Welcome to AMERICAN MOSAIC in VOA Special English.
I'm Doug Johnson.
This week, we talk about some of the best movies and books of the year. And we play some great music from two thousand
eight that we did not get a chance to play earlier.
Best Books of 2008
In December, many newspapers and booksellers in the
United States publish lists of the best American books of the year. Faith
Lapidus tells us about four of this year's excellent books. The first two books
are a novel and a collection of short stories. The other two are works of
Mercy" by Toni Morrison is on many lists of the best books of the year.
The story takes place in seventeenth century America.
Morrison examines the beginnings of slavery in America and the destruction of
Native Americans through the stories of four women. One critic called the book
"a poetic, mysterious tale." Toni Morrison has also written about the
personal costs of slavery in her other books of African-American literature.
She has won many awards, including the Nobel Prize in Literature in nineteen
Lahiri's new book takes place in the present. The writer's family came from
India. She was born in London and now lives in the United States. Miz Lahiri's
books are about Bengali immigrants in America and their children. Her new
collection of stories is called "Unaccustomed Earth." She writes
about how immigrants struggle to build new lives in their new country. And how
their children struggle to find success and happiness. Many of her characters
are torn between the old traditions of their Indian culture and the new ones of
have called our next book "powerful." It is "This Republic of
Suffering: Death and the American Civil War." Drew Gilpin Faust wrote the
book. She is the president of Harvard University. The subject of her book is
the more than six hundred thousand soldiers who died in the Civil War between
eighteen sixty-one and eighteen sixty-five. Miz Faust writes about how this
"harvest of death" affected and changed America.
Critics have also praised a book about current wars
called "The Forever War" by Dexter Filkins. Mister Filkins is a
reporter for the New York Times who has covered wars in Afghanistan and Iraq
for ten years. "The Forever War" is a series of more than twenty
short pieces about incidents of war and how they affect the people in those
countries. Mister Filkins is widely considered one of the finest war
correspondents of this generation. Critics say he shows the reader the real
meaning of war and its human cost.
Popular Year-End Movies
At the end of the year, many critics list their
favorite movies. This year, many of these movies were released in December, in
time for the holidays. Bob Doughty has more.
of these movies are based on books or plays. For example, "Doubt" is
based on an intelligent and powerful play by John Patrick Shanley. It tells
about two female religious workers who accuse their priest of unacceptable
behavior towards a student. The movie stars three very skillful actors, Meryl
Streep, Philip Seymour Hoffman and Amy Adams. Their characters face difficult
questions as they explore the reasons for trusting -- or doubting -- one
The British actress Kate Winslet stars in two movies opening
this month. "The Reader" is based on a novel by the German writer Bernhard
Schlink. Critics have praised Winslet's performance as Hannah, a woman who
worked as a guard at a Nazi German death camp during World War Two.
"Revolutionary Road," Winslet reunites with the actor Leonardo di
Caprio. The two last worked together eleven years ago in the popular movie
"Revolutionary Road" they play a husband and wife struggling to find
happiness and meaning in their life together. The movie, set in the nineteen
fifties, is based on a book by Richard Yates.
Two other highly praised movies are based on real
events. "Milk" is about Harvey Milk, one of first elected public
officials in the United States who was openly homosexual. He was murdered soon
after being elected to the San Francisco Board of Supervisors -- along with the
city's mayor -- but he had a lasting effect as a political leader. Sean Penn
gives a powerful performance as Harvey Milk.
"Frost/Nixon" is the movie
version of a play. It recreates the true
story of a British television star, David Frost, and his interviews with former
American President Richard Nixon. Mister Nixon resigned the presidency in
nineteen seventy-four because of charges of corruption in a case known as
Watergate. This movie shows David
Frost's attempts to get Richard Nixon to admit his wrongdoing during a
television interview three years later.
Michael Sheen and Frank Langella were Frost and Nixon
in the play as well as the movie.
have especially praised the performances by two other actors. Clint Eastwood
stars in "Gran Torino," a movie about an angry, old man who
unexpectedly becomes the protector of his next-door neighbors. And in "The
Wrestler", Mickey Rourke plays an aging professional wrestler trying to
restart his failing career.
Music From 2008
We try to talk about and play many different kinds of
music on American Mosaic. We cover pop,
country, hip-hop, and even classical and Broadway show tunes. But we cannot possibly report on all the good
music that is released each year. So this week, Katherine Cole plays a few of
the best songs and artists we missed in two thousand eight.
Santi White is a thirty-two year old singer, songwriter
and music producer. You might have heard
her words coming from singers Ashlee Simpson and Res.
April, Santi White released her first album.
It is called "Santogold," which is also the name she performs under.
White says she loves music from the nineteen eighties. That influence is clear in this song, "Lights
played lots of country music this year but nothing from Lady Antebellum. The
three- member group was the only country band nominated for a best new artist
Grammy. Here the group performs "Love Don't Live Here."
Many good jazz albums were released this year. Trombonist Steve Turre's recording, "Rainbow
People," was especially beautiful. Here is the title piece.
we leave you with the song "Electric Feel," from the Brooklyn, New York band,
MGMT. Their first album, "Oracular
Spectacular," was released this year.
I'm Doug Johnson. I hope you enjoyed our program today.
It was written by Dana Demange, Shelley Gollust and
Caty Weaver, who was also the producer. To read the text of this program and
download audio, go to our Web site, voaspecialenglish.com.
Join us again next week for AMERICAN MOSAIC, VOA's
radio magazine in Special English.