Guest host John Lithgow introduces two stories with strong women.

We know women are strong, and sometimes they show their strength in unexpected ways, and in unusual settings.

Our first story, “Melisande” is by E. Nesbit, the pen name for the prolific English writer Edith Nesbit, who was born in England in 1858 and published over 60 books. Often compared with Lewis Carroll, her tales of adventure and fantasy have influenced many writers, from C.S. Lewis to J.K. Rowling.

In “Melisande,” she’s put a modern twist on the Rapunzel story, and added an entertaining dash of social satire. Our guest host John Lithgow is a prolific children’s book author himself, and he and SHORTS literary commentator talk about what makes a good children’s book, and why fairy tales have universal appeal. About Nesbit, Tinti notes, “Gore Vidal wrote a wonderful tribute to Nesbit’s work in the New York Review of Books, where he said, ‘With extraordinary perceptiveness, she realized that each grown-up must kill the child he was before he himself can live. Nesbit’s vow to survive somehow in the enemy’s consciousness became, finally, her art…and the child within continued to the end of the adult’s life.'”

“Melisande” is performed by Jane Curtin, whose many credits include co-starring with John Lithgow on Third Rock from the Sun and her current series, the crime drama Unforgettable.

Barbara Kingsolver is as acerbic and contemporary as E. Nesbit was whimsical, but they both offer up heroines who show what their made of in the face of calamity. In “Fault Lines,” the narrator has lost her young husband to an absurd industrial accident, and can’t come to terms with his death until her brilliant son, and an earthquake, realign her with the universe.

Barbara Kingsolver is the bestselling author of novels including Animal Dreams, The Poisonwood Bible, and most recently, Flight Behavior, as well as the collection Homeland and Other Stories.

The reader is L.A. Law star Jill Eikenberry.


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