Alex Espinoza is the author of The Five Acts of Diego León.
Before becoming a novelist and educator, I was a manager at a shop in Santa Monica, Calif., selling sofas and custom-framed art to movie stars and wealthy Angelinos. Eventually I grew frustrated and, determined to reinvent myself as a writer, I quit and went back to school.
On-air challenge: Every answer is a two-word phrase in which the first word starts with O. Drop the O, and you'll get a new word that ends the phrase.
Last week's challenge: Name something in nine letters that is commonly read on Sunday morning. If you have the right thing, you can rearrange all the letters to name a bygone car model that you still see on the road today. What are they?
Nobody actually knows what dinosaurs sound like. But if you can imagine the roar of a T. Rex or the bellow of a brachiosaurus, it's probably thanks to the 1993 blockbuster Jurassic Park, which turns 20 this summer.
The dancer who brought "Firebird" and "The Nutcracker" to life at the New York City Ballet died this week. Maria Tallchief was one of America's great prima ballerinas. NPR's Joel Rose has this remembrance.
JOEL ROSE, BYLINE: Maria Tallchief soared to fame in 1949 when she danced the lead role in Stravinsky's "Firebird" in a production choreographed by George Balanchine.
(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED INTERVIEW)
MARIA TALLCHIEF: He was a poet. And he taught us how to react and to become this poetry.
The 400-year-old plays of William Shakespeare are constantly being reinterpreted and re-envisioned for new generations. Recently, England's Royal Shakespeare Company produced a Julius Caesar set in contemporary Africa that was a hit at the World Shakespeare Festival, presented in conjunction with the London Olympics. Now the RSC has brought it to America.
The Divine Comedy is a 14th century poem that has never lost its edge. Dante Alighieri's great work tells the tale of the author's trail through hell — each and every circle of it — purgatory and heaven. It has become perhaps the world's most cited allegorical epic about life, death, goodness, evil, damnation and reward. It calls upon the reader to ask: What would be our personal hell? What, for us, would really be paradise?
Simon Bolivar is often called the George Washington of Venezuela — and of Bolivia, Colombia, Panama, Ecuador and Peru. Washington threw colonialists out of one country; Bolivar liberated six from Spanish rule. The latter was also considered an artful military strategist with a vision of history and a passion for freedom.
Mark Bittman isn't a celebrity chef, and he doesn't own a famous restaurant, and he doesn't have a cooking show. But he wrote the book on how to cook everything, aptly titled, How to Cook Everything.
We've invited him to play a game called "Holy, Bittman, Batman!" We guessing Bittman gets mistaken for the Caped Crusader all the time, so we're going to ask him three questions about Batman ... specifically, Batman & Robin, widely regarded as the very worst of all the modern Batman films.
In the age of hundreds of cable channels, millions of 140-character bulletins and an untold number of cat videos, a fear has been growing among journalists and readers that long-form storytelling may be getting lost.