Arts

Arts and culture

Benedict Cumberbatch, the deep-voiced, strikingly handsome actor whose roles have ranged from Sherlock Holmes to Doctor Strange, once said there were only two roles on his long-standing acting "bucket list."

One was Hamlet, a role he played in 2015. The other? Patrick Melrose, a role he tackles — and conquers — in a new Showtime miniseries beginning Saturday. Parts of it are wickedly funny; other parts are searingly dramatic. But all of it is riveting, and excellent.

Annette Bening has made her career in film and television, but she hasn't always been comfortable in front of the camera.

"For so many years I was really intimidated ... " she says. "I felt very comfortable on the stage ... I didn't really do movies 'till I was almost 30."

Now 59, Bening has "fallen in love" with filming. "You can get so many things across with the camera that one just can't do onstage," she says.

Romy Hall has run out of time and hope. The protagonist of Rachel Kushner's third novel, 29 years old when we first meet her, has resigned herself to the likelihood that she'll die in prison; she's been sentenced to two life sentences for beating to death a man who stalked her. "I don't plan on living a long life," she says. "Or a short life, necessarily. I have no plans at all. The thing is you keep existing whether you have a plan to do so or not, until you don't exist, and then your plans are meaningless."

Some books — not many, but a few — are vastly affected by the moment in which you read them. Not moment in history, or in your life. I mean the exact circumstance in which you sit down and crack the spine. For me, Lara Feigel's Free Woman, a combination of memoir and Doris Lessing biography, is one of those books. I read it on a late-night train home from New York, in that public-private Amtrak silence, with my boyfriend asleep in my lap so that every few pages, I could look down and think, Are you obstructing my freedom?

In first grade, I was hospitalized with pneumonia for over a week. I remember having to take an antibiotic syrup that gave me acid reflux. Immediately after I swallowed it, my Korean immigrant mother spoon-fed me a homemade liquid with small pieces of boiled Korean pear (bae), spices, and honey. This was her take on baesuk, a Korean fruit punch/tea, that she brought to the hospital in a thermos. I remember it lulled my stomach and soothed my throat and chest.

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TERRY GROSS, HOST:

Novel writers are encouraged to have an elevator pitch — a one-sentence summary of their book that will grab the attention of anyone stuck in a small space with them for the time it takes to move from one floor to the next. It's hard to do right, and some books just aren't high-concept enough to make it work. So when I say that Undead Girl Gang has the new-crowned queen of elevator pitches, it's worth paying attention: When girls start dying under suspicious circumstances, a teen witch raises the dead to figure out who done it and get revenge.

The Weinstein Co. has been cleared to sell its assets to Texas-based private equity firm Lantern Capital Partners.

That was the ruling from a federal bankruptcy court judge in Delaware today. The terms of the deal don't offer a fund for the victims of alleged sexual abuses by the movie studio's co-founder.

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AUDIE CORNISH, HOST:

"I want to know who you are and how you came to be a slave." That was one of the first questions that Zora Neale Hurston asked 86-year-old Cudjo Lewis when she traveled from New York to Mobile, Ala., to interview him in the summer of 1927.

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