Originally published on Fri January 24, 2014 12:38 pm
The Chilean matron at the heart of the wonderfully unsettling comedy Gloria looks like any ordinary woman confronting the familiar dilemmas of late middle age. For other reasons, though, you may feel as though you've met her before.
Originally published on Fri January 24, 2014 12:47 pm
There are five named female characters in Joe Swanberg's 24 Exposures, and all of them spend significant portions of the movie ... well, exposed.
Actually, most of the unnamed female characters wind up in various states of undress as well, a fact that's part of a point Swanberg seems to be trying to make about objectification of women in art. In 24 Exposures, though, he straddles the line between criticizing that objectification and engaging in it himself.
A new study from Consumer Reports finds varying levels of a chemical compound classified as a possible human carcinogen in many popular brands of soda.
The findings have prompted the Food and Drug Administration to take a new look at the compound, 4-methylimidazole — or 4-MEI for short. It is found in the caramel color that soda makers use to dye the drinks brown.
Jenny Offill's novel Dept. of Speculation, which weighs in at 192 pages soaking wet and includes a fair amount of white space, is extremely short for a novel. It's an unusual book not only in terms of its size, but also its form. Make no mistake, this is an experimental novel. By which I mean that the narrative isn't a series of flowing scenes that keep you reassuringly grounded in plot, but a collection of vignettes, observations and quirky details that are sometimes pulled from real life.
For many people, paprikash means winter. After all, it's a dish fit for cold, gray days: A belly-warming mix of meat and spices, it's the perfect cure for the doldrums of late January.
For Merelyn Chalmers, though, the classic Hungarian casserole recalls someone far dearer: her mother, Yolanda. A survivor of Auschwitz, Yolanda had rebuilt her life in Perth, Australia, after the war. "My mum was Hungarian," Chalmers explains. "We ate paprikash probably five nights a week. This was something that she just threw together when I wasn't feeling well."
The title essay of Ann Patchett's latest book, This Is The Story Of A Happy Marriage, isn't exactly what it sounds like. It's actually the story of an unhappy marriage that ends quickly in divorce and results in a strongly defended refusal to marry that lasts many years. But eventually, it does lead to the happy marriage.
Originally published on Thu January 23, 2014 12:41 pm
Portland, Maine, native Hollis McLaughlin's recollection of his mother's fish cookery produces a wistful expression as he takes a bite of the fish cakes given to him as part of the regular Wednesday night meal he is served free of charge at the Parkside Neighborhood Center.
On the occasion of the 50th anniversary of the publication of her first novel, Joyce Carol Oates has outdone herself. This year she will have brought out three books of fiction — a new volume of novellas this past autumn, a new book of stories coming out this spring, and just now a new novel, a feat that testifies to the prodigious nature of her imagination and the unstoppable force of her writing powers.
The Sundance Film Festival is underway — actors, directors, studio executives and autograph hounds have converged on Park City, Utah, where dozens of independent movies and documentaries are being showcased during the 10-day event. Los Angeles Times arts and entertainment writer Steven Zeitchik, who has been binge watching films at the festival, takes a short intermission to tell NPR's Melissa Block about some of his picks.
A lot of self-help books have simple formulas. They promise 30 days or 10 easy steps to having thinner thighs, landing a spouse, having a great sex life, starting a new life after divorce, climbing the corporate ladder while dressed for success, and, of course, finding inner peace. And while many swear by the power of their favorite self-help philosophy, there are still a lot of skeptics.
Originally published on Wed January 22, 2014 2:22 pm
Long John Silver's has gained some notoriety in the past for serving up what the food police dubbed the most unhealthful meal in America. (aka heart attack on a hook.)
But the fast-food chain is out to change its reputation. One step in this new direction: a quick transition from partially hydrogenated oils that contain bedeviled trans fats. Today, the chain announced it is moving to a 100 percent soybean oil that is trans-fat free.
Originally published on Wed January 22, 2014 7:33 pm
There are vocalists, there are singers and then there are voices — the first aims for the ear, the second for the brain, the third for the heart. A voice turns a composition into an emotional experience. And each time we have that experience, it's the depth of the connection that we remember. Frank Sinatra was a voice. So too were Marvin Gaye, George Jones and Billie Holiday. Aretha Franklin is a voice. So is Bob Dylan. And so is the Staple Singers' Mavis Staples.
Originally published on Thu January 23, 2014 12:47 pm
Richard Powers, whose novels combine the wonders of science with the marvels of art, astonishes us in different ways with each new book. His 11th, Orfeo, is about a 70-year-old avant-garde composer who has sacrificed family and fortune to his relentless pursuit of immortal, transcendent music.
When it comes to Italy's enormous art heritage, officials are often faced with an unbearable choice: Which pieces should be saved when the government can't afford to save them all? Now, thanks to an online vote, it's up to Italian citizens to answer that tough question. In the end, some art will get a new lease on life, but many works that epitomize Western civilization remain seriously in danger.
Joaquin Phoenix started his acting career in 1982, when he was about 8, on an episode of the TV series Seven Brides For Seven Brothers. (His brother, the late River Phoenix, was a regular in the series.) He tells Fresh Air's Terry Gross that he still vividly remembers his first time on a set.
"I remember feeling like I was buzzing, like my whole body was vibrating, because it was just so exciting to experience this thing that wasn't real but at moments felt like it was real," he says. "It's basically the feeling that I've been chasing ever since."
Traditional Japanese cuisine, known as washoku, is now an intangible cultural heritage, according to the United Nations.
Tofu, mochi and miso are a few examples, but it's the buckwheat noodle, or soba, that many consider the humble jewel of Japanese cuisine. It's not easy to find in the U.S., but one Los Angeles woman is helping preserve the craft of making soba.
In a cooking classroom off a busy street in L.A., Sonoko Sakai is teaching about the simplicity of making buckwheat noodles.
"Basically, soba is only two things: flour and water," Sakai explains.
Originally published on Wed January 22, 2014 9:06 am
The best novels are often the ones that change us. They speak to a void, sometimes quietly, other times loudly from the proverbial rooftop. When done right, they bring to the surface important questions and compel us to look inward. Over time, they stay with us — like small miracles.
Originally published on Tue January 21, 2014 10:23 am
You may recognize the name B.J. Novak from the credit sequence of The Office — he was a writer and executive producer. He also played the entertainingly amoral Ryan Howard. Now, Novak is expanding his scope beyond the walls of Dunder Mifflin and taking on a range of human experience in this quirky new story collection, which ranges from linked vignettes to two-line miniplays about carrot cake.
The Mississippi-born novelist and storywriter Elizabeth Spencer turned 92 last summer. Best known for her novella turned musical drama "The Light in the Piazza," Spencer has just published her 15th work of fiction. It's a collection of stories set in the South called "Starting Over." And we have a review from Alan Cheuse.
Nominations are in for this year's Academy Awards, and among those up for Best Foreign Language film is The Hunt. It's the latest from Danish director Thomas Vinterberg, who made his reputation in 1998 with The Celebration, which won the Jury Prize at Cannes and went on to become an international success. Both that film and this more recent one depict the aftermath of allegations of sexual abuse.
Martin Luther King may not have had a vote in Congress, but he and the movement he helped lead were integral to getting the civil rights bill introduced. This year marks the 50th anniversary of the passage of that bill, now known as the Civil Rights Act.
Among other things, the act outlawed discrimination in public accommodations — including restaurants, hotels and motels — ending the era of legal segregation in those places.