Arts & Life

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Al Jarreau, a versatile vocalist who defied categorization for decades, died Sunday morning at the age of 76. Earlier this week, Jarreau had been hospitalized in Los Angeles "due to exhaustion," according to his official Facebook page.

Reading The Game: The Flame In The Flood

Feb 12, 2017

For years now, some of the best, wildest, most moving or revealing stories we've been telling ourselves have come not from books, movies or TV, but from video games. So we're running an occasional series, Reading The Game, in which we take a look at some of these games from a literary perspective.

Let me tell you about the first time I died.

Remember when 1992 was the Year of the Woman? Yeah, that was a thing, although ever-intrepid Sen. Barbara Mikulski shrugged it off at the time, saying, "Calling 1992 the Year of the Woman makes it sound like the Year of the Caribou or the Year of the Asparagus. We're not a fad, a fancy, or a year."

For decades, the two strong-willed women in Yewande Omotoso's new novel were committed enemies. Hortensia is black, Marion is white and both are widows in their 80s. Their properties — in an affluent neighborhood in Cape Town, South Africa — sit next door to one another. Then, one day, an accident brings them together.

Dear Sugar Radio is a weekly podcast from member station WBUR. Hosts Steve Almond and Cheryl Strayed offer "radical empathy" and advice on everything from relationships and parenthood to dealing with drug problems or anxiety.

We planned to have Lena Dunham, creator and star of HBO's Girls, as our Not My Job guest this week, but a snowstorm kept her from joining us at the last minute, so we quickly had to find someone without Thursday evening plans.

Late Show host Stephen Colbert very graciously jumped in to play our game, but we didn't have time to write new questions for him, so we'll just ask him all the questions we planned to ask Dunham.

AftonRose [Flickr]

Dogs - especially certain breeds - have a natural smile, but all pets can benefit from having healthy teeth and gums.  It not only makes them look better, they feel better, too.  And that makes everybody smile!

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A man named Christopher disappears in Greece. His estranged wife, the narrator, goes to find him. A Separation has several separations: the marital separation, the separation between the narrator and her public self, and between herself and the world around her, which she keeps at a careful distance.

Horror Tropes And Human Sadness In 'Universal Harvester'

Feb 11, 2017

You may have noticed that mothers don't do so well in literature – stories both classic and contemporary tend to bump them off. Critics and scholars tie themselves in knots trying to identify the cultural significance of the missing-mother trope, which is pervasive and shows no signs of letting up.

George Saunders is acclaimed as a genius of the short story — and now he's written his first novel. It reads as part Our Town, part ghost story, and even part Ken Burns. It's a story that gives voice to a child who has died, and resonance to the silence of his father, who is enveloped by — and the instrument of — much grief.

On New Year's Eve, 2006, Christine Hyung-Oak Lee developed a splitting headache. She was 33, and her world turned upside down — as in, she literally saw the world upside down. Suddenly, she could hold things in her mind for only 15 minutes at a time. She was a writer who now couldn't recall words or craft sentences. She remembers looking at the phone and thinking to herself: What is the phone number for 911? Days later, she learned she'd had a stroke.

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A place that was once home to some staunch characters is now on the market.

(SOUNDBITE OF DOCUMENTARY, "GREY GARDENS")

EDITH BOUVIER BEALE: I can't stand a country house. This place - it makes me terribly nervous.

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When author Viet Thanh Nguyen was 4 years old, he and his family fled South Vietnam and came to the U.S. as refugees. That's about the same age his own son is now — and Nguyen wonders if his child will ever know the feeling of "otherness" that he knows so well.

"I think it's a very valuable experience," Nguyen tells NPR's Ari Shapiro. "I wish, not only my son, but everybody, had a sense of what it is like to be an outsider, to be an other. Because that's partly what gives rise to compassion and to empathy — the sense that you are not always at the center of the universe."

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Not surprisingly, artists Damian Duffy and John Jennings felt especially daunted by the chance to adapt renowned speculative-fiction writer Octavia Butler's beloved Kindred for a new graphic novel edition.

"It was like, this is awesome, we got this project, it's, like, our dream project! Yayyy!," Duffy said. But excitement quickly turned to panic. "I have to do what now?" he also said to himself.

President Trump recently described Frederick Douglass as "an example of somebody who's done an amazing job and is being recognized more and more, I notice." The president's muddled tense – it came out sounding as if the 19th-century abolitionist were alive with a galloping Twitter following – provoked some mirth on social media. But the spotlight on one of America's great moral heroes is a welcome one.

It's always fun when somebody from the NPR podcast family sits in our fourth chair, and this week, we've got two of them.

Part 5 of the TED Radio Hour episode Getting Better

About Jennifer Brea's TED Talk

Doctors told Jennifer Brea that her symptoms were psychosomatic, so she filmed herself and turned to the Internet for guidance. She describes how her online community helped her find the right diagnosis.

About Jennifer Brea

When last spotted in his indigenous habitat, John Oliver was sharing his perception of 2016 and what was to come: a dystopian hellscape.

Thomas Jefferson believed cities bred sin and corruption, and John Wick: Chapter 2 offers persuasive if hallucinatory evidence that Jefferson was onto something. In Manhattan, in Jersey, in Rome, and in, um, Brooklyn, every tourist and beggar and barista and concert violinist is a potential assassin just waiting for the order to clip you in the most ostentatiously art-directed way possible.

Batman has been in need of a great unburdening. It became necessary after Christopher Nolan's trilogy posited the Caped Crusader as a hulking avatar of turn-of-the-millennium anxiety. And it grew even more urgent after the drudgery of Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice, which was like chasing the heaviest meal of your life with a fully loaded, twice-baked potato. Over the last 50 years, Batman has crossed the spectrum from the campy, freewheeling POW! of the 1966 TV version to a grim-faced, gravel-voiced bulwark against festering corruption, urban blight, and existential malaise.

There's more than one fractured monarchy in A United Kingdom, a period saga of love, race and colonial politics set in both post-World War II Britain and a tiny African tribal nation then-named Bechuanaland. Some of this really happened: In 1947 the African country's heir apparent, Seretse Khama (David Oyelowo) and white office worker Ruth Williams (Rosamund Pike) cross paths at a missionary dance in drab, foggy post-War London. In the film, their eyes lock across a crowded room; they bond over a mutual love of jazz; that's it, they're hooked for life.

For all the talk of Hollywood smut rotting the moral fabric of society, it's worth noting that, when the public demanded the industry embrace a franchise whose only claim to fame was smut, it chose instead to keep things squeaky-clean.

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People have been drinking beer for a very, very long time, but it's been tough to know exactly what ancient beer tasted like.

ROBERT SIEGEL, HOST:

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Willie Lincoln was only 11 when he died in February 1862 of typhoid fever. The Lincolns' third son was said to be their favorite, and after Willie was interred in a borrowed mausoleum in Oak Hill Cemetery in Georgetown, his father, Abraham Lincoln, returned to that cemetery several times. Newspapers reported that the president visited the crypt to open his son's coffin and hold his body.

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