NEAL CONAN, host:
This is Talk of the Nation. I'm Neal Conan in Washington.
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CONAN: Less than three days until Valentine's Day, maybe not enough to compose a sonnet to your love, but can you manage six words? For a couple of years now, Smith Magazine has been collecting six-word memoirs by writers famous and obscure. They joined us to talk about their first collection, "Not Quite What I Was Planning," and now they're out with "Six-Word Memoirs on Love and Heartbreak." So, if you have a six-words saga on either theme, our phone number is 800-989-8255. Email us, firstname.lastname@example.org, or you can post your words and read others at our Web site. That's at npr.org - just click on Talk of the Nation. Joining us now from our bureau in New York are editors Rachel Fershleiser and Larry Smith. Nice to have you back in the program today.
Ms. RACHEL FERSHLEISER (Editor, Smith Magazine): Nice to be here.
Mr. LARRY SMITH (Editor, Smith Magazine): Good to be here, Neal.
CONAN: And we've gotten already a bunch of listeners emailing us in. This is Helena(ph) in Philadelphia - His eyes twinkle when we talk.
Mr. SMITH: They'll come pouring in. When we put the challenge at Smith Magazine a couple of years ago, we didn't know what would happen. But whether our love, heartbreak or any part of your life, people love to tell their story, and six words is a really easy way to do it.
CONAN: And it was interesting to me. We got a bunch of emails like that. Well, this one is from Meagan(ph) in Denver - Only craigslist ad I ever answered. But there's lots on love. We would expect that before Valentine's day. We got a lot of these, too. This is from Elaias(ph) - Death-filled gaps, my wife disagreed.
Ms. FERSHLEISER: Well, it's not all hearts and flowers and unicorns, you know. This book is six-word memoirs on love and heartbreak. And certainly there are some very interesting ways people have managed to screw things up over the years.
CONAN: One of the ones on that theme in the book, this is Cristy Samas(ph). Met him online, blogged our divorce.
Ms. FERSHLEISER: Technology has been a huge theme in this book. I found my ex-husband on craigslist twice. Years of pillow talk, Blackberry breakup. It's a really big part of how we conduct all of our lives, and I think especially romance.
CONAN: When you guys were putting these together, was this a separate challenge to the readers of Smith Magazine or were these just culled from all of the other six word memoirs that came in?
Mr. SMITH: So many of the memoirs that came in when we first post the challenge three years ago were about love and heartbreak. So we did do a separate section, what's your six-word memoir in love and heartbreak? So, it's a mix from both projects.
CONAN: Don't trust a man who waxes, that from Noel Hancock(ph) in the book, and - Lovesick 1985, suicide by Pop Pocks. I love that.
Mr. SMITH: You know, we met that woman in a reading in San Francisco, and it's great story. She fell in love with the boy in fifth grade, heard you could commit suicide by mixing pop rocks and coke, and fortunately, it was a myth.
CONAN: (Laughing) Fortunately, a myth. Now, all of these got started I guess with that famous line from Hemingway that we mentioned the first time you're on the program. What is it again?
Ms. FERSHLEISER: Hemingway wrote a six-word story which was - For sale: baby shoes, never worn.
CONAN: And there is, as you suggested then, an entire novel behind those six words as there is in some of these six-word memoirs on love and heartbreak you have in the book. I like this one from Josh Macue(ph) - She got back on the Vespa.
Mr. SMITH: Tomorrow, maybe, I'll sell the ring. I'd love to know the whole story behind that.
CONAN: This is from Tricia(ph) in Bozeman, Montana - Joyous June wedding, then Prop 8.
Ms. FERSHLEISER: Ah, heartbreaking.
CONAN: Let's see if we can some callers on the line. 800-989-8255. Email, email@example.com. And let's see if we can start with - this is Jeff(ph), Jeff with U.S. from Superior in Wisconsin.
JEFF (CALLER): Yeah, there a horse that retired now that was highly touted to win the triple crown. And my memoir would be Coulda, shoulda, woulda won the derby.
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JEFF: Point Given, the horse Point Given.
CONAN: Point given. Yes, absolutely. And I guess that's heartbreaker of a sort.
JEFF: Oh yeah, I was there. I lost $500 that day, but I won it back in the (unintelligible) in the Belmont.
CONAN: Well, congratulations there. But not quite the kind of heartbreak were going for in this particular context.
Mr. SMITH: Our heartbreak is more like - Should have read the pre-nup agreement.
CONAN: (Laughing). The medication made him feel numb, from Tori Turner(ph). There's so many of these that are so great. I've got... just trying to turn all these by the pages dog-eared here. I love this one from Donna Bumgarner(ph) - Tried men, tried women, like cats.
Ms. FERSHLEISER: A lot of people have love for their pets, love and heartbreak, I guess. Worried that the dog liked him better, by Lindsay Ross(ph).
Mr. SMITH: And there's a lot of medication in sort of modern problems - Maybe it was the Paxil talking.
CONAN: (Laughing) Let's go to Karen(ph), Karen wiot of liberal and labor groups are getting very upset about this.
CONAN: And of course, after Tom Daschle had to withdraw his nomination as the head of HHS in the new health care policies czar, still no new nominee from the Obama administration, though rumors about a senator from Maryland might get the pick.
RUDIN: Well, Barbara McClusky's name has been listed along with the governor of Tennessee, Phil Bredesen, or I suspect it will not be that. Howard Dean's name gets thrown out.
CONAN: Dr. Howard Dean.
RUDIN: Dr. Howard Dean, of course. But I suspect, it will not be Howard Dean either. Kathleen Sebelius, the governor of Kansas whose term limit is in 2010, has been mentioned as well. It's still, again, another complete cabinet but they really lost to the administration even though we talked about indispensable people, are there are none, as Chuck de Gaulle once said, the cemeteries are filled with indispensable men. Tom Daschle was probably perfectly suited to do this, but ultimately, there was populous rebellion against somebody who made so much money, didn't pay tax - didn't pay his fair share of taxes, allegedly, a conflict of interest and his coziness with the health-care industry. There are a lot of problems with that nomination...
CONAN: And there is some suspicion we may see two people. One is HHS and another one as a health-care czar in the White House.
RUDIN: And Daschle would have held both positions had it been confirmed.
CONAN: We're talking with political junkie Ken Rudin. You're listening to Talk of the Nation from NPR News. And we've got some more souls who were going to try to answer our trivia question. The second-to-last speaker of the House of Representatives whose father also served in the House of Representatives. We got the correct answer earlier, the most recent of course, Nancy Pelosi. Let's see if we can get the answer to the more difficult one and this is Ritch(ph), Ritch with us from Boise.
RITCH (Caller): Hi. Was it Everett Dirksen?
RUDIN: Everett Dirksen did serve in the House and later in the Senate. He was a minority leader in the Senate but he was never speaker of the House.
CONAN: Nice try Ritch. Thank you.
RITCH: OK. Talk to you.
CONAN: Bye bye. Let's see if we can go now to - this is Rick. Rick with us from Lake Tahoe in California.
RICK (Caller): That's correct. I'm here.
CONAN: Go ahead, you're on the air.
RICK: Nancy Pelosi was the first one I heard you mention earlier, and was Thomas P. "Tip" O'Neal the other?
RUDIN: No, Tip O'Neal did have a relative who served in Congress.
CONAN: Much as he would have tried to elect him. Thanks very much. Let's see if we can go now to Judy. Judy with us from Senora(ph), California.
JUDY (Caller): Hi, is it Evan Bayh?
CONAN: Evan Bayh in the Senate, and his father was of course in the Senate as well.
RUDIN: Birch Bayh right, of course. We talked about bipartisanship and that you have Evan Bayh and Birch Bayh, but neither one served in the House.
JUDY: Thank you.
CONAN: Thanks, Judy and let's see if we can go to - this is Barb(ph). Barb with us from Damascus, Maryland.
BARB: Is it Henry Clay and James Brown Clay?
RUDIN: Well, that wouldn't be the last. I don't know but, of course, Henry Clay later changed his name to Henry Ali, very few people know that. I'm sorry, Neal. But no, there's somebody far more recent. I'll give you a hint. It's the 20th century we're looking for.
BARB: OK. Thank you.
CONAN: Thank you, Barb, and let's see if we can go now to Bill. Bill with us from Bay Village in Ohio.
BILL (Caller): Hi. Was it Nancy Pelosi and William Bankhead in Alabama?
CONAN: That is correct. Ding, ding, ding, ding, ding. William Bankhead. Where did you get that answer, Bill?
BILL: I read a biography about Sam Rayburn, and I think William Bankhead and some other fellow from Tennessee died while Sam Rayburn was waiting to become speaker.
RUDIN: Exactly. William Bankhead was almost immediately before Sam Rayburn, and Bankhead's father, John Bankhead also a Democrat from Alabama, served in Congress prior to William Bankhead.
CONAN: Bill, congratulations. He didn't even have to Google it. You knew it.
BILL: Yeah, I did.
CONAN: All right. Thanks very much. Will, we appreciate the phone call. Of course, there's trivia question with us every Wednesday with the political junkie. Ken, as we look ahead, we anticipate now that other things, all things being equal, that the Stimulus Package is going to get out of the House and through the Senate. The reconcile bill...
RUDIN: This week.
CONAN: This week, 785 billion, in around there, dollars less than either the amount passed by either House Congress separately. What is the next big challenge for president Obama, who had a whole lot of big ideas when he ran for president of the United States?
RUDIN: Well of course, there's a lot of things, a lot of promises about pulling troops out Iraq, closing Guantanamo, things like that but I think ultimately it's the economy - stupid - and it's also the faith in the financial institutions. And if he can accomplish that, I mean, then obviously the Democrats were in good shape. But it's more than just Democrats and Republicans. It's really just that the trust in the institutions have gone way down. Confidence in whether government can work has gone way done, and that's what's really on his plate.
CONAN: Hey, anybody want to buy stock in a peanut butter company?
RUDIN: Exactly. Exactly. I mean, you talk about, you know, you could lambaste all these executives all you want, but look who's joined the administration. There's a bunch of people from CitiCorp. A lot of people who may have been responsible, got away with a lot of big buy-outs. So, it's not a pretty sight.
CONAN: Ken Rudin, NPR's political editor and Talk of the Nation's political junkie. Here with us as he is every Wednesday. You can read his blog at npr.org. Just click on political junkie. Coming up, just in time for Valentine's Day, six-word memoirs on love and heartbreak. Email us, firstname.lastname@example.org and stay with us. It's the Talk of the Nation from NPR News.
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