literature

Paul Andrews / paulandrewsphotography.com

Every city has that one bookstore, the irreverent corner shop where literary types plot revolutions. In Kansas City, that bookstore is Prospero's, owned by Will Leathem. Leathem took a surprising path to becoming a used book salesman.

 

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LitFestKC

Today, Jon Scieszka and Javaka Steptoe, heavy-hitters on the kid's lit scene, talk about promoting literacy and how the environment for fostering it has changed since they were little. They also reveal the creative processes behind some of their best-known works.

Paul Andrews / paulandrewsphotography.com

In a tiny plane over the Amazon rainforest, Kansas City writer Candice Millard plummeted to what she was sure would be her death.

courtesy of the artists; photo of Daniel Coburn by Bruce Wagman

Applicants are warned, as Inside Philanthropy puts it: "Don't even think about attempting to apply for this fellowship unless you are at the absolute top of your game."

Cody Newill / KCUR 89.3

More than 100 literary nerds and public radio geeks packed recordBar Tuesday for reBOUND, an annual book exchange hosted by Generation Listen KC and the Young Friends of the Kansas City Public Library

Missouri Auditor's Office

Today, bestselling author and political activist Francine Prose shares her thoughts on the importance of the written word. She says the First Amendment is under threat, and explains why what we write counts now more than ever. Then, we speak with Missouri State Auditor Nicole Galloway, who says certain executive payments the University of Missouri System awards break the law.

Paul Andrews / www.paulandrewsphotography.com

On March 20, 1978, William Least Heat-Moon left Columbia, Missouri in a Ford van. The van, which he named Ghost Dancing, would be his home for the next three months.

He was 38 years old. His marriage was falling apart. He'd lost his teaching job due to staffing cutbacks. His decision to get behind the wheel in search of America's stories was part dream, part desperation.

Now that the van is a literary artifact, he has to visit it in a museum. And he's careful not to get behind the wheel. Sitting back in that driver's seat makes him misty eyed.

Courtesy of Sherie Randolph / sheriemrandolph.com

In the early 1900s, in a home near 18th and Vine, a young black mother made her daughter promise never to have children. That little girl became a radical feminist, who pried her way into Columbia Law School in a time when they weren't even admitting black men. Historian Sherie Randolph unearths the life and times of the late Flo Kennedy. 

Plus, an encore broadcast: One local academic on performing around the world as Zora Neale Hurston. 

Guests:

UMKC

Shooting off an email has largely supplanted the practice of hand-writing letters, but certain Letters of Note remind us of their allure. Then, we explore the 83-year history of the University of Missouri-Kansas City with a university staffer who's known to give lunchtime historical tours of the Midtown campus.

Penguin Random House

Are you looking for a special book for the young people in your life? If so, our panel of Johnson County Librarians have their holiday gift recommendations ready for you — and just in time!

From the story of a boy who finally connects with his distant father through the unlikely language of music, to a tale of some ragtag kids, and a loyal greyhound, escaping 13th-century France, these titles are sure to get your children through what could otherwise be a long winter break. 

For preschool through 2nd grade

First, we look at The Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art's latest plans for expansion that's raising a few questions with some of its neighbors.

On this Election Day, we hear from listeners about their experiences at the polls. Then, learn how Electionland is bringing together a team of media outlets, including KCUR, in a collaborative effort to inform you on the latest voting issues and problems.

In the early 1690s, Massachusetts got swept up in the madness of witch hunts, which culminated in the Salem witch trials and the execution of 20 people. On this edition of Up To Date, Pulitzer Prize-winning author Stacy Schiff talks about the 1692 tragedy that still fascinates us today, and how it compares to modern times.

In a dimly lit room in Madrid in the late 1700s, a theologian reads aloud to his friend the priest. It's not such a surprising scene, except that just outside, peasants and artisans have pressed their ears up against the door, enraptured by what turned out to be the 18th Century version of . . . pornography.

One KU history professor joins us to share how she discovered this literature, and what it tells us about what ordinary people read during the time.

Guest: 

C.J. Janovy / KCUR 89.3

Out in Western Kansas, not too far from Dodge City, is the town of Jetmore. It’s home to about 900 people, including the Bradshaw family. Young Crystal Bradshaw had a happy childhood there, but one thing was missing, so she set out to solve a family mystery.

She ended up writing an important book about Kansas – before she even went to college.

These days, political discourse may feature the occasional soaring oratory, but more often, it comes down to talking heads yelling at each other. Maybe what the world needs now is the kind of politics found only in books. As we approach the 2016 presidential election, we take a moment to explore the best books about politics with KCUR's Bibliofiles.

Guests:

Kansas City author and teacher Whitney Terrell embedded with the U.S. military in Iraq about a decade ago — writing for publications such as Slate Magazine and The Washington Post. Some of the stories he heard became the basis for his third novel, The Good Lieutenant, an eye-opening look at women in the military.  

  The dog days of summer are just around the corner ... or maybe they’re already here. One way that kids can beat them is with a great book. Our panel of librarians were here again with their favorite titles of the summer.

Guests:

  • Debbie McLeod, retired librarian.
  • Dennis Ross, director of youth services at the Johnson County Public Library.
  • Lacie Griffin, collection development specialist at the Johnson County Public Library. 

Books:

C.J. Janovy / KCUR 89.3

Juan Felipe Herrera's official duty is to be the "lightning rod for the poetic impulse of Americans."

That's how the Library of Congress begins its job description for the United States poet laureate. In other words, the poet-in-chief "seeks to raise the national consciousness to a greater appreciation of the reading and writing of poetry."

Ernest Hemingway honed his writing style as a cub reporter in Kansas City, however, his later years were spent in Cuba. We look at a new movie about that period in Hemingway's life and whether a new generation of readers is finding its way to his works.

Guests:

  • Bob Yari, director of Papa Hemingway in Cuba, the first U.S. film shot entirely in Cuba since 1959.
  • Mariel Hemingway, granddaughter of Ernest Hemingway.
  • Steve Paul is a Hemingway scholar

Jane Austen lived centuries ago, yet she still inspires best-sellers and box-office hits. What's the secret to her staying power? This is a search for the authors who embody those Austen-esque qualities today, including some unexpected picks that might surprise you. Plus, a second look at Austen's least popular novel: Mansfield Park.

Guests:

Taylor Galscock

Walter Bargen served as the first poet laureate of Missouri, in 2008 and 2009. His poems, essays, and stories have been published in more than 300 magazines.

In advance of his appearance in Kansas City this Tuesday, KCUR aired an excerpt from the New Letters on the Air archives, when Bargen read a poem and spoke with Angela Elam about the sometimes strange role of the public poet.

Being scared doesn't make my list of top five emotions. It's not even in the top 20. I actively dislike both roller coasters and horror movies. (In fact, a Donald Duck fire safety video I saw when I was 4 scared me enough that I can still recall scenes from the movie, vividly.) And though I'm not Polyannaish in my reading taste, I'm not a thrill seeker, either. Live radio supplies me with plenty of adrenaline.

So it's saying a lot that the weekend before Kansas author Cote Smith came on Central Standard to talk about the anxiety-laced world he created in his new novel Hurt People, I found myself glued to my seat for hours, heart thumping along to the words on the page.

It's Leavenworth, Kan., in the 1980s. Two young boys. One escaped convict. Two recently divorced parents too absorbed in their own struggles to fully supervise their children. An apartment-complex swimming pool. A mysterious new friend. 

Meet the Leavenworth-born novelist behind this vision.

Guests:

The owners of a popular children's bookstore in Brookside are moving on to their new project: an immersive "explorastorium" for children's literature, to be called The Rabbit Hole. The inside scoop on this couple's love affair with stories, books, paper-mache... and each other. 

Guests:

In the Landry Park series for teen readers, local author Bethany Hagen pictures the year 2300. From class warfare to energy sustainability issues, it's a dark vision informed by the author's own experience growing up in Kansas City.

Guests:

  • Bethany Hagen, author, Landry Park and Jubilee Manor

Pexels / Creative Commons

The con-man may be someone  you want to avoid in real life, but he is a beloved figure in literature. Why do readers and writers love the con artist so? And why is he always a "he"? Lots of reading recommendations, plus the story of a local writer who's not only written about the con-man; he's also been one.

Guests:

Witnessing the death of his brother, moving to Bleeding Kansas during the border war, losing his father and protecting his family. All of this happened in the life of Billy Cody before he ever turned into the legend known as "Buffalo Bill."

Guest:

She’s written 21 books which have been translated into 35 languages. Her list of awards — which includes a Presidential Medal of Honor — could practically fill a book itself. Chilean-American author Isabel Allende joins Steve Kraske to talk about her latest book, her inspirations and her eventful life.

When we explored the life of Charlie Parker earlier this year, we were told that you can't talk about the history of jazz without talking about drugs. Is that true about the arts in general?

Guests:

  • Jan Schall, curator, Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art
  • Clancy Martin, writer
  • Chuck Haddix, host, The Fish Fry on KCUR

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