Arts & Life

Everybody makes mistakes, but some people manage to turn it into an art form. Take the characters in John Jodzio's new short story collection, Knockout. There's the young man who lets himself be talked into stealing a tiger and selling it for meth. There's the guy who moves into a duplex and discovers, too late, that his new roommate is a sadistic kidnapper. And then there's the woman whose boyfriend talks her into letting him pick up women at a speed-dating event, then tying them up until they give him their ATM codes.

Stop me if you've heard this one: A young man from a noble family suffers hardship that robs him of his place in the family. When the men in charge of government refuse to help him, he takes matters into his own hands, gathering a ragtag group of bandits and whipping them into shape to steal from the rich and give to the poor. Also, he has magic powers. You're in, right? (If not, we can talk about the part where he builds doppelgangers out of straw and lets them get arrested in his stead, just to teach the king a lesson. Your move, Robin Hood.)

Before she was a writer, Sara Baume set out to be a visual artist.

"First and foremost I see; I see the world and then I describe it ..." she says. "I don't know another way to write. I always anchor everything in an image."

Baume's process works — a review in The Irish Times called her debut novel a "stunning and wonderful achievement by a writer touched by greatness."

Baume loves words, and she loves fitting words together so they flow like poetry.

This week the world's been treated to a commentary on immigration reform from a surprising source: William Shakespeare.

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ARI SHAPIRO, HOST:

The same day the president announced his nominee for the Supreme Court, this girl power song got a nod from the first lady.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "THIS IS FOR MY GIRLS")

Kanan Makiya is still best known for a book he originally published under a pseudonym back in 1989. The Republic Of Fear catalogued the atrocities committed in Iraq under Saddam Hussein. Makiya later acknowledged authorship and became an advocate for the dictator's ouster.

Now, he's written a new book — a novel — published in both Arabic and English, and set in Iraq right after the U.S. invasion. It follows a Shiite militiaman from the day the dictator fell to the day he was hanged.

The new movie Krisha is a family drama about addiction and chaos. In it, a recovering addict named Krisha comes home for Thanksgiving after being away from her family for years.

If the family in the film seems tighter than most acting ensembles, it's because they have history: The director and writer, Trey Edward Shults, cast his aunt as the main character, his mother as the family matriarch and himself in the role of Krisha's estranged son.

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

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TERRY GROSS, HOST:

Julia Ward Howe is renowned as the poet who woke up one night in an inspired state to pen the lyrics of "The Battle Hymn of the Republic," the song that would become the victorious psalm of the Civil War.

But what few know is that the writer, reformer and mother of six who wrote those stirring words – "Mine eyes have seen the glory of the coming of the Lord" – was adrift in a lonely war of her own, against a husband who sought to control every aspect of her life, from what she wrote to what she ate.

Commentators both amateur and professional have turned over the events of the 1994-95 O.J. Simpson trial in their hands for a couple of decades now, trying to figure out how it got so distressingly ugly as a display, let alone as a legal proceeding. The FX series The People vs. O.J. Simpson: American Crime Story, based on Jeffrey Toobin's book The Run Of His Life, has come to the surprisingly compassionate conclusion, over and over, that a significant part of the problem was not malice but excess made worse by public attention.

With Beauty And Wonder, 'The Winged Histories' Soars

Mar 16, 2016

In Sofia Samatar's World Fantasy Award-winning debut novel A Stranger in Olondria, she introduced an empire redolent with magic and rife with turmoil. Olondria is one of the richest new fantasy settings in recent memory, and Samatar has returned to it in The Winged Histories. Like the book before it, Histories deals with the way language, books, and romance intersect with class, politics, and religion — and it does so in an ornate, dreamlike atmosphere.

If you drive down any interstate in the South, you can't miss the giant black-and-yellow signs beckoning: Waffle House.

These ubiquitous, yellow-roofed chain restaurants have been serving up not just waffles but all manner of Southern comfort foods 'round the clock for more than 60 years.

And for the past 30 years or so, Waffle House has also been working on a side project: making music.

Like this peppy number:

Roberto Bolaño's sprawling, posthumous epic 2666 has been called a masterpiece and a landmark. It addresses the nature of good and evil, art and humanity, love and death — to name just a few themes. It's populated by literary critics, detectives, a philosopher and many more, all on their own interconnected journeys.

Want to mark this St. Patrick's Day with something beyond the usual corned beef and cabbage (which aren't so traditionally Irish anyway)? Why not mix up your menu with a tasty tray of blaas?

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

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TERRY GROSS, HOST:

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

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TERRY GROSS, HOST:

There are books that keep you turning pages to find out what's going to happen, and others to find out how it happened. Elizabeth Poliner's beautiful first novel falls squarely into the please-tell-us-all-about-it group.

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

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TERRY GROSS, HOST:

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

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TERRY GROSS, HOST:

Editor's note: Last fall, NPR's Maanvi Singh embarked on a months-long quest to find her ideal pumpkin pie recipe. As she discovered, there's a lot of science involved in getting the crust and filling just the way you like it. To celebrate Pi Day, we reprise this story, first published last December.

It was the best of pies, it was the worst of pies. I have baked many, many, many pies.

And when I first began making pumpkin pies this autumn, my results were at best inconsistent and, at worst, disastrous.

Before I became a reporter, I was a teacher. After 27 years on the education beat, I've met a few fantastic teachers and a few bad ones. So I've wondered, where would I have fit in? Was I a good teacher?

Recently I went back to the site of the school where I taught so many years ago, just outside Tucson, Ariz. Treehaven was both a day school and a boarding school for so-called "troubled kids."

On a recent episode of The Bachelor, the ABC dating reality show that ends its 20th season Monday night, contestant Caila Quinn brings Ben Higgins home to meet her interracial family.

"Have you ever met Filipinos before?" Quinn's mother asks, leading Higgins into a dining room where the table is filled with traditional Filipino food.

"I don't know," he replies. "No. I don't think so."

Copyright 2016 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

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RACHEL MARTIN, HOST:

The three-hour finale of "The Bachelor" premiere tomorrow night and fans of the reality show know that something unprecedented happened the other week that left us all deep confused.

(SOUNDBITE OF TV SHOW, "THE BACHELOR")

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RACHEL MARTIN, HOST:

Somewhere in the Rocky Mountains, there is a bronze chest filled with gold and precious gems. The search for this hidden treasure has become a hobby for some, an obsession for others, and for one recent searcher — a fatal pursuit.

The man behind the treasure is Forrest Fenn, an 85-year-old millionaire, former Vietnam fighter pilot, self-taught archaeologist, and successful art dealer in Santa Fe, N.M.

"No one knows where that treasure chest is but me," Fenn says. "If I die tomorrow, the knowledge of that location goes in the coffin with me."

When most people want to play a game, the first thing they reach for is likely a smartphone or tablet. Actual pinball machines have become quaint curiosities, but a father-son duo in California is keeping these old-school games alive in a museum.

The Museum of Pinball is hidden away in an old industrial building, just off Interstate 10 and about 90 miles east of Los Angeles in Banning, Calif. It's pretty quiet when the rows upon rows of pinball machines are not turned on. But once the switch is flipped, it gets loud.

There is a righteous, deep-felt fury I sometimes experience when reading stupendously good work. How dare you, I shout at the author, dropping the book, pacing for a while, how dare you make me feel so much. I rant on Twitter. I joke about how the author must be stopped.

Danai Gurira often calls herself a "Zimerican." The actress and playwright — who you may know best as Michonne, the samurai sword-wielding zombie slayer on The Walking Dead -- was born in Iowa, to Zimbabwean parents, and the family moved back to Harare when she was just five. She returned to the U.S. for college and has stayed ever since.

"I was always in a hodgepodge of culture — there's no other identity I know, really," she says.

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