Arts & Life

The Glory of the World is a new play that celebrates author and Catholic monk Thomas Merton — but it isn't really about Merton. "Everybody is far more complicated than that one simple line about being a great mystic, a great Buddhist, a great activist, whatever," says playwright Charles Mee. And that's exactly what Mee's characters discuss.

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A quartet of siblings and assorted spouses, lovers and friends all spend a holiday in the English family summer house they'll have to sell. Do you think everything will go just swell for those three weeks? Or will tensions simmer, and secrets break out of storage as quarrels, tears and fatal attractions roil the old house in the summer heat? Tessa Hadley's novel The Past has already been praised in Britain, and now it's out in the U.S. She tells NPR's Scott Simon that she loves to set stories in old houses. "A house is like a metaphor.

'Hunters' Is A Dark, Elegant Tale Of East And West

Jan 16, 2016

There's a familiar kind of book. A white man — specifically a Briton — in Asia. You can already sense him; aloof, condescending, assured. The world is his playground and he's out to play. That kind of book has already been written.

For the second year in a row, no non-white actor was among the 20 acting nominations for the Academy Awards. NPR's Kelly McEvers talks about the awards and Hollywood's struggles with diversity with Darnell Hunt, director of UCLA's Ralph J. Bunche Center for African American Studies.

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Anders Kvernberg was deep in the vaults of the National Library of Norway when a beautiful atlas caught his eye.

So, you know. "It was an ordinary day at work," he says.

As a reference librarian, Kvernberg spends his days digging through the library's collections to answer questions from the public — on absolutely any topic. Writing a history book and want to know when a train would run from city A to city B on a particular year? "We find the old timetables," he says.

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

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Sitting down to talk about a Quentin Tarantino movie — particularly in his modern incarnation in which he puts all kinds of gnarly material on the screen that wrestles, with varying degrees of success, with aspects of identity and politics and identity politics, not to mention history, sociology, and (perhaps most enthusiastically) film and filmmaking. This week, we sat down with Chris Klimek to talk about The Hateful Eight, Tarantino's latest, which finds a collection of folks — tense ones, to say the least — waiting out a blizzard together. There's a lot to unpack.

Investigative reporter Dawn Anahid MacKeen's latest story is one her mother always wanted her to tell. It's about her grandfather and how he survived the 1915 Armenian genocide in which 1.5 million Armenians living in modern-day Turkey were killed. (Turkey doesn't recognize the slaughter as a genocide, but says they were the result of widespread conflict across the region.) In journals that became the seeds of MacKeen's new book, The Hundred-Year Walk: An Armenian Odyssey, her grandfather told the story of how he escaped a forced march through the desert.

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The poet C.D. Wright died in her sleep on Tuesday night at the age of 67. She was a well-known writer, a winner of a MacArthur "genius" grant, the National Book Critics Circle Award, and a longtime teacher at Brown University. She'll be grieved in the public ways well-known writers are, but within the poetry community — on Facebook, Twitter, via text and email and phone — a kind of keening wail has sounded since the news of her death began to spread. Wright was beloved to many of us, a model poet and person.

For decades, a certain stripe of armchair researcher has insisted that we faked the Moon landing. A particularly persistent doubter once tried to goad "the truth" out of Buzz Aldrin and got punched out instead, as recently recounted in Margaret Lazarus Dean's spaceflight history Leaving Orbit. Maybe Buzz just isn't much of a cinephile: One common theory holds that the live footage of him and Neil prancing about the Sea of Tranquility was actually shot on a film set by none other than Stanley Kubrick.

If nothing else The Benefactor, an absorbing if uneven psychological drama from writer-director Andrew Renzi, provides Richard Gere with a liberating opportunity to come on like Al Pacino. As Franny, a wealthy Philadelphia philanthropist without boundaries who gets his way through hysterical giving, Gere throws himself around with overbearing flamboyance, clearly relishing the chance to inhabit a man who's always on but understands nothing.

The opening vignette of In the Shadow of Women shows a man in front of a wall, slightly off-center in the widescreen frame. Pierre (Stanislas Merhar) does little more than chew on a bite of sandwich for about a minute, an opening that suggests this will be one of those French films that takes its time in pondering the ordinariness of daily life.

"Country's got to figure this [expletive] out, Amahl," growls a CIA security contractor to his Libyan translator on his way out of town in 13 Hours: The Secret Soldiers of Benghazi, Michael Bay's account of the 2012 attack on the U.S. diplomatic compound. That's about the level of sophistication the film brings to the controversial incident, which cost the lives of four Americans and remains a touchstone for critics of the Obama administration.

Herman Wouk has written a lot of well loved novels like The Winds of War, War and Remembrance and The Caine Mutiny, which won him a Pulitzer Prize. But his latest achievment is a rare one — Wouk reached a milestone that few of us will ever see: the age of 100.

Years before he led the Nazis in the genocide of 6 million European Jews, Adolf Hitler staged a coup and spent several months in prison. Though his attempt to overthrow the government was unsuccessful, his trial and subsequent time behind bars would be pivotal.

Peter Ross Range, the author of 1924: The Year That Made Hitler, tells Fresh Air's Dave Davies that Hitler's public trial for the so-called "Beer Hall Putsch" was a confidence-builder that allowed him to sharpen the speaking skills that would help him win the German chancellorship nine years later.

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The competitors in the 2016 Oscars race were announced Thursday, in an event that was live-streamed from California. The winners will be announced on Feb. 28.

British actor Alan Rickman, a veteran of dozens of films, has died at age 69. Recently, Rickman was most well-known for portraying the complicated villain Severus Snape in the films based on J.K. Rowling's Harry Potter books.

"Rickman had been suffering from cancer," The Guardian reports.

Too bad there are more than 340 shopping days till Christmas, because if it were just around the corner, I'd be urging you to buy Helen Ellis' off-the-wall stories for anyone on your list who loves satirical humor as twisted as screw-top bottles — and more effervescent than the stuff that pours out of them. Since it's January, let me just assure you that American Housewife is a better cure for winter blahs than hot chocolate, Ellis' hyper-housewife's "gateway drug to reading."

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Famous Sons

Jan 13, 2016

From Jackie Robinson to Emma Watson, there are a lot of famous "sons" out there. In this final round, every answer is the name of a real or fictional person whose last name ends with the letters S-O-N.

Heard in Taran Killam: The Day Before Sunday In Real Time

Be Positive

Jan 13, 2016

Ever notice that "inscrutable" is a word, but "scrutable" is not? This game is about words that exist in a negative form without a common positive partner.

Heard in Taran Killam: The Day Before Sunday In Real Time

The Day Before Sunday in Real Time

Jan 13, 2016

Taran Killam was a fan of Saturday Night Live years before he joined the ensemble cast in 2010. Since then, he has graced the famous Studio 8H as 18th-century newspaper critic Jebidiah Atkinson, Matthew McConaughey and Robyn, among others.

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