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Mid-20th-century mystery master Ross MacDonald is credited with moving hard-boiled crime off the mean streets of American cities and smack into the suburbs. In MacDonald's mythical California town of Santa Teresa, modeled on Santa Barbara, evil noses its way into gated communities, schools and shopping centers that have been built expressly to escape the dirt and danger of the city.

If only Nixon could go to China, only indie-comics master Jaime Hernandez could produce God and Science: Return of the Ti-Girls, the brightest, purest, most quintessentially superheroic superhero yarn in years.

Good grammar may have came and went.

Maybe you've winced at the decline of the past participle. Or folks writing and saying "he had sank" and "she would have went." Perhaps it was the singer Gotye going on about "Somebody That I Used to Know" instead of "Somebody Whom I Used to Know." Or any of a number of other tramplings of traditional grammar — rules that have been force-fed to American schoolchildren for decades — in popular parlance and prose.

New In Paperback July 30-Aug. 5

Aug 2, 2012

Nonfiction releases from Scott Wallace, Joshua S. Goldstein, Catherine Salmon, Katrin Schumann and Julie Salamon.

Copyright 2013 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

This tiny town perched on the high plains of the Chihuahua desert is nothing less than an arts world station of the cross, like Art Basel in Miami, or Documenta in Germany. It's a blue-chip arts destination for the sort of glamorous scenesters who visit Amsterdam for the Rijksmuseum and the drugs.

"They speak about Marfa with the same kind of reverent tones generally reserved for the pilgrimage of the Virgin of Lourdes," notes Carolina Miranda, a writer who covers the art world.

Name That (New) Grape

Aug 2, 2012

Researchers at Cornell University will be releasing two new wine grape varieties next year from the university's agricultural breeding program. And they're asking the public to create names for them.

A Muslim-American poet and novelist of Indian descent, Kazim Ali's work has been featured in Best American Poetry and the American Poetry Review. He teaches at Oberlin College.

Julia Child, the woman credited with singlehandedly teaching America how to cook, would have turned 100 years old on August 15 this year.

What's Your Favorite Arts Town?

Aug 1, 2012

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How To Make Your Tofu And Eat It, Too

Aug 1, 2012

As I recently dipped a carrot slice into a fluffy, edamame-infused dip I'd made from a batch of homemade tofu, I wondered: Why haven't I done this before? The carrot was crisp, the herbs were fresh, but it was the tofu that was the real deal. It was like no store-bought tofu I'd ever encountered – light, delicate, creamy and not a bit rubbery.

Powell's Drunken Pair Prioritize Language

Aug 1, 2012

With his 2009 The Interrogative Mood: A Novel?, Padgett Powell produced one of the most readable literary oddities of the past decade. In that book, a narrator — perhaps the author himself — fired off questions (and only questions) that come to read less like a novel than a personality test gone haywire: "Should a tree be pruned? Are you perplexed by what to do with underwear whose elastic is spent but which is otherwise in good shape? Do you dance?" And so on, for more than 150 pages.

Gore Vidal came from a generation of novelists whose fiction gave them a political platform. Norman Mailer ran for mayor of New York City; Kurt Vonnegut became an anti-war spokesman. And Vidal was an all-around critic. His novels sometimes infuriated readers with unflattering portraits of American history.

He also wrote essays and screenplays, and his play The Best Man currently has a revival on Broadway.

Representing Europe in NPR's Poetry Games is Slovenian poet Ales Steger. Steger's first work translated into English, The Book of Things, won last year's Best Translated Book Award for Poetry. The translator was poet Brian Henry, who also translated Steger's Olympic poem, "Once More."

The U.S. men's swimming team has won the 4x200m freestyle relay, in a race that also gave Michael Phelps a record 19 medals in the Olympics. He netted his 18th, a silver, earlier in the day.

Update at 4:05 p.m. EDT: For the relay final, the American team swam in the fourth lane, next to their greatest rivals, the French, who posted the fasted qualifying time. The French are led by Yannick Agnel, who soundly defeated Ryan Lochte and others in the men's 200m freestyle Monday.

Grotesque Horror Through A Kid-Sized Window

Jul 31, 2012

Erin Morgenstern is the author of The Night Circus.

There are still days when rain flooding the gutters conjures a picture in my mind of a paper boat being chased by a little boy in a yellow raincoat. The boy's name is Georgie and he is about to meet a rather gruesome fate, smiling up at him from a storm drain.

In December, Congress is poised for another showdown on the deficit and taxes. If Congress doesn't act, 2013 will mark the end to Bush-era tax cuts that have been in place for a dozen years, and the beginning of automatic cuts to domestic and defense programs that would total $1.2 trillion over 10 years. The Congressional Budget Office says the combination of higher taxes and deep spending cuts could create a 4 percent reduction in economic output, a number big enough to throw the country into another recession.

Sartre was wrong. Hell isn't other people. Hell is tourists — specifically, other tourists. When traveling, there's nothing more dispiriting — not exchange rates or dengue season — than coming across a compatriot. Is it because we travel not so much to see how other people live, but to imagine the other lives we might have led? (Me, I'm small and rather rumpled.

Some despair at the idea the world will end in fire or ice. To my mind, given that the earth is our only source of chocolate, it hardly matters how the supply is cut off. I think woe and joy are best addressed with chocolate, whether it is shaped into a kiss or comes from an Ecuadorian plantation.

A poet and editor of BOMB magazine living in Brooklyn, Monica de la Torre was born in Mexico City. Her poem "Olimpicamente" is told in the voice of the Mexican taekwondo champion Maria del Rosario Espinoza, who was born in the village of La Brecha, in the state of Sinaloa, where her father was a fisherman. Though of limited means, her parents supported her passion for taekwondo, and in 2008 Espinoza fought her way to a gold medal in the Beijing Olympics. "I am," says the poet, "dumbfounded and positively moved by Maria del Rosario's improbable story."

Sandwich Monday: The Crunchwrap Supreme

Jul 30, 2012

The Taco Bell Crunchwrap Supreme is, in the words of Taco Bell, engineered "for maximum portability." In truth, their short-lived "Back Pocket Chalupa" was more portable, but also more tragic.

MacKenzie: It looks like a frisbee. Maybe that's what the portability is about.

Robert: They need to make one in boomerang form, for people who don't want to share.

Ian: It has a tostada inside, for structural integrity.

We're in the final stretch — kind of — at the Television Critics Association press tour. We've now heard from all the major broadcast networks, and we've got a day of set visits and three days of cable to close things out after today's CW and Showtime presentations.

Fresh Air Remembers Actress Lupe Ontiveros

Jul 30, 2012

Actress Lupe Ontiveros died Thursday of cancer at the age of 69. She was most famous for her role in the 1997 film Selena, but Ontiveros also acted with Jack Nicholson in As Good As It Gets, played a strict mother in the independent film Real Women Have Curves and had a recurring role in the television series Desperate Housewives.

You'll probably recognize many of the women featured in the new HBO documentary About Face: The Supermodels Then and Now. They are some of the most famous and photographed models from the 1950s through the 1980s. Carol Alt and Beverly Johnson are two of the supermodels featured in the film. They are joined by director Timothy Greenfield-Sanders to talk with Fresh Air's Terry Gross about growing up — and growing older — in an industry obsessed with youth.

Adam Frank is an astrophysicist at University of Rochester and host of the 13.7: Cosmos and Culture blog on NPR.org.

I don't read self-help books. On any given day my self seems to need so much help that 200 pages of cheerful advice and end-of-chapter exercises miss the core of my dilemma. The real question keeping me up at night is this: What the hell is a self anyway? How did I get one and why is it so damn desperate for help?

A Portrait Of A Country Awash In 'Red Ink'

Jul 30, 2012

As the federal debt balloons, reducing it would seem more and more pressing. Yet policymakers remain far apart. Debt, deficit and budget rhetoric is often accompanied by numbers cherry-picked to support a particular political view.

But a new book by Wall Street Journal economics writer David Wessel lays out the numbers that both political parties face.

Best-selling crime novelist Karin Slaughter (yes, that's her real name) grew up just south of Atlanta in the 1970s and '80s, when the city saw some of its most gruesome crimes: A rash of child murders in which dozens of African-American children disappeared, their bodies turning up in nearby woods and rivers. The realization that horrid crimes can happen even to children changed Slaughter's life.

'Lifting,' And Lifted By, Words

Jul 29, 2012

Poet Ouyang Yu comes to NPR's Poetry Games representing two continents: Asia, where he was born (in China); and Australia, where he moved in 1991. He is a prolific writer of poetry, fiction, nonfiction, literary translation and criticism in English and Chinese.

Of his poem "Lifting," he writes: "Much as I admire weightlifting heroes or heroines, I can't help reminding myself that, however powerful a weightlifter is, he or she can't lift himself or herself up. The magic of the word is that, when well lifted, it has the power to transform."

This may be the year of actor Matthew McConaughey.

At the very least, fans will remember 2012 as the year that McConaughey revolutionized his career. He's starred in five different independent films, taking on smaller, character-actor parts in place of his usual roles as the sly-grinning heartthrob in romantic comedies.

Smartphones and tablets just need a flick of a finger to keep us updated about news and friends anytime, anywhere. As much as we're connected, though, we're also detached. That's a big theme in a new book of short stories by author Charles Yu.

Yu's stories are sad ones. They're techy, too. One story, "Standard Loneliness Package," is entirely about humans using technology as a way to buy detachment from the ordinary emotions of human experience — grief, heartbreak, awkwardness.

New Mexicans can get a little carried away with their chile peppers. There's chile beer, chile pizza, chile ice cream — you can find the smoldering flavors of chile peppers in just about anything.

And then there's chile brittle. Luis Flores, owner of chili brittle purveyor Las Cruces Candy Company, beats the summer heat by getting up at 3 a.m. to prepare his specialties.

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