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.
Originally published on Thu November 8, 2012 3:19 pm
Sugar skulls, tamales, and spirits (the alcoholic kind) — these are things you might find on homemade altars to entice those who've passed to the other side back for a visit. The altars, built in homes and around tombstones, are for Day of the Dead, or Dia de los Muertos, a tradition originating in central Mexico on Nov. 1 and 2.
Richard Russo sits in his elderly mother's home, holding her hand. She's just been diagnosed with dementia, one more illness to add to the long list of ailments she's been battling for years. She wonders aloud whether she'll ever be able to read again, plainly scared at the prospect of a life without her favorite hobby. She takes a look around her small apartment, and tells her son that she hates it.
"I just wish you could be happy, Mom," he says, heartbroken. "I used to be," she responds. "I know you don't believe that, but I was."
Think of the smallest kitchen you can imagine, and then take away a few square feet. That's Deb Perelman's New York kitchen. It's so small that the blogger, and now author, literally has to wedge herself between the stove and the refrigerator to cook.
Lady Rhea is not the kind of witch you'll find in a pointy hat this Halloween. She is a real workaday witch, grinding out a living selling magic products in a booth at Original Products, a grocery store-sized botanica in the Bronx. She's been a practicing Wiccan for nearly four decades, making her one of the longest-serving high priestesses in New York City.
Originally published on Thu November 8, 2012 11:51 am
Mark Danielewski is the author of The Fifty Year Sword.
When I was 12, the movie was forbidden. What my parents matter-of-factly declared too scary, friends confirmed with added notes of hysteria: "Nothing more terrifying!" "The most horrifying film ever made!" "People pass out!"
In Provo, Utah, where I grew up, Mormon children — and in my world that meant all of my friends — reported how just a glimpse resulted in actual, irreversible possession.
A friend of mine — whose opinion is shared by hosts of viewers — has griped about Lena Dunham and the fame ofGirls and its cast members: "Everybody talks like they're the voice of our 'lost generation,'" she said. "But their parents are all famous people." In other words, the complaint goes, the extent of the Girls cast's success comes from the connections available to them.
As Gemma, the fierce matriarch of the biker gang in the FX series Sons of Anarchy, Katey Sagal has shot and killed people, hit somebody with a skateboard, pulled a gun on a baby and done other horrible things. It's all part of the challenge of playing the character, Sagal says.
"She does things in the name of loyalty, which I relate to, but she goes way beyond anything I would do."
Originally published on Wed October 31, 2012 1:39 pm
Ian McEwan's latest novel is an exercise in deception — the author of Atonement has created an engaging book that's as much suspenseful drama as it is romantic love story. At the center is Serena Frome, who after graduating from university as a math major (but with a reputation for being a lover of novels) lands a desk job with the intelligence agency, MI5. Early on Serena receives an assignment: She must pose as a representative for an arts foundation and begin to cultivate a young writer. Keeping her identity from him proves challenging.
The first computer game that really frightened me to the bones was 1994's The 7th Guest. It's certainly primitive compared to today's games, but parts of it were indubitably scary. Even early on, when a kind of Steadicam slowly led me up a Victorian mansion's stairs, there was a feeling of uncomfortable dread. Don't go there, I said to myself. Yet, like so many ill-fated protagonists in the movies, I went there. And when ghosts moved about on the second floor — damn — that was eerie. It was like that "cold spot" in Robert Wise's The Haunting.