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Band-ing Together

Oct 7, 2016

NPR Music correspondent Ann Powers had lived and reported everywhere from Seattle to Tuscaloosa before moving recently to Nashville. We asked Powers to explain her new hometown's importance in the music industry. "Nashville is, I truly believe, the best music city in the country, historically and especially now," she told host Ophira Eisenberg. "Anywhere you go you'll meet an amazing musician." Her dishwasher repairman had even played with George Jones! "That's Nashville in a nutshell," she said. A lover of all genres, Powers cares about expression.

You're The Only Ten I See

Oct 7, 2016

In honor of the classic pick-up line involving "Tennessee," the answer to every clue in this game is either more than ten or fewer than ten.

Connie Britton & Martina McBride: 'This One's For The Girls'

Double, Double

Oct 7, 2016

In this final round, every answer contains multiple sets of double letters, just like the state Tennessee. For example, if we said, "A Tennessee city associated with a 'choo choo' from an old big band song," you'd answer, "Chattanooga."

Connie Britton & Martina McBride: 'This One's For The Girls'

Connie Britton: TV Mothers' Day

Oct 7, 2016

Connie Britton is best known for playing iconic mothers. She starred in Friday Night Lights as alpha mom Tammi Taylor, and in Nashville as country music singer Rayna James. In fact, fans often tell Britton they wish she were their mother. And yes, it's just as awkward as it sounds. "Those are some uncomfortable moments, yeah--I think really for everyone involved," she told host Ophira Eisenberg. "Because I think the person asking doesn't feel great about it either. ...

Just Saying

Oct 7, 2016

There are some expressions we use all the time that don't seem to make a whole lot of sense. For example, the saying to "pull out all the stops" is actually a reference to pipe organs; stops control the flow of air through an organ's pipes, and when you pull out all the stops, you can play all the pipes at maximum volume. In this game, Jonathan and Ophira quiz contestants on the supposed origin story of commonly-used phrases.

Martina McBride: Happy Girls

Oct 7, 2016

Country music star Martina McBride has garnered over 15 major music awards, including four wins for Female Vocalist of the Year from the Country Music Association. Before all the fame and accolades, however, McBride had an interesting day job, which she shared with host Ophira Eisenberg at the War Memorial Auditorium in Nashville: selling T-shirts at Garth Brooks concerts. At the time, she and her husband were newlyweds, and he was often on the road as Brooks's production manager. So McBride sold merchandise in order to join him.

When you think of Chinese food in the U.S., fried rice, lo mein or General Tso's chicken may first come to mind.

But a new museum exhibition in New York City is trying to expand visitors' palates. It features stories of celebrity chefs like Martin Yan and home cooks whose food represents 18 different regional cooking styles of China.

In 'Under The Shadow,' The Horror Is Housebound

Oct 6, 2016

If horror films played poker, Under the Shadow would see and raise The Babadook. The hands they're playing seem so similar: mother alone in her cavernous home with precocious tyke who ping-pongs between vulnerable and that special screaming-child brand of obnoxious; a fairy-tale beastie on the hunt; a blessed lack of gore; a larger sense that this monster may be the ugly truth of motherhood itself.

The actress Sarah Paulson, who's having a very good year, can do pretty much anything. She turned herself into a racist plantation matron in 12 Years a Slave; Cate Blanchett's lesbian bestie in Carol; and there's her brilliant Emmy-winning turn as prosecutor Marcia Clark in this year's The People v. O.J. Simpson. To say nothing of her show-stopping turns as a witch, conjoined twins and other weirdnesses on American Horror Story.

Veteran French director André Téchiné usually employs ensemble casts and intricate narrative structures, but he downplays both in Quand on a 17 ons (Being 17). Shot mostly with handheld camera in a documentary-like style, the movie is uncharacteristically raw and linear. Still, it performs a few surprising twists before reaching an easily anticipated resolution.

Based on the Paula Hawkins' bestselling novel, The Girl on the Train is a whodunit constructed through an ornate latticework of multiple narrators, temporal jumps, blackouts, constant misdirection, and out-and-out red herrings. There are a good four or five possible suspects, each waved at the audience like a red cape in front of a bull, with the lance awaiting on the other side.

When we finally get close enough to see the "Luke's" sign on the side of the building, a group behind me erupts into song. "Where you lead, I will follow," they belt out. The words to Carole King's 1971 single became an anthem for a whole new generation as the theme song to the Gilmore Girls.

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

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From a group of 40, the finalists for the National Book Awards have been whittled to just half that number. The National Book Foundation released its shortlists Thursday for its annual prize in four categories: fiction, nonfiction, poetry and young people's literature.

There are books you read for the periods and books you read for the paragraphs — ones in which the action is discrete, punctuated and driving, moving you bodily and inexorably from line to line, and others that unfold at a lingering, more distracted pace. Some books are storms. Others are weather.

Derek Palacio's debut novel, The Mortifications, is very much the latter. It is hot sun and cool rain, morning fog and the hum of a fan in the window. It ranges and roams, this book. When it settles onto a moment, it does so with the weight of ten butterflies.

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

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The best way to enjoy this next story is if you listen through headphones. It's about "The Encounter," a new Broadway show. It uses three-dimensional sound effects to take the audience deep into the Amazon. Jeff Lunden reports.

"Some pig!" Charlotte the barn spider famously spun in praise of her friend Wilbur in E.B. White's classic, Charlotte's Web. Now, author Melissa Sweet has exclaimed: Some Writer! -- that's the name of her new, illustrated biography of E.B. White. The kid-friendly collage includes letters, journal entries, family photos, illustrations, manuscripts and more.

Sweet talks with NPR's Kelly McEvers about White's creative process — and her own.


Interview Highlights

On why the typewriter is the thematic design for the book

As a young musician coming up in the early 1970s, Bruce Springsteen played in the bars of Asbury Park, N.J., a hardscrabble urban beach town full of colorful characters. The town fired his imagination and inspired him musically, but still he found himself longing for more.

Springsteen tells Fresh Air's Terry Gross that he knew that if he was ever going to make his mark on the larger world, it would be through his words.

Charles Wang is having a bad year. Then again, so is much of America. It's 2008, and the financial crisis is wreaking havoc across the economic sphere. A Chinese immigrant-turned-millionaire who owns a successful chemical company that makes artificial urea for the cosmetics industry, Charles has a lot to lose, and sure enough, he loses it all: His empire of "faux pee," as he self-deprecatingly calls it, has collapsed. He's left destitute.

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

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

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The main character in Rabih Alameddine's new The Angel of History is a gay, Arab writer living in San Francisco.

Alameddine is a gay, Arab writer living in San Francisco. But he says the character, Ya'qub — or Jacob — is not based on his life. For one, Jacob's sex life is a little more ... adventurous than his.

"He's somewhat of a sexual masochist, and I keep thinking, you know, well, for me, rough sex is having sex on linens that are less than 300 count cotton," Alameddine jokes to NPR's Kelly McEvers.

Specially trained dogs have been known to sniff out explosives, drugs, missing persons and certain cancer cells, but author Alexandra Horowitz tells Fresh Air's Terry Gross that extraordinary olfactory abilities aren't just the domain of working dogs.

The tea gardens of Darjeeling, in the foothills of the Himalayas, produced significantly less than 1 percent of India's 2.6 billion pound output last year. Yet Darjeelings are considered the "Champagne of teas," the finest in the country and some of the most exquisite and sought-after in the world.

The harvesting season in Darjeeling runs from mid-March through November, as the tea bushes gradually progress through a quartet of distinct seasons known as "flushes." The tea is often sold not only by single estate (like wine) but also by flush.

When 49-year-old artist Eleanor Flood wakes up one weekday, she makes herself a promise. "Today will be different," she vows. "Today I will radiate calm. Kindness and self-control will abound. Today I will buy local. Today I will be my best self, the person I'm capable of being. Today will be different."

Luke Cage was one of the first black superheroes to appear in the pages of Marvel Comics, back in the 1970s.

Put in prison for a crime he didn't commit, he eventually gets put into a machine where he gains powers like super-strength and bulletproof skin. And, like many good Marvel characters, he's now on TV — in the new show Marvel's Luke Cage.

Before he served in Vietnam, author Winston Groom says he wanted to write but didn't have anything to write about. Going to war changed things.

"Any experience like that, I mean, it's like being in a year-long car wreck," he says. "It's traumatic. ... And I thought, Well, at least I've done this. Let's see if I can make some sense of it. And I wrote my first book, called Better Times Than These, and it did well and I was off and running."

Tax records and literary criticism are strange bedfellows. But over the weekend, the two combined and brought into the world a literary controversy — call it the Ferrante Furor of 2016.

To put it briefly: Elena Ferrante, an admired and cherished Italian novelist, has always made it clear that her name is a pseudonym and her true identity is not for public consumption.

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

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I make a lot of kale chips. You might even say I have chipping kale down to an art. But even for a kale connoisseur like me, the crinkly green cruciferous vegetable is still full of surprises. In this case, explosive surprises.

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