Pam Houston directs the Creative Writing Program at U.C. Davis. Her most recent novel is Contents May Have Shifted.
Luang Prabang, Laos, is so close to the equator that daybreak happens at the same time each day. Also each day, a few dozen women set up rice cookers on small collapsible tables on street corners next to the more than 30 monasteries that grace this riverside town. If you get up with them and walk the silent streets in the misty Mekong predawn, you smell, under the sweetness of the frangipani blossoms, the thick odor of cooked starch.
China and Russia this morning vetoed a U.N. Security Council resolution that could permit sanctions against Syria unless the government of President Bashar Assad stops using weapons against civilians. This is the third time China and Russia have rebuffed measures pushed by the United States and its allies to try to bring a halt to Syria's violent civil conflict.
As the guessing game continues about Mitt Romney's choice of a running mate, Ohio Sen. Rob Portman invariably comes up as a top contender. And with a wealth of experience in Washington and beyond, Portman would be considered a safe pick to run for vice president on the Republican ticket.
Now, a review of this summer's outpouring of short story collections. Alan Cheuse says they run the gamut from the experimental to the fantastic to the deeply realistic.
ALAN CHEUSE, BYLINE: Stand back. The lead story in "Sorry Please Thank You," this spritely new collection by L.A. writer Charles Yu, has the title standard loneliness package and it announces that a sly, nimble fantasist with a speculative edge is at work here.
Cities and cars share a conflicted relationship these days. Environmental concerns, growing traffic congestion and an urban design philosophy that favors foot traffic are driving many cities to try to reduce the number of cars on the road. In cities such as Seattle, Chicago, Toronto and Boston, some people go so far as to claim there is a "war on cars."
Jerry Seinfeld's new series is called Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee, and the promos promise exactly that. The comic toodles around in his vintage wheels, drinking java with his pals Alec Baldwin, Michael Richards and Larry David, and discussing (among other things) the effrontery of ordering herbal tea when invited out for coffee.
But the next act from the man behind the most popular sitcom on television won't be on television. It's a webseries.