Arts

Arts and culture

Growing up in Pennsylvania coal country, writer Jennifer Haigh learned that a lot of what matters in the state can't be seen. It lies beneath the surface, in the form of potential energy. She saw how the boom and bust cycles of mining affected the people of her home town — which is now poised on the brink of fracking.

She's taken what she knows and turned it into a new novel, Heat and Light. But Haigh says she doesn't think of it as a book about fracking.

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

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

What do these movies have in common?

Funny Face
New York Stories
Beetlejuice
The Big Lebowski
Ghost World

Mental illness has long been a mainstay of literature, from Don Quixote and Jane Eyre to Mrs. Dalloway and Madame Bovary. And why not? It's interesting. Novels like Crime and Punishment and The Catcher in the Rye find cultural insights in the tumult of nonconforming, besieged minds. Others, like Jeffrey Eugenides' The Marriage Plot and Walker Percy's The Second Coming explore the devastating toll of mental illness on loved ones.

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

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

LANGUAGE ADVISORY: This interview contains language some readers may find offensive.

Hamilton, the Broadway musical about "the scrappy young immigrant who forever changed America" has made history, after being nominated for a record 16 Tony Awards. The nominees were announced today.

Honey, I shrunk the queso.

"The whole city is talking in music," marvels Simon, the main character of Anna Smaill's debut The Chimes, near the start of this Man Booker-longlisted novel. Young and orphaned, he's just arrived in London from his family's farm in the country. But it's not the London we know: At some point in the future, society has been reduced to a medieval level of farmers and artisans. A cataclysm called Allbreaking was responsible — not that Simon, or anyone else, remembers it.

The food glitterati will gather in Chicago Monday night for the black-tie James Beard Chef and Restaurant Awards, known as the "Oscars of the food world." Most of the categories sound like industry fare: Outstanding Restaurant Design. Best Chef: Great Lakes. Best New Restaurant. Rising Star Chef of the Year. There's not much of interest for anyone outside the foodies and food world orbit. Except, that is, for a sneakily subversive category: America's Classics.

You may have seen the crazy amounts of money spent at high end art auctions: $81 million for a Mark Rothko, $179 million for a Picasso. Now, a new memoir called The Auctioneer dishes about the tycoons, rock stars and royalty who play in this high-priced game. Simon de Pury is an art world insider who has been called the "Mick Jagger" of auctions — he once even tried to compete with the two power houses, Christie's and Sotheby's.

For decades, few films made in Cuba have found their way to U.S. theaters. But with diplomatic relations restored between the two countries, this past weekend brought not one, but two. Papa: Hemingway in Cuba, the first Hollywood film to shoot on the island nation in decades, turns out to be a dispiriting, ineptly directed affair, about which the less said, the better.

But a father-son drama called Viva is lively enough to be an art-house hit, illuminating a Havana subculture that may be almost as unfamiliar to Cubans as to Americans.

As a co-founder of the band X, John Doe helped define the punk scene that emerged in Los Angeles in the late 1970s. Doe tells Fresh Air's Terry Gross that punk was about breaking rules and challenging the norms of the existing music scene.

Ballerina Misty Copeland, who made history when she became the first black female principal dancer at the American Ballet Theatre last summer, now has her own Barbie doll. The doll wears a costume similar to Copeland's for her Firebird role.

Philadelphia's historic Italian Market is known for its cheeses, meats, fresh pastas and chocolate. Running 10 city blocks through south Philadelphia, it's one of the oldest and largest open-air markets in the country. But what would a tour through this vibrant neighborhood be like without the ability to see?

That's where Philly Touch Tours comes in. The guide company specializes in offering hands-on tours of Philadelphia.

Late in 1968, it was astounding to me how one of the best-loved bands could create one of the least-liked songs. It was "Revolution 9," near the end of The Beatles' sprawling White Album.

But then, I was only 7 years old and, frankly, those eight minutes of chaotic sounds and mumbled words were positively frightening. And who was that guy who kept intoning "number nine?"

From Mexico City's Zócalo to Rome's Piazza Navona, public squares have always been a vibrant part of urban life. After visiting Italy a few years back, editor Catie Marron began thinking about the different roles these public spaces have played. She asked some well-known writers to share their thoughts about famous squares around the world, and the resulting essays are gathered in a new book called City Squares.

Forget Talent, Success Comes From 'Grit'

May 1, 2016
Copyright 2016 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

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

No Pink, But Plenty Of Red, In Hack-N-Slash 'Fairyland'

May 1, 2016

Editor's note: This piece originally identified Jean-Francois Beaulieu as the illustrator; in fact, he's the colorist and Skottie Young both wrote and penciled.

Ricky Gervais always seems to be working on something new. Whether it's producing a TV show, writing a movie, voicing a cartoon character, or hosting the Golden Globes, the comedian keeps busy.

How do we remember our experiences when grief has consumed them? It seems like a heavy question for a book called The Square Root of Summer to tackle, and while this book does deliver on the title's promise of teenage vacation hijinks, romance, and mathematical equations, it also presents a heartrending quandary: How to move forward with a life that has been defined by loss.

The way Jimmy Santiago Baca tells it, poetry saved his life — but he's not speaking in hyperbole. Long before the poet won an American Book Award, Baca was in prison on a drug conviction, where he was facing down a prison-yard fight with another inmate.

Baca sought padding however he could get it.

Copyright 2016 NPR. To see more, visit NPR.

This year is the 50th anniversary of the original Star Trek, so mark the occasion, we're going to play a game called "To boldly go where no man has gone before!" We'll ask pioneering journalist Lesley Stahl three questions about the original Star Trek, taken from a new oral history called The Fifty-Year Mission. Stahl covered the Watergate scandal in the 1970s and has been a 60 Minutes correspondent for 25 years.

Sunjeev Sahota has written what I suspect will be finest novel of the year. I know, it's still early in 2016, but hear me out. The subject at the heart of The Year of the Runaways is illegal immigration, which is currently the source of much hand-wringing both here in the U.S. and across the world. Sahota, a British writer of Indian origin, has written not only a timely book, but a gut-wrenching, emotionally honest one, as well.

Death is the great leveler. All of us — kings, peasants, beggars and billionaires, saints and gnats will all die. It's the one certainty we share, even if we differ on the fine points of what happens thereafter.

But what if someone set out to circumvent death by having themselves essentially suspended: Technically dead, but ready to be revived? Frozen in some secret location, body and head insulated separately, against the day a technology is developed to regenerate them, with some memories restored and others cast away?

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