Arts & Life

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RACHEL MARTIN, HOST:

It is a good time for the spoken word. There's a whole lot out there - from radio to podcasts to audio books. Turns out there are lots of choices out there for young audiophiles too.

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In books and movies, a monster is often more than just a monster. Maybe it represents anxiety, or corruption, or the id — all of which are themes that slither under the surface of Sarah Perry's new book, The Essex Serpent. Set in England at the end of the 19th century, "it's about the return of a mythical beast that's menacing the local villages," Perry tells me.

When it comes to comedy, Late Night host Seth Meyers is clear about what drew him in: "I got into it because it looked like the most fun job in the world," he says. "And it has not led me astray."

Indeed, Meyers' resume is packed with fun. Before taking over the reins at Late Night, he spent 13 years at Saturday Night Live, first as a performer, then as head writer and the co-host, alongside Amy Poehler, of the show's "Weekend Update" segment.

If it seems like there's an explosion of TV coming at you this summer, that's because there is. And it's a trend that's been building for quite a while.

Back in the day — say five or 10 years ago — summer was a time of experimentation and slowing down. Network TV aired shows that would keep the lights on while reserving its best stuff for the fall, and cable TV took advantage by debuting more new shows as an alternative.

'Mormama' Is A House Built On Quicksand

Jun 14, 2017

For years now I've been engaged in a conversation with myself about horror and what I want from it.

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STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:

The Library of Congress today named Tracy K. Smith as the nation's new poet laureate. NPR's Lynn Neary spoke with her about her new role.

Tracy K. Smith knows many readers are intimidated by line breaks. She knows people don't like identifying consonance, assonance or alliteration.

But Smith — the newly announced 22nd Poet Laureate Consultant in Poetry of the United States — wants to help America push past that anxiety.

"What do you hear? What do you feel? What does this remind you of?" she asks NPR. "These are all real and valid reactions to a poem."

Whenever Esteban Castillo visited his grandparents in Colima, Mexico, he'd sit by his grandfather's taco stand and watch him cook. He'd also see his grandmother carry her homemade cheeses on her back and go door to door, selling them in different neighborhoods. To this day, his grandparents still make a living off of food.

"They basically transform their living room into a restaurant during the weekends to make ends meet," says Castillo.

Murder. For writer Anthony Horowitz, that's where it all starts. He says everyone is fascinated by murder — just look at Foyle's War, his BBC mystery series. The show is set in the U.K. during World War II, but that wasn't its selling point.

"If I had gone to the BBC and said I wanted write about, I don't know, the social history of 1940 to '47, they would have probably said no," Horowitz explains. "When I said, 'I've got a whole series of terrific murders which take place in that time,' they opened the door."

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DAVE DAVIES, HOST:

Over the course of more than three decades, Percival Everett has written almost 30 books. They've included mysteries (Assumption), Westerns (Watershed) and biting political satire (the hilarious and memorably titled A History of the African-American People [Proposed] by Strom Thurmond as Told to Percival Everett and James Kincaid). It's impossible to predict what the next Everett book will bring, but it's always a safe bet that it's going to be great.

The Stoneview Nature Center is a lovely new five-acre public park in Los Angeles with seven different types of orange trees, avocados, figs, grapes, lemons, blackberries, lemonade berries, and blueberries galore. An open path snakes around the manicured space. There's a birdhouse for quails to lay their eggs, a hotel for native bees to drop in, a hand-drawn maze on asphalt for the kids and picnic tables for the families.

David Weigel is known primarily as a political reporter for The Washington Post and a regular commentator on MSNBC. In 2012, though, he indulged in an entirely different passion for Slate: He wrote a five-part series of essays about progressive rock called Prog Spring, chronicling the rise and fall of prog in the '60s and '70s.

South Korea in recent years has become the hot place for beauty product innovation, and it is often called the cosmetic surgery capital of the world.

Fifty years ago, on June 12, 1967, the Supreme Court's decision in Loving v. Virginia legalized interracial marriage. Just two weeks earlier, shooting had been completed on a movie about that very subject — Stanley Kramer's soon-to-be-classic, Oscar-winning, box-office smash Guess Who's Coming To Dinner, starring Spencer Tracy, Katharine Houghton and Sidney Poitier.

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AUDIE CORNISH, HOST:

A noted art collector and philanthropist has sold a major painting for an eye-popping $165 million to raise money for criminal justice reform.

Agnes Gund sold Roy Lichtenstein's 1962 work Masterpiece, reportedly to billionaire hedge fund manager and art collector Steve Cohen. The sale apparently took place months ago; an art industry newsletter reported on the transaction in January, but Gund would not confirm it.

Copyright 2017 Fresh Air. To see more, visit Fresh Air.

DAVE DAVIES, HOST:

This is FRESH AIR. I'm Dave Davies in for Terry Gross.

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JOHN LAURENCE: What kind of fighting is it going to be?

The social media world is heavily populated by trolls — you know, those people who write nasty, mean comments online. Sometimes it can be tempting to respond back, but what if there's a better alternative? Like sending them a cake.... with their words written on it.

New York City baker Kat Thek does just that. She's the founder of Troll Cakes, a bakery and detective agency.

The 2016 Tony Awards were fun, but undeniably a little anticlimactic. By then, it was in large part a coronation of Hamilton, a delivery mechanism for the many, many awards we all knew it would win. (And did.)

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LAKSHMI SINGH, HOST:

Swimsuit Season Gets Complicated

Jun 11, 2017

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LULU GARCIA-NAVARRO, HOST:

Actress Salma Hayek has never had anything handed to her. "I have had to fight, very, very hard for every little mediocre part I ever got," she says. When Hayek first arrived in the U.S., she was told to go back to Mexico — that she'd never be more than a maid. "They told me: You'll never work. I got to work. Then they said: It's going to be over at 35. And I'm 50. ... I take so much pleasure in proving everyone wrong. It's such a great satisfaction."

During the Muslim holy month of Ramadan, which we're in the middle of right now, it's traditional to break the fast in mosques and homes. In fact, you're supposed to be in congregation with others.

"It's almost like the Christmas for Muslims," jokes Omar Salha. "When you have on Christmas day everyone gathered with family members—it just doesn't seem right that during Ramadan you're breaking fast alone."

On Sunday night the spotlight will be on Broadway stars at the 71st annual Tony Awards. The evening also includes honors for some people behind the scenes — writers, directors and designers, for example — but there are many more, working backstage, who aren't eligible for Broadway's highest honor.

If you peek into the wings at a Broadway show, you're likely to find a stage manager, sitting at a desk with video monitors and lots of buttons and switches. He or she will be wearing a headset — sometimes called "the God mic" — to communicate with the cast and crew.

Rosecrans Baldwin's new novel, The Last Kid Left, probably shouldn't have come out as a summer novel.

At first glance, it has all the hallmarks of a beach read: Summer, a shore town in New Hampshire full of tourists and locals, a murder (double murder, actually) and an investigation which take up several hundred pages. There's a zip to it. A musicianship to the language that makes the whole thing hum like a plucked guitar.

"Why is a welder like a woman in love?"

I'm 7 years old, standing between the two dogwood trees in my backyard. It's autumn; there's a crispness in the golden, late afternoon air. I've taken the hood of my parka and thrown it over my head, but my arms are not in the sleeves. The coat falls over my narrow, bird-boned shoulders and down my back.

Like a cape, you see.

John T. Edge is a man who knows how spin a good yarn. Listening to him talk can feel like falling under the spell of your favorite college professor. He's wickedly smart, funny, warm and welcoming.

And for years, the tale he's been telling is all about Southern food: about its central role in Southern identity, and about what it owes to the African-American and immigrant cooks who have historically been left out of the standard narratives the South tells about itself.

The 71st annual Tony Awards, which recognizes achievements in Broadway productions, will be held Sunday at Radio City Music Hall in New York City. Topping the list of nominees this year, with 12 nods, is the hit musical Natasha, Pierre & the Great Comet of 1812. It's somewhat based on Leo Tolstoy's War and Peace and has been lauded by critics for its diverse casting, wildly innovative set and fresh take on a classic story.

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