In the UK, Simon Mayo is a household name. Countless people grew up listening to him as the breakfast show host of BBC Radio One and BBC Radio 5 Live, where he was on air during 9/11. He still broadcasts a daily show for the B, but has in the last few years turned his hand to writing. The second book in his children's series is called "Itch Rocks." It is out now in the United States. And he joins us from our studios in London. Mr. Mayo, thanks so much for being with us.
Originally published on Mon April 21, 2014 12:42 pm
Some books have a subject so timeless as to be almost mythic — it's as though these stories are reinvented each time a new book appears, since the subject is right at the heart of what it means to be human. Coming of age books, if they are any good, have this mythic quality. Here are three that are at the top of the scale.
What does it mean to grow up? And why are adults so fascinated by this transition from the innocent to the knowledgeable?
Douglas Coupland's latest book, Worst. Person. Ever., is a profane, shocking novel that centers around an awful guy named Raymond Gunt.
"Imagine there's this really bitter English guy who has Tourette's and swore all the time, except he doesn't have Tourette's, he just swears a lot. Like, a lot — to the point where it almost becomes like performance art," Coupland tells NPR's Arun Rath.
Originally published on Sat April 19, 2014 10:42 am
How did it happen? How'd the zebra get its stripes?
In Rudyard Kipling's version, a gray, horsey-looking beast went into "a great forest 'sclusively full of trees and bushes and stripy, speckly, patchy-batchy shadows," stayed there awhile, and after a "long time"... got stripy.
John Steinbeck's Of Mice and Men — about George and Lennie, two laborers and unlikely friends during the Great Depression — may seem like a quintessentially American story. But Irish actor Chris O'Dowd, who plays Lennie in a new Broadway production the novella, says Steinbeck is "quite oddly" very popular in Ireland.
There's something about Of Mice and Men that appeals to the Irish people, O'Dowd tells NPR's Wade Goodwyn. "All of us have chased the American dream so there's something very universal about it," he says.
Everyone has a favorite Gabriel Garcia Marquez book, and mine is Love in the Time of Cholera. It's the story of a romance that lasts decades, unwinding through the pages of the book. It's verbose, vibrant and full of love.
Playwright Phillip Hayes Dean died earlier this week. His family says the 83 year-old died in Los Angeles of a heart condition. He was in the midst of overseeing a production of his most famous play, "Paul Robeson."
Hundreds of people gathered on the National Mall Friday to see if they could break the Guinness World Record for the largest group dressed as comic book characters ever assembled.
It was the kickoff to Awesome Con 2014, a comic book convention that will take place in Washington, D.C., this weekend. In the end, the group came up short by several hundred people to break the world record.
But with so much superhero power concentrated next to the U.S. Capitol, NPR had to ask: Did the caped figures have any advice for Congress?
Originally published on Fri April 18, 2014 3:52 pm
In Bayonne, they take their ham very, very seriously.
This medieval fortress of a town is minutes from the French seaside ports of Barritz and St. Jean de Luz, and not far from Spain's St. Sebastian. It has reigned as a cultural and commercial center for a millennium, according to historian Mark Kurlansky in The Basque History of the World.
With his long face and hangdog appearance, actor John Turturro is no one's idea of a matinee idol — not even his own — so he raised a lot of eyebrows when he cast himself as the title character in Fading Gigolo. Even more when he cast Woody Allen as his pimp. So it may come as a relief when things don't go as wrong with what turns out to be a surprisingly sweet little dramedy as they might have.
Every so often a high-toned arthouse director dips a toe into the horror genre and the results are uplifting: You realize vampires and space aliens are subjects too rich to be the sole property of schlockmeisters. That's the case with two new arty genre pictures: Jonathan Glazer's Under the Skin and Jim Jarmusch's Only Lovers Left Alive — both slow, expressionist, non-narrative, the kind of films that drive some people crazy with boredom and put others in their thrall.
When I saw the first episode of BBC America's Orphan Black last year, I was convinced it was a crappy Canadian police drama.
That's because the set-up seemed like the oddest sort of crime procedural nonsense. A street urchin-style grifter sees a middle class woman who looks just like her leap in front of a commuter train, nabs her purse and climbs into her life – only to find her doppelganger is a troubled police officer with problems of her own.
Speaking of religion still, if there's one thing that goes hand-in-hand with faith, it is generally food. There have been a number of different food shortages in this country you may have heard about lately. We reported on this program about the shortage of limes. We've seen reports of rising beef prices as well. But right now, during Passover, gefilte fish is in short supply. Matt Chaban joins us now from member station WESA in Pittsburgh. He wrote about this for the New York Times. Matt, welcome.
Sundance has been making strides in scripted television with series like Rectify and Top Of The Lake, but Friday night also brings back a charming little interview show they have — sort of a perfect Friday night show, actually.
Originally published on Fri April 18, 2014 9:55 am
A meditation on the lives of one multigenerational family in rural 1950s Ohio, Joan Chase's 1983 debut During the Reign of the Queen of Persia — just reissued — opens up a typical pastoral story with the inventiveness of four young girls, the novel's narrators. Directed by sisters Anne and Katie, and their cousins Celia and Jenny, the narration traces the gradual dissolution of the Krauss family from their grandmother's childhood to the end of their own, after a lifetime on their Ohio farm.
Tatiana Maslany plays Sarah — and some other people — on BBC America's sci-fi show Orphan Black. On Friday's Morning Edition, she speaks to Kelly McEvers about how she manages to play all those different women from different cultural backgrounds, not to mention women with different mixes of malevolence and likability. Technically, it's no picnic: Just ask the tennis ball that sometimes plays her head.
Originally published on Fri April 18, 2014 6:20 am
Heaven Is for Real has an earnestness and an inertness that make it something of a bulletproof fish in a barrel. It's easy to take shots at because it's utterly artless and corny, but it's immune to criticism because it's not intended to be otherwise. It's simply intended to be affirming to people who go to church a lot, encouraging to people who go to church a little, and inoffensively irrelevant to people who don't go to church at all.
Originally published on Fri April 18, 2014 11:11 am
This Easter, you can drown your sorrows in a glass of Jellybean milk — or with a pile of beer-flavored jelly beans.
The new twists are a sign that jelly beans are continuing their march to candyland domination. Americans buy 16 billion beans in the Easter season alone (mid-February until the actual holiday), according to the National Confectioners Association. The candy even has its own holiday on April 22.
Latin American author Gabriel Garcia Marquez, who won the Nobel Prize in literature in 1982, died Thursday. He was 87. Garcia Marquez, the master of a style known as magic realism, was and remains Latin America's best-known writer.
His novels were filled with miraculous and enchanting events and characters; love and madness; wars, politics, dreams and death. And everything he had written, Garcia Marquez once said, he knew or heard before he was 8 years old.
CBS is planning a one-hour season finale for Robin Williams' The Crazy Ones. It was one of three sitcoms built around big established stars this season, all three of which suffered in the ratings. It raises the question: Does television make stars, or is it the other way around?
Originally published on Thu April 17, 2014 5:21 pm
Although they take very different approaches to the eco-documentary, DamNation and Manakamana are both immersive experiences. In the former, one of the directors is the narrator and an onscreen character. In the latter, the directors stay off-camera (or behind the camera) as they turn a simple journey into a slowly unraveling ethnographic mystery.
A Bintel Brief and The Harlem Hellfighters are two New York Stories. That's why I'm combining them in this review; not because — as some purists still think — they're lesser works of literature because they're graphic novels. If Egyptian hieroglyphics, the Bayeux Tapestry, and Art Spiegelman's 1991 classic, Maus, haven't yet convinced the high-art holdouts of the value of stories told in visual sequence, nothing I say now about these two books is likely to.
Transcendence is a science fiction story, but it's very much about faith. Early on, a member of a "neo-Luddite" group confronts Will Caster (Johnny Depp) about his work. Caster is promising a future in which a massive artificial intelligence will contain more knowledge than the world has ever collectively possessed, and the man – played by Lukas Haas, whom many of us first saw as a tiny Amish child in Witness, where he was also counseled about the dangers of modernity and technology – accuses him of trying to create a god.