Tell Me a Story

August 8, 2016

Classic Communication by Jed W. Atkins 

In 64 B.C., during a time of great political unrest in Rome, Marcus Tullius Cicero ran for consul, the highest office in the land. His campaign faced long odds. He was not from one of the aristocratic families that made up the political establishment; outsiders rarely attained the consulship. Yet as his brother, Quintus, suggested in a pamphlet offering campaign advice, Cicero possessed an advantage that could overcome his outsider status: In Republican Rome, as in modern democracies, effective communication was vital for winning elections, and Cicero was the most accomplished public speaker in Roman history...

Healing Words by Raymond Barfield

If you look at old medical texts, you see a kind of poetry in the naming of things. Some names are nearly onomatopoeic: The rumbling your stomach and intestines makes is called borborygmus. Some names sound like characters in an action movie: The buccinator is the muscle that allows you to pull back the angle of the mouth and flatten the cheek area. Other names are evidence that anatomists have imaginations, too: I remember the first time I dissected down to the bony indentation deep in the head that holds the pituitary gland, a part called the sella tursica, the Turkish saddle...

There’s a Podcast for That by John Biewen 

After thirty years as a public radio reporter and documentary maker, I joined the podcasting stampede last fall, launching Scene on Radio at Duke’s Center for Documentary Studies. Even more than I imagined, I’ve found myself giddy with the sense of liberation that comes with the medium...

Circle Unbroken by Laurent Dubois 

For the past year, I have spent untold hours studying, and sounding out, two pages in an old book: Hans Sloane’s 1707 Voyage to the Islands. It’s a beautiful object, large, leather-bound, full of images of trees and shells and spiders and fruit. But my colleagues David Garner Ph.D. ’14 and graduate student Mary Caton Lingold and I keep coming back to two pages of music—an evanescent fragment offered to us from across the centuries...

What the Land Has to Tell by Janice Little 

Each spring I look forward to seeing the mayapples (Podophyllum peltatum) twist their way up and out of the ground, unfurling like umbrellas and creating a short-statured canopy for imagined woodland sprites. The size of the colony gives me a clue about the quality of soil and moisture in the area. The plants also let me know that box turtles are probably nearby, waiting for the mayapples to ripen. Box turtles and mayapples have a partnership: turtles love to snack on the fruit, and the plant gets an improved chance of germinating its seed once it passes through a turtle’s digestive tract...

With Salter by Her Side by Kristin McCloy (online-only content!)

I’m a novelist, working, published (and broke), and I have a confession: Since Pico Iyer recommended James Salter’s Light Years to me two decades ago, I don’t think I have written a word without that book by my side. It’s my favorite of all his works of fiction, because of its focus on the way men and women interact in the world, because of its sheer lyricism, and frankly, because of its length—a very satisfying immersion. The book follows a family, the way relationships diffuse, dissolve, begin elsewhere...