In Peter Carey's new novel, The Chemistry of Tears, the hero and the heroine are separated by 150 years. It is an object — a piece of technology — that brings Catherine and Henry together: An enormous, 19th-century, mechanical duck.
Catherine, a horologist — an expert on the inner workings of clocks — is restoring it in the present day. It's a distraction from the sudden death of her married lover. Henry, more than a century earlier, commissions the duck as a giant toy for his beloved, but very sick child.
Gideon Lewis-Kraus was confused. A few years ago, the American 20-something was living in Berlin, hanging out in art galleries and nameless speak-easies, preoccupied with living a creatively meaningful life, but unsure what that meant or how to make it happen.
In 1919, Chicago was called the "youngest great city in the world." World War I had just come to a close, troops were coming home, industry was booming and crime was down. Chicago's mayor at the time, William Hale Thompson — known as Big Bill — had just been re-elected and was spearheading an ambitious urban improvement program.
But in mid-July of 1919, just about everything that could go wrong in Chicago did. Among the headlines were a deadly dirigible crash, a bizarre kidnapping, race riots and a major public transit strike.
The star of John Irving's new novel, In One Person, is Billy Abbott. Billy is a character at the mercy of his own teenage crushes, which are visited upon by a whole repertory company of gender-bending characters.
It's a repertory company in the most literal sense, too. Billy spends many days backstage at the local theater — where gender can also fluctuate and where his family members are regulars.
NPR listeners normally hear from sports commentator Frank Deford for three minutes at a time Wednesday mornings, as he opines on the latest follies of the sporting world. But Deford fans have been getting to hear the veteran sportswriter at greater length lately. He's on a book tour for his new memoir, Over Time: My Life as a Sportswriter. When Deford stopped in Washington, D.C., NPR's Steve Inskeep had the chance to interview him in front of a lively crowd.