An extraordinary story

Death becomes a pivotal character in the mezmerizing novel, The Book Thief by Australian author, Marcus Zusak. Death, often hard hearted, is drawn to Liesel Meminger, a nine year old girl growing up near Munich during World War II. Abandoned by her mother and still sffering nightmares about the death of her younger brother, Liesel is taken in by foster parents in the rough working class neighborhood of Molching where she steals her first book. Over the ensuing years, Liesel steals more books which become for her an escape and a silent protest to the totalitarian regime in which she lives. She befriends Max, a Jew, whom her parents hide in their basement and who whitewashes the pages of Mein Kampf to make his own book as a gift to Liesel. To hear an interview done by NPR's John Ydstie with Zusak, log on to the NPR site.

Hold the Flag High by Catherine Clinton

William H. Carney is an officer of the first all African-American regiment of the Civil War. Carney’s determination not to allow the flag to touch the ground inspired his men to move forward into battle. Catherine Clinton gives an historical account of the first African American who earned the Congressional Medal of Honor.

Paul Auster wins major literary award in Spain

Paul Auster wins major literary award in Spain

Paul Auster, 59, was awarded Spain's The Prince of Asturias Award for Letters yesterday.

Auster, whose latest novel, Brooklyn Follies (2006), was released earlier this year was praised by prize committee president, Victor Garcia de la Concha, as "...one of the U.S. greatest living writers."

Auster, married to author Siri Hustvedt, will receive the 50,000 Euro ($70,760) purse in an October 2006 ceremony.

Fresh Air Picks from the Week of May 22nd, 2006

Award-winning Australian novelist Peter Carey has a new novel out, called Theft: A Love Story. Publisher's Weekly calls it "a magnificent high-stakes art heist wrapped around a fraternal saga." Carey has already won the Booker Prize twice, for Oscar and Lucinda and True History of the Kelly Gang. Listen to the review on Fresh Air here.

You may know Leonard Cohen from his music, but he's also been writing poetry for over fifty years. On Monday, he spoke on Fresh Air about his new volume of poetry, Book of Longing. Listen to the piece on Fresh Air here.

Prolific country music singer and songwriter Willie Nelson also has a new book out, called The Tao of Willie: A Guide to the Happiness in Your Heart. Also, check out the two-disk set The Essential Willie Nelson or Willie Nelson's Greatest Hits (and some that will be). Listen to the piece on Fresh Air here.

Curiouser and curiouser ...

Ever feel as though it's all been done before? As though you may as well give up trying to create anything new, because your efforts will never equal those of the masters?

The Alexandrians, named "for the fire, not the library," feel the same way.

To help pave the way for new art, they have orchestrated the planned removal from society of works of art, literature, music, film ...

A talking dog, a nine-year pregnancy, Hank Williams ... with this strange brew, Terry Bisson, author of the short story "Bears Discover Fire," delivers the increasingly odd story of one of those charged with doing the removing: The Pickup Artist.

In the Wake of Memorial Day

Memorial Day was a good chance to finish reading Flights of Passage: Recollections of a World War II Aviator by Samuel Hynes, a fabulously personal account of one man's experience learning to fly and fighting in the Pacific at the tail end of World War II. Many veterans of Hynes' generation are participating in the Veterans History Project organized by the American Folklife Center of the Library of Congress.

Finally available on DVD...

...author Jonathan Weiner's talk about Beak of the Finch
...the film where Fred Astaire cuts the rug with a drum set
...Sally Field's, um, multi-faceted, Emmy-winning 1975 performance as Sybil
...the acclaimed PBS American Experience Presidents collection, including LBJ, TR and Truman.
...and Hallelujah!, the first all-black sound movie from 1929.

No dancing

Elvis Costello is returning to Ann Arbor! The Summer Festival, which technically starts on June 16th, is bringing him to Hill Auditorium on June 13th. Costello will be acompanied by his band The Imposters and the New Orleans stylings of Allen Toussaint. "No dancing," by the way, is a track from his first album, My Aim is True.

The Today Show features AWOL

The Today Show highlights a new book on "The Unexcused Absence of America's Upper Classes from Military Service-and How It Hurts Our Country".

How many famous people can you name that are currently serving in the armed forces? Why aren't the rich and famous in uniform? Kathy Roth-Douquet and Frank Schaffer discuss how "we were raised in a culture, a privileged culture, that misunderstands and underestimates the meaning of military service".

The Dragon King of Hogwarts

It's true--a recently discovered dinosaur fossil in South Dakota has been named Dracorex hogwartsia after the Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry. In case you've been hiding in a cave for the past ten years, Hogwarts' most famous student is young Harry Potter. Dracorex hogwartsia earned its name because the dinosaur's flattened head looks a lot like a dragon, and dragons play an important role at Hogwarts. (Their Latin motto, in fact, translates to "a sleeping dragon must never be tickled.") Read more about the dragonlike pachycephalosaur or go see it the next time you are in Indianapolis.

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