Arts/Life

Arts and culture

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Before we get too far into 2016, it's worth taking one more look at what happened to media in the year that just ended. To paraphrase the old saying, ignorance of history dooms you to repeat it. And some of what happened in media in 2015, we really want to avoid repeating.

One of the world's most precious volumes starts a tour on Monday, in Norman, Okla. The Folger Shakespeare Library in Washington, D.C., is sending out William Shakespeare's First Folio to all 50 states to mark the 400th anniversary of the bard's death. Published seven years after he died, the First Folio is the first printed collection of all of Shakespeare's plays.

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Imagine for a moment it's 1925 instead of 2016. And you're living in a stately English manor.

(SOUNDBITE OF JOHN LUNN SONG, "DID I MAKE THE MOST OF LOVING YOU?")

These are dark times; our feeds are filled with news of shootings as well as the hateful speech that always results. Every year, writing this preview, I think of how poetry is one of our surest consolations. It can't do much about the fear and violence running rampant in America right now, but in the books to be published in 2016 especially, poets are taking responsibility, speaking out, identifying themselves, speaking the truth.

DNA from a genetically modified goat, a spritz of perfume, sculptures so small you need a microscope to see them.

They're all headed for the moon.

Care to break the hearts of Game of Thrones fans everywhere? It might just take seven words:

"THE WINDS OF WINTER is not finished."

So wrote George R.R. Martin in a lengthy blog post published in the wee hours Saturday. The author had hoped to publish the sixth installment of his massively popular fantasy book series, A Song of Ice and Fire, early in 2016 — which meant finishing and submitting the manuscript to his publishers before the end of 2015.

But Martin says those hopes have been dashed.

The second mystery by Mette Ivie Harrison boasts details about contemporary Mormon life that most of us aren't privy to.

NPR's Karen Grigsby Bates says His Right Hand is is her "one that got away."

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Fresh Air Weekend highlights some of the best interviews and reviews from past weeks, and new program elements specially paced for weekends. Our weekend show emphasizes interviews with writers, filmmakers, actors and musicians, and often includes excerpts from live in-studio concerts. This week:

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Sometimes, a good idea and fate collide to create an interesting opportunity. That's what happened with "All American Boys," a young adult novel whose co-authors chose a contentious subject, racial profiling.

Harlan Ellison is America's weird uncle. He's the angry, elderly cousin at the table — the one who, for weeks before dinner, everyone asks about. Is he coming this year? Is Harlan gonna be there?

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Singer Natalie Cole Dead At 65

Jan 1, 2016

Natalie Cole, the Grammy award-winning singer and daughter of legendary crooner Nat King Cole, has died. She was 65.

According to a statement from her family, Cole passed away last night at a Los Angeles Hospital "due to complications from ongoing medical issues."

Every year at this time, we get together to make resolutions and predictions for the coming year — but not before we reckon, almost always embarrassingly, with last year's. Did Stephen quit Diet Coke? Did Glen's very bold box office prediction come to pass?

Because we're all about accountability, we bring back our pal Kat Chow for this conversation, which wanders hither and yon before arriving at the ultimate fact that really, nobody knows anything, but we remain curious as always.

The Great British Bake Off was the most popular program in Britain in 2015, and the show boasts a devout following in the U.S. [Ed. Note: If you're part of that U.S. following, be warned: We're about to discuss the most recent season, which hasn't yet aired in the U.S.]

It's been more than 70 years since the end of the Holocaust, but by a fluke of fate — and international copyright law — two stark reminders of the genocide may be entering the public domain in Europe on Friday. Mein Kampf, Adolf Hitler's anti-Semitic manifesto, sees its European copyright expire after Dec. 31; so too for Anne Frank's Diary of a Young Girl, according to several French activists.

We get so many books in the mail — hundreds every week — that we can't read them all, and sometimes all we can do with a book is say hey, that looks interesting, and file it away on the shelf.

That's what happened to Anita Anand's book Sophia: Princess, Suffragette, Revolutionary, which was definitely the One That Got Away from me this year. I put it aside with vague good intentions, and then I forgot about it — until Princess Sophia ended up in the news.

More and more, I eschew end-of-year best-of lists for the simple reason that they're arbitrary and imply a comprehensiveness on which they can never deliver. What works for me is to compile a list that reflects some of the enormous gratitude I feel for getting to enjoy other people's work and art — one that doesn't even pretend to define what is best, but simply to share some of the abundant good stuff I run into.

'Shame And Wonder' Is Light On Shame, Heavy On Wonder

Dec 31, 2015

Shame and Wonder is a series of wandering essays on cartoons, comic books, model rockets and other passions of a midcentury boyhood, as well as meditations on travel and friends and whatever else drifts into its slow and dreamy orbit. And everywhere, David Searcy finds the strange and marvelous in careful examination of the quotidian.

At the outset, biographer Sonia Purnell didn't know much about Clementine Churchill. "I confess, like millions of others, I had absolutely no idea who Winston Churchill's wife was," Purnell tells NPR's Steve Inskeep.

But then Purnell stumbled onto a letter from 1940, when Winston Churchill had just become prime minister. It was the middle of World War II, and England was in a very bad state.

A guy who thinks everyone's the same meets a gal who's different. That could be the TV listing for Charlie Kaufman's extraordinary new film and latest weirdness, Anomalisa.

But that thumbnail description doesn't get at the weird, and the weird in this film is prodigious.

Start with the fact that in a world that looks otherwise real and natural, the leading man — motivational speaker Michael Stone — and all the folks around him are puppets, which are animated in stop-motion.

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It's a mixed honor, but "Game Of Thrones" is once again TV's most pirated show.

(SOUNDBITE OF TV SHOW, "GAME OF THRONES")

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From ancient China to its modern rise, from the searing feuds of the Middle East to the cultural contradictions of Rio, our international staff offers up some of the best books of 2015.

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