Current Event December 7, 2013
In 1960, American author John Steinbeck took a 10,000 mile road trip around the United States with his poodle, Charley. They rode in his pickup truck, which he converted to a camper and named Rocinante after Don Quixote’s horse. This counterclockwise trip from New York to Maine, to the Pacific Northwest, California, Texas, the Deep South and back to New York inspired Steinbeck’s novel “Travels with Charley” and allowed Steinbeck to see his country and answer the question “What are Americans like today?” A modern day journalist retraced Steinbeck’s journey, using the novel, Steinbeck’s letters and some old-fashioned detective work.
Current Event December 6, 2013
The British legend of King Arthur dates back to the late 5th and early 6th centuries. The details of his life story are populated by folklore and medieval fiction and have been expanded by authors throughout the centuries. The tale of the sword and the stone has resonated through the ages. A young King Arthur learns from sorcerer Merlin with no knowledge of his noble blood. This concept of childhood and the unexpected hero has transcended time and resonates in tales of unlikely heroism today. Listen as modern author Lev Grossman discusses his favorite version of this tale 'The Once And Future King.'
Current Event December 2, 2013
Herman Melville’s classic American novel “Moby-Dick” tells the story of whaling captain Ahab’s quest to kill the white whale Moby-Dick. This somewhat simplistic plot retelling misses the thematic and historic undertones of this massive novel. The novel was a critical and commercial failure when it was released in 1851 but experienced a resurgence after World War I. Listen to learn more about the writing of “Moby-Dick” and how Melville was influenced by the works of Nathaniel Hawthorne and Shakespeare as well as the tensions of pre-Civil War America.
Current Event December 1, 2013
William Faulkner was a private man and a proud Southerner. He is considered by many to be a literary genius. Faulkner wrote frankly about the South, where he lived his entire life. His work brought him acclaim including a Nobel Prize and two Pulitzer Prizes. From 'The Sound and the Fury' to 'As I Lay Dying,' Faulkner took the reader into the mind of his characters by presenting distinct points of view and a stream of consciousness writing style. Learn more about this great American author by exploring his antebellum home in Oxford Mississippi.
Current Event November 27, 2013
In life and in math class we use the numerals 0 through 9 every day. They are the basis of our financial system and shape the way we understand value. We have a young Italian mathematician named Leonardo da Pisa, nicknamed Fibonacci, to thank for this. In 1202 he published a book called “Book of Calculation” that introduced these numerals to Europe, replacing Roman numerals and the abacus once and for all. Listen to learn more about the man and concept behind Fibonacci and his numbers.
Current Event November 26, 2013
From accents to slang to dialect, people who speak English do not always sound the same. The way people speak reflects a lot of different factors in their lives including region, race, class and education. Some slang is reflective of an era. The word “groovy” will forever be linked to hippies, while other pronunciations reflect a longer history of language, colonization and power. Listen to learn how the pronunciation of the word “ask” has changed over time, and how the black community uses code-switching to adapt to their surroundings.
Current Event November 25, 2013
Minimalist author Raymond Carver is known for his simple but powerful short stories of ordinary people. This gritty minimalism both reflects and contradicts the tough and chaotic life of the man himself. Listen to learn more about the life and contradictions of this American author heavily influenced by the work of Anton Chekhov.
Current Event November 22, 2013
St. Cuthbert, an Anglo-Saxon monk, hermit and saint, was known for his ability to heal and revered in Medieval England. During his lifetime he recorded the St. John’s gospel in Latin. This book went with him to the grave and was rediscovered when his body was moved to a new shrine in 1104. The British Library purchased the book, known as the St. Cuthbert Gospel, for $14 million. Listen to learn more about the fascinating history of this medieval book.
Current Event November 21, 2013
Richard III, the last York King, was the King of England from 1483 to 1485. After his death in 1485 at the Battle of Bosworth, the Tudor dynasty began. The Tudors, with the help of William Shakespeare, worked to depict Richard has a hunchbacked villain. But the real story is more complex. In 2012 Richard’s remains were found under a parking lot, the site of a cathedral in the 15th century. They were exhumed and reburied at Leicester Cathedral in 2015. Listen to learn more about this fascinating discovery and the Medieval smear campaign that led to Shakespeare’s depiction of Richard III.
Current Event November 20, 2013
Davy Crockett lives in the American imagination as a legendary frontiersman and defender of the Alamo. Crockett lived an extraordinary life in the 1830s, but became even more famous in the 1950s when Walt Disney chose Davy Crockett as a character for his new theme park, Disneyland. From the coonskin cap to his death at the Alamo, this story analyzes the reality behind the myth of Davy Crockett’s life.
Current Event November 18, 2013
We often think of Shakespeare’s verse as grand, beautiful and proper. The British Library has analyzed the rhyme of Shakespeare’s work and discovered the original pronunciation and dialect of his writings when they were first performed at the Globe Theater. Listen to hear how Shakespeare may have sounded 400 years ago.
Current Event November 15, 2013
The King James Bible has a rich history. King James I, a Scot who became King of England, had the Christian Bible translated for the Church of England in order to legitimize his rule in the early 1600s. The legacy of the King James Bible lives on in the English language. From books to songs and idioms, the King James Bible has become part of English culture and language. Listen to learn more about the King James Bible from 1603 to today.
Current Event November 14, 2013
Dante Alighieri finished writing the three part epic poem “Divine Comedy” in 1321. The poem’s three parts, hell, purgatory and heaven follow one man on his journey through all three imaginary places. This great work of Italian literature has survived the ages and remains a classic today. There have been many translations of Dante’s work. This story interviews Clive James, the most recent English translator, about this epic poem and his translated version of “Divine Comedy.”
Current Event November 13, 2013
Jonathan Swift’s 1726 classic “Gulliver’s Travels” is a satirical tale of travels to a long-lost land. A modern-day movie, starring actor Jack Black, takes the centuries old classic and begins the story in modern day New York City. Listen to learn more about the original novel and this new movie adaptation.
Current Event November 12, 2013
Author Jane Austen is well known for her novels that reflect on romance and the familial and cultural standards of late 18th century England. Some paint Austen as a drab spinster, but a new biography by Paula Byrne explores the real Austen through objects that were important to her in her life and literature. This portrait of an opinionated, fun loving Austen will help you understand her life, family and themes she revisits in her works.
Current Event November 8, 2013
Mary Shelley’s gothic classic “Frankenstein” was published anonymously when she was just twenty. The novel was a horror story, but it was also part of the romantic movement and is considered by some to be one of the first science fiction novels. Shelley’s work has been retold through illustration and movies in the past, but not all have been true to the original story. A new graphic novel by artist Gris Grimly brings this tale to life with care and accuracy. Listen to learn what drew Gris Grimly to the story and what drove him to create this graphic novel.
Current Event November 6, 2013
The Brontë sisters, Charlotte, Emily and Jane, were successful novelists and poets. Their childhood, relationships and imagination shaped their famous works. A tiny “magazine” created by 14-year-old Charlotte Brontë to go with their set of toy soldiers is a lens into their world of imagination and gothic extravagance. Listen to learn more about this work, just half the size of a credit card, and what it tells us about the life of these famous literary figures.
Current Event November 5, 2013
Author Rudyard Kipling was the most popular writer of his era. He wrote novels, short stories and poems that adults and children have enjoyed for generations. Kipling lives on through his children stories like “The Jungle Book” and his most controversial poem “The White Man’s Burden." Born in India and relocated to England, Kipling experienced colonial life firsthand. Kipling’s support of colonial expansion has caused some to brand him as an imperialist. Listen to learn more about his life and hear some of his newly discovered poetry.
Current Event November 1, 2013
Winston Churchill, prime minister of Great Britain during World War II, was a master orator. His speeches were painstakingly written, meticulously planned and seamlessly delivered. Churchill was given a Nobel Prize in LIterature for his powerful speeches and his other written works. Listen to learn more about the speeches that Churchill wrote and delivered, and the effect they had on shaping World War II.
Current Event September 11, 2013
What is heroism? Explore this question through a discussion with author Conn Iggulden, who wrote a book about heroes throughout time. From Florence Nightingale to Harry Houdini to the passengers of United Airlines Flight 93, heroes of all different kinds have shown admirable bravery. This story discusses the courage and grace that makes heroes of ordinary people.