From Swift to Orwell, political satire has played a major role in the history of European fiction. Much of it takes on an allegorical cast, but not all. The Fall of the Stone City, an incisive, biting work by Ismail Kadare — one of Europe's reigning fiction masters — refines our understanding of satire's nature. Kadare's instructive and delightful book takes us from the 1943 Nazi occupation of a provincial Albanian town, the ancient stone city of Gjirokaster, to the consolidation of communist rule there a decade later.
In the 1970s, a young man named Paul Haggis was walking down a street in Ontario, Canada. He encountered a man peddling a book.
"And he handed the book to Paul, and he said, 'You've got a mind — this is the owner's manual,' " journalist Lawrence Wright tells NPR's Steve Inskeep. "And inside, there was a stamp saying 'Church of Scientology,' and Paul was intrigued, and he said, 'Take me there.' " Haggis soon became a member of the Church of Scientology — and he's a central character in Wright's new book, Going Clear: Scientology, Hollywood and the Prison of Belief.
How healthy is the traditional publishing industry? Not very, says Mark Coker, founder of the self-published book distributor Smashwords. On Monday, Coker told NPR's Audie Cornish that "over the next few years, traditional publishers are going to become more and more irrelevant."
Originally published on Tue February 5, 2013 4:45 pm
By Rebecca Ritzel
Credit Carol Rosegg /
Ann Harada is that rare Asian-American musical theater actress who's never starred in The King and I or Miss Saigon. After a few summer stock stints as Bloody Mary in South Pacific, Harada realized if she was going to make it in theater, it would be as a character actor. In 2003, she originated the role of Christmas Eve in the irreverent puppet musical Avenue Q, a part she played on and off for six years.
Originally published on Wed February 6, 2013 12:02 pm
By Peter Ogburn
Credit Peter Ogburn for NPR
Chocolate is like sex or pizza: Even when it's bad, it's still pretty good. There are those who prefer light, refreshing desserts after a big meal, but I think those people are crazy. I always gravitate to the most decadent dessert on the menu, which is usually laden with chocolate. And while I love the stuff, there is nothing sadder than giving or receiving a box of boring chocolates on Valentine's Day. Each year, men and women shamefully duck into grocery stores and pharmacies to grab a box of assorted chocolates. Because nothing says "I love you" quite like chocolate from a gas station.
For her latest album, Broadway soprano Rebecca Luker brings her live show — featuring songs by legendary theater composer Jerome Kern, recorded at the Manhattan club 54 Below — to the recording studio. The album, I Got Love: Songs of Jerome Kern, features 14 tracks and classics ranging from "Bill/Can't Help Loving That Man" to "My Husband's First Wife."
Every seven years since 1964, in what's known as the Up series, Granada Television has caught us up on the lives of 14 everyday people. The subjects of the documentary series were 7 years old when it began; in the latest installment, 56 Up, they are well into middle age.
The original idea behind the series was to examine the realities of the British class system at a time when the culture was experiencing extraordinary upheaval.
Originally published on Wed February 6, 2013 1:01 pm
By Angela Evancie
Credit Hulton Archive / Getty Images
A young man graduates from college. At his father's insistence, he begins interning at a law firm. But when it comes time to pursue the profession, he refuses: He wants to do something more meaningful. He wants to write.
Sound like your son/cousin/roommate/best friend? It was Honoré de Balzac.
That's right – before he became a founder of realism and an unlikely literary sex icon ("Do not suppose," an Italian count wrote to his wife, "that the ugliness of his face will protect you from his irresistible power"), the young Balzac was proofreading legal filings.