Arts

Arts and culture

"I am grateful, so grateful, tolerant reader, that you read on," says Mycroft Canner halfway through Too Like the Lightning, Ada Palmer's awe-inspiring debut novel. Yes, Canner addresses the reader throughout the book; as the main character and narrator, he breaks the fourth wall so pervasively that he feels compelled to explain himself. At length. This jarring form of narrative is just one of the many challenging things about Lightning. Dense and complex, the book is a beast.

When Louis XV, King of France, first met the woman who would become his chief mistress, she was dressed as a domino, and he was dressed as a plant. It was 1745, and Jeanne Antoinette Poisson, the pretty young woman who would become Marquise de Pompadour, had been invited to a masked ball at Versailles. If this sounds like a chance meeting, it wasn't — her family had been strategizing to orchestrate this very moment for years.

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

The federal government is getting into hip-hop — well, sort of.

Documentary filmmaker Ken Burns has been chosen to deliver this year's Jefferson Lecture in the Humanities, the highest honor bestowed by the federal government for work in the field. He will talk about race in America.

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

On this Mother's Day, here's a bit of wisdom: "Having a child is usually just a long patience."

Those words are spoken by a nurse in the new novel Eleven Hours. Her name is Franckline and she works in a hospital maternity ward. That long patience she's talking about is the patience a woman needs when she's in labor — the patience to ride through hours of pain and worry.

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

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

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Americans have until May 10 to help the Food and Drug Administration with one of philosophy's greatest riddles: What is the meaning of "natural"?

A Bigger Splash positively swims with jealousy, intrigue and lust. Set on the rugged Italian island of Pantelleria, the new film features rock star Marianne Lane — played by Tilda Swinton — who's staying there with her lover, Paul. All's well until Marianne's ex, Harry, appears on the scene, full of manic energy and with his nubile young daughter in tow.

Another kink to the proceedings? Marianne's recuperating from surgery on her vocal cords, rendered virtually mute as she tries to recuperate.

Growing up Muslim in Canada had its challenges for Zarqa Nawaz, starting with school lunch. Her mother insisted on sending Nawaz off with home-cooked chicken that smelled of cumin, when all she wanted was a peanut butter and jelly sandwich, like all the other kids. Years later, Nawaz has turned a lifetime of culture clashes into a career as a writer and filmmaker. In her work, she uses humor to humanize a religion she loves, but others fear.

This time 50 years ago, "Monday, Monday" by The Mamas & the Papas was the No. 1 song in the U.S. Valley of the Dolls by Jacqueline Susann was the New York Times best-selling novel. The Vietnam War was intensifying. The Civil Rights movement was gaining momentum. Kauai King was en route to win the 92nd Kentucky Derby.

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

In a darkened London theater, the first thing the audience hears is the rhythmic chanting of an a capella Islamic State anthem.

Another World: Losing Our Children to Islamic State, currently at the National Theatre, is a play about young people seduced by the group. The main characters are three mothers whose children left their homes in Europe to join ISIS.

Now that the long wait is over and fans can finally bask in the super-sized, superhero brawl that is Captain America: Civil War, some may overlook something really special about this movie.

It has three black superheroes on the front lines.

There's Don Cheadle's War Machine. Chadwick Boseman appears as Marvel's first African superhero, the Black Panther. And Anthony Mackie returns to a Captain America movie as the Falcon, asking Cap if he really wants to resist government control of superheroes.

Rachel Bloom is the star, writer and co-creator of The CW show Crazy Ex-Girlfriend. The singer-songwriter first got famous with her hilarious musical numbers on YouTube, before she was given the chance to create her own TV show that let her play a lunatic stalker character loosely based on herself. She's already won a Golden Globe for that role in Crazy Ex-Girlfriend.

Since she's the expert on crazy ex-girlfriends we've decided to ask her three questions about some well-known crazy ex-boyfriends in a game called "No! Really! This time I'll change!"

Not every country in the world celebrates Mother's Day at the same day.

Anyone who's lost a family member knows the feeling of unreality that follows. Psychologists call it "denial," but it's something more than that — it's a sense that you're not really there, that you're living in an alternate world, that the pain you're feeling can't possibly be real. Grief is a powerful thing, and it can temporarily turn people into walking ghosts.

Or, as Dana Cann writes in his debut novel, Ghosts of Bergen County: "This was life: you're here. And this was death: you're not. And then you're here again, haunting some stranger. And none of it matters."

If you haven't heard of the Marvel superhero Black Panther, that's going to change very soon.

If I say Kentucky Derby, you say ... mint julep?

Well, if you're a Kentucky dame like me you do. As my fellow Louisville native Jesse Baker once pointed out: "It ain't Derby without a mint julep."

Race fans have been drinking mint juleps at Churchill Downs in Louisville since the racetrack's inception in 1875, according to bourbon historian Fred Minnick.

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

Filmmaker Jacques Audiard bristles when you ask him about news coverage of Europe's "refugee crisis."

"I don't think we really see migrants ... " Audiard says. "It takes a baby washed up on the beach for us to ask: What was his name? It's terrible. I wanted to give them a name; to give them a face."

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

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

If you have a favorite sports photo from the past 60 years, it's very possible Neil Leifer took it: There's Muhammad Ali standing victorious over Sonny Liston ... Or there's Baltimore Colt Alan Ameche plunging over the goal line in 1958 to beat the New York Giants in the so-called Greatest Game Ever Played.

Of Dubious Origin

May 6, 2016

We made-up origin stories for people whose names end with "MAN." For example, "This "X-Men" actor developed his superpowers from manually changing car tires," you'd answer, "I'm Hugh Jackman!"

Heard on C2E2: Rose McGowan

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

Meet the Expert: Andi Gutierrez

May 6, 2016

Our expert Andi Gutierrez is the social media connoisseur for a galaxy far, far away. She's the Digital Communications Manager for Lucasfilm. On the first day of her job at Lucasfilm, she got an interesting homework assignment. "They just handed me the scripts and said, 'Ok go, read them.' All of them." Gutierrez says to Ask Me Another host Ophira Eisenberg at C2E2 in Chicago. "The cool thing is that it's my job, so I can watch Star Wars at work and people are like 'Good job! Stay on target!'"

Moves Like Frogger

May 6, 2016

Scrounge up your quarters because we're heading to the arcade! In this game, Jonathan Coulton tweaks Maroon 5's song "Moves Like Jagger" to be about classic video games.

Heard on C2E2: Rose McGowan

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

This, That, Or The Other

May 6, 2016

For the Chicago Comic and Entertainment Expo, we crafted a special version of our favorite game. The categories are: racehorse, roller coaster, or Marvel villain.

Heard on C2E2: Rose McGowan

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

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