Arts & Culture

Ways to Connect

'Words We Don't Say' Still Hit Hard

Oct 9, 2018

Just about any publishing professional will tell you that "voice" is one of the most important — and usually one of the most difficult — elements to capture in writing. When the voice of a book's main character comes through vividly enough, the reader doesn't just feel sympathy for the character, they become that character. Reading a book with great voice is like slipping on a second skin, seeing through someone else's eyes and walking a mile in their shoes, no matter how uncomfortable.

Big Boi: Tiny Desk Concert

Oct 9, 2018

The energy in the room was buoyant and vibrant from the moment they walked in the door. OutKast star Big Boi, Sleepy Brown of the prolific Atlanta production collective Organized Noize, and their eight-member backing band have been working together for 20-plus years, and their chemistry is instantaneous and undeniable.

My No. 1 album for 2017 was Big Thief's Capacity. In 2016 their album Masterpiece was in my top five. So when I heard that Adrianne Lenker, Big Thief's singer and songwriter, had a new solo record, I was all ears.

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

DAVID GREENE, HOST:

Ever since he was a kid, Ketch Secor was obsessed with old-time country music. In fact, he made a career of it by leading the string band Old Crow Medicine Show. Appalachia, the birthplace of the band, has served as a wellspring of knowledge for Secor, and even inspired the musician to write a new children's book, Lorraine.

"That's where this story comes from," Secor says. "This is an Appalachian folktale, with a couple of personal twists."

Three years after his death, my father, virtuoso violinist Roman Totenberg, made headlines all over the world when his beloved Stradivarius violin, stolen 35 years earlier, was recovered by the FBI. The story struck the hearts of so many, I think, because in such turbulent times, it was rare good, even joyful, news. And the mystery of where it had been, was finally solved.

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

DAVID GREENE, HOST:

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

AILSA CHANG, HOST:

The Los Angeles Philharmonic's yearlong centennial celebration kicked off at the end of September, with a day-long street festival that spanned eight miles across the city.

Unlabeled stimulants in soft drinks. Formaldehyde in meat and milk. Borax — the stuff used to kill ants! — used as a common food preservative. The American food industry was once a wild and dangerous place for the consumer.

Deborah Blum's new book, The Poison Squad, is a true story about how Dr. Harvey Washington Wiley, named chief chemist of the U.S. Department of Agriculture in 1883, conducted a rather grisly experiment on human volunteers to help make food safer for consumers — and his work still echoes on today.

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

AILSA CHANG, HOST:

Just two days before saxophonist and composer Miguel Zenon went into the studio to record his new album, Hurricane Maria hit his native island of Puerto Rico.

(SOUNDBITE OF MIGUEL ZENON'S "ROSARIO")

The Hate U Give tells the story of a 16-year-old girl named Starr Carter. She lives in a mostly black, lower-income neighborhood called Garden Heights. Williamson Prep, her high school, is in a mostly white, affluent part of town.

But Starr can't keep her two worlds separate after she witnesses a white police officer shoot and kill her childhood friend, Khalil.

Taylor Swift is done being apolitical. On Sunday, the pop megastar took to Instagram and endorsed two Democratic candidates up for election in Tennessee.

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

TERRY GROSS, HOST:

"All this is based on what I've heard from other people or worked out for myself. It may not be entirely true, though I for one believe it."

Jorge Luis Borges's iconic Patagonia story "The South" opens in Buenos Aires, in Argentina's north. The protagonist, Juan Dahlmann, is a librarian who's spent his whole life in the city, dreaming of moving to the Patagonian ranch he inherited from his grandfather.

To Dahlmann, Patagonia represents an alternate world, a macho Wild West filled with tough guys and gauchos, men in control of their fates.

"The first time I saw my father do coke, I was about six," author (and occasional NPR critic) Juan Vidal writes in his new memoir, Rap Dad: A Story of Family and the Subculture that Shaped a Generation. "Batman Underoos in full effect. I didn't know what the powder was on his stache, but I remember wishing he'd take me to see the snow."

He never did. Vidal's father faded in and out of his life, eventually disappearing entirely, in a cloud of guns, drugs and other women. But he's still the spirit that haunts this poetic chronicle of beats, rhymes and life.

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

DAVID GREENE, HOST:

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

MICHEL MARTIN, HOST:

You know that joke-ish, brain-teasery thing about the doctor who says "I can't operate on my own son," but you're told the doctor isn't the patient's father, and the answer turns out to be that the doctor is a woman? It works, to the feeble extent it does, because it rests on our unconscious, culturally programmed preconceived notions — the kind of sexist background radiation that bombards us every day. You just assume the doctor is a man, for no clearly definable reason.

'Beautiful Things' Is A String Of Little Apocalypses

Oct 7, 2018

Every story in the slim new Simon Van Booy collection, The Sadness Of Beautiful Things, is about the end of the world.

In none of them does the world actually end. In none of them does it even come close. But that doesn't change the fact that these are stories of apocalypse. Even the quietest of them shakes the ground and darkens the sky.

On-air challenge: Every answer is a two-syllable compound word, in which the vowel in each half is a short "I."

Example: Person who spends as little money as possible --> SKINFLINT
1. Slang for a football
2. What Don Quixote tilted against
3. Make tiny criticisms
4. Bit of makeup in a tube
5. Article for measuring the amount of oil in an engine
6. Tiny, tiny hole
7. Important person, informally
8. Stupid person, informally
9. Person or thing holding everything together

An Abundance Of Jacobs

Oct 7, 2018

The Jakes and Jacobs of the world have teamed up and are playing football for the University of Washington. Well, maybe not all of the Jakes and Jacobs, but several have made the team's roster.

The Huskies currently have four quarterbacks named Jake or Jacob. And if that doesn't make things confusing enough, two more Jacobs – a linebacker and a tight end – are suiting up for the purple and gold as well.

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

LULU GARCIA-NAVARRO, HOST:

Nicole Chung was born into a Korean immigrant family and then adopted by a white couple when she was an infant. Her parents always described her adoption as a kind of divine providence.

Banksy Art Shreds Itself

Oct 7, 2018

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

LULU GARCIA-NAVARRO, HOST:

Over two decades ago in 1997, when violinist Hilary Hahn was 17, she made a celebrated recording debut, Hilary Hahn Plays Bach. That year, Hahn told NPR about her enthusiasm for Bach's music.

"There's nothing I really wanted to record more than Bach," Hahn said. "I can work on it for a long time and keep discovering more things that surprise me every time."

Pages