Joe Queenan reads so many books, it's amazing that he can also find time to write them. Queenan estimates he's read between 6,000 and 7,000 books total, at a rate of about 125 books a year — (or 100 in a "slow" year). "Some years I just went completely nuts," Queenan tells NPR's Robert Siegel. "A couple years ago I read about 250. I was trying to read a book every single day of the year but I kind of ran out of gas."
Originally published on Thu November 1, 2012 8:02 pm
For most of us, the enjoyment of horror movies depends on the sheer unlikeliness of their storylines. Knowing that the average swamp does not contain a slimy monster or that a nest of cannibals would have a hard time surviving in a depopulated desert — at some point, even mutants have to make a Wal-Mart run — is the cocoa that helps us sleep. And that's the challenge for The Bay: This astonishingly effective environmental nightmare is based on reasoning that, if you've been following the science, seems all too possible.
A near-agoraphobic musician is an odd protagonist for a road movie, but then "odd" is the operative term for This Must Be the Place, Italian director Paolo Sorrentino's first English-language film. This mashup of genres and themes doesn't entirely succeed, but it is warm, funny and ably crafted.
For Whip Whitaker, the commercial airline pilot played by Denzel Washington in Flight, daily life is about achieving a practiced but tenuous equilibrium between the professional he's required to be and the wreck he really is. As the opening scene reveals, it involves keeping his poisons in harmony: Peeling himself off a hotel bed after a wild night, Whip guzzles the stale swill from a quarter-full beer bottle, does a couple of lines of cocaine as a pick-me-up and strides confidently out the door in his uniform. This is the morning routine.
After a very long engagement that began with the original Toy Story, Disney finally made an honest woman out of Pixar in 2006, when it paid the requisite billions to move the computer animation giant into the Magic Kingdom. But Disney's spirited 2010 hit Tangled made it abundantly clear that Pixar had a say in the creative marriage: The story of Rapunzel may be standard Disney princess fare, but the whip-crack pacing and fractured-fairy tale wit felt unmistakably Pixar. From now on, it would seem, Mickey Mouse and Luxo Jr.
Mountain climbing asks a lot of its devotees. One should ideally be in top physical condition, with all senses at peak performance, and possessed of a quality that, if it's not best described as fearlessness, is at least a willingness to ignore the natural instinct not to dangle precariously above a drop of several thousand feet.
Mitt Romney was on CNN not long ago defending the claims in his campaign ads — "We've been absolutely spot on," he said. Politics aside, the expression had me doing an audible roll of my eyes. I've always associated "spot on" with the type of Englishman who's played by Terry-Thomas or John Cleese, someone who pronounces "yes" and "ears" in the same way — "eeahzz." It shows up when people do send-ups of plummy British speech. "I say — spot on, old chap!"
Mention the name Rick Riordan to adults, and they might say, "Huh?" But kids? They know. Riordan has been burning up the best-seller lists with three different series of books that all feature modern-day kids entangled in the lives of ancient gods. The Red Pyramid — the December pick of NPR's Backseat Book Club — features a brother and sister who have no idea they are descended from age-old sorcerers until their archaeologist father accidentally unleashes ancient gods into modern society.