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Even if you've read the news reports or seen the horrifying photographs, it's hard to fathom the terrible extent of the Syrian refugee crisis. The United States has accepted more than 10,000 Syrians fleeing the country's civil war, but that's a drop in the bucket — millions of Syrians have been forced out of their home country, hoping other nations will take them in. Some have, some have since closed the door.

Could Scottish writer Ali Smith be J.D. Salinger's natural heir? It's not as preposterous as it sounds. Not since Salinger's plucky English orphan, Esmé, soothed an American sergeant's no-longer-intact faculties at the end of World War II has a writer so artfully and heartrendingly captured the two-way lifeline between preternaturally wise children (mainly girls) and young-at-heart gentle souls (mainly men) who forge special friendships that have nothing predatory or Lolita-ish about them.

In the Grant Park neighborhood in southeast Atlanta stands an auditorium that, for more than a century, has housed the massive oil painting Battle of Atlanta. Of late, the venue has become a construction site.

Piles of rubble mount and scaffolding extends high into the air — surrounding the large, cylindrical oil painting also known as the Atlanta Cyclorama. The panorama, which is longer than a football field, depicts scenes of Confederate and Union soldiers from the 1864 fall of Atlanta during the American Civil War.

Craig Morgan Teicher is a poetry critic and a poet. His most recent book is The Trembling Answers, which comes out in April.

America's greatest triumph is its diversity: the multiplicity of peoples, identities, and voices all gathered and vitally alive in one country. Nothing attests to this diversity more profoundly than American poetry, which elevates those voices to song. At its best, our poetry refutes hate, represents and finds harmony in difference, counters generality with nuance, and speaks out against injustice.

In August 1966, a student and former Marine ascended to the top of the tower that housed the University of Texas' main library and began shooting at people below. He killed 14 people on the campus and wounded 31 more. Hours earlier, Charles Whitman had killed his wife and mother in their homes. He was eventually shot to death by police. A 15th victim died in 2001, from injuries sustained in the attack.

Sure, the dictionary's a resource designed to give an accurate accounting of words in all their many shapes and sizes, their definitions and their spellings. But whatever finality a dictionary's thick binding implies, it's destined to beg adjustment just as soon as it has been set, as words take shape, wither from disuse or simply fall in and out of favor.

I read it like a memoir. Like autobiography. Which, ideally, is the way it's supposed to be read, I suppose, but is also a dangerous way to let it into your head. The way it will mess with you most fully and inhabit your dreams. The Twenty Days Of Turin is a novel. There's no truth to it at all. But sometimes it doesn't exactly feel that way.

Seeing a great work of art might quicken your pulse, but now New York City's Metropolitan Museum of Art is hoping you'll break a sweat, too. The Met is currently offering a "Museum Workout" — part performance, part workout, part art tour.

On a recent morning, 15 of us gather in The Great Hall before the museum opens. We line up behind two tour guide dancers — both wearing sparkly cocktail dresses and sneakers. A guy with a portable speaker stands nearby.

Painter David Hockney once said, "It is very good advice to believe only what an artist does, rather than what he says about his work." On Thursday in London, a major retrospective at Tate Britain will give visitors the chance to see 60 years of the English artist's "doings."

Oils, acrylics, sketches, photographs, smartphone drawings — Hockney has worked in every medium. He's one of the best-known contemporary artists and his works sell for millions.

FX's Legion is a superhero TV show that resists admitting it is one.

Which is both the most satisfying and frustrating thing about it.

Here's the setup: David Haller is a well-meaning guy who hears voices in his head. It's driven him to drugs, occasionally criminal behavior and a suicide attempt. (Alert TV fans will recognize the actor playing David as Dan Stevens, who was blue-eyed hunk Matthew Crawley on Downton Abbey).

I was lucky enough to have a conversation with Margaret Atwood today, about the sudden popularity of her dystopian classic The Handmaid's Tale. You can hear that story here. But there was one thing that didn't make it into the finished piece — a moment when I asked Atwood what she thought the next big trend would be in dystopian reading.

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Joyce Carol Oates' latest book opens in 1999 with a killing: A man who considers himself a soldier of Christ shoots a doctor who performs abortions. Over the next 700-plus pages, we see the consequences of that act ripple through the doctor's family and that of his killer.

The novel is called A Book of American Martyrs. Oates, who is outspoken about her liberal politics, spoke with NPR's Ari Shapiro.


Interview Highlights

On telling parts of the story from the perspective of the killer, Luther

In Mexican lucha libre — professional wrestling known for its masked fighters and cartoonish style — the bad guys rule. They're known simply as rudos.

"Mexican lucha libre is for rudos. We welcome any rudo who wants to come in here and be badder than the others," says Marco Espinosa, a fan, from beneath his souvenir lucha libre mask.

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There are two things viewers should know right from the start about Legion, which premieres Wednesday night on FX. One is that it doesn't look, or feel, like a drama based on a comic book — it's more like a next-generation version of One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest, as filtered through H.P. Lovecraft or Edgar Allan Poe.

It was February 1824, and Charles Dickens was hungry. With his father, John Dickens, jailed in the Marshalsea Prison over a debt of 40 pounds, 12-year-old Charles begrudgingly quit school to work at Warren's Blacking Factory in London. His family, who was forced to move into the prison with their father, desperately needed the money; there were 10 starving mouths to feed.

Comedian and actor Irwin Corey, for whom the word "however" was the perfect opening line, has died at age 102. With an impish grin and wild hair, Corey was a nightclub and talk-show fixture who worked with stars from Jackie Gleason to Woody Allen. His admirers ranged from Damon Runyon to Lenny Bruce.

Culture Clash, Survival And Hope In 'Pachinko'

Feb 7, 2017

In fiction we seek a paradox, the familiar in the foreign, new realities that only this one particular author can give us. Pachinko, the sophomore novel by the gifted Korean-born Min Jin Lee, is the kind of book that can open your eyes and fill them with tears at the same time.

"I think you work harder if you're haunted by some small darkness," says John Darnielle. And if the work he's produced is any indication, Darnielle is one haunted man.

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Lancaster, Ohio, the home of the Fortune 500 company Anchor Hocking, was once a bustling center of industry and employment. At its peak following World War II, Lancaster's hometown company was the world's largest maker of glassware and employed more than 5,000 town residents.

Though Anchor Hocking remains in Lancaster today, it is a shell of its former self, and the once thriving town is beset by underemployment and drug abuse. Lancaster native Brian Alexander chronicles the rise and fall of his hometown in his new book, Glass House.

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The New England Patriots don't always win the Super Bowl. Tom Brady isn't always the face staring at you on Snack Digesting Monday, the traditional follow-up to Super Bowl Sunday. But it can sure feel that way.

Pinball is big business in Japan. Known as pachinko, the multibillion-dollar industry is dominated by Korean Japanese, an immigrant community that has been unwelcome and ill-treated for generations.

Min Jin Lee's new novel Pachinko is about much more than the game. It's about the story of one family's struggle to fit into a society that treats them with contempt.

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