In 1995, an unintended cult-classic trilogy was born with a film that centered on a simple, romantic premise. Two strangers in their early 20s spend a spontaneous night together in Vienna. The characters, Jesse and Celine, split ways in Before Sunrise, but they reunited nine years later for a sequel, Before Sunset.
In that sequel, Jesse and Celine, played by Ethan Hawke and Julie Delpy, find each other in Paris for another brief rendezvous. Even though both are now in other relationships, they can't shake their connection.
There was a time around 2003, before e-books and e-readers, when it seemed that everywhere you turned — in an airport, on a bus or anywhere people read — people were lost in The Kite Runner. An epic tale set in Afghanistan, the book sold more than 7 million copies in the U.S. and catapulted the author, Khaled Hosseini, onto the global literary stage.
Hosseini followed that success with another book about his homeland, A Thousand Splendid Suns, which also became a best-seller.
According to New Yorker writer George Packer, there used to be a kind of deal among Americans — a deal in which everyone had a place.
"People were more constrained than they are today, they had less freedom," he says, "but they had more security and there was a sense in which each generation felt that the next generation would be able to improve itself, to do better."
On-air challenge: Every answer is a familiar two-word phrase or name in which the first word starts with H-A and the second word starts with T.
Last week's challenge: From listener Al Gori of Cozy Lake, N.J. Name a famous American man — first and last names. Change the first letter of his first name from T to H. The result will sound like a term for an attractive person. Who is it?
NPR's Susan Stamberg reads an excerpt of one of the best submissions for Round 11 of our short story contest. She reads Plum Baby by Carmiel Banasky of Portland, Ore. You can read the full story below and find other stories on our Three-Minute Fiction page or on Facebook.
When 20-year-old Amanda Knox left for Italy in August 2007, it was supposed to be a carefree year studying abroad.
No one could have foreseen it ending in her being accused, tried and convicted in the murder of her roommate, Meredith Kercher.
The case, and Knox, became an international media sensation.
"I think that there was a lot of fantasy projected onto me," she tells weekends on All Things Considered host Jacki Lyden. "And that resulted in a re-appropriation and re-characterization of who I am."
In Elliott Holt's beautifully subtle debut novel You Are One of Them, the protagonist, an American in her 20s, moves to Moscow shortly after the Cold War. After a few months, she returns to the U.S. a changed woman.
Holt, who is 39, also lived in Moscow where she worked as a copywriter at an advertising agency, as well as in London and New York. Currently, she resides in Washington, D.C., and writes full time.
There isn't enough time in this world to grow your own tree. That tree is a plum baby still, never mind it's tall as the house those men are taking from us. It grew up with me. I say this to Mama Lee as she rests her hand on my shoulder like another shoulder. She nods and nods some more. She's been nodding all day like she's got two weights, one in her chin and the other in back of her skull that can't lie at rest.
We're standing in the yard facing the house in the dewy grass. The house is as old as Mama Lee's mama who died before I was born.