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To The Best Of Our Knowledge
October 13, 2018

A Little Arsenic With Your Tea?

Christie novels

Obsessing these past few weeks over poison — for our show this week “Pick Your Poison” — has brought back memories of my grandmother’s library, where she had every Agatha Christie book arranged on shelves, each with her own name inscribed on the first page (in case she lent them to someone she wanted them back). As a child, I began to read her copies, some of them paperbacks from the 1930s, and then my own, eventually devouring all 66 Agatha Christie novels and her 14 story collections.

As one of our guests, Kathryn Harkup, notes in her book “A is for Arsenic: The Poisons of Agatha Christie,” the prolific mystery writer used poison to kill her characters more often than any other method. There’s something so intimate about poison: the way the attacker must get close to the victim, sometimes studying their habits, or following them, or, even, handing them a cup of tea spiked with arsenic. But the possibility of an antidote also raised the question of a sudden recovery, a twist in the mystery, and maybe a reversal of fortune.


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Women With A Toxic Glow

A glowing radium clock.
How painting radium on watches and instrument dials killed more than 50 young women working in Ottawa, Illinois.
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Jacqueline Woodson Recommends "If Beale Street Could Talk"

"If Beale Street Could Talk" by James Baldwin
The author of "Another Brooklyn" recommends a James Baldwin novel she says belongs on everyone's bookshelf.
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From Child Pop Star to Jazz Singer: Nikka Costa Performs America’s Songbook

Nikka and Strings
When Nikka Costa was ten, she was a pop sensation in Europe. In her 20s, she was Britney Spear’s opening act. But she’s left pop music behind and now she’s performing songs by some of the musicians she’s known, including Prince and Frank Sinatra.
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Why Not Abolish Literary Genres?

Books on books on books
Why do we keep dividing the world of books into different genres — like romance novels, science fiction and literary fiction? Novelist Lauren Beukes says we should simply get rid of the whole idea of genre.
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Artist Rashid Johnson Explores Race, Yearning and Escape

Rashid Johnson, Antoine’s Organ, 2016.
Rashid Johnson is a rising star in the art world. Using signature materials like shea butter and black soap, he explores themes of race, yearning and escape, and grapples with what it means to come of age as a black artist and intellectual.
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