Arts & Life

The financial legerdemain lampooned in The Big Short was designed to be opaque and arcane — so much so that even the supposed experts didn't really know what they were doing. The scenario of Money Monster is much simpler, which is both a strength and a weakness. The movie is easier to understand, but that's because, as with so many Hollywood conspiracy thrillers, the big payoff is actually pretty small.

Some of the best films about Christianity don't treat the Gospel as, well, gospel. The filmmakers don't view the act of moviegoing as a pilgrimage only for the devout to undertake, nor do they allow theological rigor (an expectation that biblical entertainment must adhere as closely as possible to the source material) to overtake the more necessary task of telling an engaging narrative.

Growing up, cartoonist Daniel Clowes liked to draw, but he never thought he'd make much of a career out of it. "I was expecting to work for Cracked magazine for four years, and then try to get work putting up aluminum siding or something, doing my prison drawings while I was down for a DUI," he jokes to Fresh Air's Sam Briger.

Sometimes a career in television is launched seemingly out of nowhere. That's how it was for Gary Cole. The actor currently appears in the HBO series Veep, but his first major TV role was in the 1984 miniseries called Fatal Vision.

Cole tells Fresh Air's Dave Davies that landing the part in Fatal Vision when he was 27 was "very fluke-ish." He estimates that he got the role only after eight other actors turned it down, adding, "It was all like a dream. It didn't make any sense to me, how I got there, but sometimes that's the way that it goes."

The best opening sentence in the history of modern science fiction belongs to William Gibson. And with his new novel, Central Station, Lavie Tidhar now holds the title for best opening paragraph:

Louise Erdrich's new novel LaRose opens with a tragedy: An Ojibwe man is out hunting for deer and accidentally shoots and kills his best friend's 5-year-old son, Dusty. The hunter has a 5-year-old son of his own, and so, in keeping with a practice from the Ojibwe tribe's past, 5-year-old LaRose goes to live with Dusty's family.

Renate Senter clearly remembers the first care package she received, in 1946. She, her mother and her sister had fled Poland. In the aftermath of World War II, they'd ended up in a small town, in the British-controlled section of West Germany. "It was my first day of school and all the children got one," she says. "And I remember it was a small package — burgundy. And in white letters, it said 'CARE' on it."

Shadows Under Water In 'Everything Is Teeth'

May 11, 2016

Anglo-Australian author Evie Wyld departs from traditional fiction with a graphic novel, Everything Is Teeth, illustrated by Joe Sumner. The darkly poetic voice she evoked in her previous work reveals itself in a different way here, working within the constraints of writing text for a cartoon frame. At times limitations can bring freedom, and the very terseness required here offers power, linguistic clarity and dramatic opportunities that draw the reader into an emotionally compelling world.

When Mariko Becker wants a particular kind of Japanese noodle, she can't find it near her northeast Ohio home.

"[I like the kind that] is tied, knotted, very convenient, but you can't get it," she says.

Becker is Japanese, and she's lived in various Ohio cities for more than 20 years. She says Asian markets are good for common things like soy sauce, but not specialty items.

"When you get into some Japanese brand, or specifically catered to some sort of cooking style, then it's a little bit harder," Becker says.

"Everybody's gotta have a little place for their stuff. That's all life is about. Trying to find a place for your stuff." — George Carlin

It's one of his most famous routines and, like all great comedy, contains more than a grain of truth.

Since he died eight years ago, the keeper of George Carlin's "stuff" has been his daughter, writer and performer Kelly Carlin. She says he kept everything: Scrapbooks. Arrest records. The pink slip to his first car, a Dodge Dart. VHS tapes.

The Food and Drug Administration is re-evaluating its definition of what counts as a "healthy" food.

The change comes as healthful fats — including fats found in nuts — are increasingly recognized as part of a good diet.

Currently, if a food company wants to put a "healthy" claim on its label, regulations stipulate that it must be very low in fat. The specific rules are complex, but, for instance, a snack food can contain no more than 3 grams of fat for a regular-size serving.

This means that many snacks that include nuts don't qualify as healthy.

Rapper Kate Tempest has become kind of a sensation, winning awards as both a performer and a poet. In her hit debut album, Everybody Down, she told the story of Becky and Harry, two Londoners in their 20s who are struggling with work, love and drugs.

Now she has expanded that story into a novel called The Bricks That Built The Houses. She tells NPR's Ari Shapiro that when the idea for the story first came to her, she knew it would be both an album and a book.


Interview Highlights

On Becky

Here are two obvious statements: One, many teenagers love fast food. Two, many of them hate listening to adults. And these are real problems if you're a fast food company.

Increasingly, companies like Taco Bell and McDonald's are trying very hard to reach teens like me by using social media. Over the past few months, I've been working with NPR business reporter Sonari Glinton to examine how well some of these campaigns are working — including asking some of my friends at Youth Radio to weigh in.

"More than most places, Pennsylvania is what lies beneath." That's a line Jennifer Haigh places at the beginning and the end of her latest novel, Heat & Light.

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

The chef picked up the nubby stick of fresh wasabi. Through a translator, he explained the good ones are straight and deep green in color. It was the first time I had seen it fresh. The green dab you get at most American sushi restaurants is almost always horseradish and food coloring squeezed from a tube. While that may have been my introduction to freshly harvested wasabi, it wasn't my first time seeing something far more precious — Pacific bluefin tuna.

What role should art play in society, and who's to say? These are just two of the questions Julian Barnes ponders in his slim but by no means slight new novel, which chronicles the tribulations of Russian composer Dmitri Shostakovich during his decades under the successive thumbs of Stalin and Khrushchev. Like his Booker Prize-winning The Sense of An Ending (2011), The Noise of Time is another brilliant thought-provoker which explores the costs of compromise and how much confrontation and concession a man and his conscience can endure.

You've been asking for it. We've been cranking on it. And now, it's happening: the Code Switch podcast!

Check out the trailer and subscribe to our podcast so you don't miss the first episode later this month!

So, what's this podcast all about? Everything you come to Code Switch for: deeply reported, urgent, hard-to-pin-down stories about race and culture. Conversations about the messy ways our identities crash into everything else in our lives, whether we realize it or not.

"I am grateful, so grateful, tolerant reader, that you read on," says Mycroft Canner halfway through Too Like the Lightning, Ada Palmer's awe-inspiring debut novel. Yes, Canner addresses the reader throughout the book; as the main character and narrator, he breaks the fourth wall so pervasively that he feels compelled to explain himself. At length. This jarring form of narrative is just one of the many challenging things about Lightning. Dense and complex, the book is a beast.

[A note: In addition to talking about surprises in the Star Wars original trilogy, this piece also talks about some things that happen in the Harry Potter books, the Little House books, Jane Eyre, Bridge to Terabithia, and Great Expectations. It contains multitudes.]

I read to my kids for all sorts of reasons, but to be very honest with you, it's less about the benefits preached in various judgy mom blogs, and more because it's an activity I can do with them while horizontal under blankets.

When Louis XV, King of France, first met the woman who would become his chief mistress, she was dressed as a domino, and he was dressed as a plant. It was 1745, and Jeanne Antoinette Poisson, the pretty young woman who would become Marquise de Pompadour, had been invited to a masked ball at Versailles. If this sounds like a chance meeting, it wasn't — her family had been strategizing to orchestrate this very moment for years.

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

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

The federal government is getting into hip-hop — well, sort of.

Documentary filmmaker Ken Burns has been chosen to deliver this year's Jefferson Lecture in the Humanities, the highest honor bestowed by the federal government for work in the field. He will talk about race in America.

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

On this Mother's Day, here's a bit of wisdom: "Having a child is usually just a long patience."

Those words are spoken by a nurse in the new novel Eleven Hours. Her name is Franckline and she works in a hospital maternity ward. That long patience she's talking about is the patience a woman needs when she's in labor — the patience to ride through hours of pain and worry.

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

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

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Americans have until May 10 to help the Food and Drug Administration with one of philosophy's greatest riddles: What is the meaning of "natural"?

A Bigger Splash positively swims with jealousy, intrigue and lust. Set on the rugged Italian island of Pantelleria, the new film features rock star Marianne Lane — played by Tilda Swinton — who's staying there with her lover, Paul. All's well until Marianne's ex, Harry, appears on the scene, full of manic energy and with his nubile young daughter in tow.

Another kink to the proceedings? Marianne's recuperating from surgery on her vocal cords, rendered virtually mute as she tries to recuperate.

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