Billy McCarthy lost his mother to suicide when he was a teenager. He cared for his schizophrenic brother as best he could after that, but his brother landed in solitary confinement in prison, where he eventually took his own life, too. Somehow, McCarthy found a way to rise above his anguish — as a songwriter. He began playing music while living in foster care in California.
Kurt Vonnegut was a counterculture hero, an American Mark Twain, an avuncular, jocular friend to the youth — until you got to know him.
"Kurt was actually rather flinty, rather irascible. He had something of a temper," author Charles Shields tells weekends on All Things Considered host Laura Sullivan. Shields is the author of a new biography of Vonnegut, called And So It Goes: Kurt Vonnegut: A Life.
"But as I also point out in the book," Shields adds, "he was a damaged person."
Melissa Block talks with John Seabrook, staff writer at The New Yorker. His latest article, "Crunch," delves into the world of the SweeTango — a new hybrid apple that is part Honeycrisp, part Zestar. It's sweet and tangy. There's a hint of cinnamon, a hint of pineapple and a whole lot of crunch.
Imagine flying from L.A. to New York in about 30 minutes. That's roughly eight times the speed of sound. And yesterday, the U.S. Army Space and Missile Defense Command managed to launch a missile that flew at that speed. The test missile was sent from Hawaii to hit a site on the Kwajalein Atoll in the South Pacific about 2,400 miles away, and within a half hour, the missile struck its target. And the military is hoping to speed it up even more.
Scientists at the Italian Institute for Nuclear Physics are now touting a successful second experiment that may challenge Albert Einstein's long-held theory of relativity. The results show that neutrinos could travel faster than the speed of light. Guy Raz talks to Brian Greene, professor of physics and mathematics at Columbia University, about the findings.
While the professional basketball season is on the verge of collapse, Major League Baseball and its players wrapped up a new contract. Guy Raz talks with sportswriter Stefan Fatsis about what's next in the NBA negotiations and what's new for baseball with this agreement.
From NPR News, it's ALL THINGS CONSIDERED. I'm Guy Raz.
MELISSA BLOCK, HOST:
And I'm Melissa Block. President Obama arrived in Indonesia today, the latest stop in a 10 day trip across the Pacific. He's used the trip to send a message that the U.S. is shifting its attention to the Asia Pacific region, both for economic and security reasons. That includes the announcement yesterday that the U.S. will deploy 2,500 Marines to Australia.
When Barron Lerner was writing his book on the history of drunk driving in America — and efforts to control it — he carried out an experiment at home that involved a bottle of vodka, a shot glass and a Breathalyzer. He was the guinea pig.
"I was trying to figure out just how drunk you had to be in order to not drive safely," says Lerner, a professor of medicine and public health at Columbia University, who wrote One for the Road. He decided to drink and test his levels — but he didn't actually get into a car.
President Obama has spoken for hours during his specific tour this week to CEOs, world leaders and military troops. As NPR's Ari Shapiro reports, one brief remark caught the ear of Republicans and you're likely to hear a lot of it in the months ahead.
They were four guys out of Athens, Ga., with a three-letter name — and one hell of an impact on rock. R.E.M. was Michael Stipe singing lead, Mike Mills on bass and harmonies, Peter Buck on guitar and Bill Berry on drums, until Berry left the band in 1997.
"We never expected the thing to last any longer than a couple of years to begin with," Stipe says. "And then when it did, and we were making records and people were interested in it, the band started getting bigger and bigger and bigger."
The world of independent bookstores has a new member: Parnassus Books in Nashville, Tenn., opened its doors on Wednesday. The store has a marquee name behind it — best-selling novelist Ann Patchett, author of Bel Canto and State of Wonder, is the co-owner.
Lawmakers say pizza and french fries deserve to keep their place in school cafeterias. New nutrition standards aimed at putting more fresh and healthy food in front of kids are being revised in a current House agriculture appropriations bill. The latest version says the tomato sauce on a slice of pizza is the equivalent of a vegetable. Critics are likening it to the "ketchup-as-a-vegetable-controversy" during the Reagan administration.
Top Pentagon leaders went to Capitol Hill Tuesday and took tough questions from lawmakers on the future of the U.S. relationship with Iraq. Specifically, they addressed how the decision to withdraw all U.S. combat troops by the end of this year will impact Iraq's stability and U.S. national security interests in the region. Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta told a congressional committee that, while U.S. military commanders wanted to keep a contingency force on the ground, it was Iraq's decision to make.
Earlier this year, on Jan. 8, Rep. Gabrielle Giffords (D-AZ) was shot in the head as she met with constituents in Tucson, Ariz. She was one of 13 people injured that day. Six people were killed.
It had been four years since Giffords arrived in Washington as a wide-eyed freshman and told NPR: "Life's good and [I'm] very, very excited — so optimistic about taking our country in a new direction."
GUY RAZ, host: From NPR News, it's ALL THINGS CONSIDERED. I'm Guy Raz.
MELISSA BLOCK: And I'm Melissa Block. Today, the Players' Union for the National Basketball Association decided to disband and take its fight with NBA owners to the courts. The move could jeopardize the entire 2011 to '12 NBA season. The union plans to argue that the NBA lockout of players is illegal and will sue the owners under antitrust laws.
Novelist Don DeLillo is known for his sweeping works of fiction, including <em>White Noise, Falling Man</em>, <em>Libra</em> and <em>Underworld</em>. His latest work, <em>The Angel Esmeralda</em>, is a collection of nine short stories.
Over the past 30 years, prolific American author Don DeLillo has written more than a dozen novels, including White Noise, Falling Man, Libra and Underworld. But his latest, The Angel Esmeralda, is a departure from his expansive novels. It is a collection of short stories — nine brief flashes, which, like DeLillo's longer works, center on characters who feel out of sync with the worlds around them.
Have you ever read a novel that is so propulsive you don't want to put it down (not even to play with your new kitten), and so well-plotted that it doesn't reveal itself to you until its 288th page — which just happens to be the book's final page as well? Marabou Stork Nightmares by Irvine Welsh is that kind of a novel.
On first glance, if you simply picked it up and shuffled its pages, it might not look appealing to some readers.
A good friend of mine is a Marcel Proust scholar and former milliner. She had just been to see fashion icon and brewery fortune heiress Daphne Guinness's exhibition at the Fashion Institute of Technology's Museum at FIT in New York when she sent me this email: