Arts and culture

The home that Tracey Stewart shares with her husband, former Daily Show host Jon Stewart, is a crowded one. In addition to the couple and their two children, the Stewart household includes four dogs, four pigs, three rabbits, two guinea pigs, one parrot, one hamster and two fish (as well as three horses, though they live off-site).

"I'm crazy," Tracey Stewart, a former veterinary technician, tells Fresh Air's Terry Gross. "It means I have hoarding tendencies."

East of Eden, John Steinbeck's 1952 novel, is on stage at Chicago's legendary Steppenwolf Theater through November 15. I remember reading the book as a teenager growing up in Boston and being pleasantly surprised to find that it featured a Chinese-American character named Lee.

'White Road' Maps The History Of Porcelain

Nov 3, 2015

"White is truth," stated mystic-philosopher-scientist Emanuel Swedenborg. "It is the glowing cloud on the horizon that shows the Lord is coming. White is wisdom." The color that we usually think of as the absence of color drives The White Road, Edmund de Waal's shimmering paean to porcelain.

For the subset of Generation X Americans too young to remember Watergate or Abscam, the Iran-Contra affair was the first major political scandal to come across their radar. There was a period of time in 1987 and 1988 when you couldn't turn on a television set or open a magazine without seeing one of the familiar faces: Oliver North, Fawn Hall, Caspar Weinberger. After a while, it started to feel like, in a way, you knew them.

Writer John Irving doesn't believe in miracles — but he is fascinated by them. And there is much that is both miraculous and mysterious in his new book, Avenue of Mysteries. Irving has written 14 novels, including A Prayer for Owen Meany, The World According to Garp and The Cider House Rules. Circuses, orphans and transgender characters often appear in his work, which has a way of mixing the real with the surreal in unexpected ways.

Welcome to!

It isn't easy to discover new podcasts. There are just SO many out there. Sometimes the best approach is to simply turn to a friend and say, "Hey, what are you listening to these days?" That's why we created, NPR's friendly guide to great podcasts. Each of the episodes in this app was hand-picked for you by a listener or a radio/podcast pro. It's like getting recommendations from a couple hundred of your savviest friends.

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Copyright 2015 NPR. To see more, visit



This weekend might have been good for candy, costumes and baseball, but it wasn't great for motion pictures. In fact, it was the worst weekend at the box office this year. Here's NPR's Andrew Limbong on a rough month at the movies.

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I'm a sucker for charming personal essays, those seemingly casual, anecdotal confessionals in which writers essentially dine out on themselves. My favorites (Nora Ephron, David Sedaris) make light of their own foibles and shortcomings (a sagging neck, an inability to master a foreign language) in ways that both reassure their similarly challenged readers and highlight what's really important.

Author Robert Galbraith just loves the band Blue Öyster Cult — in fact, lyrics from the band are all over his latest book, Career of Evil, the third novel in the Cormoran Strike series.

"To be honest, it's the guitar hook. I'm a real sucker for guitars," laughs Galbraith — otherwise known as J.K Rowling. "I've had a crush on many, many a guitarist."

The arrival of a new mystery in a beloved series is always a much anticipated occasion — what's been happening with our favorite private eye? Has an admired police captain been promoted? Has a young lady hacker survived the vicissitudes of the last volume?

Annaleigh Ashford is down to earth. Very down to earth. Sitting in her Broadway dressing room, she talks about all of the people who've inhabited that same space – Denzel Washington, Ian McKellen and, most recently, Larry David, who left a sticker with his name by the toilet.

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I ... don't know what to say about this.

Ten minutes ago, I finished Mark Z. Danielewski's The Familiar, Volume Two: Into The Forest and my brain isn't quite right yet. Not quite entirely back in my skull from wherever it is brains go when they get into the serious weird stuff and the heavy stuff and stories that exist right on the raw edge of being more than stories. More than books, but also less.

After 131 years, Madonna of 115th Street needed a makeover — a makeover worthy of a Catholic icon parishioners say is responsible for miracles. And last week, the refurbished life-sized statue and her new gown were unveiled last week in East Harlem.

From high above the altar, the Blessed Mother at Our Lady of Mount Carmel Church has watched over her flock for more than a century. This Virgin Mary statue came over from Polla, Italy, in 1884. And according to her followers, she has healed the sick and given hope to the hopeless.

In Orange County, Calif., there's no shortage of restaurants selling bánh mì, that delicious Vietnamese sandwich of meat, pate, fresh and pickled vegetables on a crunchy baguette. The OC's Little Saigon is home to the largest Vietnamese population outside of Vietnam. One shop in the town of Westminster stands out from the rest: It's got an actual pop star behind the counter, a woman known as the Vietnamese Madonna.

Lynda Trang Dai is certainly glamorous for a sandwich maven. She sports stiletto heels, a short skirt, and perfect make-up — including false eyelashes.

We recorded the show in Des Moines this week, and on the way to the theater we we passed about 16 presidential candidates, and 40 journalists chasing them. To help us make sense of this madhouse we invited our friend Jake Tapper — host of CNN's The Lead, and one of the moderators of the second GOP debate — to the show.

We'll ask him to play a game called "You know, we still exist in nonelection years, too." Three questions about the state of Iowa, where every four years the political press descends like a plague of locusts in sport coats.

The presidential race is close; the gloves come off and the campaigns go negative.

Sound familiar?

That's the premise of the new film Our Brand Is Crisis — which is set in Bolivia, not the contemporary U.S. — and the competing advisers for the two campaigns in the movie include a legendary political strategist who looks a lot like Sandra Bullock.

Ghouls, ghosts, witches, werewolves, and things that go bump in the night: They've been a part of literature since the start. And every Halloween, a slew of spooky books are released to help commoditize the holiday.

It's the moment fans of the horror comedy franchise Evil Dead have waited decades to see.

Starz's TV series, Ash vs Evil Dead, begins with a bracing blast of classic rock — Deep Purple's psychedelic anthem Space Truckin' — and the disquieting sight of star Bruce Campbell squeezing his midriff into a massive, leather corset.

That moment says everything about Campbell's character Ash Williams, a vain, aging low-rent ladies man whose only talent is killing zombie-like demons known as Deadites.

In the mid-1960s a young David Hare was touring the U.S. in a somewhat unlikely way: He'd gotten a job cleaning and repainting a beach house for a therapist in Los Angeles, and she had arranged for him to stay with a succession of her patients as he traveled around the country.

"I knew what their problems were because I'd redone her filing system ..." Hare tells NPR's Scott Simon. "It certainly gave me a highly colored view of America for the first time."

Candy corn is as ubiquitous at Halloween as tiny witches and skeletons knocking on neighborhood doors. And it turns out the story of how this and other sweet treats came to dominate the ghoulish holiday is a bittersweet one – in which enterprise and racism are as intertwined as the layers of a rainbow lollipop.

The roots of America's candy boom lie in the 1920s. Sugar trade routes that had been disrupted during World War I were once again open for business. The result: a glut of sugar that led to a steep crash in prices.

Pumpkins of almost any variety have flesh high in fiber and beta carotene. Their seeds, delicious when toasted or baked, can be rich in potassium and protein.

But we didn't eat the vast majority of the 1.91 billion pounds of pumpkins grown in the U.S. in 2014, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture. Instead we, of course, carved faces into them, set them aglow and perhaps left them to sit outside for days. And then we tossed them.

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Twenty-five years ago, a new Halloween tradition was launched.


NANCY CARTWRIGHT: (As Bart Simpson) Here's a story that's really scarifying.

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The world of children's lit has always traded in grisly topics — children's literature scholar Jerry Griswold deems "scariness" one of the five elemental themes of the genre.

We've got a big live show this weekend and lots of other stuff brewing, so this week, we're replaying one of our favorite shows of the last year: the show we did with Gene Demby and Tanya Ballard Brown about the Fox show Empire and a discussion of public radio voices. Here's the post from February, recreated with links intact!

[From February 6, 2015]