Arts

Arts and culture

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Henry James famously said that "summer afternoon" were the two most beautiful words in the English language. With apologies to The Master, I'd tweak that sentiment to suggest that maybe "summer suspense" are two even more beautiful words. Surely, on a sunny summer day, few pleasures can be greater than reading outside in the shade cast by a first-rate thriller.

When Justin Cronin pitched his Passage trilogy — which began with The Passage in 2010, continued with The Twelve in 2012 and is now finishing with The City Of Mirrors — it must have been one of the easiest buys in the history of publishing. It's a post-apocalyptic sci-fi western with vampires is all he would've had to say. And then waited for the publishers to line up and throw money at him.

It was the tasting that revolutionized the wine world.

Forty years ago today, the crème de la crème of the French wine establishment sat in judgment for a blind tasting that pitted some of the finest wines in France against unknown California bottles. Only one journalist bothered to show up — the outcome was considered a foregone conclusion.

"Obviously, the French wines were going to win," says George Taber, who was then a correspondent for Time magazine in Paris. He says everyone thought "it's going to be a nonstory."

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Things are going well for Marc Maron. He has a new comedy special; he has interviewed both President Obama and Saturday Night Live's Lorne Michaels on his podcast, WTF; and his IFC show, Maron, is in its fourth season.

"The way kids speak today, I'm here to tell you." Over the course of history, every aging generation has made that complaint, and it has always turned out to be overblown. That's just as well. If the language really had been deteriorating all this time, we'd all be grunting like bears by now.

[Note: This is where a spoiler warning would usually go, but in this case, the warning is this: it's a post about The Bachelorette. You should only read it if you're interested in a post about The Bachelorette.

In his recent book, The Finest Traditions of My Calling, Dr. Abraham Nussbaum, 41, makes the case that doctors and patients alike are being shortchanged by current medical practices that emphasize population-based standards of care rather than individual patient needs and experiences.

Nussbaum, a psychiatrist, is the chief education officer at Denver Health Medical Center and works on the adult inpatient psychiatric unit there. I recently spoke with him, and this is an edited transcript of our conversation.

'Smoke' Is A Gloriously Murky Vision Of The Past

May 24, 2016

"There's no more hateful smell in the world than the smell of Smoke," writes Dan Vyleta in his compelling new novel, Smoke. "Smoke" is capitalized for a reason — and a sinister one at that. In Vyleta's grim, deliriously imagined vision of early-20th-century England, living human bodies produce Smoke (and Soot) according to their guilt.

There are over 3 million people of Filipino heritage living in the U.S., and many say they relate better to Latino Americans than other Asian American groups. In part, that can be traced to the history of the Philippines, which was ruled by Spain for more than 300 years. That colonial relationship created a cultural bond that persists to this day.

It's the topic of the book The Latinos of Asia: How Filipino Americans Break the Rules of Race. Author Anthony Ocampo spoke about the book with Morning Edition's Renee Montagne.

Susan Silverman, the older sister of the irreverent comic Sarah Silverman, grew up with a crippling fear of losing people she loved. Her fear wasn't completely unfounded: When she was 2, her infant brother Jeffrey died inexplicably in his crib.

Give the man credit: Congressman Anthony Weiner, having inspired countless headline puns a few years back when he was caught texting crotch shots, put himself out there when most people would've run for cover.

Ralph J. Gleason is my hero.

It's impossible to put an exact date on it, but I think I started reading his column in Rolling Stone in the summer of 1973. I was 14 years old and already immersed in music. Reading him, I discovered you could write about music and get paid for it — and then I discovered his writing was just as immersive as the music we both loved.

Sherman Alexie's new children's book stars Thunder Boy Smith, a little boy who was named after his dad. "People call him Big Thunder," the boy says of his father. "That nickname is a storm filling up the sky. People call me Little Thunder. That nickname makes me sound like a burp or a fart." Over the course of Thunder Boy Jr., the boy emerges from his dad's shadow to become his own person.

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In the 1980s, Raymond Douglas had been living in Ireland when a priest invited him for a drink. This was not an invitation to partake in Holy Communion. Rather, the priest — whom Douglas, then 18, had come to know as the unofficial chaplain at his school — had invited Douglas out to a party.

'Smoke' Author Dan Vyleta Keeps It Messy

May 22, 2016

The river Avon is crowded: swans, boaters, a swimming dog or two. On the bank, an excited old man waves at each boat like a castaway sighting rescue.

Stratford is all pubs and thatched roofs and sweet shops, with its daytrippers and slightly suffocating, kitschified Shakespearean pedigree (I say that: I still contemplated buying an "Out, damn spot" novelty eraser). The author Dan Vyleta teaches in nearby Birmingham, but lives here with his partner, a literary translator. We're sitting on a bench on the opposite bank from the happy castaway, looking at the Avon.

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

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

Novelist Joe Hill has a pronouncement to make: "The world is really divided into two kinds of people. People who adore plague novels and wimps."

Known mostly for graphic novels, Fantagraphics has ventured occasionally into prose — including His Wife Leaves Him, the 2013 novel by award-winning author Stephen Dixon. Letters to Kevin is Dixon's second book for Fantagraphics, and while it's also a work of prose, it veers a bit closer to the publisher's wheelhouse: It's profusely illustrated by Dixon himself. It's a risky move; most of Dixon's rudimentary sketches are of the don't-quit-your-day-job variety.

Classical music fans know the names Mendelssohn and Schumann. Chances are, Felix and Robert leap to mind — but Felix's sister Fanny was also a composer, and so was Robert Schumann's wife Clara. Those are just two composers featured in Anna Beer's new book, Sounds and Sweet Airs: The Forgotten Women of Classical Music.

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

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

The copper craft makers in Seffarin Square in the historic district of Fez, Morocco, bang out designs on platters and shape copper pots to a rhythm.

Called the medina, neighborhood streets lined with domes and archways take you back through the history of the dynasties and occupiers that ruled Morocco from the 9th century on. At the center of the square is the Qarawiyyin Library, founded more than a millennium ago.

Even car racing fans may be surprised to learn that in the 1920s a poem would grace the pages of the race-day program. But then, what better way to get the juices flowing, amid the exhaust, screaming engines and checkered flags, than a few lines of verse?

In case by now you didn't know it,

the Indy 500 has brought back its poet.

Ben Collins is a very, very good driver. You may have seen him drive on the European race circuit, or on the BBC show Top Gear, or in the James Bond movies. He's written a book called How to Drive so that you, too, can come to a screeching stop right at the edge of a cliff. (Or so we hope.)

Since Collins knows a lot about gears, we've decided to quiz him on Richard Gere.

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

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