Martin Scorsese is a legend of a director — and he's also a great film teacher, a man who balances a passion for the medium with a deep knowledge of its history. Delivering this year's installment of the National Endowment for the Humanities' prestigious Jefferson Lecture — a talk he titled "Persistence of Vision: Reading the Language of Cinema" — Scorsese demonstrated his speaking chops as well.
Let me tell you a quick story from NPR's move from our old headquarters to our new one.
When I was emptying out my old desk and workspace, in addition to all the shoes under my desk and an alarming number of vessels designed to keep coffee warm, I had quite a lot of books lying around. Some were upcoming books, most were old books, and a few were books I neither had any use for nor could bear to get rid of. One of the tests I applied was that if I picked up a book and the first page I opened to made me laugh, it survived.
The words "grossed out" evoke enough of a watery 1980s vibe that they need to be saved for the times when they really apply: movie scenes where somebody sticks something in somebody else's eye, sewage spills, and so forth.
It's generally understood that something about MTV was revolutionary. Perhaps it was the music video, perhaps it was the short attention span, perhaps it was The Real World, but something about MTV had enough cultural permanency that it made for a fine oral history from Craig Marks and Rob Tannenbaum, called I Want My MTV, in late 2011.
There are many things to savor about Elanor Dymott's debut suspense novel, Every Contact Leaves a Trace -- among them, its baroque narrative structure and its clever manipulation of the stock, husband-who-hasn't-got-a-clue character. But Dymott really won me over when she pulled Robert Browning out of her crime kit. Nobody reads Robert Browning anymore, do they? As far as I can tell, high schools have thrown in the towel when it comes to teaching Victorian poetry; dissertations on Browning's dramatic monologues have all but dried up.
A celebrated 19th century landscape painting by Thomas Cole is at the center of a 21st century fight: The Seward House Historic Museum in upstate New York wants to sell a painting that belonged to former Secretary of State William Seward, but on Tuesday Seward's great-great-grandson will be in court to try to block the sale.
Even if you haven't been to Venice, you're probably familiar with the city's famous tourist gondolas: With baroque silver ornaments, shiny black lacquer, and sumptuous red seat cushions, they're unabashedly fancy, not to mention ubiquitous. A ride with a gondolier costs at least 80 euros (about $105), rain or shine (and it's 110 — $144 — more to be serenaded).
How do you write an absorbing novel about unspeakable things? It's always a tricky business, and an editor I know once described the dilemma this way: "A reader needs to want to go there." What "there" means is the self-contained world of the book. And what would make a reader want to go deeply into a world of hopelessness and seemingly perpetual war, a world of torture and intimidation and exploding land mines? There are many answers. One of the most obvious, of course, is the language.
It's strange to find a Fried Peanut Butter and Banana sandwich, famous as Elvis Presley's favorite, on a restaurant menu, given its effect on Elvis. It's like finding a store selling an Isadora Duncan commemorative scarf.
Nonetheless, freelance radio producer Melissa LaCasse and I decided to try the one offered by The Breslin in New York, listed as "fried peanut butter & banana sandwich with bourbon & vanilla."
From a young age, Laura Linney knew what she wanted to do with her life: act. There was no question.
She was a drama nerd in high school, and went onto Juilliard to study theater. But film acting was never the dream, and movie stardom definitely wasn't the goal.
"I was always completely intimidated by film," she tells Fresh Air's Dave Davies. "I was not the sort of person who grew up thinking, 'Oh, I want to be in the movies.' I loved movies; I just didn't think I particularly belonged there."
Gail Godwin says one of the inspirations for her new novel, called Flora, is Henry James' ghost story The Turn of the Screw. Both stories take place in isolated old houses, and both revolve around mental contests between a governess character and her young charge. There are ghosts in Flora, too: specters that arise out of what our narrator calls her "remorse." Godwin had me at that word, "remorse": It's such a great, old-fashioned word, and it suggests that there'll be a lot of awful things going on in this novel that will need to be atoned for.
Daytime television talk show host Wendy Williams is known for pushing the envelope and dishing the dirt on celebs. She got her start over 20 years ago, as a radio DJ and host. Williams quickly became known in New York as a "shock jockette" who never bit her tongue.
Her quick humor has made The Wendy Williams Show one of the most popular in daytime talk. But Wendy's road to stardom had its bumps.
[CAUTION: This is all about Sunday night's Mad Men. Obviously, if you haven't seen Sunday night's Mad Men and you still intend to, you might hold off.]
It's reductive to conclude that on far too many episodes of Mad Men, nothing happens. Of course something always happens: someone feels something, or learns something, or is locked in a continuous internal struggle with something. A dynamic continues to simmer, a memory comes to the surface, angels and demons battle for somebody's soul.
Meet Tony Stark at the opening of Iron Man 3: insanely wealthy, possessed of every toy, and traumatized by an attack on New York that has left him restless, anxious, belligerent, and given to both hunker-down security measures and fate-tempting swagger. He declares his total lack of fear, then builds the fortress walls higher.
War has brought the act of faith to the forefront for those who occupy the White House. President Lincoln famously issued a call to prayer during the Civil war. Franklin Roosevelt announced D-Day to the nation with a prayer.
Today, President Obama receives a daily spiritual meditation. The man who sends those messages is a Pentecostal minister named Joshua DuBois.
When he first moved to Washington, D.C., DuBois says he had already formed an impression about the spiritual life of the town.
Bill Cheng's new novel, Southern Cross the Dog, is deeply rooted in the Mississippi Delta. It follows the story of one boy after he survives the Great Mississippi Flood of 1927 and spends the next few decades as a refugee, an abandoned orphan and then an itinerant laborer.
Wheel of Fortune has been a part of American culture since 1975. The show has been in syndication since 1983 and since then there has only been one host, Pat Sajak. Host Rachel Martin speaks with Sajak about his early years in broadcasting, the military and hosting one the nation's most popular game shows.
A. Igoni Barrett is the author of Love Is Power, Or Something Like That: Stories.
The reign of the child soldier in African literature is over.
Now, in the aftermath of its decline, the props of the regime — as with the downfall of your common blood-and-flesh despot — are being dismantled. The discerning reader has long grown weary of dead and dying stereotypes of the modern African novel: Civil wars. Black magic. Vulture-stalked refugees. In life as in literature, the stranglehold of these banal memes on African narratives is broken.
Paul Rudnick has made a name as a playwright, novelist, columnist and screenwriter. Now he's turned his attention to the Young Adult market with a kind of Cinderella story starring a young woman named Becky, who's grown up in a trailer park.
When Becky's mom dies, she discovers a mysterious phone number. Calling it, she receives a mystical offer: A legendary New York fashion designer will make her three dresses, one each in black, white and red, and if she'll only wear them — and do everything he says — she'll become history's most beautiful woman.
The Mexican army's May 5 victory in 1862's Battle of Puebla is a pretty small holiday in Mexico. But in the U.S., Cinco de Mayo has grown into a kind of Mexican St. Patrick's Day. So this weekend, in honor of that holiday, thousands of Americans will be dipping tortilla chips into guacamole, and when they do they'll have an important decision to make: how best to dip without breaking the chip.
Theweekends on All Things Considered series Movies I've Seen a Million Times features filmmakers, actors, writers and directors talking about the movies that they never get tired of watching.
The movie that actress Paula Patton, whose credits includethe films Mission: Impossible – Ghost Protocol, Jumping the Broom and Disconnect (currently in theaters) could watch a million times is the comedy Talladega Nights: The Ballad of Ricky Bobby.
Today is May 4, unofficially known as Star Wars Day — seemingly for the lone reason that it presents an opportunity for people to tell one another, "May the Fourth be with you." But fans of the George Lucas films are also using the day as an excuse to break out costumes and photos, and generally let their Jedi flag fly.
In the spring of 1970, a British illustrator named Ralph Steadman had just moved to America, hoping to find some work. His first call came from a small literary journal called Scanlan's. It was looking for a cartoonist to send to the Kentucky Derby. Steadman had heard of neither the race nor the writer he was to accompany, a fellow named Hunter S. Thompson.
Steadman hadn't read any of Thompson's work, and he certainly didn't know that the writer had a bit of a drinking tendency, but he agreed to go.
With his newest book, Attempting Normal, released on April 30, and a TV show, Maron, that premiered on IFC on May 3, comedian Marc Maron is having a busy spring. Maron considers himself primarily a stand-up comic, but he's also an actor, author and host of the popular podcast WTF with Marc Maron. The podcast has a simple premise: Maron interviews another comic. But the resulting product is complex and compelling.