When Scott Johnson was a kid, he wasn't really sure what his dad did; he was either a teacher, a diplomat or a foreign service officer.
But one morning, when Johnson was 14, his father decided to tell him his real job: He was a spy for the CIA.
At first it was exciting, but as Johnson grew older, he began to wonder just how much his father was keeping from him. He tells the story of their complicated relationship in a new memoir called The Wolf and the Watchman.
An illustration of noblemen enjoying a picnic, from a French edition of <em>The Hunting Book of Gaston Phebus</em>, 15th century.
Credit Wikimedia Commons
A family enjoys a picnic in the countryside in 1869. Food historian Lynne Olver says middle-class Victorians picnicked on a tablecloth or bedspread like we do today. "The wealthier you were, the higher you dined," she says.
Credit Francis Hollyer / Getty Images
Picnic basket kits with placeholders for dishes, silverware and glasses first appeared in the early 20th century. The one seen here is from the early 1960s.
Whether a shepherd, an explorer, a hunter or a fairgoer, people have been eating outside since the beginning of time.
"The dictionaries confirm the word 'picnic' first surfaced in the 18th century, so we were picnicking before we had the term," says research librarian and food historian Lynne Olver, who runs the Food Timeline website.
Pearl S. Buck emerged into literary stardom in 1931 when she published a book called The Good Earth. That story of family life in a Chinese village won the novelist international acclaim, the Pulitzer and, eventually, a Nobel Prize. Her upbringing in China as the American daughter of missionaries served as inspiration for that novel and many others; by her death in 1973, Buck had written more than 100 books, including 43 novels.
In his debut novel, A Constellation of Vital Phenomena, Anthony Marra transports readers to Chechnya, a war-torn Russian republic that has long sought independence.
The lyrical and heart-breaking novel begins in 2004 when a doctor watches as Russian soldiers abduct his neighbor, who has been accused of aiding Chechen rebels. He later rescues the neighbor's 8-year-old daughter, then colludes with another doctor to form an unlikely family amid the daily violence.
Sam Bompas (left) and Harry Parr made names for themselves with spectacular gelatin creations.
Credit Courtesy of Sam Bompas
Boaters on the Palm House pond at London's Kew Gardens. Bompas and Parr's pineapple island is visible in the background.
Credit Andrew McRobb / Kew
London's famed St. Paul's Cathedral, re-created in Jell-O.
Credit Greta Ilieva / Courtesy of Sam Bompas
The dynamic food art duo surrounded the SS Great Britain, a British naval ship built in the 1800s, with 55 tons of gelatin â the lime green color was inspired by the limes that sailors ate to combat scurvy. The installation is seen here illuminated from below at night.
These may sound like the makings of a Roald Dahl children's book (he of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory fame). But at London's Kew Gardens, visitors can now immerse themselves in such fantastic-sounding experiences like rowing down a blue-dyed boating lake to the aforementioned island, which features a 15-foot replica pineapple towering over a banana grotto.
NPR's Bob Mondello and Susan Stamberg read excerpts of two of the best submissions for Round 11 of our short story contest. They read Snowflake by Winona Wendth of Lancaster, Mass., and Geometry by Eugenie Montague of Los Angeles. You can read their full stories below and find other stories on our Three-Minute Fiction page or on Facebook.
I found your journal in my car. A slim, Moleskin, six by ten centimeters, soft cover, blue, curving upwards at the edges like an incredibly shallow bowl, or a key dish. By the concavity in its form, the book seemed to be suggesting it was capable of carrying something. Something real. Not much. A few pennies. A handful of nails. One heavy pen cradled at that depression in the center, which had dropped out of the flatness of the book from riding around in the back pocket of your jeans.
She found the photograph early in the day, while she was cleaning for spring, pulling a winter's collection of domestic detritus out from under the bed. Ticket stubs, grimy grocery notes, coffee-stained lined paper, and dead pens. Their life: movies, food, and books. She didn't like housecleaning, but the weather had changed, and something moved her to sweep around, put things in order, clean them up.