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Arts/Life

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Margery Simkin is a casting director. Her job is to look at thousands of faces, and her gut reaction — how she feels about what she sees — can lead to movie and TV roles.

But for this story, she isn't looking at a headshot — she's looking at a painting. "This wouldn't be somebody that could be a bad guy," she says. "There's a softness. There's a kindness in his eyes."

In the wake of tragedy, confusing and conflicting feelings like fear and anger can be overwhelming. In her breakout novel, Rihannon Navin takes readers on the emotional journey that explores some of these feelings.

Only Child centers around a family reconciling with the aftermath of a mass shooting at an elementary school. It's told from the perspective of 6-year-old Zach, who survived the shooting in which his brother Andy died.

The first Bible I ever purchased was a New International Version Student Life Bible; it was black with neon pink and green lettering. I picked it up from the bookstore of a church I was invited to in my late teens. This "expanded" version featured maps, reading plans, and questionnaires geared toward teenagers who wanted to learn how to effectively apply biblical principles to their daily lives. In other words, how to learn to be the "salt of the earth."

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LULU GARCIA-NAVARRO, HOST:

Fifteen years after his death, Fred Rogers is having a moment.

(SOUNDBITE OF TV SHOW, "MISTER ROGERS' NEIGHBORHOOD")

"Summer afternoon — summer afternoon." According to Henry James, these are "the two most beautiful words in the English language." But "summer camp — summer camp," that's a whole different story. Kim Fu's The Lost Girls of Camp Forevermore presents a sleepaway sojourn that turns shattering for five adolescent girls. The weaponized world of contemporary fiction can make even an innocent object like a kayak resemble Chekhov's pistol, which must inevitably explode in the third act.

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MICHEL MARTIN, HOST:

Black Panther is a film that's not only hot but historic. It's based on the Marvel comic of the same name and is directed by Ryan Coogler (Fruitvale Station, Creed). According to Fandango, pre-sale tickets for the film have already surpassed that of any previous superhero movie ever.

There's a big, glittering musical in a classic key on Broadway again, where the townspeople of Yonkers sing and dance, the New York Central train toots steam and the audience starts standing in ovation from the moment the big-name star takes the stage.

Renée Watson's young adult novel Piecing Me Together tells the story of Jade, a Portland, Ore., high school student with "coal skin and hula-hoop hips." Jade has won a scholarship to St. Francis, a private school that's mostly white. She makes friends and does well, but she also feels the school sees her as some kind of project — and she doesn't like it.

A mentor named Maxine comes into her life with a program called Woman to Woman. Maxine is black too, and once lived in her neighborhood, but Jade wonders if Maxine just sees her as someone who needs to be saved.

Here's a serious pop culture conundrum. Why are we still so obsessed with zombies?

Maybe you've seen the movies World War Z and 28 Days Later and the TV series iZombie and Santa Clarita Diet. Or maybe you've read Zone One by Pulitzer-winning author Colson Whitehead or Pride And Prejudice And Zombies by Seth Grahame-Smith. Haven't you had enough of zombies over the last decade?

Akwaeke Emezi's debut novel, Freshwater, is the lyrical, nonlinear story of a woman named Ada, born in Nigeria with, as she puts it, "one foot on the other side." Several "selves" exist inside of Ada, and they identify themselves as "we." When Ada comes to America for college, a traumatic event causes the "we" to take over, and Ada struggles to control her own body.

The author, who won the 2017 Commonwealth Short Story Prize for Africa, says she pulled from her own experiences.

When The X-Files first came out, the show's challenge was to make it seem believable that the government was really perpetrating deep, dark conspiracies. Now that it's back, the challenge is coming up with plots more sinister than the actual news.

David Duchovny stars as Agent Fox Mulder on The X-Files, so we thought we'd ask him to play a game called The Real Ex-Files: three questions about tumultuous public divorces.

Click the listen link above to see how he does.

Sometimes you want a book that deals with the big things — love and death and meaning and worth. Sometimes you want stakes that are as high as saving the universe. Sometimes you want thoughtful digressions by learned thinkers on the state of man or the look of aspens in the snow.

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KELLY MCEVERS, HOST:

Copyright 2018 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

KELLY MCEVERS, HOST:

Fresh off its Golden Globe award for best animation, the Disney-Pixar movie Coco is a favorite to win an Oscar next month.

It's a sweet story of a small boy, Miguel, who dreams of becoming a musician despite his parents' objections. On the way, he finds family, tradition and a magnificent white guitar, encrusted with pearl details and a black skull.

Black Panther is the latest offering from Marvel and Disney — if you don't already know the story, here's quick synopsis: It's about T'Challa, the superhero Black Panther and the king of Wakanda, an isolated, technologically advanced African country that sits upon a rich deposit of the metal vibranium, the strongest substance in the Marvel world.

Copyright 2018 Fresh Air. To see more, visit Fresh Air.

DAVID BIANCULLI, HOST:

Other Pet Sounds

Feb 16, 2018

Can you tell the difference between an alligator and a chipmunk? In this audio quiz, contestants must guess what animal is responsible for the sound in each clip.

Heard On Lola Kirke: Mozart In The Puzzle

Copyright 2018 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

Late Starts

Feb 16, 2018

Sometimes if you miss the beginning of a TV show, the plot can be hard to follow. In this game we take that one step further. We lopped off the first letter from a TV show's title, and imagined what the new plot would be. Based on that hypothetical summary, can you guess the title?

Heard On Lola Kirke: Mozart In The Puzzle

It's Element-ary

Feb 16, 2018

Time to brush up on your chemistry: the answer to each final round question contains an element from the periodic table. Isn't it iron-ic, don't you think?

Heard On Lola Kirke: Mozart In The Puzzle

Copyright 2018 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

It's Party Time

Feb 16, 2018

We took songs with the word "party" in the title and rewrote them to be about celebrations. Identify the occasion that Jonathan Coulton is singing about and, for a bonus point, name the original song or artist he's parodying.

Heard On Lola Kirke: Mozart In The Puzzle

The Mandela Effect

Feb 16, 2018

The Mandela Effect is an Internet phenomenon where a group of people share a common misconception. Some people say it's evidence for alternate universes; we say it's a fun topic for a silly trivia game. We ask questions about popular instances of the Mandela Effect, and contestants dive into their memories in order to sort fact from fiction.

Heard On Lola Kirke: Mozart In The Puzzle

Lola Kirke: Mozart In The Puzzle

Feb 16, 2018

When Lola Kirke was cast as Hailey Rutledge in Amazon's Golden-Globe winning series Mozart in the Jungle, she knew almost nothing about classical music. "I have this dentist who likes to listen to it really loud while he's drilling and then talk to me ... while he has tools in my mouth," she recalled to host Ophira Eisenberg. "That was my association."

Wisdom Of The Crowd

Feb 16, 2018

What percentage of our waking hours do we spend sleeping? How many words per minute are there in the Hamilton soundtrack? We polled audiences at The Bell House on a variety of questions and averaged their responses. That collective wisdom goes up against one-man house band Jonathan Coulton. Whose estimate is closer?

Heard On Lola Kirke: Mozart In The Puzzle

During a fellowship to Harvard, writer Tayari Jones spent months and months studying the intersection of race and criminal justice. She learned a lot about the American criminal justice system. She knew all the grim statistics. But she was still searching for the inspiration for a novel she'd hope to write: one that involved an individual's encounter with the system, and the subsequent ripples that touch that person's community.

Then, while she was in Atlanta visiting her mother, she found what she needed during a routine trip to the shopping mall.

Jeffrey Tambor, Emmy-winning star of Transparent, will not be returning to the cast for the show's upcoming fifth season. Amazon Studios confirmed his firing to NPR on Thursday.

Copyright 2018 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

ARI SHAPIRO, HOST:

Director Andrey Zvyagintsev's Loveless -- Russia's submission to this year's Academy Awards, and one of the five movies up for best foreign language film come Oscar night — begins with two parents screaming at each other about their upcoming divorce.

They're trying to sell their apartment, and it quickly becomes clear that their relationship is so toxic they'd probably sell their kid, too, if they could get away with it. Neither of them wants to take care of 12-year-old Aloysha (Matvey Novikov), who's sobbing quietly in the shower as they argue.

Look closely at a frame from Early Man — or any of the other features and shorts by Nick Park, the stop-motion animator behind Creature Comforts, the Wallace and Gromit series, and Chicken Run — and you can spot the truest and most literal of all auteur stamps: The curvatures of a fingerprint. As computer animation has become the dominant format, Park and his craftspeople at Aardman Animations have remained defiantly analog, using their hands to manipulate the features of plasticine models, frame by painstaking frame.

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