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Cape Cod occupies a particular place in the American imagination, especially in the summer. The name alone conjures images of cool breezes, charming cottages and eating lobster rolls on the beach. For New Englanders looking for a weekend getaway, Cape Cod sounds idyllic. But as Patrick Dacey demonstrates in his skillful debut novel, The Outer Cape, every place has its dark side.

One year ago, Barack Obama was winding down his final term and Donald Trump was ... a candidate for President?

Recently, Nancy Pearl has found herself in search of fast-moving stories. "I think that what I'm looking for these days is just a lot of plot," she explains. "I want the pages to turn of their own accord. I want some reason to really keep on reading."

Ahead of the July 4th weekend, the Seattle-based librarian shares a stack of recent favorites with host Steve Inskeep.

These recommendations have been edited for clarity and length.

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It all began rather simply.

"Mr. and Mrs. Brown first met Paddington on a railway platform," goes the opening line in the opening book of Michael Bond's Paddington Bear series. Readers, for their part, first met the orphan bear from Peru in 1958, in the pages of A Bear Named Paddington.

Actor Michael Nyqvist, a respected Swedish actor whose achieved international fame originating the role of journalist Mikael Blomqvist in the 2009 Swedish-language film Män som Hatar Kvinnor (The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo) and its two sequels, died after a battle with lung cancer, according to a statement released on Tuesday.

(Daniel Craig assumed the role of Blomqvist for the 2011 English-language film adaptation and its follow-ups.)

Cultural Appropriation Is, In Fact, Indefensible

Jun 28, 2017

Last week, the New York Times published an op-ed titled "In Defense of Cultural Appropriation" in which writer Kenan Malik attempted to extol the virtues of artistic appropriation and chastise those who would stand in the way of necessary "cultural engagement." (No link, because you have Google and I'd rather not give that piece more traffic than it deserves.) What would have happened, he argues, had Elvis Presley not been able to swipe the sounds of black musicians?

Multiple Narratives Mean Non-Stop Action In 'The Child'

Jun 28, 2017

Some books tell you a great deal, while other books show even more. I'm happy to report that Fiona Barton's second novel, The Child, falls firmly into the second camp. That's not because of the usual "show, don't tell" dictum that so many novelists hear from instructors, but because Barton has a reason to keep readers firmly in the action. More on that shortly.

The director John Woo, whose filmography contains an aggregate body count in the quadruple digits, has frequently observed that action movies and musicals are close cousins. He's right about that, and I offer into evidence Edgar Wright's intoxicating new chase flick Baby Driver as Exhibit A.

Chinese artist Ai Weiwei has had several confrontations with Chinese authorities. (He was once beaten so badly by police that he had to have brain surgery.) Through it all, Ai continued to make art, and his art continued to travel the world, sometimes without him.

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The last film by documentary giant Albert Maysles gets a rare screening this week in New York. It's called In Transit, and it takes place entirely on the Empire Builder, a train that runs between Chicago and the Pacific Northwest over three days. Some passengers are heading toward new opportunities, while others are just trying to get away.

Tales from the American West are marked by heroism, romance and plenty of cruelty. Among those stories, the saga of the Donner Party stands alone — a band of pioneers set out in covered wagons for California, and eventually, stranded, snowbound and starving, resorted to cannibalism.

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If you've never heard of Alexander von Humboldt, a once world-renowned Prussian scientist who predicted man-made climate change in 1800 and was an adviser to President Thomas Jefferson, then a New Hampshire distillery is aiming to change that, one glass at a time.

The Nordic speculative-fiction scene has become increasingly prominent in the past few years, with authors such Leena Krohn and Johanna Sinisalo, both from Finland, garnering fresh attention and translations in the United States. In Sweden, one of the most promising authors of science fiction and fantasy in recent years has been Karin Tidbeck.

Behind the scenes at major art museums, conservators are hard at work, keeping masterpieces looking their best. Their methods are meticulous — and sometimes surprising.

The painting conservation studio at the National Gallery of Art in Washington, D.C., is filled with priceless works sitting on row after row of tall wooden easels, or lying on big, white-topped worktables.

In Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt, Titus Andromedon is a show-stealing character. Tituss Burgess plays the mostly out-of-work actor who's black, gay and an endearing friend to the very naive Kimmy Schmidt.

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:

On Friday night, a new American monarch rose to power beneath a cascade of rose petals, a cracked mask and the ballads of Whitney Houston.

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(SOUNDBITE OF CORDUROI'S "MY DEAR")

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Time now for The Call-In. It's wedding season. And today we're talking about love. We asked you for your stories, advice and questions.

JENNIFER INGHAM: Hi, NPR listeners. This is Jennifer Ingham.

In the novel The Windfall, a newly minted tech millionaire buys a big fancy house, a flashy car and leaves his middle-class life behind to rub elbows with the superrich. What follows is a delightful comedy of errors where he and his family navigate the unexpected pressures and pleasures of newfound wealth in modern India.

An Ancient Curse Awakens In 'The Suffering Tree'

Jun 25, 2017

A family curse, a resurrection, and a vengeful witch form the Southern Gothic backbone of The Suffering Tree.

Tori's family fractured when her father died and left them financially adrift, so it seems like a miracle when she, her mother, and her brother inherit an old house in rural Maryland. But they soon discover that the sprawling Slaughter family owns all the land surrounding theirs, and they still believe they have the right to Tori's new home.

In the late 1970s and early 1980s, tennis great John McEnroe triumphed three times at Wimbledon and four times at the U.S. Open. But all his achievements on the court did not prepare him for life off of it. After his professional career ended, he dabbled as a talk show host and as an art collector and appeared in movies and TV shows.

While she was a primary care doctor in Oakland, Calif., Dr. Vanessa Grubbs fell in love with a man who had been living with kidney disease since he was a teenager.

Comedian Eddie Izzard — who's done stand-up in more than 40 countries, in four different languages — has now written a new book called Believe Me: A Memoir of Love, Death and Jazz Chickens.

We've invited him to answer three questions about the Australian psychedelic rock band King Gizzard & the Lizard Wizard.

Click the audio link above to see how he does.

In the seventh century B.C., the poet Semonides of Amorgos wrote a catalog of unmanageable women. First, there are the women who resemble pigs, "resting in filth and growing fat." Other women, he writes, are yapping dogs, who won't shut up even if you knock their teeth out. And then there are the lazy horses, slutty weasels and ugly apes with no necks. The only kind of woman he praises is the bee — industrious, devoted and, most importantly, fertile.

Berlin, 1940. A young Nazi officer is given a new mission: The Reich is sending him to Holland, to guard the exiled former German emperor, Kaiser Wilhelm II. That's the premise of a new feature film, The Exception — it's a spy story, with steamy sex, intrigue and history rolled in.

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