Like many people, I long wanted to read, or at least be able to say that I had read, Walter Benjamin, widely acclaimed as one of the geniuses of 20th century literature. But I was daunted by the fact that his most celebrated work, The Arcades Project, is difficult, long and surrounded by dense clouds of academia, mystifying would-be readers in Europe and America.
I became un-daunted, and un-snobbed, when I discovered his Berlin Childhood around 1900.
Movie sets are usually sort of surreal — all that make-believe and artifice wrapped in the mechanics of a high-stakes industry. But this particular set, in the Universal Studios back lot, is even weirder. It was built for Westerns, with an old-timey saloon and hitching posts.
Right now, it's overrun by professional football players dressed up as cowboys or working as crew.
Cartoonist Alison Bechdel's first memoir came out in 2006. Called Fun Home, it dug deep into her complicated relationship with her father, a closeted gay man who poured his emotional energy into redecorating their Victorian Gothic home. He died, possibly a suicide, shortly after Bechdel herself came out as a lesbian in college.
That's a lot of information to take in, but it's an essential backdrop for Bechdel's new book, Are You My Mother? It's a searching, and at times visceral, portrait of Bechdel and her mother — a relationship that's still evolving.
On-Air Challenge: Every answer is a phrase in the form "___ in the ___." You'll be given rhymes for the first and last words, and you give the phrases.
Last Week's Challenge From Listener Peter Persoff of Piedmont, Calif.: Think of a common three-letter word and five-letter word that together consist of eight different letters of the alphabet. Put the same pair of letters in front of each of these words, and you will have the present and past-tense forms of the same verb. What words are these?