Arts and culture

When a new batch of Tonys was awarded Sunday night, Audra McDonald walked off the stage as the most decorated actress in the event's history. McDonald won for her portrayal of Billie Holiday in Lady Day at Emerson's Bar And Grill.

In the spring of 2009, British author Tom Rob Smith received a disturbing phone call from his father. "And he was crying," Smith tells NPR's David Greene. "He never cries. And he said to me, 'You've got to come to Sweden. Your mom has suffered a psychotic episode, and she's in an asylum.' "

Then, Smith's mother called. She had just been released from the psychiatric hospital in Sweden, and she said everything his father had told him was a lie. "She wasn't mad. My dad was involved in a criminal conspiracy, and she was flying to London to tell me the truth."

The daily lowdown on books, publishing, and the occasional author behaving badly.

When Brando Skyhorse was 5 years old, his mother said she would take him to meet his father. They took a train from California to Illinois, where, at a prison, he met Paul Skyhorse Johnson, a Native American political activist who'd been incarcerated for armed robbery.

"He looked literally like the part of a stereotypical American Indian brave," Brando tells NPR's Arun Rath. "And I thought, 'Oh good God, this is my dad? This looks great!' "

Butlers in American pop culture tend to provide comic relief — think The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air or The Birdcage. Or, like Batman's Alfred, the butler is more of a friend than an employee.

But one show has brought back the classic butler, with a vengeance. Since the British period drama Downton Abbey made its debut on PBS in 2010, the demand for butlers in some parts of the world has surged.

This morning at Wake Forest University in Winston-Salem, N.C., family, friends and dignitaries gathered to pay their final respects to author and poet Maya Angelou, who died last week.

Gabriel Garcia Marquez and I have a few things in common: We both discovered Kafka while studying in Bogotá, and we both knew we wanted to write forever after borrowing copies of The Metamorphosis. Reading that little novel — an exercise in the seemingly endless possibilities of fiction — proved to be a transformative experience for both of us.

A Howling Cur Takes Over 'Mr Dog Bites'

Jun 7, 2014

The young adult novel, When Mr Dog Bites, is full of curse words and caused a stir when it was released in the U.K. NPR's Scott Simon talks to author Brian Conaghan.

No One Judges The Ride At Americade

Jun 7, 2014
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Now a different kind of riding event - motorcycle rally - the Americade Festival in Lake George, New York, which draws thousands of bikers each year. North Country Public Radio's Zach Hirsch went to check it out - Got to know some of the riders.

Tom Rachman has written a book for book lovers in The Rise and Fall of Great Powers. The best-selling novelist talks with NPR's Scott Simon about the difference between reading and literature.

Orange is the New Black has always been a bit of a head fake.

Creator Jenji Kohan has admitted she uses the story of WASPy prison inmate Piper Chapman to draw TV audiences into stories about the types of women who rarely take centerstage in more mainstream fare: a transgender woman, an older Russian woman, poor and undereducated black and Hispanic women and the mentally ill.

As a mentor on Project Runway, Tim Gunn has become a nationally beloved icon of good taste and optimism in the face of some terrible ideas. And since he's always urging designers to "make it work," we've invited him to play a game called "You're never going to make that work." Three questions about fashion ideas that we believe are truly beyond help.

"My femininity was seen as a problem that needed to be solved."

Laverne Cox is talking about her childhood in Mobile, Ala. She remembers being routinely chased and beaten by classmates after school. Cox was born biologically male, and her gender identity was confusing and threatening not just to other children but to the grown-ups in her life as well. Her third-grade teacher warned her mother, "Your son is going to end up in New Orleans wearing a dress if we don't get him into therapy right away."

Soccer in Sun and Shadow is the most lyrical sports book ever written. Perhaps this is also because its writer is one of the most lyrical authors in any language: Eduardo Galeano.

Galeano's rhythmic prose as poetry is often used in the service of explaining the injustices faced by Latin America. He's written about despots, dictators and revolutions. Here, Galeano puts his unmatched gifts toward the sport he clearly still loves with the ardor of a smitten teenager.

When you've played Austin Powers, Shrek, The Cat in the Hat and the title dweeb in Wayne's World, what do you do for an encore? If you're comedian Mike Myers, the next logical step, evidently, is to direct a documentary about your agent. And damned if it doesn't turn out to be a decent career move — as smart, and sometimes even as funny, as anything Myers has done recently.



I know people who cried at the trailer of the romantic teen cancer movie The Fault in Our Stars — at the movie they'll need a life preserver to keep from drowning in a flood of tears. Me, I didn't cry, though at times my tear ducts tingled; I was on the verge. The film is a little slick for my taste, too engineered. But it's gently directed by Josh Boone and beautifully acted. Whatever the faults, it's not in the stars.

NBA Finals: Did The Heat Take Down Miami?

Jun 6, 2014



Part 4 of the TED Radio Hour episode Getting There.

About Janette Sadik-Khan's TEDTalk

Former New York City Transportation Commissioner Janette Sadik-Khan says cities can tackle the challenges of tomorrow by completely re-imagining our streets today.

About Janette Sadik-Khan

Part 3 of the TED Radio Hour episode Getting There.

About Robin Chase's TEDTalk

Zipcar co-founder Robin Chase makes the case for car-sharing as the solution to global gridlock.

About Robin Chase

Part 2 of the TED Radio Hour episode Getting There.

About Bill Ford's TEDTalk

Ford Executive Chairman Bill Ford describes how we can create a green future of smart roads and smart cars.

About Bill Ford

Part 5 of the TED Radio Hour episode Getting There.

About Richard Branson's TEDTalk

Entrepreneur Richard Branson shares his vision for private, commercial space travel.

About Richard Branson

This week's show brings back our friend Petra Mayer of NPR Books. Like me, Petra is fresh off a trip to Book Expo America (a/k/a BEA, FYI), where we both heard about a whole lot of new books. We'll mention some of the titles (though in many cases we haven't actually received the books yet), and we'll try to give you a sense of how this enormous trade show followed by a fan event actually works.

A couple of years ago, film director and writer John Waters decided to hitchhike alone from his Baltimore home to his apartment in San Francisco — and see what happened. The so-called Pope of Trash — the man behind the films Pink Flamingos and Cry-Baby — managed to get many rides — 21 in all. He chronicles his cross-country adventure in a new book called Carsick.

A Diverse #SummerReading List For Kids

Jun 5, 2014

In children's books, it can be easier to find talking pandas than characters of color.

A Lively 'Tomorrow,' Lived Over And Over

Jun 5, 2014

It's rarely a compliment to say that a movie is video game-like. That's usually shorthand for effects-heavy, narratively lightweight, CGI shoot'em-ups. Don't get me wrong: Edge of Tomorrow has no shortage of big effects set pieces, a lot of invading aliens getting shot at, and the seemingly ageless Tom Cruise performing death-defying acts on a battlefield. Except that he doesn't defy death, and that's where the film borrows an important quality of video games to anchor its story: Death is never the end.

Josh Boone's The Fault in Our Stars is the kind of careful, listless adaptation that makes a critic want to rave at length about the wonderful novel on which it's based.

A Run-DMC tape. A boom box. A pair of Nike sneakers and bright red tracksuit pants. These are the objects that we see in the opening shot of Ping Pong Summer, the cultural markers that would clearly peg the film to a particular decade even without a subtitle further specifying the year: 1985.

Four stories and at least that many themes interlace in Dormant Beauty, veteran Italian director Marco Bellocchio's latest bid to combine the personal and the political. The central issue is euthanasia, which became a national argument in 2009, when the father of Eluana Englaro asked to end her life after 17 years in a vegetative state.

Catch-22 is widely considered a great novel; until now, it has been a disaster as a play. Though Joseph Heller adapted his work for the stage decades ago, every production had been a failure. Now, however, a new production of his play seems to have broken the curse: It is touring the UK and receiving strong reviews.