The Middle Distance 1.18.13: The Only Possible Grace

My friend Cate said she squirmed through the first half of Barbra Streisand and Seth Rogen’s comedy film The Guilt Trip, seeing a bit too much of herself in Streisand’s character, Joyce, an unrelentingly overbearing Jewish mother.

My sister and I saw the film [...]

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The Middle Distance 1.11.13: All The Light We Used to Have

Nearly every wall of my mother’s house is lined with tables, bookcases, or a chest with drawers. And every time I come for a stay, I go through all of those drawers, one at a time.

Before the sun is up, Mama picks [...]

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The Middle Distance 1.4.13: Blue Nights

Here is an African proverb that showed up in my email inbox on December 31: “Those who love you are not fooled by mistakes you have made or dark images you hold about yourself. They remember your beauty when you feel ugly; your wholeness when you [...]

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The Middle Distance 12.21.12: Reweaving the Social Fabric

This week’s mini-blizzard provided respite I’d been hoping for — no appointments, too cold to even think of going outside voluntarily, and streets packed with snow. I stayed in with the dogs, reading and cleaning and baking a dense chocolate cake scented with cloves [...]

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The Middle Distance 12/14/12

Last night on a downtown street, someone busted out the front passenger window of my car to dig around inside it. Whoever it was — a passerby who, conveniently, had a brick or a big rock in his hand — found a wallet stuffed with essential identification, [...]

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The Middle Distance 12.7.12: The Image Becomes a Phantom

In her treatise on photography, Susan Sontag said, “Today everything exists to end in a photograph.” Witness any public event in the 21st century, crowd members’ arms extended outward with smartphones pointed in every direction and understand how prophetic that statement was way back in [...]

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The Middle Distance 11.30.12: Unknown Woman

She resides in a painting — a simple stretched canvas, unframed — emerging from a slate blue background, her hair and dress the same silver-gray. Her breasts sag low, as if from the natural weight of years.

She hung in a corner of the bedroom wherever I lived [...]

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The Middle Distance 11.16.12: The Scent of Smoke

It is nearly Thanksgiving and in the early mornings my turn-of-the-20th century neighborhood smells like wood smoke. Nights are cold, the neighbors cranking up their fireplaces and wood stoves. A deadly summer wildfire season has put the fear of God and flame in most [...]

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The Middle Distance 11.9.12: “Honey, It’s Jest Foo-ood”

In a parallel life, I think I might have been a cafeteria lady, baking industrial sized trays of yeast rolls every morning in a stainless steel kitchen, ladeling out clouds of mashed potatoes and smothering them with milk gravy.
Last Sunday I spent [...]

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In this week’s episode of The Middle Distance, Kathryn Eastburn wonders where to best place her worry during the Frankenstorm.

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In this week’s episode of The Middle Distance, Kathryn Eastburn embraces the obsessive mathematics of aging.

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In this week’s episode of The Middle Distance, Kathryn Eastburn tugs at the long tail of gun violence and its current literature.

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In this week’s Middle Distance, Kathryn Eastburn ruminates on the struggle for faith.

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In this week’s episode of The Middle Distance, Kathryn Eastburn gathers seeds from her garden and remembers the autumn of her twins’ birth.

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In this week’s episode of The Middle Distance, Kathryn Eastburn celebrates locavore and farmer Dan Hobbs on the occasion of his Palmer Land Trust Conservation Award.

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In this week’s episode of The Middle Distance, Kathryn Eastburn sees her late sister through the eyes of a ghost costume.

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In this week’s episode of The Middle Distance, Kathryn Eastburn walks back into her second grade classroom.

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In this week’s episode of The Middle Distance, Kathryn Eastburn unearths a moment in civil rights history that happened right under her nose.

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In this week’s episode of The Middle Distance, Kathryn Eastburn looks through the blurry lens of a toy camera into the past.

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In this week’s episode of The Middle Distance, Kathryn Eastburn stares into the eyes of a toothless flasher in a dirty raincoat.

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In this week’s episode of The Middle Distance, Kathryn Eastburn spreads her toes across years of shoeless memories.

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In this week’s episode of The Middle Distance, Kathryn Eastburn ties two summer films together with the unlikely string of far-fetched fantasy.

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(Cybil Shepherd, center, after winning the Miss Teenage Mephmis Pageant in 1966)

The Middle Distance 8.5.11: What Was I Thinking?

What was I thinking? I was 15 years old and had moved with my family from the small town of Jackson to the big city of Memphis. I didn’t know anyone, [...]

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News

Majid Saeedi/Getty Images; Maxppp /Landov
September 1, 2014 | NPR · Saffron, vanilla, palm oil, cacao and cottonseed oil are still picked by hand in some parts of the world. Sometimes that manual labor shows up in the price of the food; sometimes it doesn’t.
 

AP
September 1, 2014 | NPR · Passenger pigeons were once the world’s most abundant bird, but they were also the cheapest protein available. The last passenger pigeon, Martha, died exactly a century ago at the Cincinnati Zoo.
 

Sarah Tilotta for NPR
September 1, 2014 | NPR · Many immigrant men in the U.S. work hard to hold onto definitions of masculinity from their native countries — while also rejecting more rigid gender roles that may be the norm in their homelands.
 

Arts & Life

Alison Rosa
September 1, 2014 | NPR · Until Guardians of the Galaxy came along, this year’s box office figures were the worst in years. But critic Bob Mondello says there are bound to be some fall films that get pulses pounding again.
 

Jonathan Ring
September 1, 2014 | NPR · NPR’s Madhulika Sikka profiles Cumming, the author of thoughtful spy sagas like A Colder War. Cumming’s books provide plenty of action, but also grapple with the moral quandaries of espionage.
 

September 1, 2014 | NPR · MK Asante reads a poem composed for Morning Edition titled, “In Summer.” The Baltimore-based writer says it is in tribute to Paul Laurence Dunbar, an African-American poet.
 

Music

September 1, 2014 | NPR · The archetypal ’70s band had a charismatic frontman and wonderful songs, but they also had drug problems and kept breaking up. Their Warner Bros. recordings are in a new box set called Rad Gumbo.
 

September 1, 2014 | NPR · Prospect Hill is Flemons’ first album since leaving the band Carolina Chocolate Drops. By coincidence, the multi-instrumentalist recorded it the day Pete Seeger died. Originally broadcast July 30.
 

Courtesy of the artist
August 31, 2014 | NPR · After a three-year hiatus, the singer’s 14th album is the sound of a once-prolific genius who’s only recently relearned what it’s like to walk on steady footing.
 

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