Arts & Life

Jonathan Safran Foer's first novel, Everything is Illuminated, dug into his family's history with the Holocaust. His latest novel explores a different aspect of Judaism.

It's called Here I Am; the title comes from the Bible — the story where God calls on Abraham to sacrifice his son Isaac. This book is set in present-day Washington, D.C., where a Jewish family goes through a domestic crisis, while at the same time, a geopolitical crisis unfolds on the other side of the world.

If you were alive in the 1980s, you've probably seen the art of Keith Haring. His graffiti-inspired images were everywhere: canvases and T-shirts, walls and subway stations.

Now one of Haring's lesser-known murals in New York is threatened. It's in the stairwell of a former convent called Grace House, on the Upper West Side of Manhattan — a pretty unlikely place, even for Haring. But here are Haring's familiar, cartoonish figures — the radiant baby, the barking dog — dancing up and down three flights of stairs.

What's Behind South Korea's Shake Shack Fever?

Sep 6, 2016

South Korea's got Shake Shack fever.

Since opening its first outlet in Seoul on July 22 — in the Gangnam District, known as the city's Beverly Hills — the popular American burger chain has attracted incredibly long lines of people. On its first day of business, about 1,500 people lined up for two to three hours before the store's 10 a.m. opening time to be the first to sample its burgers, according to The Korea Herald, a local newspaper; some had been there all night.

Actress Pamela Adlon and comic Louis C.K. are no strangers to collaboration. They had already worked together on two different series — Lucky Louie and Louie — when C.K. suggested Adlon create her own show that she would star in. Initially, the single mother of three daughters balked.

"I was like, 'Are you crazy? I can't do that! I'm doing this and that, and I got the girls," Adlon tells Fresh Air's Terry Gross. But gradually the idea grew on her, and she began to think of the ways in which her own experiences could be fodder for a series.

Coming Soon: How I Built This

Sep 6, 2016

On September 12, NPR launches a new podcast, How I Built This, hosted by Guy Raz. The show features innovators, entrepreneurs, idealists, and the stories behind the movements they built.

Copyright 2016 NPR. To see more, visit

There are television shows — warm and tidy comedies, generic action shows, underbaked procedurals — that feel as if they are made by no one at all. They seem to have simply arisen naturally as a result of the environment in which they exist, like mushrooms growing on a wet log. You look up and they are simply there, being bad, being nothing, and then you look up again and they are gone and no one misses them.

Jonathan Safran Foer's doorstop of a third novel takes its title from Abraham's response when God tested him by commanding him to sacrifice his son Isaac on Mount Moriah. Here I Am — much of which is about fathers and sons — interprets these three words as indicative of "who we are wholly there for, and how that, more than anything else, defines our identity."

During the two decades he spent working for an investment firm, Amor Towles visited a lot of luxury hotels. One night, he was in Geneva at a hotel where he'd stayed many times before — and he noticed some familiar faces in the lobby. Towles realized they were people who actually lived there and thought to himself, "Oh that's kind of an interesting notion for a book."

Copyright 2016 NPR. To see more, visit


A forgetful fish named Dory turned out to be this summer's big movie star.


ELLEN DEGENERES: (As Dory) Just keep swimming, swimming, swimming. What do we do? We swim, swim.

Even if you've never heard of the "coffee cabinet," chances are you've probably tasted something like it. And you might have called it something else, like a coffee milkshake.

The ice cream beverage with the quirky name is a Rhode Island staple, dating back to the World War II era. Its ingredient list is pretty simple: It's just coffee syrup, ice cream and milk. But despite its popularity, the origins of the drink – and its name – remain a mystery.

Thousand Island dressing – you know it as the mix of ketchup, mayo and a few other things that tops a Reuben or many a burger. In other words, it's pedestrian fare.

But did you know its origins trace back to the highest ranks of American society?

At one end of Orlando's Fashion Square mall, between a karate store and a comic book emporium, is a clothing boutique called Verona. It's stocked with long-sleeved caftans, full-length slit-less skirts, and more than 300 varieties of hijabs. Inside, women peruse through racks of garments they once could only find online.

Ever dream of creating paintings like those by Picasso or Van Gogh? These days you just need some artificial intelligence, which can be delivered through your smartphone.

Two of this summer's much buzzed-about apps are Prisma, which turns your photos into what look like paintings, and Artisto, which does the same for videos. Both are available for iOS and Android.

Writer, actor and longtime NPR contributor Vertamae Smart-Grosvenor died Saturday at age 79.

Smart-Grosvenor contributed hundreds of commentaries to NPR between 1980 and 2013. She was famed for her culinary explorations and travels, including a 1983 visit to a place she loved: Daufuskie Island, S.C. In a 1983 special report for NPR, she described her feelings about the trip:

Robert Hoge's new memoir is about his childhood — his first day of school, making friends and learning to ride a bike. But it's also about getting called "cripple," having multiple reconstructive surgeries and teaching himself how to play sports with two artificial limbs.

Hoge was born with deformed legs and a giant tumor between his eyes. "The tumor formed really early during my development," he tells NPR's Rachel Martin. "So it subsumed my nose and pushed my eyes to the side of my head, like a fish, and made a mess of my face, as you'd expect."

Copyright 2016 NPR. To see more, visit


Copyright 2016 NPR. To see more, visit


After Mexican vocalist Juan Gabriel died last weekend, tributes flooded in from across the Americas. Gabriel was arguably Mexico's most beloved living singer. He composed upwards of 1,500 songs, recorded music in practically every Mexican genre and beyond, and had an improbable rags-to-riches story.

Bill Lee was a successful pitcher in the major leagues for many years — he played for the Boston Red Sox in the 1970s and the Montreal Expos in the early 1980s. Known for his outspoken nature and his unconventional left-handed pitch, he ended up with the nickname "Spaceman."

We've invited the Spaceman to answer three questions about actor Kevin Spacey. Click the audio link above to hear how he does.

Labor Day Pet Safety

Sep 3, 2016
Mark F Levisay [Flickr]

Although Labor Day is often seen as the kickoff to Autumn, it's still very warm and humid across most of the country.  If your pet is part of your outdoor gathering, watch to make sure it has a shady spot to rest so it doesn't become overheated.


Copyright 2016 NPR. To see more, visit


Please, have a seat; it's time to talk about chairs.

There's an insatiable appetite, it seems, for books about young people killing each other in made-up militarized societies. And according to author Sabaa Tahir — whose new book, A Torch Against the Night, continues that trend — if you look at today's headlines, the genre's popularity makes sense: After all, the news is where she found her inspiration.

Count Alexander Rostov — recipient of the Order of Saint Andrew, member of the Jockey Club, Master of the Hunt — is a "Former Person." Russia's new Soviet masters have sentenced him, improbably enough, to house arrest in Moscow's luxurious Metropol hotel, where he lives out his days decorating the dining room with his bon mots and dashing around like Eloise, if Eloise were set in a twee version of Stalinist Russia.

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


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


[In case you haven't heard, a big announcement: Pop Culture Happy Hour is embarking on a West Coast tour! We'll be in Seattle on Oct. 17 (with Audie Cornish), Portland on Oct. 19 (also with Audie Cornish), San Francisco on Oct. 21 (with Mallory Ortberg), and Los Angeles on Oct. 23 (with Kumail Nanjiani). For ticket information, click here — and remember that all four shows go on sale Tuesday, Sept. 6, at noon Pacific Time.

“Everybody Behaves Badly: The True Story Behind Hemingway’s Masterpiece ‘The Sun Also Rises’”

Author: Lesley M.M. Blume

Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt

Pages: 237           

Price: $27.00 (Hardcover)


Author: Kevin Barry

Publisher: Canongate Books



Pages: 263

Price: $13.00 (Paper)

American readers are aware of the Irish reverence for their poets. The recently deceased Seamus Heaney is a kind of secular saint.

“In the Shadow of Hitler: Alabama’s Jews, the Second World War, and the Holocaust”

Author: Dan J. Puckett

Publisher: The University of Alabama Press

Pages: 326                                                                                          

Price: $44.95 (Hardback) ; $34.95 (Paperback)

Dan Puckett, who teaches history at Troy University, has published a scholarly history of Jews in Alabama, not covering all aspects from 1795 till now, but focusing on the run-up to WWII, escapees, Naziism and the war itself, displaced persons, and Zionism.

“The Swans of Fifth Avenue: A Novel”

Author: Melanie Benjamin

Publisher: Random House            

Pages: 235

Price: $28.00 (Hardcover)

The life of Truman Capote does have the arc of a novel about it. Neglected and, one might say, abandoned by his mother and father, raised by cousins in Monroeville, small, feminine, lonely, longing to be rich and famous, Capote struggled for years, working harder at his writing than anyone could ever guess.