Arts and culture

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And now for something completely different. My colleague here, Robert, interviews John Cleese and Eric Idle - or tries to.


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If summer is for Hollywood blockbusters, fall is when the video game industry brings out its big guns, and big swords and even gods.


UNIDENTIFIED NARRATOR: All actions have consequences...

For more than a decade, CBS Entertainment chief Nina Tassler seemed like the last woman standing in network TV, maintaining control of the most-watched broadcast network's drama, comedy and late-night offerings while executives at rival outlets rose and fell.

In Divided Nicaragua, National Dish Brings Rich And Poor Together

Sep 15, 2015

Everyone I met in Nicaragua wanted to know two things. Where was I from and had I tried vigorón?

It was the taxi driver who dropped me off at the airport at the end of my first trip to the country who was most disappointed that I had not managed to try Nicaragua's national dish. And I had no good excuse for the oversight: Vigorón is ubiquitous on menus around the country, especially in the city of Granada, where I'd been. The hearty dish of starch, meat and vegetables adorned with condiments can be ordered for breakfast, lunch or dinner.

Author Mary Karr has written three memoirs and is often credited with popularizing the genre, but she still jokes that hers is a "low-rent form."

"When I was in grad school, I remember Geoffrey Wolff saying [the memoir] was like inscribing the Lord's Prayer on a grain of rice," Karr tells Fresh Air's Terry Gross. "It was the province of weirdos and saints and film stars with fake boobs — or you could be a prime minister or something."

Welcome to the third session of the Morning Edition book club! Here's how it works: A well-known writer will pick a book he or she loved. We'll all read it. Then, you'll send us your questions about the book. About a month later, we'll reconvene to talk about the book with the author and the writer who picked it.

When Juan Felipe Herrera came to NPR's Washington studio, the poet laureate carried a sketch pad of drawings and scribbles of poems in the works. Herrera is the child of Mexican migrant farmworkers. He grew up following the seasons as his parents picked crops in the heat and dust of California's fields.

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Four years ago, an American drone strike in Yemen killed Anwar al-Awlaki, an American-born imam. It was a targeted attack; more than a year earlier, the Obama administration and the CIA had placed Awlaki's name on a "capture or kill list."

Quirky doesn't begin to capture the wacky inventiveness of Valeria Luiselli's second novel. The Story of My Teeth is a playful, philosophical funhouse of a read that demonstrates that not only isn't experimental fiction dead, it needn't be deadly, either. Luiselli's elastic mind comfortably stretches to wrap itself around molars, Montaigne, fortune cookies and various theories of meaning.

"Someone smarter than me once called America's small towns the lost continent." So says Cody "Razzle-Dazzle" Kellogg, a radio DJ who's only one of the multitude of colorful characters populating Patrick Wensink's new novel, Fake Fruit Factory. That "someone smarter" is the real-life writer Bill Bryson, whose 1989 book The Lost Continent helped open the country's eyes to a disappearing way of life: The slow, idiosyncratic pace of small towns that have fallen off the grid of mainstream American culture.

Joyce Carol Oates is famous not only for the quality of her writing but also for the quantity. She has written more than 50 novels as well as a very long list of non-fiction, poetry, plays and short stories. Violence haunts her work and, working with a diverse array of subjects, she always offers a probing look at the dark side of human nature. In her new memoir The Lost Landscape, Oates explores how her early years shaped her as a person and a writer.

In 1964, Frank D. Gilroy's The Subject Was Roses opened on Broadway. The play landed Gilroy theater's triple crown: a Pulitzer Prize, a Tony Award and a Drama Critics' Circle Award.

Gilroy died on Saturday at age 89. In a statement, his family cited natural causes.

The Subject Was Roses, about a World War II veteran returning home to the Bronx, starred Martin Sheen in the role of Timmy and Irene Dailey and Jack Albertson as his parents.

Dolly Wells and Emily Mortimer are British actresses and best friends — who just happen to also play British actresses and best friends on TV.

In HBO's Doll & Em, fictional (but familiar) versions of each take center stage: A successful actress named Emily invites her childhood friend Dolly to come out to Hollywood to be her personal assistant after a bad breakup.

For a kid, moving can be hard — even if it's just from one town to another. But when Michael W. Clune was a young boy, his family made a much more drastic move: from Ireland to the U.S.

It was rough. Clune had a hard time fitting in because of his Irish accent and Irish clothes. At school, there were cliques and bullies.

"Learning to deal with other people was a real challenge," Clune tells NPR's Arun Rath, "one that left me feeling isolated quite a bit."

Home was a refuge, for a while — until his parents started fighting. They divorced when he was 12.

Copyright 2015 NPR. To see more, visit

Copyright 2015 NPR. To see more, visit



Nathaniel Mackey's poetry has been described as metaphysical and mythological.

Coming to Toronto for the film festival is like anything else you do that has complex logistics: You get better at it with practice. This is my fourth time, and now I know where things are, how to schedule myself and how not to panic over everything I'm missing. Here's a rundown of my first three days, with an open acknowledgment that in part because of some movies I wasn't able to get into, this is a pretty white-guy-heavy chunk of my schedule; rest assured that three of the five films I have scheduled for Day 4 are directed by women.

Here's the good news about Ceridwen Dovey's short story collection Only the Animals: It contains a genuinely moving story told from the point of view of a parrot. That's obviously not an easy thing to pull off, but Dovey manages it beautifully. The bird, adopted by an American divorcée who has moved to Beirut, makes for an intriguing narrator, and the story is clever, biting and wistfully sad.

People use Instagram to share all kinds of images online — taking selfies and posting photos of brunch, of course, but also discovering raw talent or telling stories that might not otherwise get attention.

That's exactly what many photojournalists use Instagram for: posting photos to draw attention to issues they're passionate about. And visual media giants like Getty Images have taken notice.

Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year, begins at sunset Sunday night, and in symbolic hope for a sweet year to come, many American Jews will eat a slice of honey cake. But while honey cake is sentimental, it's not always beloved.

Marcy Goldman is the author of several baking books, including one on Jewish baking, and she's heard all the complaints: Honey cake is too dense, too dry and too heavily spiced.

As part of a series called My Big Break, All Things Considered is collecting stories of triumph, big and small. These are the moments when everything seems to click, and people leap forward into their careers.

A run-down bar in rural Alaska isn't any place for a kid. But when she was a child, that's where songwriter Jewel found her voice — on dingy stages at lumberjack joints.

Actress and writer Mindy Kaling has had an accomplished career, from her role as the vapid Kelly Kapoor on The Office to creating and starring in her own show, The Mindy Project.

But don't call her "seasoned."

"Seasoned means old," she tells NPR's Arun Rath.

Kaling, of course, is young — and busy. That's a big takeaway from her new book, Why Not Me?, which takes readers through parts of Kaling's life with the same energy and fearlessness that mark her comedy.

Director and puppeteer Frank Oz is one of the most familiar voices in the world — in fact, he's dozens of them. As a founder of the Muppets, he was Bert, Miss Piggy, Fozzie Bear, Cookie Monster, Yoda, and more.

Since he's probably heard his share of jokes about The Wizard of Oz over the years, we've decided to ask him three questions about L. Frank Baum, author of The Wonderful Wizard of Oz and its many sequels.

At the heart of Patrick DeWitt's new novel is a young man named Lucy — a hapless liar who's been unlucky in his loves, his labors and even his lies. Not much has been going right for him in his hometown village.

Then, Lucy (short for Lucien Minor) gets himself a job offer: assistant to the majordomo at the Castle Von Aux, in the remote east of a kingdom that's in the grip of some indefinable and endless war. Thus it is that Lucy leaves home and becomes Undermajordomo Minor.

If you've opened a novel by Patrick DeWitt before, it ought to come as no surprise to find that a pivotal scene in his new one hinges on acts unprintable. That is, at least, as far as NPR's family-friendly website is concerned. If you haven't yet cracked one of his books, suffice to say the scene I'm referring to boasts violence, sloppy nudity, acts of lewdness — and one piece of cylindrical lunchmeat, alarmingly misused.

Eight people died at the top the world in May of 1996. They were ascending Mount Everest and their numbers included two renowned mountaineers, Rob Hall and Scott Fischer. Their story was made even more famous a year later by Jon Krakauer in his book Into Thin Air.

This summer at "The Beach" in Washington, D.C., there was no saltwater or sand.

"The Beach" was an art installation at the National Building Museum featuring an ocean of 750,000 translucent, plastic balls.

You could wade in or jump into this giant ball pit. And all summer long, people brought their kids and took selfies. It was a hit.

Qais Akbar Omar lives on the first floor of an ordinary looking house in the city of Quincy, on Boston's South Shore. But stepping inside his apartment, you're immediately transported to a different place.

Spread on the floors are hand-woven rugs from his family's carpet business in Kabul. One is made up of four rectangular prayer rugs all woven together, in reds, oranges and blacks. In the kitchen, there's a woolen rug, traditionally used by nomads. It's edged with goats' hair to keep out scorpions and snakes.

"My parents are both Indian," Ravi Patel explains during an interview as he fixes a cup of chai for a visitor. "And we were born here. And while they grew up the Old School way, not dating, having family put them together, we're like, American. Even though in many important ways we're very Indian."