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Literature

Literature

This Veterans Day, NPR Books went into the archives to find stories of combat and coping. A mother describes the emotional minefield of having a child at war, a Marine writes a memoir of a mortuary, and a photojournalist pays tribute to two centuries of Native-Americans in the military.

Veterans Day — originally Armistice Day — was renamed in 1954 to include veterans who had fought in all wars. But the day of remembrance has its roots in World War I — Nov. 11, 1918 was the day the guns fell silent at the end of the Great War. On this Veterans Day, we celebrate the poetry of World War I, one of the legacies of that conflict.

The story of the raid that killed Osama bin Laden has captured the imagination of authors and film directors.

Just this year, the mission carried out by Navy SEAL Team Six has already been re-told in three books, including one written by a former Navy SEAL. Acclaimed film director Katherine Bigelow, who directed the film The Hurt Locker, is getting ready to release her treatment of the bin Laden raid in December.

On Sunday night, the National Geographic Channel will air its film about the raid, SEAL Team Six: The Raid on Osama bin Laden.

With plenty of election ennui going around, NPR Books dug into the archives for new ways to look at the election story. Here you'll find accounts of past campaigns gone wrong, an examination of the science and art of prediction and an idea of what happens when the pre-presidential storyline gets a dose of sci fi, fantasy and puberty, respectively.

Mike Mignola's occult adventure comics B.P.R.D. (that's short for Bureau for Paranormal Research and Defense) and Hellboy (about a demon who fights for the side of Good) combine furious action set pieces on a literally biblical scale with a wry and nuanced understanding of very human emotions. The novelist Christopher Golden has written many popular works of dark fantasy.

What is the point of the best-seller list? Depends who you are. If you're a reader, it's a guide to what's popular — what's new, what your neighbors are buying, and what you might like to read next. If you're a publisher, it's a source of feedback and a sales tool: It tells you how your books compete, and gives you triumphs to crow about on paperback covers.

As soon as Sherry Turkle arrived at the studio for her Fresh Air interview, she realized she'd forgotten her phone. "I realized I'd left it behind, and I felt a moment of Oh my god ... and I felt it kind of in the pit of my stomach," she tells Terry Gross. That feeling of emotional dependence on digital devices is the focus of Turkle's research. Her book, Alone Together, explores how new technology is changing the way we communicate with one another.

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.

Stephen Colbert has no idea how other news pundits find time to write books. But he felt certain that his character on his Comedy Central show, The Colbert Report, needed to have another one.

"My character is based on news punditry, the masters of opinion in cable news, and they all have books," he tells Fresh Air's Terry Gross. "We don't have time to write a book and feed and wash ourselves, so something has to go out the window. And [for me] it was family, friends and hygiene for the past year."

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.

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 Now are 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.

1. Foodie Fervor

If there's one thing that trumps a great read for me, it's a great meal.

An ancient piece of text is reviving an equally ancient debate: Was Jesus Christ married?

Of course, most Christians believe that he wasn't. But today, Harvard Professor of Divinity Karen King presented a scrap of papyrus that dates back to the fourth century. She told a gathering of scholars in Rome that written in Coptic was this surprising sentence: "Jesus said to them, 'My wife...' "

One night in 1947, an intensely curious 5-year-old boy named Michael McCleery asked his father for a story. So his father, William McCleery, produced a tale that revolved around a wolf named Waldo, a hen named Rainbow, and another little boy, the son of a farmer, named Jimmy Tractorwheel. Over weeks and weeks, William serialized the story, telling it in installments to Michael and his best friend during bedtimes and Sunday afternoon outings.

Does The Success Of Women Mean 'The End Of Men'?

Sep 14, 2012

Hanna Rosin's pop sociology work The End of Men, based on her cover story in The Atlantic magazine, is a frustrating blend of genuine insight and breezy, unconvincing anecdotalism. She begins with a much-discussed statistic: three-quarters of the 7.5 million jobs lost in our current recession were once held by men.

Not sure how bodily functions and acts were described in past eras? Romance author Donna McMeans can help. Also, Cinda Williams Chima discusses her books with OSU student Joe Frazier.

Michael Chabon's Telegraph Avenue is an agreeable if ultimately frustrating shaggy-dog tale of a novel that slips its leash and lopes its discursive and distinctly unhurried way through the unkempt backyards of its characters' lives.

In the 1960s, Lynn Povich worked at Newsweek — where she became part of a revolution.

"At Newsweek, women were hired on the mail desk to deliver mail, then to clip newspapers, and, if they were lucky, became researchers or fact checkers," Povich tells NPR's Linda Wertheimer, whom she knows personally. "All of the writers and reporters were men, and everyone accepted it as that was the way the world was — until we didn't."

When a consummately articulate, boundlessly bold journalist stricken with stage 4 esophageal cancer reports from the front lines about facing what he calls, among other things, "hello darkness my old friend," you sit up and pay attention. Mortality, by virtue of its ultimate unavoidability, raises questions about the very meaning of life, making it as challenging a subject as any tackled by Christopher Hitchens in his brilliant career. It is, in fact, one of the subjects, right up there with love, and you can count on Hitchens to eschew weak-kneed sentimentality.

A child's success can't be measured in IQ scores, standardized tests or vocabulary quizzes, says author Paul Tough. Success, he argues, is about how young people build character. Tough explores this idea in his new book, How Children Succeed: Grit, Curiosity and the Hidden Power of Character.

Martin Amis' 'State of England': Anomie In The U.K.

Aug 29, 2012

Too much is made of literature's ennobling qualities. There are those of us who come to books for the debasement and danger, for Hannibal and Humbert. For Faulkner's Popeye and Hedda Gabler. We want to meet the monsters.

Some people suffer from recurring nightmares about being naked on stage, or not having revised for their exams. My bedtime terror is different — I'm gripped with fear that I haven't fed or watered my childhood budgie, with potentially devastating consequences. I loved that bird, Joey, so much, despite the fact that she unmasked herself as female after I'd named her, I still have a tiny box filled with her discarded green feathers. I've never owned a pet as an adult. I prefer animals in novels to avoid the horror of finding two cold, clutched feet in the air.

Writers Talk

Aug 24, 2012

Writers Talk, produced by the Ohio State University’s Center for the Study and Teaching of Writing, interviews a wide variety of authors, focusing on how they produce text and communicate in a variety of genres. Its purpose is to demystify and promote writing, especially for academic writers.

Paul Auster doesn't take living for granted. At 65, the author has had several "near misses," from sliding face-first into a jutting nail as a child to a traumatic car accident that almost killed him, his wife and his daughter.

Auster's new memoir, Winter Journal, is a series of meditations on his life, aging and mortality — including his mother's death.

In 1964, students at the University of California, Berkeley, formed a protest movement to repeal a campus rule banning students from engaging in political activities.

Then-FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover suspected the free speech movement to be evidence of a Communist plot to disrupt U.S. campuses. He "had long been concerned about alleged subversion within the education field," journalist Seth Rosenfeld tells Fresh Air's Terry Gross.

A Novel Endeavor From Molly Ringwald

Aug 20, 2012

Most people know Molly Ringwald from her star turns in John Hughes' signature teen comic dramas from the 1980s, including Sixteen Candles, The Breakfast Club and Pretty in Pink.

And Ringwald is still acting — she currently plays the mother in the ABC Family series The Secret Life of the American Teenager. But she's also turned her hand to writing. Her new book — and first novel — is called When It Happens to You.

Hope Solo is generally regarded as the best women's goalkeeper in the world. Fresh off winning her third-straight Olympic gold medal with the U.S. national team, Solo has been as busy off the field as on it, releasing an autobiography titled Solo: A Memoir of Hope.

The memoir details her rise as an international celebrity, but it also focuses on the complicated relationship she had with her father, who taught her to play soccer.

Eric Nuzum barely survived his teen years. The period was scarred by depression, drugs and a brief period of institutionalization.

"I felt, my entire teen years, as many people do to some degree, as kind of an outsider, an outcast," he tells NPR's John Donvan. "I often describe myself as feeling like I was an interloper in my own life ... never feeling much of a sense of connection."

Romance fiction is the Rodney Dangerfield of the publishing world: It don't get no respect.

This, despite the fact that romance is the most consistently profitable genre in an unsettlingly shaky business. Last year, romance alone contributed more than $1 billion to publishing's diminished coffers. And a growing amount of that income comes from romances written by ethnic writers for ethnic readers.

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