"You scratch my back, and I'll scratch yours" is an old and cherished maxim of our republic. In politics, that's called an earmark, aka pork. One member of Congress gets a road or a monument for his or her state in exchange for a vote on the bill in question.
Congress has lived on this since the era of stovepipe hats. The political vogue lately, however, has been to repudiate those earmarks. But with the recent gridlock in Washington, the feeling is that perhaps some of that grease might help ease things.
On one spring day in the early 1970s, writer David Esterly paused to admire a stunning wooden carving inside a London church.
"On the panel behind the altar, I saw these extraordinary cascades of leaves and flowers and fruits, carved to a fineness and fluent realism, which seemed to me breathtaking," Esterly recalled in an interview with Jacki Lyden, host of weekends on All Things Considered.
This week writers came back from the holiday break ready to play. From David Denby unloading in the New Yorker, to John Jeremiah Sullivan working a mention of the Fruit Jar Guzzlers into a Paris Review piece, Robert Christgau beating his breast over Das Racist's breakup and an examination of the visuals of extreme music, there wasn't a lot of taking it easy. Lucky you.
Once, in an age long past, "epic" was a dirty word.
Way back when I was a young nerd growing up in the Midwest in the 1980s — long before I became a professional writer — histories of magic rings and chronicles of ancient evils were not exactly mainstream fare. Indeed, to publicize one's knowledge of Elvish sword-names and Orcish myth was to contract a kind of voluntary leprosy.
George Saunders' latest book is called Tenth of December: Stories.
It's become commonplace to say that good fiction "wakes us up." The speaker usually means that he — a righteous, likable person, living in the correct way — becomes, post-reading, temporarily even more righteous and likable.
Resurrection, Tolstoy's last and darkest novel, works differently.
It's a shocking and impolite book, seemingly incapable of that last-minute epiphanic updraft or lyric reversal that lets us walk away from even the darkest novel fundamentally intact.
Host Rachel Martin delves into the physics behind Roald Dahl's childrens' classic, James and the Giant Peach. Physics students at the University of Leicester calculated that it would take 2,425,907 seagulls to lift James' Giant Peach, making Roald Dahl's number (501), entirely insufficient.