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The first sound we hear in Disobedience is the sharp, prolonged blaring of the shofar. In the Jewish religion it's a call for people to pay attention, to wake up from a slumber of complacency and think about our relationship with God. Immediately the film places us in the middle of an Orthodox congregation, gazing up at the final sermon of a dying rabbi; we can see the rows of women in wigs and long, black skirts far above him, watching from the gender-segregated balcony.

As CNN's chief Washington correspondent, Jake Tapper is often focused on breaking news and the latest political stories, but the host of The Lead and State of the Union switched things up a bit for his latest project.

Tapper's new novel, The Hellfire Club, takes place in 1954 Washington, D.C., during Sen. Joseph McCarthy's Communist "witch hunt." He says that although 64 years separate his characters from today's political players, many of the themes apply.

Some people read about history; poet Kevin Young actually saw an important part of history each week, when he went to his family's church in Topeka, Kan. The former pastor of St. Mark's African Methodist Episcopal Church was the Rev. Oliver Brown, of Brown v Board of Education fame. Rev. Brown was before Young's time, but he was still a felt presence.

Right around the midpoint of Eternity, his follow-up to the sci-fi comics trilogy Divinity, writer Matt Kindt suddenly goes meta. He and artists Trevor Hairsine and Ryan Winn are charting the adventures of Abram and Myshka, two cosmonauts who have traveled to the far reaches of space and gained unfathomable powers. In the Divinity books, the two newly forged superbeings clashed over the proper use of their abilities, ultimately falling in love and retiring together to a lonely cabin in the Russian wilderness.

I fell in love recently — with Mel Brooks. It was my almost-next-to-last day in Los Angeles, and I'd gone with my producer, Danny Hajek, to interview the great writer-director-producer-composer-lyricist-mensch, whose movies include Young Frankenstein, Robin Hood: Men in Tights (my favorite film title ever), Blazing Saddles and other knee-slapping hilarities.

Our series "Take A Number" looks at problems around the world — and the people trying to solve them — through the lens of a single number.

At the tiny public library in Winterport, Maine, 43-year-old Robert Hartmann bends over The Little Engine That Could and slowly sounds out the first line.

"Ch-chug, right?" he asks his volunteer tutor, Sandy DeLuck. "Yup," she encourages him. He presses on: "Puh-puff ... puff ... puff. Ding ... ding-dong?"

Kevin Feige runs the Marvel Cinematic Universe from his corner office at the Walt Disney Studios in Burbank, Calif. There, the president of Marvel Studios is surrounded by toys: Iron Man action figures (signed by director Jon Favreau) line the windows, Captain America's shield is framed on the wall and Thor's hammer rests on the coffee table.

At one point early in the new Marvel movie Avengers: Infinity War, the big, purple bad guy snarls, "The end ... is near."

In a way, he's talking about the Avengers movies themselves. The superhero supergroup has already saved the world in three movies and countless comic books. But this time they're up against that aforementioned bad guy — a violet-colored villainous space-tryant called Thanos (Josh Brolin) — and it's not just the world that's in danger, at least according to his estranged daughter Gamora (Zoe Saldana).

In jails and prisons across the United States, mental illness is prevalent and psychiatric disorders often worsen because inmates don't get the treatment they need, says journalist Alisa Roth.

In her new book Insane: America's Criminal Treatment of Mental Illness, Roth investigates the widespread incarceration of the mentally ill in the U.S., and what she sees as impossible burdens placed on correctional officers to act as mental health providers when they're not adequately trained.

Copyright 2018 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

AILSA CHANG, HOST:

Last night on "The Late Show with Stephen Colbert," voice actor Hank Azaria acknowledged that "The Simpsons" does have an Apu problem.

(SOUNDBITE OF TV SHOW, "THE SIMPSONS")

In Aug. 2017, many Americans were shocked to see neo-Nazis and members of the so called alt-right demonstrating in Charlottesville, Va. But author Kathleen Belew says the roots of the rally were actually decades in the making.

In Curtis Sittenfeld's short story "Show Don't Tell" — not, sadly, included in her new collection, You Think it, I'll Say It — a young woman at a prestigious writing workshop competes for funding with an annoying guy in her program. Nearly 20 years later, they have both achieved a kind of literary success, but he is the kind of writer "about whom current students in the program have heated opinions; I'm the kind of writer their mothers read while recovering from knee surgery."

Fear and dread. Fear and dread.

Avengers: Infinity War is — and truly feels like — the culmination of something.

Allan Monga, a junior at Deering High School in Portland, Maine, traveled to Washington, D.C. to compete in the Poetry Out Loud contest on Monday. It's a national competition in which students recite great works of poetry, and it's run by the National Endowment for the Arts and the Poetry Foundation.

But Monga, who says he fled violence in his home country of Zambia, was initially barred from the national final because of his immigration status: He's an asylum seeker and does not yet have U.S. citizenship.

In 1993, Alex Wagner saw a familiar face on the cover of Time magazine: It was a computer-generated picture of a multiethnic woman who reminded her of ... herself.

Wagner's father is white and from the Midwest; her mother is from what was then Burma. And after reading the Time story on "The New Face of America," Wagner, then a teenager, decided to embrace her identity as a "futureface."

How do you make a movie about stagnation? A movie that doesn't just tell you a story about someone wasting away, but that seems to embody a state of physical and moral decay for nearly two hours?

It may not sound like a glowing recommendation, but Lucrecia Martel has made such a movie with Zama, her feverishly brilliant adaptation of Antonio di Benedetto's 1956 novel of the same title. This is one of the most atmospheric and transporting films I've seen all year, and also one of the best.

It's December 1957: A "blast of Arctic air" is drifting inexorably from the American Midwest toward the orange groves of Florida, eventually reaching the tiny hamlet of Okahumpka, in the central part of the state. "Ice, as every Florida grove owner was keenly aware, begins to form in citrus tissue at 28 degrees Fahrenheit and more than four hours at or below that temperature would irreversibly damage the fruit," writes author Gilbert King.

Copyright 2018 Fresh Air. To see more, visit Fresh Air.

TERRY GROSS, HOST:

Patricia Hampl, you had me at your title: The Art of the Wasted Day.

Imagine a book that celebrates daydreaming, that sees it not as a moral failing, but as an activity to be valued as an end in itself. To be clear, this is not a self-help book; nor is Hampl talking about meditation, yogic breathing or mindfulness — those worthy New Age practices that, well, have to be practiced.

Matthew Yokobosky finds food inspirational — which is perhaps not entirely surprising, considering that as an art curator, it's his job to make connections between seemingly disparate objects, just as a chef creates a cohesive dish out of contrasting ingredients.

So when New York City restaurateur and chef Saul Bolton suggested developing a themed menu and a series of dinners around the "David Bowie Is" exhibition now on view at the Brooklyn Museum, Yokobosky was intrigued.

The most expensive play in Broadway history opened Sunday night. Harry Potter and the Cursed Child cost $33.5 million, runs five and a half hours long (in two parts), and has gotten rave reviews. But while it has plenty of special effects, it's actually designed for audiences to use their imagination.

Copyright 2018 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

DAVID GREENE, HOST:

Last year, when neo-Nazis and members of the so called alt-right demonstrated in Charlottesville, Va., many Americans evinced shock that such a thing could happen: A demonstration of the white power movement, in 2017. But it's only the latest in a history of social activism that goes back decades — and, as Kathleen Belew argues in her new book, Bring the War Home, we ignore that history at our peril.

Zoologist Lucy Cooke says humans have got it all wrong about sloths. "People think that because the animal is slow that it's somehow useless and redundant," she says. But in fact, "they are incredibly successful creatures."

Cooke is the founder of the Sloth Appreciation Society and the author of a new book called The Truth About Animals: Stoned Sloths, Lovelorn Hippos, and Other Tales from the Wild Side of Wildlife. The book aims to set the record straight on some long-held misconceptions about the animal world.

When The Exorcist, based on the novel by William Blatty, came to theaters in 1973, it captured the public imagination. Or more accurately, the public's nightmares.

Exorcisms aren't just the stuff of horror movies — hundreds of thousands of Italian Catholics reportedly request them each year. But when William Friedkin directed the movie, he'd never actually seen an exorcism. It would be four more decades before he actually witnessed one.

Many images of Africa in Western media focus on war, famine or other crises that trouble the continent.

But Ethiopian artist Aïda Muluneh wants to help people understand that there's more to her country than what they typically see in the news.

Born in Ethiopia in 1974, Muluneh spent much of her childhood living in different countries — Yemen, England, Cyprus and Canada — before studying film at Howard University in Washington, D.C. She graduated in 2000 and then worked as a photojournalist for The Washington Post.

I love that the entire plot of John Scalzi's newest novel, Head On, hinges on a cat.

I mean, it's such a stupid idea. It's a gimmick that's been played straight, played crooked, played backwards and forwards in so many stories that there's just no trope-life left in it. Cat as McGuffin. Cat as material witness. Cat as embodiment of damsels in distress. It's the literary equivalent of Scooby Doo and the gang pulling the rubber mask off old Mr. McGillicutty the groundskeeper because he was the pirate ghost all along.

NPR Poetry Month: Andrea Davis Pinkney

Apr 21, 2018

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MICHEL MARTIN, HOST:

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