Any society heading for more repression tends to put a lid on its fiction writers. 

Azar Nafisi, who lived under the regime in Iran, has seen it happen.  She demonstrated fiction's power when she taught there; she appreciates it at least as much now that she lives in the United States. 

Azar Nafisi joined us in 2015 to talk about books that should and do motivate Americans: The Republic of Imagination: A Life in Books

Does the name J.P. Beaumont mean anything to you?  How about Ali Reynolds?  Joanna Brady?  If none of those names mean anything, you probably don't read mystery novels, at least the novels of J.A. Jance. 

To call her a prolific author is putting it mildly... between her three series of murder mysteries and novellas, she's cranked out roughly 60 books. 

One of them takes place at the Oregon Shakespeare Festival (Failure to Appear).  The author is on tour supporting her latest work, Duel to the Death

NASA/Public Domain

Being able to communicate with each other by speaking made a big difference in our development as a species.  But when we turned our pictures into words and communicated through writing... that opened up a whole new dimension. 

Martin Puchner, editor of The Norton Anthology of World Literature, takes us on a writing appreciation tour in his new book The Written World: The Power of Stories to Shape People, History, Civilization

His survey covers stories from the earliest civilizations, through religious texts and classics, right up to Harry Potter.

We wonder sometimes when Robert Arellano sleeps. 

He's got talents as an author, teacher, and musician (among other skills), and has just cranked out his sixth novel.  Havana Libre is the sequel to Havana Lunar, his critically acclaimed book from 2010. 

Bombs, terrorists, and spies populate the new book, which is set in the Cuba of 20 years ago. 

Public Domain/Wikimedia

Any public building erected in recent years includes ramps and other devices to get people in wheelchairs inside with minimal effort. 

So we've adjusted our physical spaces, but how about our literature?  The depictions of people with disabilities are changing there as well, and University of Oregon Associate Professor Betsy Wheeler is observing and assisting the changes. 

Wheeler's work includes studies of disabilities in literature, but also postwar (WWII) literature and culture, including comic books. 

She is our guest in this month's edition of cUriOus: Research Meets Radio. 

Medford Comic Con Facebook page

When you think about all the times our parents told us to stop reading comic books, it's amazing comics survived. 

But survive they did, and now they are central to American culture... at least in the movies and TV.  Have you SEEN how many movies and TV shows feature characters who first appeared in the comics? 

Mike Madrid is a comic lover and documenter, with several books on costumed heroines, including The Supergirls.  He comes to Ashland for the Lit Fest on Saturday at the SOU library, and joins us for a preview. 

And we add Laura Kimberly, the Medford library branch manager.  She is also the organizer of the Medford Comic Con, a convention for comics lovers. 

Everything from classical poetry to comic books will be discussed and celebrated at the Ashland Literary Arts Festival

It takes over the Hannon Library at Southern Oregon University on Saturday (October 28) from 10 to 4. 

Did we mention film?  The renamed festival, now in its 6th year, celebrates independent story and thought in all of its forms. 

Evgeniy Isaev, CC BY 2.0,

Can you pull yourself away from the news long enough to get immersed in a good book? 

The long, warm days lend themselves to reading, and we'll spend the summer getting advice on WHAT to read from some of our local bookstores. 

Fiction or non, fantasy or not, what's your pleasure?  Our weekly feature "Summer Reads" probes the tastes and recommendations of Mendocino Book Company in Ukiah. 

Evgeniy Isaev, CC BY 2.0,

Can you pull yourself away from the news long enough to get immersed in a good book?

The long, warm days lend themselves to reading, and we'll spend the summer getting advice on WHAT to read from some of our local bookstores. 

Oregon Books in Grants Pass checks in with the latest installment of "Summer Reads". 

Evgeniy Isaev, CC BY 2.0,

What books have you chosen to read this summer? 

Philosophy?  Classics of fiction?  Comic Books? 

The long, warm days lend themselves to reading, and we'll spend the summer getting advice on WHAT to read from some of our local bookstores. 

Bloomsbury Books in Ashland is up first as "Summer Reads" debuts.

The ancient tale of Scheherazade is about a storyteller. 

She saved her own life, and many more, by telling stories to a tyrannical king for a thousand nights. 

The story resonates with Portland storyteller Will Hornyak, who tells stories in prisons and many other venues, firmly believing that storytelling can change lives. 

University of Portland

It seems like just a short time ago that award-winning writer Brian Doyle visited our studio, brimming with stories and good humor. 

Less than a year after his visit, his doctors diagnosed a brain tumor.  Brian Doyle died on May 27th at the age of 60; his memorial service is set for today (June 2nd) in Portland. 

The occasion is sad, but the life was brilliant. 

The Prolific Pen Of Naomi Shihab Nye

Feb 10, 2017
Steven Barclay Agency

It might be a challenging question to ask Naomi Shihab Nye where she's from. 

Nye is a poet-novelist-essayist, born in St. Louis, but raised in both San Antonio and Jerusalem.  Yes, THE Jerusalem. 

Nye is Palestinian-American, and her large body of work reflects the many influences in her life, from West Texas to the Middle East. 

She visits Ashland for a speaking engagement tonight (February 13th), and drops by the studio for an advance on the evening. 

Exchange Exemplar: "Texts From Jane Eyre"

Feb 2, 2017

Think of some of the great lines in literature, like "frankly my dear, I don't give a damn."

Now try to imagine those lines delivered by text message.  Would they be the same? 

In the hands of Mallory Ortberg, they are hilarious.  She wrote a book a few years back called Texts from Jane Eyre, with imaginary electronic messages back and forth between some of the major characters in literature. 

"Forrest Gump" Author Returns With New Novel

Dec 13, 2016
W.W. Norton Books

If the name Winston Groom does not ring a bell, maybe you'll recognize the name of one of his books: Forrest Gump. 

It's one of more than a dozen books Groom has written, but certainly the one he's best known for. 

El Paso, the new novel, is set in a very different place and time... along the Mexican border in the early 20th century. 

Cattle, railroads, and Pancho Villa himself all figure prominently in the book. 

Stories Alive

One way to get kids interested in reading and literacy is to present THEIR stories. 

That is the approach of Stories Alive, based in Ashland. 

Stories that children create get polished and told and even staged by professional performers.  It brings their stories to life--hence the name of the organization. 

Why Stories Are So Important

May 10, 2016
Alex Cox via Hannon Library

Whether it's on paper, on a big screen, or on a mobile device, we're often just looking for stories. 

Our parents read them to us as kids, and the habit sticks around.  Tod Davies is all about the story.  She's written some big ones, like the screenplay for the movie "Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas," and is the editorial director at Exterminating Angel Press.

Hannon Library at Southern Oregon University brings Davies in for a chat on "The Importance of Story," Thursday (May 12) at 4 PM. 

Little Women With Sopranos And Altos

May 2, 2016
Eugene Opera

Louisa May Alcott lit a fire that still burns when she wrote "Little Women" a century and a half ago.  Who knew people were still clamoring to read the book today?  

  Or that people love it enough to transform it into different art forms?  Case in point: Eugene Opera's presentation of "Little Women" as an opera, written in 1998 by Mark Adamo.  

Tales To Scare The Kids (And You)

Mar 11, 2016
Penguin Books

Recent editions of Grimm's Fairy Tales have taken the tales back to their roots, which are rather gruesome.  Characters get hacked, die, and even get eaten by other people. 

Turns out a LOT of tales from centuries gone by were like that. 

The 17th-century Italian poet Giambattista Basile served up a tasty collection (read: gross) in his The Tale of Tales. 

Live From Wonderland: A New Take On Alice

Jan 25, 2016
Doubleday Canada

It was Alice who went down the rabbit hole, but David Day followed her. 

Day is a Canadian poet and author who did the hard work of figuring out just what Lewis Carroll was doing with Alice and all of the creatures she encountered. 

The answer, in Alice's Adventures in Wonderland DECODED, is that Carroll was giving a classical education to a girl, in a way appropriate to Victorian England.