Arts

Arts and culture

Rapper Kate Tempest has become kind of a sensation, winning awards as both a performer and a poet. In her hit debut album, Everybody Down, she told the story of Becky and Harry, two Londoners in their 20s who are struggling with work, love and drugs.

Now she has expanded that story into a novel called The Bricks That Built The Houses. She tells NPR's Ari Shapiro that when the idea for the story first came to her, she knew it would be both an album and a book.


Interview Highlights

On Becky

Here are two obvious statements: One, many teenagers love fast food. Two, many of them hate listening to adults. And these are real problems if you're a fast food company.

Increasingly, companies like Taco Bell and McDonald's are trying very hard to reach teens like me by using social media. Over the past few months, I've been working with NPR business reporter Sonari Glinton to examine how well some of these campaigns are working — including asking some of my friends at Youth Radio to weigh in.

"More than most places, Pennsylvania is what lies beneath." That's a line Jennifer Haigh places at the beginning and the end of her latest novel, Heat & Light.

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

The chef picked up the nubby stick of fresh wasabi. Through a translator, he explained the good ones are straight and deep green in color. It was the first time I had seen it fresh. The green dab you get at most American sushi restaurants is almost always horseradish and food coloring squeezed from a tube. While that may have been my introduction to freshly harvested wasabi, it wasn't my first time seeing something far more precious — Pacific bluefin tuna.

What role should art play in society, and who's to say? These are just two of the questions Julian Barnes ponders in his slim but by no means slight new novel, which chronicles the tribulations of Russian composer Dmitri Shostakovich during his decades under the successive thumbs of Stalin and Khrushchev. Like his Booker Prize-winning The Sense of An Ending (2011), The Noise of Time is another brilliant thought-provoker which explores the costs of compromise and how much confrontation and concession a man and his conscience can endure.

You've been asking for it. We've been cranking on it. And now, it's happening: the Code Switch podcast!

Check out the trailer and subscribe to our podcast so you don't miss the first episode later this month!

So, what's this podcast all about? Everything you come to Code Switch for: deeply reported, urgent, hard-to-pin-down stories about race and culture. Conversations about the messy ways our identities crash into everything else in our lives, whether we realize it or not.

[A note: In addition to talking about surprises in the Star Wars original trilogy, this piece also talks about some things that happen in the Harry Potter books, the Little House books, Jane Eyre, Bridge to Terabithia, and Great Expectations. It contains multitudes.]

I read to my kids for all sorts of reasons, but to be very honest with you, it's less about the benefits preached in various judgy mom blogs, and more because it's an activity I can do with them while horizontal under blankets.

"I am grateful, so grateful, tolerant reader, that you read on," says Mycroft Canner halfway through Too Like the Lightning, Ada Palmer's awe-inspiring debut novel. Yes, Canner addresses the reader throughout the book; as the main character and narrator, he breaks the fourth wall so pervasively that he feels compelled to explain himself. At length. This jarring form of narrative is just one of the many challenging things about Lightning. Dense and complex, the book is a beast.

When Louis XV, King of France, first met the woman who would become his chief mistress, she was dressed as a domino, and he was dressed as a plant. It was 1745, and Jeanne Antoinette Poisson, the pretty young woman who would become Marquise de Pompadour, had been invited to a masked ball at Versailles. If this sounds like a chance meeting, it wasn't — her family had been strategizing to orchestrate this very moment for years.

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

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

The federal government is getting into hip-hop — well, sort of.

Documentary filmmaker Ken Burns has been chosen to deliver this year's Jefferson Lecture in the Humanities, the highest honor bestowed by the federal government for work in the field. He will talk about race in America.

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

On this Mother's Day, here's a bit of wisdom: "Having a child is usually just a long patience."

Those words are spoken by a nurse in the new novel Eleven Hours. Her name is Franckline and she works in a hospital maternity ward. That long patience she's talking about is the patience a woman needs when she's in labor — the patience to ride through hours of pain and worry.

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

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

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Americans have until May 10 to help the Food and Drug Administration with one of philosophy's greatest riddles: What is the meaning of "natural"?

A Bigger Splash positively swims with jealousy, intrigue and lust. Set on the rugged Italian island of Pantelleria, the new film features rock star Marianne Lane — played by Tilda Swinton — who's staying there with her lover, Paul. All's well until Marianne's ex, Harry, appears on the scene, full of manic energy and with his nubile young daughter in tow.

Another kink to the proceedings? Marianne's recuperating from surgery on her vocal cords, rendered virtually mute as she tries to recuperate.

Growing up Muslim in Canada had its challenges for Zarqa Nawaz, starting with school lunch. Her mother insisted on sending Nawaz off with home-cooked chicken that smelled of cumin, when all she wanted was a peanut butter and jelly sandwich, like all the other kids. Years later, Nawaz has turned a lifetime of culture clashes into a career as a writer and filmmaker. In her work, she uses humor to humanize a religion she loves, but others fear.

This time 50 years ago, "Monday, Monday" by The Mamas & the Papas was the No. 1 song in the U.S. Valley of the Dolls by Jacqueline Susann was the New York Times best-selling novel. The Vietnam War was intensifying. The Civil Rights movement was gaining momentum. Kauai King was en route to win the 92nd Kentucky Derby.

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

In a darkened London theater, the first thing the audience hears is the rhythmic chanting of an a capella Islamic State anthem.

Another World: Losing Our Children to Islamic State, currently at the National Theatre, is a play about young people seduced by the group. The main characters are three mothers whose children left their homes in Europe to join ISIS.

Now that the long wait is over and fans can finally bask in the super-sized, superhero brawl that is Captain America: Civil War, some may overlook something really special about this movie.

It has three black superheroes on the front lines.

There's Don Cheadle's War Machine. Chadwick Boseman appears as Marvel's first African superhero, the Black Panther. And Anthony Mackie returns to a Captain America movie as the Falcon, asking Cap if he really wants to resist government control of superheroes.

Rachel Bloom is the star, writer and co-creator of The CW show Crazy Ex-Girlfriend. The singer-songwriter first got famous with her hilarious musical numbers on YouTube, before she was given the chance to create her own TV show that let her play a lunatic stalker character loosely based on herself. She's already won a Golden Globe for that role in Crazy Ex-Girlfriend.

Since she's the expert on crazy ex-girlfriends we've decided to ask her three questions about some well-known crazy ex-boyfriends in a game called "No! Really! This time I'll change!"

Not every country in the world celebrates Mother's Day on the same day.

Anyone who's lost a family member knows the feeling of unreality that follows. Psychologists call it "denial," but it's something more than that — it's a sense that you're not really there, that you're living in an alternate world, that the pain you're feeling can't possibly be real. Grief is a powerful thing, and it can temporarily turn people into walking ghosts.

Or, as Dana Cann writes in his debut novel, Ghosts of Bergen County: "This was life: you're here. And this was death: you're not. And then you're here again, haunting some stranger. And none of it matters."

If you haven't heard of the Marvel superhero Black Panther, that's going to change very soon.

If I say Kentucky Derby, you say ... mint julep?

Well, if you're a Kentucky dame like me you do. As my fellow Louisville native Jesse Baker once pointed out: "It ain't Derby without a mint julep."

Race fans have been drinking mint juleps at Churchill Downs in Louisville since the racetrack's inception in 1875, according to bourbon historian Fred Minnick.

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

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