one click. The rest of us — well, we like the way books feel and smell, OK? It might seem sentimental, but that's falling in love for you.
Now, we turn to the clothing industry, where finding the right style doesn't necessarily mean spending big bucks. So says Stacy London, at least. She's known for co-hosting TLC's hit TV show "What Not to Wear." We've watched her transform the looks and lives of hundreds of guests.
Originally published on Thu October 11, 2012 1:07 pm
Most would agree that Vagn Holmboe (1909-1996) was Denmark's greatest symphonist after Carl Nielsen and Rued Langgaard. So it's something of an occasion that the three chamber symphonies from the latter half of his career finally see the light of day on this new release on the Dacapo label.
Without a wasted note, this is rigorously compact, sinewy music that grows on you with each listening. The composer's principle of thematic metamorphosis is evident throughout these world premiere recordings.
Originally published on Sat October 6, 2012 12:58 pm
The latest tease from this fall's upcoming collection of remixed Philip Glass tunes comes from Beck. The 20-minute song, "NYC: 73-78," includes snippets from more than 20 Glass songs, which Beck cut together and re-imagined.
Originally published on Tue October 2, 2012 11:28 am
A short list of mishaps that befall characters in Live by Night, Dennis Lehane's new novel: stabbed with a potato peeler ("It sounded like fish parts sucked into a drain"); stabbed in the Adam's apple; shot in the face ("the exit hole splattered pink all over the ferns"); tied to the hood of a car; devoured by alligators. A woman commits suicide by cutting off her genitals and slashing her own windpipe. How can a book packed with macabre acts of violence possibly be dull? Live by Night offers an excellent opportunity to contemplate this question.
Here's how the new novel from crime writer Dennis Lehane begins: "Some years later, on a tugboat in the Gulf of Mexico, Joe Coughlin's feet were placed in a tub of cement."
Pretty hard to stop reading after an opening line like that — at least you'd think. "It was funny, a guy came up to me the other night, and he said, 'I really loved this book once it got going,' " Lehane tells NPR's Steve Inskeep. "I thought, 'Jesus Christ, read the first sentence! How much more "getting going" is it going to get?' "
The cursing mommy likes her scotch. She also likes a martini — or four — and a full bottle of Kahlua consumed in the afternoon while soaking in a steaming bathtub and ignoring the knocks of her children locked outside. Along with her dubious parenting skills, the cursing mommy has no shame, and she swears an extremely blue streak.
For many teachers, September brings grand plans for the new school year. October sees those plans fall under the weight of classroom challenges. Teacher Roxanna Elden writes about how young educators can survive and thrive in her book, See Me After Class: Advice for Teachers by Teachers, and she speaks with guest host Celeste Headlee.
In the fall of 1989, I was walking down a London street when someone handed me a flier that asked, "Should Rushdie Die?" The following afternoon, I headed over to the Royal Albert Hall to hear that question answered by a renowned Islamic scholar.
Originally published on Mon October 1, 2012 3:52 pm
Lois Lowry's latest book is called Son.
I certainly knew, by the time I turned 13 in 1950, that there were so-called "dirty books" out there. I had sneaked a peek at a popular English novel my mother was reading (one character's breasts were described as "ample" and "melon-shaped"), and there was a gritty street-gang book about Brooklyn that made the rounds among my peers, a book in which certain page numbers had become iconic, though I doubt if any of us read the book from start to finish for plot.
The judging process for Round 9 of Three-Minute Fiction is now under way. NPR's Bob Mondello reads an excerpt from one standout story, The Interview, written by Georgia Mierswa. You can read the story in its entirety below, and read more stories at www.npr.org/threeminutefiction.
Originally published on Thu October 4, 2012 3:58 pm
Anne Royall was a professional, first and foremost — a point she had to keep reminding herself the morning she caught President John Quincy Adams swimming naked in the Potomac.
"Caught" might not be quite right, since she had planned it and followed him, waited in the woods while he disrobed and dove (rather gracefully for a man of politics) beneath the quicksilver surface. An onlooker might have found her pursuit romantic, the greenery lush about her, dappled with rosy light. But the widow Anne was sharp-tongued and ruthless and had been waiting for this a long time.
You probably don't give much thought to the phrase "Made in China" when you see it written on the bottom of your coffee mug, or on the tag of your T-shirt, but Americans have traded with China for hundreds of years.
In his new book, When America First Met China, Eric Jay Dolin takes us back to the beginning of the long and complicated trade relationship between the two countries.
According to David Denby, 1979's Apocalypse Now came "out of a movie world so different from our own that sitting through it again is almost a masochistic experience."
The New Yorker film critic clearly loves movies, but in his new book, Do the Movies Have a Future?, he argues that complex films like Apocalypse Noware becoming more and more of a rarity. Denby joins NPR's Rachel Martin to discuss promising directors, what it means to be a film critic and the future of film.
Originally published on Thu October 4, 2012 12:29 pm
He finishes knotting his American-flagged tie and steps back, assessing. The office has taken its toll — he looks older, more jowly, slackened. His hair is grayer than it was — four years? Seven years? — ago. Some days he thinks it's his father looking back at him and he waves, two-fingered.
His wife is in the kitchen, sipping a cup of coffee, the rest of the pot keeping warm. He crosses the room to pour himself a cup but stops midway, thinking of something else. "Is today my speech?"
Robby Benson began his career at the age of 12, on the Broadway stage, and became a teen heartthrob in the '70s, starring in films such as Ode To Billy Joe, Ice Castles and One on One, which he co-wrote. He was also the voice behind the Beast in the 1991 Disney film, Beauty and the Beast.
Decades before people would camp out for days, to get the latest next-big-thing in new technology, there was the magic of pictures you could snap and see instantly - or almost. Edwin Land created a company in his garage - sound familiar? - that would be both a success, and an inspiration, to Steve Jobs and other inventive entrepreneurs of a new era, Polaroid. Its products were considered elegant, original and desirable. The company was miles and dollars above any other, in innovative technology. So why couldn't it last into the 21st century?
Writing's often depicted as a private act - scribbling, crossing out, then crumpling two sheets into a fireplace; trial, error and angst - all of which is best kept private. Silvia Hartmann is now writing on a kind of electronic stage - in an open document, a Google doc - so that readers can see her story appear line by line, edit by edit. Silvia Hartmann joins us from the south coast of England. Thanks so much for being with us.
SILVIA HARTMANN: Hi.
SIMON: So what are you trying to do here, write a novel?
I can't think of anything I loved more than talking to Leonard Bernstein. Or, more accurately, listening to him talk — about music or any topic under the sun. I remember a long discourse we had about one of my favorite books, Thomas Mann's The Magic Mountain, and Bernstein's summarizing statement: "Well, of course, every author spends his whole life writing the same book."
In the spring of 1963, as the U.S. was mired in conflicts with Vietnam and Cuba and the Soviet Union, President John F. Kennedy called his old friend David Hackett to express his frustration at the U.S. men's ice hockey team — and their miserable record overseas.
JFK: Dave, I noticed that in the paper this morning that the Swedish team beat the American hockey team 17-2. Hackett: Yeah, I saw that. JFK: Christ! Who are we sending over there? Girls?