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Is Francine Prose just monkeying around? Is she taking a comic break after the much weightier exploration of creeping xenophobia, anti-Semitism, and right-wing proto-fascism in her last novel, Lovers at the Chameleon Club, Paris 1932? Mister Monkey, her 22nd book of fiction, is a dark comedy about the mainly sad, disappointing lives of everyone involved in a woeful way-off-Broadway revival of a painfully bad musical based on a made-up classic children's book...

What Best in Show did for dog shows and what A Mighty Wind did for folk music, the new mockumentary Mascots does for, well, mascots. The film, from director Christopher Guest, follows contestants in the World Mascot Association Championship. Guest tells NPR's Robert Siegel that he started thinking of the comic possibilities of mascots several years ago, when his son was a mascot for a school team. "I became interested in the idea that people are performing, in...

If you feel like Internet ads are more pervasive and invasive than ever before, you're not alone. Author Tim Wu tells Fresh Air 's Terry Gross that the Web has gotten worse over the years, not better — and unrelenting ads are to blame. "I think you spend 50 percent of your mental energy trying to defeat ad systems," Wu says. "It's amazing that we've got this great scientific invention, the Web and the Internet, and then it has come to the point where using it reminds me of swatting...

"Do you know how many words there are in 80 minutes?" asks actress Kathleen Turner. " My god!" Turner is referring to The Year of Magical Thinking, a play based on Joan Didion's 2005 memoir . The book was written while Didion's daughter was in a deep coma, and after her husband of 40 years suffered a fatal heart attack. In her role as Didion, Turner is the only one on stage. "It's very lonely," she says. Rehearsing before opening night at Washington, D.C.'s Arena...

One late December day in 1950, Max Beckmann was standing on a street corner near Central Park in New York City. The German expressionist painter had been on his way to see an exhibition featuring his work at the Metropolitan Museum of Art. Called " American Painting Today ," the show was displaying his Self-Portrait in Blue Jacket . It would turn out to be his last self-portrait. "Unfortunately he never made it to the Metropolitan Museum," says the Met's Sabine Rewald. "On the corner...

"No man is an island, entire of itself," John Donne famously reassured us in 1623, the same year Shakespeare's The Tempest was published in the First Folio. But "isolate" and "island" come from the same Latin root, and the truth is that we make our own islands where we daily maroon ourselves. Take Felix Phillips, protagonist of Margaret Atwood's Hag-Seed. Ousted from his long-held job at a prominent Canadian theater festival by the machinations of his trusted right-hand man...

Copyright 2016 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/. LAKSHMI SINGH, HOST: Moschino is turning heads on the runway with its new capsule collection and not necessarily in a good way. The Italian fashion brand's spring 2017 collection features handbags, cellphone cases and dresses. That's normal. Designer Jeremy Scott's prints featuring images of pills and bottles inspired by prescription drugs are not. We called up our friend Jacki Lyden to give us some background. She reports for NPR on...

In Philip Roth's acclaimed novel American Pastoral , Miss New Jersey and Mr. Former High School Football star get married, have a beautiful daughter, a lovely house in the country, and a peaceful, blessed, life. But then the 1960's strike, and their little girl, outraged by the war in Vietnam, becomes a bomber. The book has now been made into a movie, directed by Ewan McGregor — who also stars as Seymour "Swede" Levov. He tells NPR's Scott Simon that the first thing that drew him to...

Bob Dylan was awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature this week. His selection was surprising. He is the first artist to receive the award for a body of work that is almost entirely songs. But while there were critics, there was also a lot of acclaim, even from outstanding longtime novelists, including Joyce Carol Oates, Stephen King, and Salman Rushdie, who called Mr. Dylan, "the brilliant inheritor of the Bardic tradition." Sara Danius of the Swedish Academy, who is a professor of literature...

Copyright 2016 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/. SCOTT SIMON, HOST: One of the great American plays has been revived on Broadway with a great American cast. "The Front Page", the 1928 Ben Hecht and Charles MacArthur play set in the pressroom of Chicago's criminal courts building on the night before a hanging, is back in all of its profane and swaggering glory. It stars Nathan Lane as the crusty editor, John Goodman as the blustery sheriff, Holland Taylor as the fusty mother-in-law...

Remember for a moment the days of your youth. Before you were a reader of Serious Literature. Before you cared about the big questions and thematic duality, Pynchon's latest or the spectacular weirdness of China Mieville. Bring to mind a simpler time when books existed either as pure, picture-heavy entertainment or (depending on your age) as a vehicle for Dick and Jane to teach you about manners or Ninja Turtles to school you on good oral hygiene. When we were young, curious monkeys got to go...

Copyright 2016 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/. ARI SHAPIRO, HOST: The new film "Desierto" doesn't have much dialogue, and the plot is simple. A group of Mexican immigrants crosses the U.S. border. A sniper and his dog set out to kill them. Mexican actor Gael Garcia Bernal plays the immigrant at the center of the story, and he recently joined me from Los Angeles to talk about it. GAEL GARCIA BERNAL: Hello, yes, hello. (Speaking Spanish). SHAPIRO: Once he settled in, he told me in...

The tragedy was local, yet seemed to speak to the whole of journalism: On July 15, 1974, reporter Christine Chubbuck pulled out a revolver during a live evening newscast in Sarasota Florida, and as her coworkers looking on in horror, shot herself in the head. The what was simple, the why hard to fathom, and that's no less true in Antonio Campos' compelling retelling of the tale in his biopic Christine . He begins with an image of Chubbuck on a TV monitor, practicing her delivery by...

I Just Play One On Television

Oct 14, 2016

In this final round, Puzzle Guru Art Chung asks the final contestants to identify the occupations of famous TV characters. For example, "Tony Soprano, from The Sopranos ," would be "mob boss." Heard on Javier Muñoz & David Harbour: The World Turned Upside Down Copyright 2016 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/. ARI SHAPIRO, HOST: The new film "Desierto" doesn't have much dialogue, and the plot is simple. A group of Mexican immigrants crosses the U.S. border. A...

David Harbour: 20-Sided Quiz

Oct 14, 2016

Actor David Harbour has had a long career. From theater ( The Rainmaker, Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf? ), to TV ( Law & Order , The Newsroom ) and film ( The Equalizer , Brokeback Mountain )--he's done it all. But he's never received the attention he's had since playing Police Chief Jim Hopper in the Netflix series Stranger Things . "God yeah, I've really done so much work and no one's cared," Harbour told host Ophira Eisenberg...

To All The Ghouls I've Loved Before

Oct 14, 2016

Jonathan Coulton parodies game the kinda creepy Willie Nelson and Julio Iglesias song "To All the Girls I've Loved Before" to be about famous monsters. Heard on Javier Muñoz & David Harbour: The World Turned Upside Down Copyright 2016 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/. ARI SHAPIRO, HOST: The new film "Desierto" doesn't have much dialogue, and the plot is simple. A group of Mexican immigrants crosses the U.S. border. A sniper and his dog set out to kill them. Mexican actor...

Even though Javier Muñoz was Lin Manuel Miranda's alternate in Miranda's first Broadway musical, In the Heights , he still had to audition for Hamilton . Twice. Flash forward to Muñoz's first performance as Alexander Hamilton in the Broadway production, which President Obama attended. "No pressure!" he told host Ophira Eisenberg. "I was surprised that I just wasn't nervous. I was so excited to do it. It was one of the three times Lin got to see the show so that was the most...

Steel, Talking Heads, Or Wrestlemania?

Oct 14, 2016

In this edition of This, That, or the Other, contestants must decide: is it a Danielle Steel novel, a Talking Heads song, or a Wrestlemania tagline? Heard on Javier Muñoz & David Harbour: The World Turned Upside Down Copyright 2016 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/. OPHIRA EISENBERG, HOST: Let's check in with our contestants. Vanessa Konkel, you were attacked by a wild turkey in your backyard when you were 7. VANESSA KONKEL: Yeah, upstate New York problems. (LAUGHTER)...

Knowledge By Nature

Oct 14, 2016

In honor of the song "O-P-P" by "Naughty By Nature" being over 25 years old, every answer is three letters that rhyme with O-P-P. For example, if we said, "You down with a bacon, lettuce, and tomato sandwich?" you'd answer, "You down with B-L-T?" Yeah, you know us! Heard on Javier Muñoz & David Harbour: The World Turned Upside Down Copyright 2016 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/. ARI SHAPIRO, HOST: The new film "Desierto" doesn't have much dialogue, and the plot is...

Copyright 2016 Fresh Air. To see more, visit Fresh Air . DAVE DAVIES, HOST: This is FRESH AIR. I'm Dave Davies, in for Terry Gross. Our first guest is writer Jacqueline Woodson. Her latest novel, "Another Brookyln," is a finalist for this year's National Book Awards to be announced in November. Woodson's the author of a number of award-winning children's, middle-school and young-adult books. And she's the Young People's Poet Laureate, a position named by the Poetry Foundation. Woodson's books...

Tower is an animated documentary that tells the story of a massacre that happened 50 years ago and was a historic first: A man with no record of violence shot at people at random for no logical reason. It was Aug. 1, 1966, in the middle of a 100-degree day at the University of Texas at Austin. The shots came from the clock tower at the center of the campus. A woman eight months pregnant was the first to fall, soon to be followed by her boyfriend and a boy delivering newspapers on...

The regular Pop Culture Happy Hour team is gearing up for our west coast tour, which kicks off Monday, October 17 in Seattle, continues on October 19 in Portland (the only date with tickets still available), October 21 in San Francisco with Mallory Ortberg, and October 23 in Los Angeles with Kumail Nanjiani. Then on Saturday, October 29, we're part of a dauntingly great lineup at the Now Hear This podcast festival in Anaheim, where the long-awaited meeting between our show and Pop Rocket will...

Teen pregnancy is often discussed in political rather than personal terms, says novelist Brit Bennett. "We think often about teen pregnancies — or even think about abortion ... in this very politicized way," she tells NPR's Steve Inskeep. Bennett thinks people don't necessarily ask themselves: What would I do if I were in this situation? So in her debut novel, The Mothers, she tells the story of Nadia Turner, a 17-year-old high schooler who becomes pregnant after dating the son of a...

Actress Taraji P. Henson has played a lot of characters in her 20-year career, but it took only one role to make her famous: Cookie Lyon, the matriarch of an ambitious, dysfunctional family on the hit TV show Empire . Now Henson has a new memoir out called Around the Way Girl . Don't know what an "around the way girl" is? Henson explains: "Around the way is like saying from the neighborhood, like from the hood." Henson still proudly calls herself an around the way girl; she...

Amid the current clamor for strong women characters, the films of Kelly Reichardt can seem regressive if you're not paying close attention. From her terrific debut feature River of Grass through Meek's Cutoff and Wendy and Lucy , Reichardt has given us incomplete, quietly suffering women who feel their way into change. Her M.O. is to allow their unexpressed longings to hang quietly in the air so we can feel them too, and watch what happens when they try to act on...

Check it, bro: What if Will Hunting and Jason Bourne were actually the same person? That's the bar-napkin arithmetic behind The Accountant, an overplotted and amoral but admirably weird action drama that has, to its credit, escaped the hallways of a major studio with its rough edges intact. Although neither written nor directed by its star, Ben Affleck, it nonetheless evinces a high degree of Affleckian envy for his pal Matt Damon. You'll recall that the pair co-wrote and co-starred...

If Astroboy creator Osamu Tezuka is the father of anime, its great-uncle is Edo-period artist Katsushika Hokusai. He's best known for The Great Wave off Kanagawa , the most-reproduced Japanese artwork ever, but his styles and subjects were impressively diverse. Among his most talented proteges was his daughter, known variously as O'Ei, Oi, or — in the English title of a new animated film — Miss Hokusai . This is not anime for fanboys who crave intergalactic battles...

On July 15th, 1974, Christine Chubbuck, a field reporter for a small news station in Sarasota, Florida, requested and received a rare on-camera appearance during a live broadcast. She read a couple of stories, including a report about a shooting the previous day at a local restaurant, but the footage queued up for segment jammed, leaving Chubbuck to move on to the next page in the stack. "In keeping with Channel 40's policy of bringing you the latest in 'blood and guts'," she said, "and in...

Copyright 2016 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/. ARI SHAPIRO, HOST: When Bob Dylan won the 2016 Nobel Prize for Literature this morning, he joined a lineage that includes Harold Pinter, Thomas Mann and Toni Morrison. NPR's Neda Ulaby looks at how Dylan fits into this group. NEDA ULABY, BYLINE: In 1965, Bob Dylan was asked at a press conference if he saw himself more as a singer or a poet. (SOUNDBITE OF PRESS CONFERENCE) BOB DYLAN: I think of myself more as song and dance man, you...

Cameron Esposito and Rhea Butcher had an idea for a show about two lesbian comics who get married and perform together. In other words, their real life. " I Love Lucy , except we're both ... Lucy Loves Lucy," they joke to NPR's Ari Shapiro. "Also we're both Desi at the same time. It's a little bit of both." The pitch worked. Their show is called Take My Wife , and it's out now on the NBC-owned streaming channel Seeso. Esposito and Butcher got married last year, and Butcher...

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