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Hulu’s ‘Harlots’ Follows Prostitutes In 18th Century London




ARI SHAPIRO, HOST:

A new British costume drama debuts on Hulu tonight, but if this genre is not your cup of tea, don’t tune out just yet. This is not “Masterpiece Theater.” The series, called “Harlots,” follows a female brothel owner and her daughters in 18th century London. NPR TV critic Eric Deggans says the show’s producers have excelled at crafting a modern story about the world’s oldest profession. And we should warn you. This story does have some frank language about sex.

ERIC DEGGANS, BYLINE: From the first episode, the action in “Harlots” poses a bold question. What would a TV show about prostitution look like if the creators and producers were mostly female?

(LAUGHTER)

DEGGANS: What it isn’t, especially in the opening moments, is subtle. Consider this scene where the ladies working in the brothel are reading reviews at their services in a book published in 1763 written as a sort of Yelp for prostitution.

(SOUNDBITE OF TV SHOW, “HARLOTS”)

UNIDENTIFIED ACTRESS #1: (As character) Let’s see what’s in here about you girls. Ms. Fanny Lambert – the very thing in winter for those who love a fat, jolly girl. A fine, bouncing, crummy wench – and not a miss in summer barring perspiration.

UNIDENTIFIED ACTRESS #2: (As character, laughter).

BRONWYN JAMES: (As Fanny Lambert) Does it say I stink?

UNIDENTIFIED ACTRESS #3: (As character) Perspire doesn’t mean stink.

UNIDENTIFIED ACTRESS #4: (As character) Yeah, it does.

DEGGANS: “Harlots” is a show created by two women, Moira Buffini and Alison Newman. Unlike most shows, “Harlots” features a mostly female creative team of producers, directors and writers. The result is a series that avoids the temptation of focusing on nude bodies and sex, which is arguably the way male producers have treated prostitutes in shows like “Game Of Thrones” and “Deadwood.”

Instead, we see Oscar nominee Samantha Morton as Margaret Wells. She’s a madam who sees prostitution as a route to financial independence at a time when women had to surrender their wealth to their husbands when they got married. And she’s not above teasing a rich customer by previewing when she will auction off her teenage daughter’s virginity.

(SOUNDBITE OF TV SHOW, “HARLOTS”)

SAMANTHA MORTON: (As Margaret Wells) I’m soon taking a fine new house. When we’re settled there, I’ll be taking sealed bids for Lucy’s virginity.

UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR #1: (As character) Twenty-five pounds to have her now.

MORTON: (As Margaret Wells) Sealed bids, as I did for Charlotte, my older daughter. She’s one of the brightest stars in London’s firmament, and I intend no less for Lucy.

DEGGANS: These aren’t exactly hookers with a heart of gold, but from Margaret’s point of view, she’s done her daughter Lucy a great service. She’s waited to induct her into the business even though she herself was sold to a madam at a much younger age.

(SOUNDBITE OF TV SHOW, “HARLOTS”)

MORTON: (As Margaret Wells) My mother took me down (unintelligible) Lane. She’d spent every last farthing on her gin, the slut. She sold me to a board for a pair of shoes. I was 10.

DEGGANS: “Harlots” is mostly about women making supremely difficult choices at a time when they had few options. According to a graphic at the beginning of the first episode, 1 in 5 women worked in the profession in England at that time. It’s kind of the anti-“Downton Abbey.”

That point’s driven home when you see “Downton” alum Jessica Brown Findlay – she played doomed daughter Sybil Crawley on that show – as Margaret Wells’ older daughter, Catherine (ph). Here, Catherine speaks up for her mother, who’s on trial for running a disreputable board or brothel.

(SOUNDBITE OF TV SHOW, “HARLOTS”)

JESSICA BROWN FINDLAY: (As Charlotte) We are pursued and harried like prey.

UNIDENTIFIED ACTRESS #5: (As character) That’s right, yeah.

FINDLAY: (As Charlotte) My mother protects her girls because the law does not.

(APPLAUSE)

UNIDENTIFIED ACTRESS #6: (As character) Charlotte, sit down.

FINDLAY: (As Charlotte) She is the exemplar of all the boards in London.

UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR #2: (As character) In your own words, you have admitted that your mother is a common board.

DEGGANS: Whoops – maybe she would have been better off keeping quiet just then. The show cheekily explores lots of topics, from the tension between religion and sex to the patriarchal power of a culture where men could plan their trips to the brothels right in front of their wives. Most importantly, this show created with a female gaze keeps its sights set on the humanity of its female characters despite their struggles working in an inhumane business. I’m Eric Deggans.

(SOUNDBITE OF LITTLE COMETS SONG, “WESTERN BOY”)

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‘One Of The Boys’ Tells The Story Of A Corrosive Father-Son Relationship


I was in the mood for reading “lite” this week. It was a nice fleeting thought. Instead, I took a detour because I got curious about Daniel Magariel’s slim debut novel, One of the Boys, which is adorned with raves from writers who mostly don’t generate such blurbs.

I found myself reading the novel in one still afternoon. A slim, deeply affecting and brutal story, One of the Boys is about the fierce power of a father-son relationship, which, in these pages, all but grinds a young boy to a pulp.

The unnamed narrator of One of the Boys is 12 years old. His parents are recently divorced, and he and his older brother have sided with their charismatic father against their mother.

The first scene here clues us in to both the father’s manipulative personality and to our young narrator’s terror of being left out, of being found unworthy to be “one of the boys.” The father finds out his ex-wife has accidentally struck our narrator with a telephone, and he pressures the boy to pose for Polaroids.

The father figures he can wangle out of spousal support and gain sole custody of his sons if his ex-wife is deemed abusive. He tells his sons they’ll then be able to leave their old life in Kansas and drive off to start afresh in Albuquerque, N.M. — a place the father has randomly fixated on.

But there’s a hitch: The red marks on the boy’s face are fading too fast. So the sly father hints that his older son should slap his brother. That’s when our young narrator, the miniature caretaker of this broken family, bravely takes charge. Here’s the boy’s account of what happens next:

“Wait,” I said

“What?” my father said.

In the mirror I remade my face with sorrow. This will get us free, I told myself. This was what they needed from me. With my right hand I slapped my right cheek. The left cheek with my left hand, then again, harder, alternating sides, following through a little further each time so that eventually my head turned not from the flinch but the blow. … I faced my father. “Now,” I said. “Take it now. ….”

My father kept clicking till the button stuck. After they developed, we chose five of the Polaroids to show Child Protective Services.

Out in Albuquerque, the boys and their father move into an anonymous apartment development. The boys enroll in school; the dad works long-distance as a financial adviser — that is, on those days when he bothers to work. As our narrator later says, “Our dad was an act with a single end. His trajectory: down, down, down.”

It doesn’t take long for the boys to discover the white powder that’s pulling their father down. In fact, the boys like it better when dad is on a binge because he’s docile. Other times, he rages, bloodies his sons with his belt buckle and becomes increasingly distrustful.

Here’s our narrator’s description, towards the end of the novel, of the family’s sun-baked apartment redecorated in paranoid style:

The blinds stayed drawn. … The folding room screens that once separated my father’s office from the living room now blockaded the glass porch door. For a while he’d moved a pizza box from window to window to keep the light out.

Why, you may well ask, would any reader want to enter this disturbed space? You hear the answer in those passages I’ve already quoted from One of the Boys. There’s nothing fake or forced in Magariel’s writing; he even pulls off the trick of relying on a 12-year-old narrator without pandering to sentimentality or wise-child syndrome.

Those are some of the pitfalls Magariel avoids; what he achieves is a novel that makes readers feel what it would be like to live on high alert all the time; to be at the mercy of a father’s addictions, crackpot whims and surges of violence. He also makes us feel what it would be like to still love such a father.

The subject of One of the Boys is archetypal, but Magariel’s novel depicts it with the power of stark revelation. We cannot turn away.

‘One Of The Boys’ Tells The Story Of A Corrosive Father-Son Relationship


I was in the mood for reading “lite” this week. It was a nice fleeting thought. Instead, I took a detour because I got curious about Daniel Magariel’s slim debut novel, One of the Boys, which is adorned with raves from writers who mostly don’t generate such blurbs.

I found myself reading the novel in one still afternoon. A slim, deeply affecting and brutal story, One of the Boys is about the fierce power of a father-son relationship, which, in these pages, all but grinds a young boy to a pulp.

The unnamed narrator of One of the Boys is 12 years old. His parents are recently divorced, and he and his older brother have sided with their charismatic father against their mother.

The first scene here clues us in to both the father’s manipulative personality and to our young narrator’s terror of being left out, of being found unworthy to be “one of the boys.” The father finds out his ex-wife has accidentally struck our narrator with a telephone, and he pressures the boy to pose for Polaroids.

The father figures he can wangle out of spousal support and gain sole custody of his sons if his ex-wife is deemed abusive. He tells his sons they’ll then be able to leave their old life in Kansas and drive off to start afresh in Albuquerque, N.M. — a place the father has randomly fixated on.

But there’s a hitch: The red marks on the boy’s face are fading too fast. So the sly father hints that his older son should slap his brother. That’s when our young narrator, the miniature caretaker of this broken family, bravely takes charge. Here’s the boy’s account of what happens next:

“Wait,” I said

“What?” my father said.

In the mirror I remade my face with sorrow. This will get us free, I told myself. This was what they needed from me. With my right hand I slapped my right cheek. The left cheek with my left hand, then again, harder, alternating sides, following through a little further each time so that eventually my head turned not from the flinch but the blow. … I faced my father. “Now,” I said. “Take it now. ….”

My father kept clicking till the button stuck. After they developed, we chose five of the Polaroids to show Child Protective Services.

Out in Albuquerque, the boys and their father move into an anonymous apartment development. The boys enroll in school; the dad works long-distance as a financial adviser — that is, on those days when he bothers to work. As our narrator later says, “Our dad was an act with a single end. His trajectory: down, down, down.”

It doesn’t take long for the boys to discover the white powder that’s pulling their father down. In fact, the boys like it better when dad is on a binge because he’s docile. Other times, he rages, bloodies his sons with his belt buckle and becomes increasingly distrustful.

Here’s our narrator’s description, towards the end of the novel, of the family’s sun-baked apartment redecorated in paranoid style:

The blinds stayed drawn. … The folding room screens that once separated my father’s office from the living room now blockaded the glass porch door. For a while he’d moved a pizza box from window to window to keep the light out.

Why, you may well ask, would any reader want to enter this disturbed space? You hear the answer in those passages I’ve already quoted from One of the Boys. There’s nothing fake or forced in Magariel’s writing; he even pulls off the trick of relying on a 12-year-old narrator without pandering to sentimentality or wise-child syndrome.

Those are some of the pitfalls Magariel avoids; what he achieves is a novel that makes readers feel what it would be like to live on high alert all the time; to be at the mercy of a father’s addictions, crackpot whims and surges of violence. He also makes us feel what it would be like to still love such a father.

The subject of One of the Boys is archetypal, but Magariel’s novel depicts it with the power of stark revelation. We cannot turn away.

‘One Of The Boys’ Tells The Story Of A Corrosive Father-Son Relationship


I was in the mood for reading “lite” this week. It was a nice fleeting thought. Instead, I took a detour because I got curious about Daniel Magariel’s slim debut novel, One of the Boys, which is adorned with raves from writers who mostly don’t generate such blurbs.

I found myself reading the novel in one still afternoon. A slim, deeply affecting and brutal story, One of the Boys is about the fierce power of a father-son relationship, which, in these pages, all but grinds a young boy to a pulp.

The unnamed narrator of One of the Boys is 12 years old. His parents are recently divorced, and he and his older brother have sided with their charismatic father against their mother.

The first scene here clues us in to both the father’s manipulative personality and to our young narrator’s terror of being left out, of being found unworthy to be “one of the boys.” The father finds out his ex-wife has accidentally struck our narrator with a telephone, and he pressures the boy to pose for Polaroids.

The father figures he can wangle out of spousal support and gain sole custody of his sons if his ex-wife is deemed abusive. He tells his sons they’ll then be able to leave their old life in Kansas and drive off to start afresh in Albuquerque, N.M. — a place the father has randomly fixated on.

But there’s a hitch: The red marks on the boy’s face are fading too fast. So the sly father hints that his older son should slap his brother. That’s when our young narrator, the miniature caretaker of this broken family, bravely takes charge. Here’s the boy’s account of what happens next:

“Wait,” I said

“What?” my father said.

In the mirror I remade my face with sorrow. This will get us free, I told myself. This was what they needed from me. With my right hand I slapped my right cheek. The left cheek with my left hand, then again, harder, alternating sides, following through a little further each time so that eventually my head turned not from the flinch but the blow. … I faced my father. “Now,” I said. “Take it now. ….”

My father kept clicking till the button stuck. After they developed, we chose five of the Polaroids to show Child Protective Services.

Out in Albuquerque, the boys and their father move into an anonymous apartment development. The boys enroll in school; the dad works long-distance as a financial adviser — that is, on those days when he bothers to work. As our narrator later says, “Our dad was an act with a single end. His trajectory: down, down, down.”

It doesn’t take long for the boys to discover the white powder that’s pulling their father down. In fact, the boys like it better when dad is on a binge because he’s docile. Other times, he rages, bloodies his sons with his belt buckle and becomes increasingly distrustful.

Here’s our narrator’s description, towards the end of the novel, of the family’s sun-baked apartment redecorated in paranoid style:

The blinds stayed drawn. … The folding room screens that once separated my father’s office from the living room now blockaded the glass porch door. For a while he’d moved a pizza box from window to window to keep the light out.

Why, you may well ask, would any reader want to enter this disturbed space? You hear the answer in those passages I’ve already quoted from One of the Boys. There’s nothing fake or forced in Magariel’s writing; he even pulls off the trick of relying on a 12-year-old narrator without pandering to sentimentality or wise-child syndrome.

Those are some of the pitfalls Magariel avoids; what he achieves is a novel that makes readers feel what it would be like to live on high alert all the time; to be at the mercy of a father’s addictions, crackpot whims and surges of violence. He also makes us feel what it would be like to still love such a father.

The subject of One of the Boys is archetypal, but Magariel’s novel depicts it with the power of stark revelation. We cannot turn away.

Bob Dylan Agrees To Accept His Nobel Prize During A Tour Stop In Stockholm


Bob Dylan speaks onstage at the MusiCares 2015 Person Of The Year Gala in Los Angeles. Dylan was awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature in October — though he has not yet accepted it. The Swedish Academy has announced he plans to do so this weekend in Stockholm.

Frazer Harrison/Getty Images


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Frazer Harrison/Getty Images

Bob Dylan speaks onstage at the MusiCares 2015 Person Of The Year Gala in Los Angeles. Dylan was awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature in October — though he has not yet accepted it. The Swedish Academy has announced he plans to do so this weekend in Stockholm.

Frazer Harrison/Getty Images

Bob Dylan will be accepting his Nobel Prize in Literature this weekend, according to the permanent secretary of the Swedish Academy. In a blog post Tuesday, Sara Danius announced the “good news” that members of the academy will be meeting with Dylan when he makes a tour stop in Stockholm.

“The Swedish Academy is very much looking forward to the weekend and will show up at one of the performances” Dylan is delivering on Saturday and Sunday, Danius writes. “The Academy will then hand over Dylan’s Nobel diploma and the Nobel medal, and congratulate him on the Nobel Prize in Literature.”

She adds: “The setting will be small and intimate, and no media will be present; only Bob Dylan and members of the Academy will attend, all according to Dylan’s wishes.”

In a previous post, Danius was careful to note that the tour date in Stockholm had been planned well before Dylan won the prize, which he was awarded in October “for having created new poetic expressions within the great American song tradition,” according to the Swedish Academy’s citation.

“He is a great poet in the English-speaking tradition, and he is a wonderful sampler — a very original sampler,” Danius said at the time, explaining the decision to award a musician a prize that for more than a century has principally been doled out to novelists, poets and essayists.

Yet the unusual decision was just the first installment of what came to be an unusual saga — as Dylan first waited more than two weeks to acknowledge the award, then begged off attending the December ceremony where it was to be doled out. Dylan sent a personal letter to the academy saying he could not make it to Stockholm then due to “pre-existing commitments.”

Instead, Patti Smith spelled Dylan for a moving rendition of his classic, “A Hard Rain’s Gonna Fall.”

It remains unclear whether this weekend’s meeting portends warmer embrace of the prize from Dylan, who has yet to fulfill his one requirement to receive the roughly $900,000 that comes with it: delivery of the Nobel lecture, a traditional talk on a topic of the laureate’s choosing.

That requirement, set by the rules of the Nobel Foundation, must be satisfied by June 10 for Dylan to pick up the prize money.

“Please note that no Nobel Lecture will be held. The Academy has reason to believe that a taped version will be sent at a later point,” Danius says in her post, noting that if he sends a taped lecture, he will not be the first.

Alice Munro, the 2013 laureate, had to send a taped lecture because of health woes, as we reported then.

Dylan did, however, write an acceptance speech for the December ceremony that was delivered by the U.S. ambassador to Sweden, Azita Raji.

“If someone had ever told me that I had the slightest chance of winning the Nobel prize,” Dylan wrote, “I would have to think that I’d have about the same odds as standing on the moon.”

Celebrating A Glorious Life Of Excess In ‘A Really Big Lunch’


Jim Harrison lived as he wrote, vividly. When his overtaxed heart finally gave out last year, he left a trail of 40 books, mainly fiction and poetry, in which he conveyed his untamed passions for booze, botany, sex, hunting, fishing and literature. His deep empathy for America’s disenfranchised was matched by his overarching intolerance of small-minded “nit-wit authorities.” He has been compared to Hemingway and Faulkner, and called the American Rabelais, a Mozart of the Prairie, and a force of nature.

A Really Big Lunch, whose publication marks the first anniversary of Harrison’s death, brings him roaring to the page again in all his unapologetic immoderacy, with spicy bon mots and salty language augmented by family photographs. These 47 rambling meditations on food, wine, writing, and aging first appeared between 1981 and 2015, in magazines from Smoke Signals and Brick to Kermit Lynch Wine Merchant. They are a sequel, of sorts, to The Raw and the Cooked: Adventures of a Roving Gourmand, published in 2001.

The title essay, which gained a certain notoriety when it was published in The New Yorker in 2004, chronicles an outrageously over-the-top 37-course lunch in Burgundy, in which Harrison partook with gusto. The menu, culled from 17 cookbooks published between 1654 and 1823, included tart of calf’s brain, stew of suckling pig and terrine of hare. Harrison acknowledges that it “likely cost as much as a new Volvo station wagon,” but pushes back against critics hilariously: “My response to them is that none of us 12 disciples of gourmandise wanted a new Volvo. We wanted only lunch and since lunch lasted approximately 11 hours we saved money by not having to buy dinner. The defense rests.”

Harrison’s writing is pungent. He’s often a hoot, though frequently exhausting, too. Writers, he says, “are isolated stockbrokers of life’s essences, and it is always 1929.” Preferring to mince garlic rather than words, he’s scathing on American politics (“fraught with acute mental dysentery”), publishing (“that Walmart of words”), and the “bliss ninnies” or “body-Nazis” who cotton to what he calls the “Gandhi diet.” Tofu, he comments, is “gustatory self-laceration.”

His tastes are defiantly carnivorous, and he goes after vegans and vegetarians with a sharpened steak knife. In “Eat Your Heart Out,” the earliest and funniest essay in the book, he marks his turf: “A warning to certain of your left-leaning, spit-dribbling, eco-freak readers: I kill much of what I eat; ducks, quail, deer, grouse, woodcock, trout, salmon, bluegills, the lowly carp … These people should know that technically speaking their bean sprouts scream when they are jerked out by their roots.”

Harrison’s recipes are not for the delicate. “The rule of thumb,” he writes, “is ‘moderate to excess.'” He urges people to spend as much as they can on food and wine, because “what you choose to eat directly reflects the quality of your days.” Just when I’m calculating how I could reduce the spices in his Pork Spareribs, Chicken, and Hot Italian Sausage by, say, 90 percent, I read: “Do not change or substitute! … I’ve written a new novel called Warlock. You tamper with my recipes at your peril!” No wonder he’s been called a food bully.

Related NPR Stories

Harrison, an impenitent chain-smoker, wine-guzzler, and over-eater, was not exactly a poster boy for healthy living. Much of the book chronicles his physical decline as his body responds to his “glorious life of excess” with Type 2 diabetes, gout, kidney stones, chronic shingles, and spondylolisthesis. Having to restrict his wine intake and epic walks near his homes in Montana and Arizona drive him “close to cashing out.”

Although pain and mortality may be sobering, his language is punch-drunk lively: “Only humor and humility allow you to endure life as a senior with its clear view of a mile-high, neon-lit exit sign,” he writes. Describing one of his many pilgrimages to the graves of beloved writers, he calls the interred “dirt-nappers.”

Like the 2013 anthology of his wonderful novellas about Brown Dog, a charming Chippewa-Finnish woodsman, lecher, and philosophizing free spirit, this collection has not been edited for continuity, so repetitions abound. We read over and over again that Harrison’s books have sold much better in France than America, that red wine is “liquid fuel,” and that his dear friend Mario Batali makes heavenly lardo (the neck fat of a specially fed pig). The legendary 11-hour lunch grows to 12 hours and then 13, but is always accompanied by “just” 19 different wines.

Reading this book straight through is not advised, unless you have the stamina of those gourmands at the really big lunch. But snacking on classic Harrisonisms like “I’ve never been the man I used to be” is deliciously filling.

Celebrating A Glorious Life Of Excess In ‘A Really Big Lunch’


Jim Harrison lived as he wrote, vividly. When his overtaxed heart finally gave out last year, he left a trail of 40 books, mainly fiction and poetry, in which he conveyed his untamed passions for booze, botany, sex, hunting, fishing and literature. His deep empathy for America’s disenfranchised was matched by his overarching intolerance of small-minded “nit-wit authorities.” He has been compared to Hemingway and Faulkner, and called the American Rabelais, a Mozart of the Prairie, and a force of nature.

A Really Big Lunch, whose publication marks the first anniversary of Harrison’s death, brings him roaring to the page again in all his unapologetic immoderacy, with spicy bon mots and salty language augmented by family photographs. These 47 rambling meditations on food, wine, writing, and aging first appeared between 1981 and 2015, in magazines from Smoke Signals and Brick to Kermit Lynch Wine Merchant. They are a sequel, of sorts, to The Raw and the Cooked: Adventures of a Roving Gourmand, published in 2001.

The title essay, which gained a certain notoriety when it was published in The New Yorker in 2004, chronicles an outrageously over-the-top 37-course lunch in Burgundy, in which Harrison partook with gusto. The menu, culled from 17 cookbooks published between 1654 and 1823, included tart of calf’s brain, stew of suckling pig and terrine of hare. Harrison acknowledges that it “likely cost as much as a new Volvo station wagon,” but pushes back against critics hilariously: “My response to them is that none of us 12 disciples of gourmandise wanted a new Volvo. We wanted only lunch and since lunch lasted approximately 11 hours we saved money by not having to buy dinner. The defense rests.”

Harrison’s writing is pungent. He’s often a hoot, though frequently exhausting, too. Writers, he says, “are isolated stockbrokers of life’s essences, and it is always 1929.” Preferring to mince garlic rather than words, he’s scathing on American politics (“fraught with acute mental dysentery”), publishing (“that Walmart of words”), and the “bliss ninnies” or “body-Nazis” who cotton to what he calls the “Gandhi diet.” Tofu, he comments, is “gustatory self-laceration.”

His tastes are defiantly carnivorous, and he goes after vegans and vegetarians with a sharpened steak knife. In “Eat Your Heart Out,” the earliest and funniest essay in the book, he marks his turf: “A warning to certain of your left-leaning, spit-dribbling, eco-freak readers: I kill much of what I eat; ducks, quail, deer, grouse, woodcock, trout, salmon, bluegills, the lowly carp … These people should know that technically speaking their bean sprouts scream when they are jerked out by their roots.”

Harrison’s recipes are not for the delicate. “The rule of thumb,” he writes, “is ‘moderate to excess.'” He urges people to spend as much as they can on food and wine, because “what you choose to eat directly reflects the quality of your days.” Just when I’m calculating how I could reduce the spices in his Pork Spareribs, Chicken, and Hot Italian Sausage by, say, 90 percent, I read: “Do not change or substitute! … I’ve written a new novel called Warlock. You tamper with my recipes at your peril!” No wonder he’s been called a food bully.

Related NPR Stories

Harrison, an impenitent chain-smoker, wine-guzzler, and over-eater, was not exactly a poster boy for healthy living. Much of the book chronicles his physical decline as his body responds to his “glorious life of excess” with Type 2 diabetes, gout, kidney stones, chronic shingles, and spondylolisthesis. Having to restrict his wine intake and epic walks near his homes in Montana and Arizona drive him “close to cashing out.”

Although pain and mortality may be sobering, his language is punch-drunk lively: “Only humor and humility allow you to endure life as a senior with its clear view of a mile-high, neon-lit exit sign,” he writes. Describing one of his many pilgrimages to the graves of beloved writers, he calls the interred “dirt-nappers.”

Like the 2013 anthology of his wonderful novellas about Brown Dog, a charming Chippewa-Finnish woodsman, lecher, and philosophizing free spirit, this collection has not been edited for continuity, so repetitions abound. We read over and over again that Harrison’s books have sold much better in France than America, that red wine is “liquid fuel,” and that his dear friend Mario Batali makes heavenly lardo (the neck fat of a specially fed pig). The legendary 11-hour lunch grows to 12 hours and then 13, but is always accompanied by “just” 19 different wines.

Reading this book straight through is not advised, unless you have the stamina of those gourmands at the really big lunch. But snacking on classic Harrisonisms like “I’ve never been the man I used to be” is deliciously filling.

The Tahri That Binds: How A Sweet Rice Dish Connects A Woman To Her History


There are many rituals associated with the Hindu Sindh holiday Cheti Chand, which falls on March 29 this year. One that continues to hold meaning for the author is the consumption of tahri, or sweet rice, during langar, the communal meal at the end of the celebration.

Pooja Makhijani for NPR


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Pooja Makhijani for NPR

There are many rituals associated with the Hindu Sindh holiday Cheti Chand, which falls on March 29 this year. One that continues to hold meaning for the author is the consumption of tahri, or sweet rice, during langar, the communal meal at the end of the celebration.

Pooja Makhijani for NPR

I have always found it difficult to explain my family’s syncretic faith traditions to both white Americans and to other South Asians. We are Hindu Sindhis, originating from an area around the Indus River, in what is now modern southeast Pakistan. On our home altar, familiar Hindu idols — Lakshmi, Ganesh, Krishna — share space with images of the 10 Sikh gurus and Jhulelal. Jhulelal, a river deity, is not only the patron saint of Hindu Sindhis, but is also revered by Sufi Muslims. For many, my religion is an outlandish concoction of incompatible faiths. But one thing that brings it all together is our traditional foods.

My grandparents left newly formed Pakistan in 1947, after the Partition of British India, in one of the largest mass migrations in human history. They settled in refugee camps in Gujarat and Uttar Pradesh before migrating to Pune, an Indian city with a large Sindhi diaspora and where my parents were born.

In independent India, my family felt spiritually alienated, because their practices were viewed as not “truly Hindu” by their new neighbors. As communities in exile often do, Sindhi Hindus formed tight-knit, transnational networks, and these practices, as well as language and food, became a vital connection to their roots.

After immigrating to the United States, my parents steadfastly held onto their “Sindhi-ness.” The Hindu Sindhi diaspora in the U.S. is small; according to the Census Bureau, fewer than 10,000 people of any and all faiths speak Sindhi. As a child, I was shuttled to Sindhi camps and conventions, spoken to only in Sindhi, and served unusual Sindhi dishes.

Once a year, we went to Ved Mandir, a run-down, drafty temple in central New Jersey to celebrate Cheti Chand, the Sindhi New Year and a celebration of the birth of Jhulelal. There, my aunties and uncles sang passionate devotional songs in praise of Jhulelal, and danced the ecstatic chhej (a Sindhi folk dance).

As I got older, I categorically rejected all these trappings of my subculture. It was much easier to be a “mainstream” Indian and to assume more conventional Hindu practices. But now that I’m an adult — and a parent — I’m reclaiming all the quirky bits of my culture and faith.

Jhulelal is known by various names and worshiped in many forms; his shrine in Pakistan receives both Hindu and Muslim pilgrims. But this white-bearded saint who sits on fish and whose image is found in nearly all Sindhi homes was originally a marginal deity for a particular group of Sindhis who prayed to the Indus River, according to Steven Ramey, associate professor in the Department of Religious Studies at the University of Alabama and author of Hindu, Sufi or Sikh: Contested Practices and Identifications of Sindhi Hindus in India and Beyond.

After Partition, however, the singer Ram Panjwani, known as a cultural ambassador of the Sindhi community, recast Jhulelal into a Sindhi icon. “Panjwani] consciously popularized Jhulelal as a Hindu Sindhi deity,” says Ramey. Panjwani set Muslim and Hindu spirituals about the glory of Jhulelal to music. These hymns were then published and distributed among the diaspora.

There are many rituals associated with the holiday Cheti Chand, which falls on March 29 this year, but two continue to hold both nostalgia and meaning for me: pallao payan, when devotees hold their garment hems, or the ends of their mother’s sari, as I once did, to pray to Jhulelal, and the consumption of tahri or sweet rice, during langar, the communal meal at the end of the celebration.

During langar, we sit cross-legged on the floor while volunteers scoop heaps of this sticky, aromatic rice onto our plates. Tahri is complex in flavor. Its varying ingredients — sugar or jaggery, fennel seeds, cardamom, and caraway seeds — give it a sweet, bitter, peppery and earthy taste. Its perfume is sharp and slightly aggressive.

Because of Sindh’s location on the Silk Road, its cuisine has been influenced influenced by Persian, Arab and central Asian cooking. The Mughal Empire’s Muslim rulers’ decadent staples, such as saffron and pistachios for example, are showcased in tahri. During langar, tahri was often served with sai bhaji, a green, leafy vegetable and lentil stew, or bhee aloo, lotus stem and potato curry, both considered comfort foods for this uprooted population.

A spoonful of tahri instantly transports me to the Cheti Chand functions of my childhood — of family members chanting, “Jeko chawundo Jhulelal, tehnija theenda bera paar (Whomever calls the name of Jhulelal, their ship will safely reach the shore),” while greeting each other on that special day.

This week, I’ll be cooking bowlfuls for my daughter, who has a sweet tooth. She, too, may turn away from all of this one day. But I’m doing my best to hold onto that which has survived through war, migration and globalization, just as my own parents and grandparents did.

The author’s tahri, from a family recipe

Pooja Makhijani for NPR


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Pooja Makhijani for NPR

The author’s tahri, from a family recipe

Pooja Makhijani for NPR

Tahri

This family recipe comes to us from the author.

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup Basmati rice
  • 2 cups water
  • ½ cup sugar
  • 4 cardamoms pods
  • few strands of saffron
  • ½ teaspoon fennel seeds
  • pinch of salt
  • 4 tablespoons ghee
  • ¼ cup silvered almonds, chopped pistachios, and chopped cashews (for garnish)
  • ½ teaspoon caraway seeds (for garnish)
  1. Heat ghee over medium heat in heavy-bottomed pan. Sauté cardamom pods and rice until cardamom is fragrant and rice is coated.
  2. Add water, saffron, fennel seeds, and salt. Bring the mixture to a boil.
  3. Cook until water has reduced by half, and rice is half-cooked.
  4. Add sugar, reduce heat to medium-low, and simmer until rice is cooked.
  5. Garnish with nuts and caraway seeds.

Pooja Makhijani is a New Jersey-based journalist, essayist, and children’s book writer. Visit her online home at poojamakhijani.com.

First Episode Of ‘All Things Considered’ Is Headed To Library Of Congress


(From left) Renee Chaney, visitor Louisa Parker, Linda Wertheimer and Kris Mortensen, in the first All Things Considered studio in 1972.

NPR


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(From left) Renee Chaney, visitor Louisa Parker, Linda Wertheimer and Kris Mortensen, in the first All Things Considered studio in 1972.

NPR

Quick quiz: What do Judy Garland’s rendition of “Over the Rainbow,” N.W.A’s seminal Straight Outta Compton and the inaugural episode of NPR’s All Things Considered have in common?

That little riddle just got a little easier to answer on Wednesday: The Library of Congress announced that all three “aural treasures” — along with roughly two dozen other recordings — have been inducted into its National Recording Registry.

“These sounds of the past enrich our understanding of the nation’s cultural history and our history in general,” Librarian of Congress Carla Hayden said in a statement. The release also notes that these titles have been inducted for “their cultural, artistic and historical importance to American society and the nation’s audio heritage.”

Below, take a listen to a piece from the debut of All Things Considered, which focused on May Day protests against the Vietnam War on May 3, 1971, roughly one month after NPR itself got its start.

“It is such an honor and a privilege to be brought into this distinguished company,” said Susan Stamberg, who has been with NPR since the very start, and had a 14-year run as host of All Things Considered, beginning in 1972.

“For the sounds that we made on the first day to be right up there with Martin Luther King Jr.’s ‘I Have a Dream’ speech or Neil Armstrong’s first words spoken by a human being on the moon — that’s very lofty company for us.”

Now, with the first All Things Considered — plus other 2016 inductees such as Barbra Streisand’s 1964 debut, “People,” and the Brooklyn Dodgers’ and New York Giants’ last game at the Polo Grounds — the total number of works on the National Recording Registry comes to 475.

To see more about the induction, and what NPR eminences have to say about it, head right here. And find the rest of the new inductees below the slideshow of NPR through the years.

The List

  • The 1888 London cylinder recordings of Col. George Gouraud (1888)
  • “Lift Every Voice and Sing,” by Manhattan Harmony Four (1923) and Melba Moore and Friends (1990)
  • “Puttin’ on the Ritz,” by Harry Richman (1929)
  • “Over the Rainbow,” Judy Garland (1939)
  • “I’ll Fly Away,,” The Chuck Wagon Gang (1948)
  • “Hound Dog,” Big Mama Thornton (1953)
  • “Saxophone Colossus,” Sonny Rollins (1956)
  • The Brooklyn Dodgers and the New York Giants at the Polo Grounds, announced by Vin Scully (September 8, 1957)
  • Gunfighter Ballads and Trail Songs, Marty Robbins (1959)
  • The Incredible Jazz Guitar of Wes Montgomery, Wes Montgomery (1960)
  • “People,” Barbra Streisand (1964)
  • “In the Midnight Hour,” Wilson Pickett (1965)
  • “Amazing Grace,” Judy Collins (1970)
  • “American Pie,” Don McLean (1971)
  • All Things Considered, first broadcast (May 3, 1971)
  • The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars, David Bowie (1972)
  • The Wiz, original cast album (1975)
  • Their Greatest Hits (1971–1975), Eagles (1976)
  • Scott Joplin’s Treemonisha, Gunter Schuller, arr. (1976)
  • Wanted: Live in Concert, Richard Pryor (1978)
  • “We Are Family,” Sister Sledge (1979)
  • Remain in Light, Talking Heads (1980)
  • Straight Outta Compton, N.W.A (1988)
  • Rachmaninoff’s Vespers (All-Night Vigil), Robert Shaw Festival Singers (1990)
  • Signatures, Renée Fleming (1997)