Arts

Arts and culture

New York Times reporter Stephanie Clifford's ambitious debut novel, Everybody Rise, about a young social climber desperately trying to claw her way to the top of New York's Old Money society, takes its title from the last lines of Stephen Sondheim's bitter toast of a song, "The Ladies Who Lunch." But its inspiration (like that of Sophie McManus' The Unfortunates, another much buzzed first novel this summer) springs from Edith Wharton's The House of Mirth.

It might seem unusual for an exhibit to focus on a man who sold paintings rather than the artists who painted them. But there was one particular 19th century Paris art dealer who shaped the art market of his day — and ours — by discovering artists who became world-wide favorites. He's now the subject of a major exhibition in Philadelphia.

In ancient times, farmers worried about losing precious grain to spoilage during wet winters. So they figured out how to malt grain and brew it into beer, thus preserving a nutritious source of calories. In The Comic Book Story of Beer, due out in September, we get a graphical tour of such pivotal moments — from the cradle of agriculture to the modern-day craft beer heyday.

Since coming out as a lesbian in 1980 at the age of 19, graphic novelist Alison Bechdel has made it a point to be open about her sexuality. It was a decision she made consciously as a reaction to her father, who was gay and closeted, and who died four months after Bechdel came out.

This is one in a series of essays running this week and next about the state of television in 2015. The series is based on developments at the recent Television Critics Association press tour in Beverly Hills, Calif., where broadcast and cable networks, along with streaming services like Netflix, presented new and existing shows to TV critics and reporters.

In the first two episodes of The Giant Foam Finger — a new, sports-themed offshoot of Pop Culture Happy Hour — NPR Code Switch blogger Gene Demby and I have discussed one play in a decade-old NFL game, and we've tackled the phenomenon of fan hatred.

It all starts with a strange letter left for a Beijing cabdriver, tucked away in the sun visor of his taxi. In the months just before the 2008 Summer Olympics, Wang Jun is living with his wife and daughter — but the message, and those that follow, quickly tangle that quiet life in complications.

This is one in a series of essays running this week and next about the state of television in 2015. The series is based on developments at the recent Television Critics Association press tour in Beverly Hills, Calif., where broadcast and cable networks, along with streaming services like Netflix, presented new and existing shows to TV critics and reporters.

Author Sets Out To Find Gold In 'Fever'

Aug 16, 2015
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RACHEL MARTIN, HOST:

Earlier this month, author Lauren Willig released The Lure of the Moonflower, the last of her fantastic, genre-bridging Pink Carnation series.

I call them genre-bridging, because they satisfy romance fans who love the pinch-in-the-chest, soul-satisfying, "all is well in the world" happy-ever-after denouement — but they also have such densely detailed and gratifying historical, swashbuckling, spy-based plots that nonromance fans love them too.

Cara Nicoletti loves food almost as much as she loves books. Over the years she has found herself thinking about the delicious dishes woven into the stories she loved as a child. In fact, she tells NPR's Rachel Martin that when she re-read her old books, she found underlines that she didn't remember making in the sections about food.

Skylar Fein had only lived in New Orleans for a week before Hurricane Katrina nearly tore it apart. He'd moved there to go to medical school, and found himself wandering around a wrecked city. "It's really hard to describe to someone who hadn't seen it what the streets looked like after the storm," he recalls.

Fein is among other New Orleans artists exhibiting work in shows commemorating the 10th anniversary of the 2005 storm. One thing he has in common with some of the other artists: They weren't artists before the hurricane hit.

High-profile, officer-involved fatalities across the country have put police departments everywhere under more scrutiny than ever.

For a lesson in how to move forward, they could look at the history of the Los Angeles police.

In the '80s and '90s, Los Angeles was trapped in a cycle of crime, crack and gang warfare. Investigative journalist Joe Domanick says back then, the Los Angeles police just made things worse with its crime-fighting strategy — which involved using military-style tactics to subdue and arrest suspects, who were mostly from minority neighborhoods.

One of the accusations that was often leveled against Mad Men as an examination of social problems was that it paused too often to scoff at how foolish (or sexist, or racist, or environmentally ignorant) everyone was in the 1960s, as if we've outgrown all of it. One of the best things about Show Me A Hero, HBO's dense but involving examination of a dispute over the construction of low-income housing in Yonkers, N.Y. in the 1980s is that there's no smugness to it.

Songwriter Dwight Yoakam was raised in Ohio — a big disadvantage for a country singer. But he overcame that handicap to become a country star, with multiple platinum albums and hit songs over the past few decades.

And as a country singer, he has shared many stories of woe with his fans. So we invited him to play a game we're calling "You're the happiest man in the world" — three questions about Matthieu Ricard, a French-born Buddhist Monk who's reputed to be happier than all the rest of us.

Love Lines: A Summer Sampler Of Romantic Manga

Aug 15, 2015

Romance comes in many forms — and never so many as in manga. Let loose in the black-and-white planes of comic-book reality, an army of creators has envisioned every schmooptastic scenario imaginable. But even setting aside certain extremes (Male pregnancy? A guy whose true love gets miniaturized and stuck to his forearm?) it's still a daunting field. Where's a reader to start? Why, right here.

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SCOTT SIMON, HOST:

How much is a visible work of genius worth? In May, a 1955 painting by Pablo Picasso was sold at auction for more than $179 million, the highest price at auction ever. And attendance at major art museums is booming.

Adam Johnson won the 2013 Pultizer Prize for his bestselling novel, The Orphan Master's Son, set in the nightmare state of North Korea. This summer, he has come out with a collection of short stories, set in locales that range from California to East Germany to a techno-dreamlike South Korea.

In 1948, Clarice Lispector wrote a moving letter to her sister Tania, offering some pointed advice: "Have the courage to transform yourself," she wrote, "to do what you desire." It's a fairly simple exhortation, and yet I wonder how many people can't manage it, how many squander their entire lives, their deep wants and ambitions on the altar of fear and uncertainty. Lispector herself was determined not to be one of them.

A server at Boralia lifts the foggy glass dome over a dish of briny mussels, releasing the smoky essence of pine and campfire. According to Evelyn Wu, co-owner of this Toronto restaurant, the dish dates back to 1605, and is based on a recipe that French-born explorer Samuel de Champlain made for his men while traveling in Canada.

Napoleon Solo and Illya Kuryakin have enjoyed lengthy careers — especially for men in a business as dangerous as spying.

The American and Soviet CIA agents had a wildly popular run on TV in The Man From U.N.C.L.E. in the '60s. But long after the show came off the air, Solo and Kuryakin bantered on — in a handful of movies, dozens of books, a few comics, countless reruns and the popular imagination.

When writer Mona Eltahawy was 15 her family moved to Saudi Arabia from the UK. It was a shock. Suddenly her highly educated mother could not drive or go anywhere unless accompanied by a man. Boys and girls lived segregated lives and it seemed to Eltahawy that women were considered the walking embodiment of sin. She found her refuge in reading and eventually discovered the writing of Muslim feminists.

An anxious, awkward teenager, social media, suicide. These are the themes at play in a new musical at the Arena Stage in Washington, D.C. The production has garnered praise from both the New York Times ("sweet, sad and quite moving") and the Washington Post (which said it "radiates charm and wit)." They're not the only ones buzzing about it — this play about human behavior in the digital age will head to New York's Second Stage Theater next spring.

Letters: Greek Migrants, Summer Movies

Aug 14, 2015
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MELISSA BLOCK, HOST:

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TERRY GROSS, HOST:

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TERRY GROSS, HOST:

Editor's Note: Hot weather is the time for popcorn pictures — escapist films that may have laughs or tears along the way, but that inevitably end happily. It's a formula that's served Hollywood well, and that's also served to make a lot of people into movie addicts, including our critic Bob Mondello. He now sees more than 300 movies a year — many of which do not have happy endings, and that suits him fine. But we asked him if he remembered his first trip to a movie theater. And he did.

By now, viewers know what to expect from a David Simon drama. You expect an intense study of a precise location, as with Baltimore in The Wire and New Orleans in Treme. You expect flawed, fascinating and unforgettable characters — like Omar in The Wire, just to name one. And you expect the story to raise issues, especially about race and politics, that are unfortunately relevant to today.

Part 2 of the TED Radio Hour episode The Amateurs.

About Taylor Wilson's TED Talk

Taylor Wilson is a self-taught nuclear physicist who sees every obstacle as a challenge. He describes how — at age 14 — he built a working nuclear fusion reactor in his garage.

About Taylor Wilson

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