Arts

Arts and culture

Science writer Mary Roach is not easily repulsed. While researching her latest book, Grunt, Roach learned all about the medicinal use of maggots in World War I. She also purposely sniffed a putrid scent known as "Who me?" that was developed as an experimental weapon during World War II.

For Roach, it's all in the name of research. "I'm kind of the bottom-feeder of science writing," Roach jokes to Fresh Air's Terry Gross. "I'm just someone who is OK with being very out there with my curiosity."

At long last — the first episode of the Code Switch podcast! We decided to start off with a question we've been fixated on over the past few months: Why is it so hard to talk about whiteness?

Neil Gaiman is best-known for his fictional creations, but he's no slouch in the nonfiction department. Barely a week goes by without the appearance of a foreword to a reissued book, an introduction to an album, an essay about genre fiction, a speech about the state of literature, a keynote address to one event or another, or a eulogy for a fallen writer that's been penned by him.

How does an artist know when a work is finished? Sometimes it's a deliberate decision. Other times, the decision is made by fate or circumstance. Now, an extensive exhibition at The Met Breuer Museum in Manhattan is exploring great works of unfinished art.

The Unfinished show has an intriguing subtitle: "Thoughts Left Visible." The exhibit showcases works made over some 600 years, which offer glimpses into the creative process and sometimes reveal artists' anger or despair.

Copyright 2016 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

Copyright 2016 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

Copyright 2016 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

Copyright 2016 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

From the moment you hear Laurence Fishburne's mesmerizing opening narration, intoned over sweeping visuals of a lush African forest, it's obvious History's new Roots miniseries has spared no expense to reinvent a TV classic.

But that also begs the question: Why do this at all? Why does the world need a new version of Roots?

Copyright 2016 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

You could call it the parenting trap. Being a parent comes part and parcel with being judged by other parents. And parents aren't always shy about giving their opinions on others' parenting style — be it on parenting blogs, articles, books or at the playground.

Last year the major controversy was over "free-range parenting." This year, two parenting writers are offering new, and sometimes opposing, ideas.

Copyright 2016 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

At the beginning of Stephanie Danler's new Sweetbitter, there's an image of a girl, Tess, driving over the George Washington Bridge. We don't really know much about her. She's come to New York City to leave her past behind — a common experience. She falls into a job at a landmark restaurant, loosely modeled on Union Square Cafe.

When we talked with British adventurer Levison Wood back in 2015, he had recently completed an epic, nine-month journey, along the length of the Nile River. When we asked him where he was headed next, Wood told us he did have another big expedition planned but that it was "top-secret."

After devouring Touch last year, I was fiercely excited for Claire North's next book, all the more so when I learned its premise: Hope Arden is a young woman who cannot be remembered, except by animals or people whose brains have been damaged. Turn away from her, and everything about her and your interaction with her fades from your mind's view.

It has been nearly a month now since National Poetry Month wrapped up, but don't let the calendar fool you: All Things Considered still has some unfinished business with the month that was.

That's because, just a few weeks ago, NPR's Michel Martin checked in with the Words Unlocked poetry contest. The competition — launched in 2013 by the Center for Educational Excellence in Alternative Settings — drew more than 1,000 poem submissions from students in juvenile correctional facilities across the country.

This week we've invited Craig Fugate, head of the Federal Emergency Management Agency, to the show. (So if a giant asteroid crashes into Earth while he plays our quiz, you're on your own.)

We've invited Fugate to answer three questions about Zima, a terrible alcoholic beverage from the 1990s and an actual Federal Emergency.

Copyright 2016 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

'Sweetbitter' Sings With Innocence And Experience

May 28, 2016

For Keats, joy was a grape bursting in the mouth: sudden, flooding, and sweet. And, of course, impermanent. Food and feeling are natural partners; this debut novel, set in a Manhattan restaurant, is a feast of both.

Copyright 2016 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

Copyright 2016 Fresh Air. To see more, visit Fresh Air.

By the time his first memoir, Fresh Off The Boat, came out in 2013, Eddie Huang was really hitting his stride. His New York restaurant, Baohaus — which serves gua bao, or Taiwanese hamburgers — was doing really well. His TV show, Huang's World, was taking him all over the world.

So, this is happening: Some white supremacists have anointed Taylor Swift an "Aryan goddess," claiming that she secretly espouses far-right beliefs and is waiting for Donald Trump's ascension to the presidency to make her true views known.

There are six giant superhero movies out this year: Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice, Captain America: Civil War, X-Men: Apocalypse, Doctor Strange, Deadpool and Suicide Squad.

Now guess how many are directed by women.

If you guessed zero, you're correct!

Copyright 2016 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

In the opening scenes of Athina Rachel Tsangari's Chevalier, six well-heeled Greek men on a fishing trip pose with the massive bream they've just caught in a scenic cove off the Aegean sea. We see them help each other out of their wetsuits while amiably joshing about who has the biggest this, that and the other. Affability soon fades, and once the luxury boat weighs anchor and sets out on the return trip to Athens, the men will enter into a bizarre and increasingly hostile competition that will strip them of much more than their rubber gear.

X-Men: Apocalypse, the sixth X-movie in 16 years (give or take a couple of Wolverine solo flicks and the breakout spinoff Deadpool) begins and ends with wearying campaigns of computer-animated mayhem. Pyramids, then skyscrapers dissolve. The body count must be high, but the stakes feel low.

There's No Wonder Left For 'Alice'

May 26, 2016

We're not in Wonderland anymore, if indeed we ever were. Most likely, we'd already left it far behind with the 2010 Tim Burton reshuffling of Alice in Wonderland. That smash hit repurposed elements from both of Lewis Carroll's Alice books, including sequel Through the Looking-Glass, while setting the action around a 20-year-old Alice (brave soldier Mia Wasikowska) returning to the land of her childhood dreams.

Writer-director Hany Abu-Assad doesn't tell simple stories, even when he does. His latest, The Idol, is about a man who wins a talent contest, a narrative that's elementary enough for "reality" TV. But the singer is a Palestinian from the blockaded Gaza Strip, and his success is a triumph over his own culture as much as anything else.

Pages