Samuel Clemens, who is said to have taken his pen name Mark Twain from the cries of riverboat crewmen, found the inspiration for his classic works while growing up in the river town of Hannibal, Mo. Today, more than 125 years after the first pressing of The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, there's a new set of artistic characters in Twain's boyhood home.
Linguist Geoffrey Nunberg wants people to take his new book, Ascent of the A-Word, seriously.
"I'd meet people when I was working on the book, and even academics — they'd say, 'What are you working on?' and they'd giggle. Or they'd say, 'You must have a lot of time on your hands,' " Nunberg tells Fresh Air's Terry Gross.
I'm Michel Martin, and this is TELL ME MORE, from NPR News. Coming up, as we've kicked off our coverage of the Republican National Convention this week, we've asked a number of our guests what a successful country looks like to them. I'll explain why I'm asking that in my Can I Just Tell You essay. And that's coming up in a few minutes.
Originally published on Wed August 29, 2012 5:00 pm
When I was a kid, I awaited the annual publication of Leonard Maltin's Movie Guide with the awe and dread of a Parent/Teacher interview. Sure, film criticism is a subjective thing, but to my young eyes, the 16,000+ capsule reviews in Maltin's yearly reference book carried the weight of absolute truth. Each year, with the austerity of a poet and the precision of a diamond-cutter, Maltin and his army of cowriters pass swift, one-to-ten-paragraph judgment on hundreds of new films, and a small part of me will always believe the Guide is blessed with objectivity.
"Ugh," my sister exclaimed one evening as we were making dinner. It was supposed to be an easy poached chicken with a ginger-scallion sauce, eaten with cold cucumber wedges, and we had just discovered that what we had bought at the store was not cucumber, but zucchini. It was an easy mistake to make — they were the precise same shade of green. But where the zucchini's skin was mostly smooth, the cucumber's was lumpy. We were not happy.
Too much is made of literature's ennobling qualities. There are those of us who come to books for the debasement and danger, for Hannibal and Humbert. For Faulkner's Popeye and Hedda Gabler. We want to meet the monsters.
The title of Zadie Smith's newest novel might be enigmatic for Americans.NWis short for northwest London — an area of particular racial and class diversity. It's the birthplace of the novel's two main characters, Leah Hanwell and Keisha Blake.