Arts and culture

Michael Solomonov has built a reputation for his unique take on the cuisine of Israel. He's won a James Beard Award for Best Chef for his restaurants in Philadelphia.

But he says awards aren't what inspire him to keep cooking.

"It's the pots of rice," he tells Fresh Air's Dave Davies. "It's the savory pastries that my grandmother made that if I can close my eyes right now I can still taste."

One of the newest trends on TV — and one of the most intriguing — is the season-long anthology drama series. In the Golden Age of TV, back in the 1950s, anthology series presented a brand-new story and cast every week. A lonely butcher named Marty looking for love. Jurors arguing over a verdict in 12 Angry Men. Mannequins coming to life in The Twilight Zone.

Fan Fiction Comes To Life In 'Carry On'

2 hours ago

In preparing for this review I found myself searching for the opposite of "meta" — something that would mean below as well as above. Because in Carry On, Rainbow Rowell has written the book inside her other book, which was inspired by books outside her book, and it would be nice to have precise terminology to discuss such literary nesting dolls.

It begins with a solitary Russian underground in Leningrad in 1937, in a train tunnel not yet completed — an artist censoring photographs for the state, removing the images of traitors from the official history of a place already expert at removing people.

It ends with a solitary Russian in a space capsule, year unknown, listening to an ancient cassette tape as he passes out beyond the orbit of Pluto.

Anthony Marra writes about Russia like he was born there.

Actually, the 31-year-old American lived there only a semester, as a college student. "I arrived in January without knowing a lick of Russian," he tells Morning Edition host (and former Moscow correspondent) David Greene. "I just became immediately fascinated with the extremes of life, of geography, of political events that it almost seemed impossible not to want to set a story there."

Before there was Madonna or Lady Gaga, there was Grace Jones.

The creator of that gender-bending, hypersexual persona has been a supermodel, a muse for artists like Andy Warhol and Keith Haring, and a musician whose influence is still felt throughout popular music to this day. Now, she's telling her story in a memoir titled I'll Never Write My Memoirs, which shines a spotlight on every side of her — including Beverly Grace Jones ("Bev"), the more reserved childhood version of the future star.

"But I will sustain myself

With nothing more than the perfume of jasmine flowers..."

Caron Butler has had a stellar career. The two-time NBA All-Star has contributed his talents on the court to the Miami Heat, the LA Lakers and the Dallas Mavericks, where he was part of a championship team in 2011.

But before he got to the NBA, his life was headed in a very different direction. He had a rough upbringing in Racine, Wis., and took an unusual route to get to the pros, which included numerous drug arrests, a stint in prison and a close call that could have changed his entire life — all before he turned 18.

New York Post theater columnist Michael Riedel proffers anecdote after juicy backstage anecdote in Razzle Dazzle, which is just what you'd expect from Broadway's most venomous observer. Oddly, though, he doesn't bother proffering them until roughly halfway through the book, which, in the terms of the business he covers, is rather like saving your best character-establishing ballad 'til after intermission.

Much has been written about Fear the Walking Dead's flaws. A companion show to AMC's hit The Walking Dead, it takes place at the very onset of the zombie apocalypse, but often moves far too slowly.

But there is one thing FTWD is doing very well: It has one of the most complex, intriguing Latin American characters on prime-time television.

Deep beneath the University of Minnesota, housed in a room 83 feet underground, one of the world's great collections of children's literature lifts the veil on thousands of classics. When you visit, just be sure to wear layers.

"It's cold down here," says my tour guide, Lisa Von Drasek. "It is very cold. Put on that sweater."

Von Drasek is the curator of the Kerlan Collection, which holds more than 100,000 books. And she says there's a reason it's 55 degrees:

"This is the temperature that is perfect for books and paper."

When Virginia farmer Charles Martin first got into the pumpkin game a decade ago, he started small, with a half-acre plot of traditional round, orange jack-o-lanterns. Today he grows 55 varieties of gourds, squash and pumpkins, and he's always looking for something new.

We often feature musicians who make cover albums — their versions of songs made popular by others. Now comes a project where writers — some of the most acclaimed of our time — cover Shakepeare's works, retelling the Bard in their own words. Jeanette Winterson's new novel, The Gap of Time, is a re-imagining of The Winter's Tale, and it's the first book in the series to be published.

Patti Smith is a survivor whose dreams prod her to "redeem the lost" by writing about them with "some sliver of personal revelation." In Just Kids, her 2010 National Book Award-winning memoir about her relationship with Robert Mapplethorpe, she rued the loss of so many friends and colleagues to drugs, suicide, cancer, AIDS and "misadventure." (Mapplethorpe, whom she memorably called "the blue star in the constellation of my personal cosmology," succumbed to AIDS in 1989.)

When the Berlin Wall fell in November 1989, Kani Alavi was a young artist living in an apartment overlooking the border between East and West Berlin. He remembers seeing East Berliners streaming through "like a wave of water," he said through an interpreter. "Some were joyful, some were doubtful, some were afraid they might not [have the chance to] cross again."

Alavi painted that moment: a flowing river of faces he calls "Es geschah im November," or "It happened in November."

We're taping our show in Ann Arbor this week, where there is no bigger topic than Michigan Football. Every game day, so many people pack into Michigan Stadium that it becomes a super-massive black hole and bores into the center of the Earth, making it necessary to build another stadium every week.

You can run out of colorful adjectives trying to describe Julie d'Aubigny. She was, according to history, exquisite in appearance, a graceful and superb fencer, a sublime singer, a swashbuckling duellist, and lover of men and women, famous and cloistered — and that's just the beginning.

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Jacques Pépin says his new cookbook, Jacques Pépin: Heart and Soul in the Kitchen, is an invitation to join him for dinner at his house. Of course, you'll have to do all the cooking — but you can use his recipes.

Pépin will turn 80 years old this year. He says this is one of his last cookbooks, and it's timed to coincide what he says is his final PBS show, airing this fall: Jacques Pépin: Heart and Soul.

Rosemary Kennedy was a beauty, a debutante, and the daughter of one of America's most glamorous families. She was born with a wealth of advantages as the daughter of Rose and Joseph P. Kennedy — but her mental development was flawed at birth, and never got beyond about a fourth-grade level.

And at the age of 23, Rosemary Kennedy underwent a new neurosurgical procedure that a couple of respected doctors said might make it easier for her to function in the world: A lobotomy. The operation left Kennedy mostly mute, withdrawn and damaged.

It's a classic story: A man stranded in a remote, forbidding land, left to scrabble a hard existence while he waits for help that might never come. Think of Robinson Crusoe, Tom Hanks and his beloved volleyball Wilson in Castaway -- even Gilligan's Island, for that matter.

Now, add another to that list: Mark Watney, an astronaut marooned on Mars in the new film The Martian. The movie is directed by Sir Ridley Scott, adapted from Andy Weir's best-selling novel, and filled with A-list stars like Jessica Chastain, Kate Mara and Chiwetel Ejiofor.

The Mysteries Of Family, Captured In 'Invisible Ink'

Oct 3, 2015

A family story is always something of a mystery story. The mystery, of course, is, "How could I possibly have come from these people?" The more you know about your family, the more the mystery deepens. How has it affected your life's path that your great-uncle sold insurance, or that your grandmother was a noted lepidopterist? And whatever happened to free will, anyway?

A new tourist attraction in Argentina — The Centro Cultural Kirchner in downtown Buenos Aires — has been posting some impressive numbers since it opened in mid-May. As many as 10,000 patrons a day are trooping through an ornate, turn-of-the-last-century building that has been converted into what's said to be the fourth-largest cultural center in the world. Remarkably, everything in it is free, from video installations to comedy acts to symphony concerts.

Shahzia Sikander is one of the contemporary art world's most celebrated stars. She's projecting her hypnotic video installations onto Times Square billboards; she's led exhibitions at major art museums across the world; and she was recognized by the MacArthur Foundation as a "genius" fellow in 2006.

Women have historically been told their place is in the kitchen — but not as chefs: According to statistics from the U.S. Labor Department, to this day, only about 20 percent of chefs are women.

It all harks back to the fact that being a chef was not as glamorous as it is today, says Deborah Harris, a sociology professor at Texas State University whose new book, Taking The Heat, explores the issue.

Book Review: 'The News,' By Tess Taylor

Oct 2, 2015
Copyright 2015 NPR. To see more, visit



Copyright 2015 NPR. To see more, visit



Copyright 2015 NPR. To see more, visit



Tell an influential, internationally celebrated filmmaker he can't operate a camera, write a script, or direct a movie and what does he do? If he's Jafar Panahi, he drives a taxi.

This week, we had the pleasure of welcoming Petra Mayer of NPR Books to our fourth chair for a chat about the comic Ms. Marvel. We must admit, we were more in agreement than we often are, so if you like arguing, you won't find all that much: we really love this series. We talk about Ms. Marvel herself, a/k/a Kamala Khan, from her exploration of identity to her friends and family, and we get into why the book's lively sense of humor hit such a sweet spot for us.