Arts and culture

American politics has changed a lot over the past 200 years.

Sure, that's an obvious thing to say. But the seismic shifts in political rhetoric, messaging and style came crashing home during the last couple weeks, as I read about the greatest speech in the history of the U.S. Senate in H.W. Brands's new book, Heirs Of The Founders.

The speech: Daniel Webster's reply to Robert Hayne during an 1830 Senate debate.

In Ralph Breaks the Internet, a hyperconnected sequel to the animated hit Wreck-It Ralph, the possibilities of a Disney/Star Wars/Marvel crossover are breathlessly celebrated while fragile masculinity threatens to destroy the world. Cultural anthologists of the future will require no carbon dating to recognize this film as extremely 2018.

An Artist Looks Back — Way Back — In 'I Am Young'

Nov 21, 2018

M. Dean embraces and explores nostalgia with rare fervency in her debut graphic novel. Actually a series of short stories, I Am Young shows how certain classic albums inflect the lives of an assortment of teens and twentysomethings living (mostly) in the '60s and '70s. Dean announces right up front that she'll be taking an extended look backward: Her cover illustration combines a psychedelic floral pattern with the very same rainbow stripes used on the 1960s-1970s volume of Time-Life's This Fabulous Century series. (Said series is a fun nostalgia trip in itself.

Extinctions, by Australian writer Josephine Wilson, opens with a photograph of a man standing beside a large fossil from an 1879 book, Extinct Wingless Birds of New Zealand.

The past is invoked — a prior Eden where wildness reigned and the dark earth was rich and generous, the air thick with beating feathers.

"Tales of extinction often begin near the end," Wilson writes.

In California's Yosemite National Park, the summit of the iconic El Capitan rock formation looms 3,000 feet above its base. Though El Capitan's vertical granite has always presented a challenge for climbers, its southeastern face, known as the Dawn Wall, is thought to be the most punishing.

Copyright 2018 Fresh Air. To see more, visit Fresh Air.


Copyright 2018 Fresh Air. To see more, visit Fresh Air.


NPR Ed wants to know about the student gifts that still stand out among the cookies and cards of past holiday seasons.

Teachers, tell us: What's the most memorable gift you've received from a student? What made it great? Did it make you laugh or cry? Why have you held on to it?

Submit your story here, along with a photo. (You can also fill the form out here.) We may contact you for more information and feature your story on NPR.

I was scrolling through my Instagram feed last year when I saw them: photo after photo of my POC friends' Thanksgiving tables, decked out with not just turkey and stuffing, but the traditional dishes of their culture.

One Korean family served bright red radish kimchi; an Egyptian family prepared dozens of stuffed grape leaves; and one Taiwanese family included takeout mapo tofu — probably a potluck addition from a guest.

If there's one defining characteristic of political discourse in our era, it's that the truth is swamped by myth. Made-up stories saturate social, and other, media — and real journalism is falsely targeted with chants of "fake news."

"She is famous the world over, but how many people know her name?" asks Camille Laurens in her new book Little Dancer Aged Fourteen: The True Story Behind Degas's Masterpiece.

The French novelist and essayist, best known for her autofiction, poses more questions than she can answer in this slim book about the girl who modeled, in 1881, for Edgar Degas's sculpture "Little Dancer Aged Fourteen."

Copyright 2018 Fresh Air. To see more, visit Fresh Air.


The Aspen Institute has announced this year's nominees for its annual prize — 16 titles (including several short story collections and quite a few debut authors) that, in the Institute's words, address "a vital contemporary issue."

A bookstore in England sold a children's biography of William the Conqueror that had been sitting in its shop since 1991.

"I have just sold a book that we have had in stock since May 1991," the Broadhursts Bookshop tweeted. "We always knew its day would come."

A painting by Pablo Picasso that was stolen from a Dutch museum six years ago may have resurfaced in Romania, prosecutors say.

In a 2012 heist, thieves entered the Kunsthal museum in Rotterdam and made off with seven works by masters including Henri Matisse, Claude Monet and Paul Gauguin — as well as Tête d'Arlequin, a 1971 painting by Picasso. Authorities put the work's value at about $900,000.

Until now, none of the works had been recovered, and most or all of them were thought to have been burned.

On-air challenge: I'm going to give you two words. Change one letter in the first word to name a category of things. And change one letter in the second word to name something in that category.


Thanksgiving is four days away, and with it comes a holiday season of friends, family, fun and of course, food. Now about that food part: If you're hosting on top of all the fun, you get a big helping of responsibility, last-minute preparation and the unexpected.

NPR is here for all you hosts with a new holiday advice series called, "Help, I'm Hosting!"

This 'Ladder To The Sky' Is Grounded In The Dirty Depths

Nov 18, 2018

"A man's worth is no greater than his ambitions," opined Marcus Aurelius centuries ago, and John Boyne's new trickster protagonist Maurice Swift would surely agree. Swift, the central character of A Ladder to the Sky — whose high self-worth makes Gore Vidal look like Mrs. Tiggy-Winkle — has great ambitions.

We recorded the show in Orlando, Fla., this week so we've invited NBA star Aaron Gordon of the Orlando Magic to play a game called "Abracadabra!" Three questions about great magicians.

Click the audio link above to see how he does.

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The "Sitcom King" is back with a series where both the situation and comedy are unexpected.

Chuck Lorre, the mind behind huge hits that include Two and a Half Men, Mike & Molly, and The Big Bang Theory, has created a series for Netflix. It's set in Hollywood, but is really about the biggest show of all: growing old.

Consider the novella. It's a tricky form. Too short, some might say, or too long, or — what is a novella, exactly? A big story? A small book? Maybe you've read Ian McEwan's declaration that the novella "lays on the writer a duty of unity and the pursuit of perfection," or Taylor Antrim's claim that it's "fiction's most open-ended and compellingly discursive form." If you have, forget it. Let's start fresh.

The new film Widows is an action-packed heist thriller — with a major twist.

Masked men break into a Chicago vault. Very quickly, it goes very wrong. Within the first few minutes of the movie, the men are dead. Their wives — now widows — are left to finish the job.

AMC's decision to show its new six-hour miniseries The Little Drummer Girl over three consecutive nights is a smart strategy. This spy story, based on the bestselling novel by John Le Carré, begins at such a deliberate pace that it takes almost two hours before the central story line — the actual spy mission — is set in motion.

When Mo Amer was nine, he left his home in Kuwait with his mother and sister. "It was a tough time," he told Ophira Eisenberg, host of NPR's Ask Me Another at the Bell House in Brooklyn. "We fled war in Kuwait and we ended up in Houston, Texas. Which is a natural destination for refugees."

Texas is where Amer first experienced stand up comedy. "I saw stand up for the first time when I was ten at the rodeo, and I told my brother that this is what I want to do for a living," he recalled.

Dascha Polanco is no stranger to an erratic schedule. "I was never a college student without working," she told Ophira Eisenberg, host of NPR's Ask Me Another at the Bell House in Brooklyn. "I was working the overnight, and then I would rush to Hunter [College], eight o'clock in the morning — organic chem."

Polanco now stars in Orange Is the New Black, but she originally set out to become a nurse. However, she said she was jealous of the students in Hunter's performing arts programs. She reflected on her decision to follow her dreams of performance:

It's hard not to judge the people in a twin-switch story who don't immediately realize that a loved one has been replaced by a copy of herself. But honestly, if you had known someone to be a good cook and she was suddenly a terrible cook, would your first thought be, "I wonder if she's been swapped out and that's actually her identical twin"?

Novelist and screenwriter William Goldman, who wrote the beloved cult classic The Princess Bride and won Oscars for writing All the President's Men and Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, has died at 87.

Goldman's son-in-law, Mike Pavol, tells NPR that Goldman died Friday morning in New York City.

His legend was cemented in Hollywood, but Goldman himself was an avowed New Yorker. He was born in Chicago, went to Oberlin College in Ohio, served briefly in the military and got a master's in English from Columbia University in New York.

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For more years than we can count, on this Friday before Thanksgiving NPR Special Correspondent Susan Stamberg has presented her mother-in-law's unconventional recipe for cranberry relish — it's tart, time-tested, terrific for some tasters and terrible for others.

The recipe is controversial — especially if you only like sweet cranberry sauce. Mama Stamberg's has the usual cranberries and sugar, but then you tart it up with onion, sour cream and — wait for it — horseradish.

Discussions of diversity in Hollywood may seem trendy, but for audiences who don't normally see actors who look like them, or stories told about their communities, such conversations are vital, and action necessary.