Literature

Do you recall the most famous reindeer of all? What was left out of the song was Rudolph's New Hampshire connection.

By London Records. (Billboard page 25 1 May 1965) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

As a soldier, an army officer, and then a Foreign Service officer Ron Capps experienced five wars in ten years, and came home with severe PTSD. Today on Word of Mouth, he discusses founding the Veterans Writing Project, and the power of the written word in coping with the psychic wounds of war. Then, from Scottish bag pipes in the mid-18th century to Metallica in the mid-2000s, we’ll take a brief tour through the history of music as a weapon of war. Plus, a diehard Oasis fan is forced to admit that the band’s rivalry with Blur has unfairly colored his perception for the past 20 years.

Listen to the full show and click Read more for individual segments


On the 450th anniversary of the birth of the language's greatest writer, it seems appropriate to reflect on the work of William Shakespeare. 

In 2005, the Blackfriars Stage Company brought their tour to New Hampshire. We welcomed two actos from the company to our studios to speak with the Front Porch. Alyssa Wilmoth and Tyler Moss were playing Beatrice and Benedick from Much Ado About Nothing and they gave us a little taste of their craft; from Act 1, Scene 1.

Here is a scene from Act 4 where the two characters explore different feelings.

via npr.org

The idea of writing a book about writers who drank too much sounds a little like shooting fish in a barrel. The relationship between addiction and creativity remains somewhat mythic…and frequently mimicked. Remarkably talented writers and champion boozers like John Cheever, Ernest Hemingway, F. Scott Fitzgerald and Tennessee Williams drank through successes and failures and kept going even as their creativity crumbled and their lives circled the drain. 

Olivia Laing traveled across the U.S. to follow the paths of six famous literary alcoholics, two of whom ended up suicides, the others dead by middle age. Her new book is called “The Trip to Echo Spring”.

Enthusiasm for the fictional British detective is hardly new. When Sir Arthur Conan Doyle killed off Sherlock Holmes in an 1893 issue of Strand magazine, 20,000 readers canceled their subscriptions. Doyle succumbed and revived the character in dozens more stories before his own death in 1930. While the appeal of Sherlock Holmes coincided with the rise of popular science in the late Victorian era, today’s Sherlock-mania may be connected to a more 21st century concept: mindfulness.

For more than four hundred years, the works of William Shakespeare have given us language to describe the human condition. The Bard’s works have been interpreted on countless stages, film and television adaptations, and pulled apart in classrooms and campuses all over the world. As the theses count and analyses dedicated to Shakespeare continue to grow, a few academics question if there’s anything new to say about Shakespeare. That’s also the title of an article by Matthew Reisz, reporter and features writer for the Times of London’s Higher Education blog, covering intellectual affairs in the arts and social sciences.

via Monadnock Lyceum

Since the posthumous publication of her poems in the 1890’s, Emily Dickinson has been portrayed as a virginal recluse, a mental case, and a victim of a broken heart. Susan Snively’s talk challenges these myths by discussing the poet’s letters to the powerful Judge Otis Phillips Lord, a widower who had been her late father’s best friend. Unpublished until 1954, the letters reveal a playful, tender, passionate Emily, happy in a mutual love that graced her middle age.

Logan Shannon / NHPR

The recent outrage over Google providing the WRONG—in our humble opinion—definition of literally as a viable one, got the digital team thinking about other words whose meanings have changed over time. These so called ‘Janus Words’ or ‘contranyms’ are single words that have two opposite, but ostensibly correct, meanings.

UNC Chapel Hill Jane Austen Summer Program on Facebook

This year marks 200 years since the publication of Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice. Britain has been celebrating all things Austen…from a proposal that the author’s portrait will grace the new ten-pound note…to erecting a giant replica of Colin Firth as Mr. Darcy emerging from a river in Hyde Park.

via Monadnock Lyceum

After the illness and death of her late husband, acclaimed author and National Public Radio correspondent Margot Adler began to read vampire novels as a meditation on mortality. This meditation soon became an obsession. Adler has read over 250 such novels ranging from teen to adult, from detective to romance, from gothic to modern. "Every society creates the vampire it needs," wrote the feminist scholar Nina Auerbach.

emilstefanov via flickr Creative Commons

Simple, universal, playable, the ball is among the most recognizable artifacts of human culture. It’s also the driver of an estimated five-hundred-billion- dollar- a-year sports industry. Harvard anthropologist John Fox set off on a global adventure and dug into the ancient past to uncover the origins and evolution of our favorite ball games. His book is called The Ball: Discovering the Object of the Game. We discussed the book with John last year when the book was released.

“Books Behind Bars” is program which pairs undergraduates from the University of Virginia with inmates at the Beaumont Juvenile Correctional Center to read classic Russian literature. Prison staff notice a marked change in behavior among inmates who take the class, and researchers have documented similar improvements in decision-making, social skill, and civic engagement among prisoners and undergrads who participate in the class.

David Masters via flickr Creative Commons

Kevin Smokler is setting out to resurrect America’s long-ago encounters. Works such as The Great Gatsby, Fahrenheit 451 and Bartleby: The Scrivener, skimmed and discarded by 15 year-old high school hands in days of yore, are being taken off the shelf, dusted off, and re-explored by the same pair of older, more experienced eyes. By compiling a list of fifty high school “classics”, Kevin spent ten months re-reading the stories that have become distant, unquestionable deities in the eyes of many middle-aged Americans. What he found was profound; and in some ways, unexpected. Kevin, now 39, amassed his thoughts and findings in his new book Practical Classics: Fifty Reasons to Reread Fifty Books You Haven’t Touched Since High School.

Mark Larson via Flickr Creative Commons

Nearly half a century ago, Truman Capote’s In Cold Blood detailed the savage murder of the Clutter family in Holcomb, Kansas. That book is regarded as a literary landmark… the first so-called “nonfiction novel” that brought the true crime genre to the mainstream and cemented Capote’s celebrity status. It’s inspired three films, among them, “Capote,” in 2005, which earned a best actor Oscar for Philip Seymour Hoffman.

Hobbit Still MGM Studios

Corey Olsen, English Professor at Washington College and author of the book “Exploring J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Hobbit”, discusses the lasting appeal and tonal evolution of the classic children’s novel. 

FlyingSinger via Flickr Creative Commons

If you don’t believe in Mayan calendars, and you’re not too worried about the next rapture that supposed to happen, then you’re probably not too concerned about the world ending anytime soon. But has the thought ever crossed your mind?

Alexandre Lemieux via Credit Flikr Creative Commons

With E-book sales outpacing print books, the days of the heavyweight backpack are numbered. In New Hampshire, thirty-three public schools banded together to purchase E-books instead of textbooks. Producer Sam Evans-Brown finds out why public schools are making the switch now, and why the long wait.

Read and Listen to Sam's story here.

Marxchivist via Flickr Creative Commons

Author, essayist, and staff writer for The New Yorker Susan Orlean takes vivid snapshots of people who live way off the beaten path.

angelofsweetbitter2009 via Flickr Creative Commons

If you grew up in a religious home with a portrait of Jesus on the wall, he was probably portrayed as brown-haired, brown eyed, and Caucasian.  But have you ever wondered why a Judaic man born in the Middle East would look like an aquiline-nosed Northern European?  Edward J. Blum is a professor of history at San Diego State University, and along with Paul Harvey, is author of “The Color of Christ: The Son of God and the Saga of Race in America".  

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For many, the noir genre lived and died in those smokey, black-and-white films and pages of dog-eared pulp fiction in the mid 20th centuryNow, a Kickstarter project led by long-time magazine veterans Nancie Clare and Rip Gorges aim to give the noir genre the digital age treatment, with video, animation and rich media.  Also with us is Megan Abbott, author of

Zach Houston runs his Poem Store (on any given sidewalk) with these items: a manual typewriter, a wooden folding chair, scraps of paper, and a white poster board that reads: "POEMS — Your Topic, Your Price."

Houston usually gets from $2 to $20 for a poem, he says. He's received a $100 bill more than once. The Oakland, Calif., resident has been composing spontaneous street poems in the San Francisco Bay Area since 2005. Five years ago, it became his main source of income.

Rethinking Frankenstein

Mar 26, 2012

 Mary Shelley’s gothic novel, Frankenstein has long been read as a cautionary tale about the limits of technology, and a warning against scientific hubris. The monster is a man-made creation run amok, seeking revenge on the scientist that harnessed electricity and brought him to life…a horror recreated many times on film.

Ready for some creative competition? Weekends on All Things Considered is launching Round 8 of its Three-Minute Fiction contest. Here's what we look for: original, short fiction that can be read in less than three minutes — that's no more than 600 words.

Photo: Jack Delano / Library of Congress

Langston Hughes, an enduring icon of the Harlem Renaissance, is best-known for his written work, which wedded his fierce dedication to social justice with his belief in the transformative power of the word. But he was a music lover, too, and some of the works he was most proud of were collaborations with composers and musicians.  Hosted by Terrance McKnight, WQXR host and former Morehouse professor of music, I, Too, Sing Americawill dive into the songs, cantatas, musicals and librettos that flowed from Hughes’ pen.

Photo by ALA, courtesy of Flickr Creative Commons

Jamal Joseph’s story is unlike many taught in schools during Black History Month. His long list of identifiers includes orphan, activist, FBI fugitive, convict, a drug addict, urban guerilla, and Black Panther. In a speech he made in the 1960s, Jamal urged students to burn down Columbia University. He is now a professor there and a writer, filmmaker, Oscar nominee, youth advocate, drug counselor, and father.