Arts and culture

In the first season of the HBO series, The Leftovers, actor Justin Theroux played a police chief trying to hold his small town together after the sudden disappearance of 2 percent of the people on Earth. Based on a book of the same name by author Tom Perrotta, Theroux says he wasn't sure if the series would have a life beyond its initial season.

The creators "had run out of the source material ..." Theroux tells Fresh Air's Terry Gross. "The book had been played through to the end."

Shortlists for the National Book Awards went public Wednesday, halving the number of nominees to just 20 finalists. Among the books that have survived the second round of cuts, a few clear favorites are beginning to emerge — while others have been displaced by less familiar names.

The full lists of finalists can be found below.

'The Rest Of Us' Is Apocalypse-Adjacent

Oct 14, 2015

For lifelong literature fans, there's a special kind of joy in stories that play with stories. Books like John Myers Myers' Silverlock, Jasper Fforde's Thursday Next series and Mike Carey's Unwritten comic all operate as though book covers are permeable, allowing characters to slip off their pages and sneak along the bookshelves to see what's going on in the next tale over.

Marlon James has won this year's Man Booker literary award for his novel A Brief History of Seven Killings. James is the first Jamaican-born author to win the prestigious prize, which has only been open to writers outside the British Commonwealth for the past two years.

One of the best-reviewed shows on Broadway right now is a revival of a musical that closed there only six years ago. Spring Awakening is based on a play about German teenagers in the 1890s. Part dark morality play, part rock opera, the musical swept the 2007 Tony awards and made TV stars of its two main leads, Leah Michele (of Glee) and Jonathan Groff (of Looking).

'Shards' Puts A Fantastic Twist On Jewish Mythology

Oct 13, 2015

Whether or not you know the term "portal fantasy," you know what it means. In portal fantasies, a doorway — either literal or virtual — opens up between the real world and some magical land where strange beings live and strange things happen. The unassuming hero passes through this portal, only to have his or her view of reality turned upside down. It's a trope as comfortingly familiar as Narnia or Wonderland (although portal fantasies have taken a darker turn in more recent works like Stephen R.

I was a big fan of Sloane Crosley's pert personal essay collections, How Did You Get This Number and I Was Told There'd Be Cake, so I was primed to love her first novel. Billed as "part comedy of manners, part madcap treasure hunt," with a debt to Guy de Maupassant's "The Necklace," I was looking forward to a smart, sassy romp of a book. But while The Clasp delivers plenty of snappy lines, it unfortunately hinges on three rather uninteresting old college friends whose litany of disappointments alternate in 50 short chapters.

Copyright 2015 Fresh Air. To see more, visit



David Lee Roth supposedly once said, "Music journalists like Elvis Costello because music journalists look like Elvis Costello." As a former music journalist and longtime fan of Costello's songs, I have to say this is unfair. Sure, I might have a pale complexion, receding hairline and black horn-rimmed glasses, but ... OK, fine, David Lee. You win this round.

Copyright 2015 NPR. To see more, visit



In the next installment of the MORNING EDITION Book Club, writer Lauren Groff joins MORNING EDITION to talk about her newest novel, "Fates And Furies." It's the story of a marriage in two parts. "Fates" focuses on the husband's story.

A debate over academic freedom of speech was ignited in summer 2014 when the University of Illinois rescinded a job offer to a professor over a controversial set of tweets about the Israel-Gaza conflict. NPR's Kelly McEvers talks with the professor, Steven Salaita, about his experience.

In 1938, Ernest Hemingway made a recording to promote the publication of The Fifth Column, his play about the Spanish Civil War written while he was covering the conflict for American newspapers in 1937.

"While I was writing the play, the Hotel Florida, where we lived and worked, was struck by more than 30 high-explosive shells," he said. "So if it is not a good play, perhaps that is what is the matter with it. If it is a good play, perhaps those 30 some shells helped write it."

Copyright 2015 NPR. To see more, visit



Tonight, the TV drama series "Fargo" begins its second season on the FX Network. It has a new story and a new cast, but one familiar character is at its center. Our TV critic David Bianculli has a review.

Copyright 2015 NPR. To see more, visit



Copyright 2015 NPR. To see more, visit



Rev. Jim Wallis leads the Christian social justice group Sojourners. He is known for merging faith with public life, urging candidates for office to discuss moral issues in a way that transcends ideological divisions. Michel Martin talks with Wallis about his book America's Original Sin: Racism, White Privilege and the Bridge to a New America.

From his roles in Mary Poppins and Chitty Chitty Bang Bang to the Dick Van Dyke Show and, most recently, the Night at the Museum movies, actor Dick Van Dyke has been in our collective consciousness for a very long time.

Though he seems to be ageless, the Emmy, Tony and Grammy Award-winning star turns 90 next month. And to help mark the occasion he's published a new book with author Todd Gold, Keep Moving: And Other Tips and Truths About Aging.

Colum McCann first won fans around the world with his bestselling novel Let The Great World Spin. The Irish author is now releasing a new collection of short fiction — a novella and three stories — called Thirteen Ways of Looking. They're tales that deal with parenthood, loss and just how arbitrary life can be. In one story, a mother searches desperately for her adopted and disabled son who has gone missing on coast of Ireland.

There's a surge of interest in the work of 20th century Russian poet Anna Akhmatova. It's inspired in part by American country and folk singer-songwriter Iris Dement, who has an adopted daughter from Russia and has set some of the poet's work to music in a new album, The Trackless Woods.

Bonnie Jo Campbell burst upon the literary landscape in 2009 with a collection called American Salvage that was raw and resonant, telling stories of the Rust Belt with frankness and an infinite patience for the voices of those whose stories are often left untold. The book was a finalist for the National Book Award and the National Book Critics Circle award. And now she's back, after a novel (Once Upon a River, an updated female Huck Finn tale) with an even stronger collection.

Steve Jobs was a man whose vision helped change how the world sees and uses technology. He was also an indifferent father, a selfish colleague and a mercurial, even abusive, boss.

A new film from director Danny Boyle shed light on all these facets of the complex founder of Apple. Boyle, together with screenwriter Aaron Sorkin and leading man Michael Fassbender, set out to create a tightly wrought record of one of the late 20th century's most iconic figures — which Boyle found to be a tall order.

'Silver On The Road' Is A Pure American Myth

Oct 10, 2015

There's magic in the West, and weirdness not easily explained. The deserts are a place of ghostly silences and inexplicable sounds in the night. The mountains have a pull that is magnetic — the kind of thing you can feel in your sleep. The wind will mess with your dreams.

In the 1970s, families would sit down together every Saturday to watch The Carol Burnett Show. The first five seasons of the legendary variety show are now out on DVD.

We've invited Burnett to play a game called "Rowwwr!" Burnett is married to a man just a wee bit younger than she is, so we're going to ask her three questions about cougars (the large cats, of course).

Ted Hughes left behind a path of personal tragedy and destruction — and also some of the most beautiful poetry in the English language. The British Poet Laureate was the husband of writer Sylvia Plath, who famously committed suicide following his affair with Assia Wevill. Just six years later, Wevill took her own life, and also the life of the young daughter she had with Hughes.

'Lime Street' Bewitches With Mystery And Mayhem

Oct 10, 2015

Any historical account worth its salt knows this underlying truth: The two fighters in any face-off are never alone. They stand atop a hundred things that buoyed and buffeted them until they came to be staring one another down. When Harry Houdini (yes, the legend) showed up at 10 Lime Street in Boston to prove Mina Crandon (who? Exactly) was a fraud psychic, they were carrying all the weight of their age behind them — and they both knew it.

If you've never tasted a pawpaw, now is the moment.

For just a few weeks every year in September and October, this native, mango-like fruit falls from trees, everywhere from Virginia to Kansas and many points westward. (We discovered them several years back along the banks of the Potomac River when we ran into some kayakers who were snacking on them.)

You may feel you've been here before: the story of a man who uses technology to bring millions of people together, but who can't seem to figure out how to connect with the people who are actually around him.

Terrible jealousy, an oracle, a lost child, a living statue, miraculous redemption: The Winter's Tale is one of Shakespeare's most mythic and magic plays. It is a story, as the characters like to say as strange occurrence follows strange occurrence, "like an old tale."

We've talked about the novel The Martian on the show a couple of times before, so we rushed out this week to see the new movie (or in my case, to see the movie one more time after Toronto). We talk with our Space Movie And Ronda Rousey And Road House Correspondent Chris Klimek about Matt Damon, Drew Goddard, Ridley Scott, love of science, race and casting, and lots more.