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Martha Hall Kelly

Connecticut resident Martha Hall Kelly is back with a new book, Sunflower Sisters. This hour, she joins us to talk about the third and final installment following Caroline Ferriday’s family. This book centers on three women during the Civil War; Georgeanna Woolsey, Jemma and Anne-May. 

 

ALONSO NICHOLS

Jennifer De Leon grew up attending mostly white schools in the Boston area, where she tried to fit in.

“I was in this mode of survival and assimilation,” said De Leon, an author and assistant professor of creative writing at Framingham State University in Massachusetts.

Douglas Fernandes / Creative Commons

After a year of pandemic, we're all itching to break from the restrictions of the pandemic. We want to travel and explore. It makes sense; we're hard-wired to explore. Our ancestors would not have survived absent the drive to seek food and safety from the dangers of the day. Safe and satiated, they later sought new lands to conquer and later still, to escape the constraints and cruelties of rapid industrialization.

If the recent pandemic left you yearning to explore, you might be inspired by this show we first aired in 2017. 

Roya Hakakian came to the US as a refugee from Iran when she was just a teenager.

Now, the Connecticut author and poet has drawn on her life story to create a “guidebook” about the immigrant experience.

This hour, Hakakian joins us to talk about her new book, A Beginner’s Guide To America.

We want to hear from you, too. How has the history and experience of immigration in your family shaped your experience as an American?

jseliger2 / Creative Commons

Writer and essayist Lauren Oyler, joins Colin to talk about Fake Accounts, her new novel on internet culture. They'll also talk about literary fiction, cultural criticism, ghostwriting, and her staunch defense of semicolons, among other things.

Lauren Oyler will be at the Mark Twain House & Museum, Tuesday, March 23, 7-8 pm. The event is free. You can register at marktwainhouse.org

Green Fuse Films Inc.

On the one hand, obituaries are an amalgam of a bunch of different kinds of journalism: they're feature stories, they're profile pieces, they cover history, and they're hard news too.

On the other hand, the subject is always... dead.

Discovery Communications, LLC

Criminal Minds. Mindhunter and Manhunt. Cracker and Profiler. Nearly the whole of the Hannibal Lecter universe: Manhunter, The Silence of the Lambs, Hannibal (the movie and the TV series), Red Dragon, and now Clarice.

It seems we're fascinated by forensic psychology, by mindhunting, by criminal profiling.

This hour, we look at three different criminal profilers: James Brussel, the psychologist who helped catch the Mad Bomber of New York in 1957; James Fitzgerald, the forensic linguist who caught the Unabomber; and Bill James, the father of sabermetrics, turns his data analysis on a century-old serial killer mystery that no one had even realized was a serial killer mystery before he and his daughter figured it out.

Grendel Khan / Creative Commons

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's image of leafy suburbs, clapboard homes, and town greens that show off Connecticut's colonial past.

The southeastern corner has its own allure, challenging writers and artists mystified by this place that time left alone. It's quirky, a little unruly, and special in ways we can't fully define. Wally Lamb describes it as "more feisty than fashionable, more liverwurst than pate."

Keith Trice/ Creative Commons

A large dog with an alarm clock for a body (a “watchdog,” if you will). A giant bee that can apparently spell any word. A figure with 12 faces, one for each emotion. These are just some of the fantastic characters author Norton Juster created in his beloved 1961 children’s book The Phantom Tollbooth. Juster died Monday in his home in Northampton, Massachusetts. He was 91 years old. The cause was complications from a recent stroke, according to a statement from his daughter, Emily Juster.

HBO

This Week (or so) in Reassessing Not-Necessarily-Current Bits of Culture: Seuss enterprises pulled six mostly early Dr. Seuss books from future publication. Disney+ added content warnings to certain episodes of The Muppet Show. Amazon tweaked its app logo to look less like, uh, Hitler. Turner Classic Movies launched a new series called Reframed Classics that will, well, frame movies like Gone with the Wind and Breakfast at Tiffany's with discussions of their problematic aspects.

And: Allen v. Farrow is a four-part HBO documentary series that chronicles the sexual assault allegation against Woody Allen by Dylan Farrow.

Flatart at Freepik.com / Adaptation by Chion Wolf

Whether you’re superstitious or, as Michael Scott from The Office says, “a little stitious”, on today’s show about superstitions, you’ll learn a lot about humanity.

The author of a book about superstitions from around the world joins us, as well as an expert about anxiety on the difference between superstitious beliefs and OCD or trauma responses.

Charlie Vega is the heroine of Crystal Maldonado’s debut young-adult novel, “Fat Chance, Charlie Vega.” When Charlie describes herself, she uses the word “fat.” She’s learning to celebrate who she is and how she looks -- although her weight still affects her relationships with crushes, her best friend and her mom. 

HARU_Q / flickr creative commons

There's a theory that ours isn't the only universe. That there are, actually, infinitely many universes.

That there are, then, infinitely many yous.

That there are infinitely many different yous reading infinitely many different versions of this show synopsis. That there are infinitely many universes that don't even bother to include you. Or this show synopsis. Or even reading.

Nana B Agyei / Creative Commons

Ghostwriting evokes an image of the writer who toils away in obscurity, secretly penning books credited to another. In reality, ghostwriters are just good at turning someone's undeveloped vision into a story that others want to read. Their services are in demand from people wanting help writing everything from celebrity memoirs to Instagram captions and online dating profiles.

Self-publishing is on the rise as our fixation on the solitary author and the stigma of ghostwriting recedes. Even rap and hip hop artists are getting on board.

This hour, we pull back the curtain on ghostwriting.

Carol Rosegg

Thornton Wilder's Our Town debuted more than 80 years ago. It won the Pulitzer Prize for Drama, and, over the decades since, it has continuously been one of the most produced of American plays.

It is known for its spare set -- just some chairs and tables, perhaps some ladders -- and lack of props and sometimes even costumes. It's known for its metatheatricality and its Stage Manager character, who addresses the audience directly and rarely participates in the action of the play, as much as there really is any.

It is known as old-fashioned, sentimental, nostalgic and, simultaneously, obviously and intentionally not old-fashioned, sentimental, and nostalgic.

This hour, a look at perhaps the quintessential American play: Our Town.

Syd Montgomery

The octopus has always been the stuff of spine-tingling legend, like that of the kraken, the many-armed sea monster believed to drag ships to the bottom of the sea after dining on the crew. Or Gertie the Pus, the giant Pacific octopus that lives under the Narrows Bridge connecting Tacoma, Washington, to Gig Harbor.

In reality, the octopus is more benign but equally fascinating. Did you know the octopus has two-thirds of its brain neurons distributed throughout its eight arms? Or that the severed arm of an octopus can walk independently toward a food source and move it to where its mouth should be?

Jim Henkens

We have a complicated relationship with our food. We need food to live; yet, we've become removed from the food we eat and how it's grown and processed.  Even with the best of intentions, today's ultra-processed foods make it hard for us to know exactly what we're eating or how the methods used to mass produce our food are affecting our environment and our health. And I haven't even touched on how food has led to war, famine, poverty, and enslavement.    

Alan Light / Creative Commons

Colin interviewed Hal Holbrook on February 3, 2015, in advance of Holbrook's performance of Mark Twain Tonight in Hartford on his 90th birthday on February 17, 2015. Colin wrote at the time that Holbrook was one of the most remarkable people he's encountered of all the remarkable people he's interviewed over the years.

Holbrook was so passionate and fun to speak with that Colin never got to ask him all the many questions about the love of his life, his difficult childhood, or his time spent at Suffield Academy. He hoped for a second interview.

Holbrook died on January 23. This hour, we reair our 2015 interview with him.

We, The Dog

Jan 29, 2021
Photos: Quino Al (background), Niclas Moser (dog),  ActionVance (human) via Unsplash. Illustration by Chion Wolf.


What do the ways we train our dogs say about us?

You’ll hear about how dogs are trained to search and rescue, dating back to some of our earliest wars. How they’ve been trained by authority figures for hundreds of years to bite - and hold - and sometimes kill. And how the street dogs of Moscow were trained to fly into space - even though it meant their certain doom.

Janus Films

André Gregory has directed and acted in the theater for more than 50 years. He has appeared in a number of movies, including Martin Scorsese's The Last Temptation of Christ, Woody Allen's Celebrity, Brian De Palma's The Bonfire of the Vanities, Peter Weir's The Mosquito Coast, and many more. He has starred in three movies about the theater with the playwright, actor, and comedian Wallace Shawn: A Master Builder, Vanya on 42nd Street, and the iconic My Dinner with Andre.

Gregory's memoir is This Is Not My Memoir. He joins us for the hour.

Gregg Richards

Most of the Western world is organized by alphabetical order, which is so much more than the 26 letters that make up the alphabet. Alphabetical order is an organizing principle that allows us to save, order, and access thousands of years of humankind's most precious documents and ideas. Without it, we'd never know what came before us or how to pass on what's with us. It's ubiquitous, yet invisible in daily life.

This hour, a conversation about how we order our world and why we do it. 

Kate Hartman / Interactive Telecommunications Program, Tisch School of the Arts, New York University

Do you talk to yourself? Is it a silent inter-narrative or do you talk aloud? What form of address to you use to yourself?

When I'm mad at myself I sometimes address myself as Colin. But, I sense that when LeBron speaks to himself as LeBron, it's more affirming. 

I talk aloud quite a bit. A hangover, I think, from growing up as an only child.

Beth Beverly / Diamond Tooth Taxidermy

When you think of taxidermy, you may imagine a trophy room in which mostly male hunters have mounted the heads of 12-point stags along wood-paneled walls. If so, your image would be incomplete.

Taxidermy has gone through many iterations since gentleman scientists turned to taxidermy to understand anatomy during the Enlightenment. Victorians added a touch of whimsy, decorating their homes with birds under glass and falling in love with Walter Potter's anthropomorphized cats.

Brian Cornelius

At the start of this year, Jericho Brown addressed the graduates of the Bennington Writing Seminars Class of January 2020. 

He said, “If you can’t imagine these last few days without trees, I know you can’t imagine life without poetry. Literature fills needs we did not know we had. Poems and stories plant seeds for things we did not know we needed.”

A screen showing icons of multiple different television streaming services
Harrison Weber / Flickr

2020 is finally almost over, and it’s time for a break. But if your holiday plans are looking different than normal, we’ve got you!  This hour, we talk with NPR TV Critic Eric Deggans, who gives us his recommendations on what to binge watch over the holidays.

We also check in with Vox book critic Constance Grady about her recommendations from the best books of 2020.

And later: are you among the 67% of Americans who play videogames? We talk with Washington Post videogame reporter Gene Park about his favorite games of the year. If you’re not a gamer yet never fear—we talk about how to get started exploring the world of gaming.

Avis Charley / Avis Charley Art

Native Americans exerted their political power in the 2020 election. A record-breaking six Native-Americans were elected to Congress and Native American votes tipped the scales in Arizona - which went blue for only the second time in seventy years. And U.S. Representative Deb Haaland (D-NM) is on President-elect Biden's short list to be Secretary of the Interior. 

NPR's Book Concierge returns with more books than ever: 380+ new titles handpicked by NPR staff and trusted critics. Find eight years of Concierge recommendations all in one place – that's nearly 2,500 great reads.

Open the app now!

Trevor / flickr creative commons

As we were preparing for our show on underdogs, I kept saying that we shouldn’t overlook the fact that, often, to be an underdog in the first place, you have to be relatively bad at the thing you’re an underdog about.

The more we talked about it, the more I found myself making the case that losers and losing are fascinating.

And they are. There’s a whole podcast about political candidates who lost. We romanticize losers in movies and TV and songs and stories.

Universal Studios Home Entertainment

A hard-boiled private eye, a glamorous blond, and a hapless drifter all sit at a bar on the seamy side of town. It's night, the streets are wet, the shadows are long. They each nurse a drink to the notes of a mournful saxophone and a lonely piano. Smoke from the cigarettes swirls in the darkness.

We all know classic noir when we see it and hear it and read it; yet, we don't really know how to define the dark plots that expose humanity in all its moral ambiguity and loneliness.


The older I get, the more excited I am to be corrected when I’m wrong.

Sure, it may sting for a second because hearing someone say “actually…” can be kind of annoying, and if I’m wrong about something, then that means that contrary to my sparkling self-image, I don’t know it all.

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