Arts & Life

In Colin Barrett's collection of short stories Young Skins, the plots teem with characters your parents probably warned you away from. Some are violent, some are addicts and others are just lost — adrift in a gritty world in which they see no chance of escape.

But it's not all bleak.

In the latest installment of the Weekend Reads series, author Tessa Hadley explains why Barrett's book — poised between darkness and light-hearted humor — is worth picking up.

When I was 17, my mother sent me to live with some relatives in South America for a year. I'd been screwing up royally and my antics were becoming difficult for her to manage as a struggling single mother of three. She'd been threatening for a long time to ship me off to Colombia. I never imagined it would happen. But she'd finally had enough, and after many tears and reservations, she followed through on those threats in hopes that I'd return grateful and rehabilitated.

Lewis Carroll's Wonderland is a singular place. It's a place that symbolizes the beauty and strange, illogical nature of childhood; a place that has captivated children and adults for 150 years. This year, the anniversary of Alice in Wonderland has been celebrated in museums, and it's also being marked in literature.

What would you do if a stranger stopped you on the street, asked to take your picture and asked to hear your story?

For the past five years, photographer Brandon Stanton has been doing exactly that — on the streets of New York, no less — and thousands of people have said yes. Stanton has been not only collecting their stories and images, but also sharing them on his blog, Humans of New York.

Film legend Maureen O'Hara — the Irish-American actress whose cascading red hair and sea-green eyes helped make her the "Queen of Technicolor" — has died in her sleep at her home in Boise, Idaho. She was 95.

O'Hara's career spanned more than 60 films, including How Green Was My Valley and the The Quiet Man, the classic 1952 romance directed by John Ford and set in Ireland. Just last year, O'Hara received a Lifetime Honorary Oscar.

Neil deGrasse Tyson — once named the Sexiest Astrophysicist Alive by People magazine — is about to begin the second season of his National Geographic show Star Talk.

Since he's a famed expert on cosmology, we've decided to see what he knows about cosmetology — three questions about hair stylists and spa experts from around the world.

Ron Nagle is a lot like his ceramics: compact, tidy, quirky — and colorful.

The artist, who has helped take clay to the heights of the contemporary art world, recently sported black pants, a blue-and-white striped T-shirt, white shoes, red socks and a rose-colored hat.

Around his neck hangs a long silver chain, filled with charms. There's a heart, signifying Valentine's day, the date he was married decades ago; an R for his first name; a skull representing death; a hare, Nagle's sign in Chinese astrology.

Halloween Costumes

Oct 24, 2015
istolethetv [Flickr]

People with pets love to share the Halloween fun with their furry friends, but some do not realize their pets may not enjoy it so much.  Keep your pet's comfort and safety in mind, especially on Halloween!


Richie Lanz, a small-potatoes talent agent from Van Nuys, Calif., has been mired in hard luck for a while now. But things don't get much better when he takes a client to entertain American troops in Afghanistan — and she promptly leaves him stranded in no more than his underwear.

CNN Anchor Talks 'Running Dangerously'

Oct 24, 2015
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A new James Bond movie tends to mean a few things: a new villain, two new Bond girls (one of whom may or may not be painted gold), and — perhaps most dependably — a new song playing behind the opening credits. Fifty years of Bond films has left much music to be analyzed, and the Oxford University Press does just that in a new book called The James Bond Songs: Pop Anthems of Late Capitalism.

A Dark And Stormy Night: Why We Love The Gothic

Oct 24, 2015

Crimson Peak's previews hardly bothered with the ghosts haunting its dilapidated mansion. It didn't need them. Mia Wasikowska runs down moonlit stairs in a nightgown with a ten-foot train — that's all you need to know. By now, the Gothic speaks for itself, and it's trained us to listen.

Pop Culture Happy Hour listeners know that we invite a variety of NPR folks on the show, and further know that two of our very favorites are Audie Cornish and Ari Shapiro, who are both now hosts on All Things Considered. Despite this position of great dignity, they're lots of fun on the podcast, and this week, they invited Stephen and me to their show to bring a little bit of PCHH to the radio.

Screenwriter Abi Morgan told Margaret Thatcher's life story in The Iron Lady, and co-wrote the controversial film Shame, about a sex addict. Her stories for movies and television have gotten Oscar nods, BAFTAs and plenty of other awards.

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This is FRESH AIR. I'm Terry Gross. Today, Patti Smith.


Michael Almereyda's movie, Experimenter, revisits a controversial 1961 social science experiment, which explored whether volunteer subjects would press a button and shock other volunteers if so ordered.

We're always pleased as punch when Audie Cornish of All Things Considered joins us in historic Studio 44, and this week, she's here for our talk about Bridge Of Spies, the high-class Steven Spielberg drama starring Tom Hanks as an American lawyer who negotiates a complicated Cold-War-era swap of a Russian spy for an American pilot.

Yotam Ottolenghi is a star chef. His restaurants in London and his cookbooks offer dishes layered in flavor redolent of the Middle East and the Mediterranean, and they've earned him legions of fans around the world.

Out this week is his newest cookbook, NOPI, with recipes from his restaurant named for the London neighborhood north of Piccadilly Circus.

The dishes contain ingredients that are exotic: the hot relish known as sambal, and pandan, a fragrant green leaf found in Southeast Asia, often referred to as the "vanilla of the East."

When it comes to music, Afghanistan is famous for the Taliban's ban on it during their rule. And when it comes to Afghan women and music, well, they tend to face the same constraints as in every other arena. Yet women have competed on Afghan Star, the local counterpart of American Idol, since the program premiered in 2005. One of them, Setara Hussainzada, inspired Rock the Kasbah, a comedy set on the front lines of tribal strife and pop-music combat.

There are some cinematic images which, if we were unable to appreciate them for their silliness, would make us fall into a pit of despair about the state of entertainment. Vin Diesel popping an evil bug out of Michael Caine's face like a zit, for example. Or an ancient stone door in a sleek Manhattan luxury apartment that can only be opened with what looks like a high school class ring. How about a musclebound beefcake detecting magic by fogging up a window with his breath as though he were a really, really serious five-year-old?

"You should learn how to feel sad without actually being sad," Laurie Anderson's Buddhist teacher told the performance artist after the loss of her beloved rat terrier, Lolabelle.

Anderson's new film, Heart of a Dog, is in part a personal essay that tries to figure out what that injunction means, and how to live up to it in the wake of multiple losses. You don't have to be a Tibetan Buddhist or a pet lover, though, to spend 75 enthralling minutes with the endlessly associative contents of Anderson's head and heart.

"Something's happening on the Internet," yelps Kimber to her shy older sister Jerrica Benton, the instant pop sensation known as "Jem," in the live-action version of Christy Marx's mid-'80s cartoon staple Jem and the Holograms. Kimber is delighting over an acoustic video gone viral, but the line aptly describes the modus operandi of the filmmakers, who are desperate to tap into the preteen zeitgeist but haven't got a clue how to do it.

Copyright 2015 NPR. To see more, visit



Copyright 2015 NPR. To see more, visit



The muppet Julia has not yet made her TV debut, but the wide-eyed little girl with a big smile is the star of her own "digital storybook" called "We're Amazing, 1,2,3."

Sarah Silverman is best-known for her comedy. But the new film I Smile Back is a drama, in which she plays a woman who suffers from profound depression.

It's a subject with which the comedian is intimately familiar.

Silverman tells Fresh Air's Terry Gross that she first experienced depression as a young teen. "The depression I experienced [felt] like a chemical change," she says. "It was like my perspective of the world changed about three degrees, and everything I saw was different."

All Hail The Glow Cloud: 'Night Vale' Welcomes Readers

Oct 22, 2015

In Night Vale, time is out of joint, memories are unreliable, and pink flamingo garden ornaments might do you serious harm. Cecil Palmer, the honey-voiced host of the community radio program, is as likely to begin narrating your every action as he is to inform you about the community calendar or the mind-controlling Glow Cloud (ALL HAIL) who's now a member of the PTA. The dog park is forbidden, the existence of mountains is deeply controversial, and teenagers can be 19 for decades.

'The Mark And The Void' Is Good Fun — Until It Isn't

Oct 22, 2015

This is the funniest book about investment banking and the European financial crisis you'll read all year. Probably.

I mean, who knows? It's possible that the field of banking fiction is just full of laughs, but I doubt that anyone out there has captured the absurdity of it, the gallows sense of laughing so you don't scream all the time, the way Paul Murray has with his new novel, The Mark And The Void.

Christine Ha made quite an entrance on season three of the Fox television show Master Chef.

If you've bought a bottle of nice wine recently, you'll know that the costs have gone up. And the price of really fine wines – the ones that cost at least several hundred dollars – have doubled, tripled and more over the past few years.

As prices rise, so, too, do the number of thefts.

Prima restaurant in Walnut Grove, Calif., has a celebrated wine list, with a number of Bordeauxs and Burgundies that can set you back several thousand dollars. Thieves have successfully targeted those wines several times now.