Arts and culture

Growing up, neuroscientist Judith Grisel would take little sips of alcohol at family events, but it wasn't until she was 13 that she experienced being drunk for the first time. Everything changed.

"It was so complete and so profound," she says. "I suddenly felt less anxious, less insecure, less inept to cope with the world. Suddenly I was full and OK in a way that I had never been."

Grisel began chasing that feeling. Over the years, she struggled with alcohol, marijuana and cocaine. But along the way, she also became interested in the neuroscience of addiction.

In 2015, Mexican-born writer Valeria Luiselli began volunteering as an interpreter in New York City's federal immigrant court. To say that her experience helping undocumented refugee children with the 40-question intake form had a major impact on Luiselli and her work is putting it mildly.

Why does Akiko Busch hate the Internet? After reading her essay collection How to Disappear: Notes on Invisibility in a Time of Transparency, I should know. Sadly, I remain in the dark.

Busch, a practiced art and nature writer, dislikes social media and networked culture: that much is clear. What she neglects to explore is why.

The Magical Negro: That's the trope in literature and movies where a black character appears in a plot solely to help a white character — and then vanishes.

Think Will Smith in The Legend of Bagger Vance or Michael Clarke Duncan in The Green Mile. In her new book of poems, called Magical Negro, Morgan Parker strives to reclaim the term.

In his 14 years co-hosting MythBusters, Adam Savage performed experiments that fell squarely into the category of: Kids, do not try this at home! The Discovery show tested out the validity of myths, legends and movie scenes — whether that meant creating a flying guillotine, or escaping a car submerged in water.

For Chilly February, 3 Romances To Warm Your Heart

Feb 11, 2019

February is High Holiday season in Romancelandia (ahem, Valentine's Day) and at this time of year, even those who are merely romance-curious seek some steamy recommendations. These three novels show romance that isn't always what you might expect, but it's often the heartwarming story you need.

They should have called it something else.

It's not that the name PEN15, with its allusions to juvenile if not infantile scribble humor, doesn't capture something cheerfully dumb about the setting of this new Hulu series about middle school. But the title suggests a cheap and bawdy laugh — which certainly has a place in the world — when in fact, by the end of ten episodes, the show has offered a portrait of adolescence in girls that is very funny, but also might be as tender as anything since My So-Called Life.

Put a cone around a dog's neck and watch its personality totally transform.

Orienting to life with a blocked view can mean a carefree pup acts confused, a wiggly dog turns stoic and a laid-back dog seems embarrassed.

Sometimes called Elizabethan collars, cones are designed to limit access to a wound. But for the dogs who leave the vet's office wearing them, the protective device hardly seems regal.

'Tonic And Balm' Builds A World In A Bottle

Feb 10, 2019

The year is 1919. Doc Bell's Miracle and Mirth Medicine Show — part circus, part sideshow, all charlatanism — travels rural America, trying to gin up enough audience to support the enterprise. The characters in Tonic and Balm, Stephanie Allen's debut novel, are the performers, roustabouts, fixers, and seamstresses who inhabit Doc Bell's self-contained world.

Joseph Scapellato's The Made-Up Man reminds me of a bacon-topped doughnut — a mixture of incongruent elements that somehow work well together. And like that sweet treat, Scapellato's blend of existential noir, absurdist humor, literary fiction, and surreal exploration of performance art merges into something special.

Imagine a world where lying is against the law. You might expect that any place that values truth so highly would be a utopia — but the world writer Ben Winters has created in Golden State is far from idyllic. And though it's set in the future, it's very much based on our current political moment.

Winters says he knows exactly when he started writing Golden State: The day following President Trump's inauguration. Specifically, it was after "the infamous incident of the inauguration crowd-size debate."

Daughter Of A Numbers Runner Witnessed An Underground Economy In Action: Growing up, Bridgett M. Davis' mother booked and banked bets from their home in Detroit. She writes about her experience — and the role of "the numbers" in the black community — in her memoir.

Details Make The Difference In 'Everybody Knows' And 'Cold War': Cold War's richness comes from being steeped in detail. And it demonstrates what Everybody Knows does not: that the road to the universal begins with the specific.

We taped the show in Savannah, Ga., this week, and invited Georgia politician Stacey Abrams to play our quiz. Abrams is the former minority leader of the Georgia General Assembly and she narrowly lost the state's gubernatorial election in 2018. On Tuesday night, Abrams delivered the Democratic response to President Trump's State of the Union address.

This collection of 25 stories from speculative fiction's sharpest voices presents visions of future Americas that are born, bloody and aching, from the peril and difficulty of this present moment.

In the past two weeks, high-profile politicians in Virginia including Gov. Ralph Northam and Attorney General Mark Herring have come under fire for having worn blackface decades ago. These stories have caused many people to remember their own experiences — times that people around them blithely invoked racist caricatures — and how that made them feel unwelcome, or unsafe.

NPR's Weekend Edition asked listeners to share their own stories about racism at school, be it recent or many years ago. Here's some of what people said:

It's not just the finger of fate that brings Ren and Ji Lin together. It's a finger.

Ren is an 11-year-old houseboy at the deathbed of his master, Dr. MacFarland, who takes a last breath to ask the boy to find the finger amputated from the doctor years before, and to return it to him in his grave within 49 days before his soul disappears.

Ji Lin is a dancehall girl and dressmaker's assistant in 1930s Malaya who has a sudden gift pressed into her hand during a dance: a severed finger in a glass tube.

If you saw some of these paintings — of flowers, fields and foggy townscapes — for sale at a summer art fair, you might point at one to say, "Well, maybe for the guest bathroom."

Five pictures allegedly painted by Adolf Hitler are scheduled for auction at an art house in Nuremberg Saturday. Two dozen more were pulled after German police raided the place on Thursday, on suspicion that a number of the paintings signed, "A. Hitler," are forgeries.

'Enchantée' Casts A Delightful Spell

Feb 9, 2019

What do I long for in a historical fantasy? Give me the tangled streets of late eighteenth century Paris, the golden halls of Versailles, the rustling of silk skirts, the clang of dueling swords, the snap of a deck of cards being shuffled — all served with a delicious soupçon of magic and a baited breath as la Révolution bears down upon noble and commoner alike.

Honey? You awake?

There's no shortage of romantic verse for people who have just fallen in love. But no one waxes poetic about the soft glow of a smartphone screen, or the sweet caress of sweatpants.

So John Kenney, a "longtime married person," has filled this void with a slim volume called Love Poems (for Married People), in which he celebrates what happens to romance after years (and years, and years) of partnership.

One poem asks: "Are you in the mood?"

Staying away from New York City's newest museum could be ruff.

The American Kennel Club Museum of the Dog reopened in New York City on Friday, after spending decades on the outskirts of St. Louis.

Located on Bark, er, Park Avenue in midtown Manhattan, the museum's collection includes a terracotta dog paw print that dates back to the Roman empire, a dog-pulled cart from the Victorian era and an extensive array of canine fine art.

Renowned British actor Albert Finney has died at 82; his family confirmed the death in a short statement, saying he "passed away peacefully after a short illness with those closest to him by his side."

Remembering Baseball Hall Of Famer Frank Robinson

Feb 8, 2019

Copyright 2019 Fresh Air. To see more, visit Fresh Air.



This is FRESH AIR. I'm David Bianculli, editor of the website TV Worth Watching, sitting in for Terry Gross. In anticipation of the upcoming Academy Awards, we'll be listening back to interviews with some of this year's Oscar contenders. We'll start with Joel and Ethan Coen, whose films include "Blood Simple," "Barton Fink," "Fargo," "O Brother, Where Art Thou?", "No Country For Old Men," "A Serious Man," "Hail, Caesar!" and "True Grit."

The Chilean novelist Roberto Bolaño, who died in 2003, is as influential as a dead man can get. He's a literary giant across the Americas, with a mystique centered on the two massive masterworks: 2666 and The Savage Detectives. In the years since his death, his body of work has slowly emerged in English, primarily translated by Chris Andrews and Natasha Wimmer. They have worked their way through his perfect array of novellas, his short stories, and the fragments left on his hard drive, which are better than most full-fledged novels I have read.

As the successor of St. Peter, a supreme pontiff should speak with authority. But our recent popes have seemed all too capable of questionable judgment, all too easily proven wrong, all too human.

I was once driving, alone and at dusk, down a dark and winding road that hugged a mountain thick with woods. I saw a black bear cross the road, from fields on the left to the mountain on the right.

I had never seen a bear so close before. Excited, I pulled the car up and parked near where I saw the bear vanish, and had my hand on the door before I came back to myself and thought, what am I doing? It's a bear! I drove away unharmed.

There are things in one's life that are best appreciated from a distance, and this book is one of them.

We meet sports agent Ray Burke (Andre Holland) in the glittering bar at the top of The Standard, a Manhattan hotel that looks out over the High Line. Surrounded by huge windows, Ray sits across from his client Erick (Melvin Gregg), a rookie who's signed to play for New York. Erick isn't getting paid yet, and he's not practicing with his team yet, because there's a lockout. The owners and the players are at a stalemate, and Erick has gotten panicky that he'll go broke before the game starts up again.

In an interview with NPR Thursday, former executive editor of The New York Times, Jill Abramson, responded to allegations of plagiarism related to her new book Merchants of Truth: The Business of News and the Fight for Facts.

"Though I did cite these publications and tried to credit everybody perfectly, you know, I fell short," Abramson said.

In the book, which hit shelves Tuesday, Abramson examines four news outlets Buzzfeed, Vice, The New York Times and the Washington Post as they navigate an age of multi-platform news.

Shorts come back in season every February, as the showcases of Oscar-nominated animated, live-action, and documentary short films make their way to theaters around the country. But this year, at least one line of shorts is committing a fashion faux pas. Or maybe some animators just need a good hug from their loved ones: Four out of the five nominees for best animated short are about parents, children, and growing up.