books

Ryan Caron King / WNPR

A documentary airing Thursday night on CPTV tells the story of American soldiers stationed in Luxembourg during World War II who, without realizing it, helped to create a new holiday tradition. 

Author Neil Gaiman has always been fascinated by dreams. As he sees it, dreams are what differentiate people from one another.

"None of us exist in a world that is the same world that any of the rest of us live in," Gaiman explains to Fresh Air's Sam Briger. "The world that's important is the world behind each of our eyes, which is something that none of the rest of us can access."

Jonathan McNicol / WNPR

Before Stephen Colbert and John Oliver, before Jon Stewart and Conan O’Brien, before "The Simpsons," before David Letterman, before "Saturday Night Live," before The National Lampoon… before all the great subversive American satirists that we’ve all grown… used to — before all that, there was MAD magazine.

Chion Wolf / WNPR

I first met cartoonist Bill Griffith back in the 1980s. I arranged for us to tour a Boston-area Hostess Twinkie plant, which sounds like a weird first date but makes perfect sense if you're familiar with his creation "Zippy the Pinhead," an unwitting surrealist who swims happily through a sea of taco sauce, processed cheese and, well, Twinkies.

Aida Mansoor / Muslim Coalition of Connecticut

In his latest book, author and scholar Moustafa Bayoumi takes a critical look at what it means to be Muslim-American in post-9/11 society.

Joan Marcus/Hartford Stage

In 1954, Alfred Hitchcock directed two movies. They both star Grace Kelly. They’re both murder mysteries involving a married couple and a boyfriend and a girlfriend. They both take place almost entirely in one room. They both look like plays.

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Star Wars fans are anxiously awaiting the release of "Star Wars VII: The Force Awakens," the seventh film in the Star Wars franchise, and first one without George Lucas at the helm. Will J.J. Abrams live up to the challenge? And where is Luke Skywalker?

Wikipedia

Colum McCann was assaulted in New Haven last summer while attending a conference on empathy. He was knocked unconscious and suffered physical and emotional injuries that lingered long after the attack.

Chion Wolf / WNPR

Raouf Mama is a beloved storyteller by children and adults familiar with his books Why Goats Smell Bad and Why Monkeys Live in TreesHis love of storytelling stems from a long and honorable oral tradition that goes back to the ancient empire of Mali, when people preserved the lessons of life in memory instead of on the written page.

Raouf says we each have a story of belonging and identity. He uses his stories to entertain, comfort, and most of all as a tool to enlighten students.

Chion Wolf / WNPR

Caroline Jacobs is a grown woman with children of her own. But by all accounts, she's a wimp. She would prefer to suffer in silence than stand up for herself or anyone else -- until she couldn't stand it anymore.  

One night, while at a public meeting and in a crowded room, she stood up, pointed her finger at the one she loathed, and shouted "F%$# You" to her nemesis. With that one phrase, she was ready to face her past. 

Grendelkhan / Creative Commons

Connecticut might mean clapboard homes, leafy suburbs, and town centers that show off their roots to our colonial past. Unless you're thinking of southeastern Connecticut.

The southeastern part of our state conjures images of casinos, submarines, and a blue-collar vibe that's just a little different from the rest of the state.

It probably doesn't help that the Connecticut River literally cuts the state in half, separating southeastern sections from their wealthier brethren. Wally Lamb describes it as "more feisty than fashionable, more liverwurst than pate."

If you play today's massively multiplayer online role-playing games — World of Warcraft or Final Fantasy, for example — you have a 1970s tabletop game to thank, says author Michael Witwer.

Witwer has just written a biography of Gary Gygax, the co-creator of Dungeons & Dragons.

"Even first-person shooters like Call of Duty have some of the roots at least in tabletop role-playing games," he tells NPR's Ari Shapiro.

Steven Depolo / Creative Commons

Women have come a long way in the fight for equality, but the battle is not over yet. This hour, we take a look at how women’s funds are helping to advance women’s rights and break down gender barriers.

Gloria Steinem is 81 — a fact that the iconic women's movement leader describes as "quite bizarre."

"Eighty-one is an age that I think is someone else's age," Steinem tells Fresh Air's Terry Gross. "I stop people on the street and tell them how old I am, because I'm trying to make myself believe it."

But Steinem isn't unhappy about aging. The co-founder of Ms. magazine says that as she approached 60, she felt like she entered a new phase in life, free of the "demands of gender" that she faced from adolescence onward.

Caitlin Mitchell

We had a great show planned for you today with two great authors. But, sometimes life is crazier than the fiction we talk about and today, we ended up with two great authors, but only one we expected. 

Sloane Crosley pays homage to Guy de Maupassant in her debut novel about three old friends searching for an elusive necklace as a way out of their quarter-life crisis, yet unable to share their deepest thoughts with their closest friends. 

Colum McCann was supposed to join us but was unable at the last minute. Instead, you'll hear from him next week. 

But, that left Colin with a lot of time on air by himself. He got to vamp for the last half hour like he hasn't been able to do since he started working at WNPR. He kind of liked it, especially when author David Mitchell dropped in for a surprise chat. You can't make up this stuff.

For the pious Puritans of early America, witchcraft was a crime of the highest order.

Back then, the term "witch hunt" was not just an expression: In 1692, 19 women and men were hanged and one pressed to death with stones after being found guilty of witchcraft.

In her book The Witches, author Stacy Schiff follows the buildup of fear and outrageous tales of consorting with the devil. The witch trials were set in motion by two young Salem girls in the grip of strange and disturbing symptoms.

Celebrating 100 Years of Arthur Miller

Oct 20, 2015
The Huntington / Creative Commons

More than a decade after his death, Arthur Miller’s plays continue to resonate with readers and audiences across the world. This October marks his 100th birthday, and theaters from Los Angeles to London are staging Miller productions in celebration of his centennial.  

Tulane Public Relations / Creative Commons

Jonathan Franzen has become that rare American author whose life and moods and sulks make news. From his friendship with David Foster Wallace to his fractious encounter with Oprah Winfrey, Franzen may have become America’s most visible intellectual. All that puts a lot of pressure on Purity, his newest novel. We’re experimenting on the show with a new book club format, asking three Connecticut literati to read and discuss the book.

Miguel Ariel Contreras Drake-McLaughlin (Flickr) / Creative Commons

Bob Woodward thought he knew everything about Watergate. Then Alexander Butterfield, now in his late 80's, told him there were other stories never spoken of. Woodward focuses on these stories in his latest book on the Watergate scandal called The Last of the President's Men. This hour, we hear from the legendary Washington Post journalist.

Also, the Wesleyan Argus faces an uncertain financial future. In September, the paper published an op-ed criticizing the "Black Lives Matter" movement. The backlash now threatens funding for The Argus next year.

On January 16, 1920, Americans took their last legal drink for 13 years. In New York City, gadflies wore black clothes and funeral robes in anticipation of the Volstead Act kicking off Prohibition at midnight. Reporters for the Daily News imagined the last words of John Barleycorn: “I’ve had more friends in private and more foes in public than any other man in America.” 

Chion Wolf / WNPR

Ta-Nehisi Coates is one of the most important voices in America today. He made the case for reparations last summer when he argued that it's time for America to confront the impact of slavery, Jim Crow, and other discriminatory policies that have consistently denied African Americans opportunities afforded other Americans. He says until we admit to the debts accrued from years of racism, we can never be whole.

Shortlists for the National Book Awards went public Wednesday, halving the number of nominees to just 20 finalists. Among the books that have survived the second round of cuts, a few clear favorites are beginning to emerge — while others have been displaced by less familiar names.

The full lists of finalists can be found below.

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Philippe Petit made his walk between the towers of the World Trade Center over 40 years ago. He stayed up on that wire for 45 minutes, made 8 passes between the towers, got down on his knees, and he even laid down on it! But it's more than that one feat - it was a placeholder for a much broader philosophy of risk and creativity, and evidence of who the man really is.

Journalist Ta-Nehisi Coates, puppetry artist Basil Twist and neuroscientist Beth Stevens work in wholly unrelated fields, but they do have at least one thing in common.

Along with 21 others, they are winners of the 2015 "genius" grants from the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation.

Games for Change / Creative Commons

Nicholas Kristof, columnist for The New York Times, and Sheryl WuDunn were the first married couple to win a Pulitzer Prize for journalism. Their latest book, A Path Appears: Transforming Lives, Creating Opportunity looks at people with great ideas who are making the world a better place and calls upon all of us to do our part.

Walking With Dante

Sep 28, 2015
Freeparking :-I / Creative Commons

"Dante's Inferno" is the most famous section of Dante Aligheri's 14,000 line epic poem, The Divine Comedy. But it's only the first part of Dante's long pilgrimage through the afterlife. He first enters the circles of hell, filled with beasts and sinners doomed to the Inferno for crimes like gluttony, lust, and treason. 

Gerry Lauzon / Creative Commons

Volkswagen is having a moment. Not a good moment, but it's certainly a moment. VW owners are glaring at their vehicles with suspicion after it was revealed the automaker's diesel vehicles were designed to cheat on emissions tests.

Hopefully, VW is not capturing its moment with a selfie because that could be deadly. Plus, selfies are so easy to take, a monkey can do it and maybe even make some money from it.

Chion Wolf / WNPR

Raouf Mama is a beloved storyteller by children and adults familiar with his books Why Goats Smell Bad and Why Monkeys Live in TreesHis love of storytelling stems from a long and honorable oral tradition that goes back to the ancient empire of Mali, when people preserved the lessons of life in memory instead of on the written page.

Raouf says we each have a story of belonging and identity. He uses his stories to entertain, comfort, and most of all as a tool to enlighten students.

Chion Wolf / WNPR

I first met cartoonist Bill Griffith back in the 1980s. I arranged for us to tour a Boston-area Hostess Twinkie plant, which sounds like a weird first date but makes perfect sense if you're familiar with his creation "Zippy the Pinhead," an unwitting surrealist who swims happily through a sea of taco sauce, processed cheese and, well, Twinkies.

Frankieleon / Creative Commons

There was a time when hard work brought most Americans a decent wage, a secure life, and opportunities to aim for a better life. George Packer says that's no longer the case for too many Americans.

Institutions that once anchored middle-class Americans are either collapsing or morphing into faceless institutions that benefit the wealthy, Packer says. Health and educational outcomes are significantly lower for the poor, who are also incarcerated at higher rates. 

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