Glen Weldon

Glen Weldon is a regular panelist on NPR's Pop Culture Happy Hour podcast. He also reviews books and movies for NPR.org and is a contributor to NPR's pop culture blog Monkey See, where he posts weekly about comics and comics culture.

Over the course of his career, he has spent time as a theater critic, a science writer, an oral historian, a writing teacher, a bookstore clerk, a PR flack, a seriously terrible marine biologist and a slightly better-than-average competitive swimmer.

Weldon is the author of Superman: The Unauthorized Biography, a cultural history of the iconic character. His fiction and criticism have appeared in The New York Times, The Washington Post, The New Republic, The Atlantic, Slate, Story, McSweeney's, The Dallas Morning News, Washington City Paper and many other publications. He is the recipient of an NEA Arts Journalism Fellowship, a Ragdale Writing Fellowship and a PEW Fellowship in the Arts for Fiction.

Monty Hall got it.

Hall, who died today at age 96 according to his agent Mark Measures, was in on the joke. He was you, sitting there at home, clucking your tongue at the lengths to which people would go, the extent to which they would abase themselves, just to get picked to compete on a dumb game show.

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AUDIE CORNISH, HOST:

The first book of the Harry Potter series went on sale in the U.K. 20 years ago today. It offers a convenient excuse to reacquaint yourself with a world before anyone on this side of the Atlantic had heard of muggles, horcruxes or pensieves, before tourists would crowd into London's Kings Cross railway station simply to peer wistfully at the space between Platforms Nine and Ten.

Here's the first story NPR ever aired about Harry Potter — a wonderful piece by the late Margot Adler, from All Things Considered in 1998.

Some gems, from that bygone era:

"Why is a welder like a woman in love?"

I'm 7 years old, standing between the two dogwood trees in my backyard. It's autumn; there's a crispness in the golden, late afternoon air. I've taken the hood of my parka and thrown it over my head, but my arms are not in the sleeves. The coat falls over my narrow, bird-boned shoulders and down my back.

Like a cape, you see.

Robert Silvers, whose long career as an editor included terms at The Paris Review, Harper's and, most notably, as co-founder of The New York Review of Books, died Monday at his home in Manhattan. He was 87.

Silvers launched The New York Review of Books in 1963 with Barbara Epstein, intending to raise the standard of book reviewing. In its pages, a given book under consideration could be little more than a jumping-off point for an extended essay that directly engaged the political and cultural moment.

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A literary treasure buried for more than a century has been unearthed by Zachary Turpin, a grad student at the University of Houston.

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When the nominees for the 2017 Academy Awards were announced this morning, La La Land racked up 14 nods, tying records held by Titanic and All About Eve.

Actor and writer Gene Wilder, who brought his signature manic energy to films such as The Producers, Blazing Saddles, Young Frankenstein and the role that forever ensconced him in the collective memory of a generation of children, Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory, has died. He was 83.

Wilder died early Monday at his home in Stamford, Conn., of complications from Alzheimer's disease, according to a statement from his nephew Jordan Walker-Pearlman.

As a teenager, James Alan McPherson worked as a passenger-car waiter on the Great Northern Railroad. The experience shaped him as a man and as a writer; he would spend his life producing short fiction and essays exploring race and class in America — the gulf separating white privilege from the black experience. One of his first published stories, "On Trains," included in his fiction collection Hue and Cry, chronicles a white woman's unthinking treatment of black waiters and porters on a train, and subtly reveals its lingering effects on all involved.

Copyright 2017 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

MICHEL MARTIN, HOST:

At the San Diego Comic-Con now underway, toys, comic books and costumes fill the exhibit floor with color and light. It's a crush of bodies buzzing on adrenaline and fan joy.

My wife's the reason anything gets done

She nudges me towards promise, by degrees

She is the perfect symphony of one

Our son is her most beautiful reprise

We chase the melodies that seem to find us

Until they're finished songs, and start to play

When senseless acts of tragedy remind us

That nothing here is promised, not one day

This show is proof that history remembers

Monkey See contributor/longtime nerd Glen Weldon recently attended San Diego Comic-Con. He kept a diary during one of the largest media events in the world.

Michael Chabon's Telegraph Avenue is an agreeable if ultimately frustrating shaggy-dog tale of a novel that slips its leash and lopes its discursive and distinctly unhurried way through the unkempt backyards of its characters' lives.

In a memorable (and much-parodied) 1983 television ad for a brand of instant, decaffeinated coffee, a gravel-voiced announcer asked: "What kind of people drink Sanka? People like Joe Zebrosky, underwater welder." The ad, one of a series featuring manly men in a variety of high-stakes professions, featured the aforementioned Zebrosky intoning: "Too much caffeine makes me tense. And down here, I can't afford that."

If only Nixon could go to China, only indie-comics master Jaime Hernandez could produce God and Science: Return of the Ti-Girls, the brightest, purest, most quintessentially superheroic superhero yarn in years.