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Arts/Life

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It's July 1960 in Philadelphia and a political party has gathered to nominate a presidential candidate — but both leading contenders are flawed, and the convention is deadlocked. Who's the best man for the job?

Gore Vidal's 1960 play The Best Man, which is getting a Broadway revival, will strike audiences as surprisingly timely.

One candidate is an intellectual liberal, the other a populist conservative. Director Michael Wilson says Vidal, the outspokenly liberal author of the play, wrote it with a very specific agenda in mind.

Transcript

IRA FLATOW, HOST:

This is SCIENCE FRIDAY. I'm Ira Flatow. My next guest won the Nobel Prize in 2000 for his work on learning and memory, and he really needs no introduction as a neuroscientist. But there is another side to Eric Kandel that you may not know. He is an art collector, an historian of early 20th-century art in Germany and Austria, and he says he could have seen that passion as an alternate career path.

On this week's Pop Culture Happy Hour, we're finally all back together again, with Trey back from his brief illness. As you might imagine from our past discussions, we did take some time this week to talk about The Hunger Games, because we've all read it, we all know it, and we know you know we know ... well, you know. We talk about the pacing, the acting, the faithfulness to the book, and lots more.

Customer Service Nightmares, Now Onstage

Mar 30, 2012

Playwright Lisa Kron mines her own life to create her often-hilarious work. She has written about being the child of a Holocaust survivor, and about her mother's struggles with chronic illness. Her latest play deals with a struggle common to all of us — the agony of computerized customer service.

AMC's The Killing started strong, with raves from critics and an impressively loyal core of viewers. But in the final episode of the year, when it left its season-long murder mystery intentionally unresolved, most fans felt angry, even betrayed. HBO's Game of Thrones, on the other hand, took a bit longer to get established, and to get as much attention. But thanks to some strong performances and a few bold strokes of plot, Game of Thrones — based on the George R. R.

On a recent commute to work, I found myself listening to a recording of Cole Porter playing a song he wrote, called "The Kling-Kling Bird On The Divi-Divi Tree." Published in 1935 and introduced in the show Jubilee, it's not an especially famous Porter number now, which is just as well, given the fact that its story of a man visiting strange lands and being seduced by exotic women has an unfortunate feeling of ...

A young female poet was speaking to a male poet at a party. "Women shouldn't write poems," he told her. "They are poems."

The young poet was a friend of Adrienne Rich, who used that story as an example of what female poets were up against in the 1950s and '60s, when she was first becoming established. Rich, who went on to become one of the first widely published contemporary feminist poets, died Tuesday at her home in Santa Cruz, Calif. She was 82.

This interview was originally broadcast on May 23, 1988.

Writer Harry Crews had a hard life and didn't made it any easier for the characters in his novels. He died Wednesday at age 76.

Crews' novels were filled with freaks and losers with unusual gifts. In Naked in Garden Hills, there was the 600-pound man with a penchant for dietary supplements. The Gospel Singer featured lunatics and carnival characters. Car showcased a man who literally ate a Ford Maverick, several ounces at a time.

Authors today vie for the attention of the reading public with interviews, Facebook postings and tweets. But Anne Tyler, whose 20th novel, The Beginner's Goodbye, is poised for release next week, has maintained her distance from the din. Famously shy, Tyler hasn't done a face to face broadcast interview in years, preferring perhaps to let her books speak for themselves.

Titanic is back. The 1997 blockbuster featuring star-crossed lovers Jack and Rose is being released in 3-D. Starring Kate Winslet and Leonardo DiCaprio, Titanic was the highest-grossing movie in history — until Avatar.

Both films were directed by James Cameron, who has just returned from a landmark expedition to the deepest point in the ocean: a spot in the far western Pacific called the Challenger Deep.

Mirror Mirror, one of several Snow White adaptations currently kicking around in popular culture, is a welcome and entertaining surprise: a gorgeous, frothy comedy that, like Enchanted and The Princess Bride before it, operates both as a fairy tale movie and as a sendup of same.

Some people are just meant to be together — even after they're dead. That's the premise of writer-director Benedek Fliegauf's Womb, a movie whose slender narrative is little more than that premise, yet whose themes prove bigger than the story.

Love between the living and the undead is all the rage in Hollywood movies, but Womb is no Twilight. Shot in Germany by a Hungarian with an English-speaking cast, the movie is more akin to 2004's Birth.

Alma has a strong imagination — so strong that there are times during Turn Me On, Dammit!, the narrative feature debut from Norwegian director Jannicke Systad Jacobsen, where that imagination threatens to consume the film.

But then fantasy and reality are given equal footing here, so that it's initially difficult to tell, in many scenes, where one begins and the other ends. The fact that Alma allows her rich interior life to spill over into reality often has mortifying results: She's only 15, and her daydreams revolve exclusively around the carnal.

A brief history of Sean William Scott characters: He was the sidekick to the guy who uttered the immortal phrase, "Dude, where's my car?"

As Stifler in American Pie, he suffered the twin humiliations of ingesting beer tainted with bodily fluids and witnessing his oversexed mother deflowering a teenage virgin.

Of the pair of energy drink salesmen in Role Models, he's the one tasked with dancing around in a furry minotaur outfit.

'Intruders': When Bad Dreams Feel Alarmingly Real

Mar 29, 2012

Early on in Intruders, a preteen girl (Ella Purnell) finds a half-written monster story wedged inside a tree. Reading it aloud to her classmates, she ensnares their attention with the tale's moody detail, but trails off at the end of the page, unable to think of where to go with the idea on her own.

For the second time in two weeks, a film that concerns itself with kid-on-kid violence arrives at the multiplex amid a firestorm of audience-generated, studio-fanned social-media interest.

Last week, The Hunger Games rode enthusiasm for Suzanne Collins' young-adult novels and a carefully orchestrated PR campaign to the best opening weekend of the year. Now comes the documentary Bully, director Lee Hirsch's sensitive look at anguished kids who've been cruelly targeted by their peers — which isn't going to do anything remotely like that kind of box-office.

The memorials for the poet Adrienne Rich, who died Tuesday, will inc­­lude plenty of references to her feminism, her sometimes polemical leftism, her precocity, her difficult marriage (her husband killed himself in 1970), her subsequent partnership with the writer Michelle Cliff, and the books — beginning with 1963's Snapshots of a Daughter-in-Law — that made her internationally famous. What can get a bit lost in all this, however, are the poems themselves.

Novelist Christopher Moore says he isn't very good at giving elevator speeches — those quick pitches on your latest project that Hollywood screenwriters are so good at.

"[That's] one of the reasons I probably don't work in Hollywood," Moore tells NPR's Scott Simon. But if he had to give a brief rundown of his latest novel, Sacre Bleu: A Comedy d'Art, he says, "I'd talk about it being a book about the color blue, and about solving the murder of Vincent van Gogh and the sort of mystical quality of making art. And it's funny."

There is often a special bond between pitchers and catchers. They report for work first in spring training and share a secret language of hand signals to work their way through batters.

But the bond between this pitcher and catcher duo, each Yankee legends of different generations, began after their playing days.

When Yogi Berra, a three-time Most Valuable Player, now in his mid-80s, arrives in Tampa for spring training, he's picked up at the airport by Ron Guidry, the four-time All-Star and Cy Young Award-winning pitcher known as Louisiana Lightnin'.

The Haggadah tells one of the oldest stories of all time: Moses leading the ancient Israelites out of slavery in Egypt.

That tale is retold every year in Jewish homes around the world during Passover, and in particular, over the Passover meal, the Seder.

Novelists Jonathan Safran Foer and Nathan Englander have just released a new version of the ancient text, called New American Haggadah. Foer edited the volume, and Englander provided translations from the original Hebrew and Aramaic.

The Amazing, Untrue Story Of A Sept. 11 Survivor

Mar 26, 2012

Tania Head had one of the most tragic and inspiring stories to come out of the Sept. 11 attacks.

She was in the south tower, on the same floor that the second plane hit. She saw horrific carnage and was handed a wedding ring by a dying man who requested that she give it to his wife. Then she was led to safety by Welles Crowther, the famous "man in the red bandanna," who lost his own life rescuing others. And finally, she woke up in a hospital burn unit six days later, only to find out that her husband had been killed in the north tower.

Dystopian worlds may be all the rage in fiction right now, but writer Lauren Groff is bucking that trend. She's more interested in Utopian communities, like the 1960s commune she envisions in her new novel, Arcadia.

Groff says she got the idea for Arcadia while pregnant with her first child. She fell into a depression, living in an unfamiliar town where she didn't know anyone, waiting for her first book to be published and wondering what kind of world she was bringing her child into.

Screen Time: 3 Books That Should Be Movies

Feb 20, 2012

J.D. Salinger famously refused to sell the film rights to The Catcher in the Rye, saying it was "unactable." It's true the subtleties of such great novels can get lost in translation. But I thought I'd take a look at three of my favorite novels that have never made it to the multiplex in wide release. Each of these will transport you to another time and another place.

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