Arts & Life

David Yoon's debut novel has set off commotion, excitement, and a movie option.

It's Frankly in Love, in which we meet Frank Li, a high school senior and a self-described nerd, who, with his best friend Q, plays video games, watches obscure movies, gets high SAT scores and doesn't talk about girls — except, of course, when they do. Which is a lot.

"How long until the world hollows me out?" Eunice Turner asks her younger brother Noah in one of her many letters to him — most of them suicide notes. That question lies at the heart of A Cosmology of Monsters, Shaun Hamill's debut novel. It's a horror tale unafraid to tackle big issues of familial fealty, the architecture of fear, and the metaphysics of love, all while shocking the pants off the reader.

Even in Times Square — crammed with tourists from around the world dodging people in superhero costumes — the playwright Jeremy O. Harris stands out.

He's walking down the sidewalk with two thick and long braids, standing six feet and five inches tall, wearing a see-through shirt, carrying bags from fashion designers and smoking a cigarette. He's between New York Fashion Week events and his Broadway opening.

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ARI SHAPIRO, HOST:

When Belinda Qaqamba Ka-Fassie dresses in drag, she doesn't typically go for on the sequins and feather boas worn by performers on RuPaul's Drag Race. A post-graduate student of education at Stellenbosch University in Cape Town, South Africa, Ka-Fassie might put on a dress that resembles the white blanket typically worn by boys at a traditional male circumcision ritual, called ulwaluko, and she might add a multi-colored headpiece and beaded stick, both handmade and used by brides.

James Verini calls himself a "coward and a hypocrite."

Why? For not having the guts to cover the Afghanistan war after reporting on the destruction of the World Trade Center as a young reporter.

Heading to Mosul in the summer of 2016, he says, to write about life under the Islamic State was a kind of "penance."

DAVE DAVIES, HOST:

This is FRESH AIR. I'm Dave Davies, in for Terry Gross. "Downton Abbey," the feature film based on the Masterpiece series that ran on PBS for six seasons, opens today in theaters. Much of the cast returns in the movie for a plot set in motion by the visit of King George the V to Downton. In this scene, conflicts emerge as servants at Downton are talking about preparations from the royals with the king's page, who's part of the royals advance team.

(SOUNDBITE OF FILM, "DOWNTOWN ABBEY")

DAVE DAVIES, HOST:

This is FRESH AIR. The science fiction drama "Ad Astra" stars Brad Pitt as an astronaut who sets out on a dangerous voyage to the outer reaches of the solar system. It's the latest picture from writer-director James Gray, whose earlier movies include "We Own The Night," "Two Lovers" and "The Lost City Of Z." Our film critic Justin Chang says "Ad Astra" is a space odyssey that sometimes stumbles but ultimately soars.

Ah, fall. That homey season of football, falling leaves — and of course, feting the best books of the year. The National Book Foundation did its part this week, rolling out the 50 nominees — 10 each across five categories — for its annual slate of literary awards.

Among the notable names on this year's National Book Award longlists are previous winners (Colson Whitehead and Cynthia Kadohata) and plenty of newcomers to the prize, especially among the poets and nonfiction writers.

The Spanish port city of Algeciras boasts a long and rich history, and is home to some of the country's most beautiful parks, plazas and churches. But Maurice Hearne and Charlie Redmond, the two aging Irish men at the heart of Kevin Barry's Night Boat to Tangier, aren't interested in any of that. They're spending all their time in the city's dingy ferry terminal, along with a mass of weary travelers and a handful of bored employees.

Part 2 of the TED Radio Hour episode Teaching For Better Humans

About Liz Kleinrock's TED Talk

When one of Liz Kleinrock's fourth grade students made a cringe-worthy comment about race, rather than change the subject, she chose to turn the moment into a teachable one — and start a conversation.

About Liz Kleinrock

Part 1 of the TED Radio Hour episode Teaching For Better Humans.

About Olympia Della Flora's TED Talk

After months of struggling with one particularly challenging elementary school student, principal Olympia Della Flora realized it was the classroom setting that needed to change ... not the child.

About Olympia Della Flora

Part 4 of the TED Radio Hour episode Teaching For Better Humans.

About Jacqueline Woodson's TED Talk

Novelist Jacqueline Woodson is a slow reader. Taking her time lets her savor each word, brings her closer to each story, and it lets her pay respect to her ancestors who weren't allowed to read.

About Jacqueline Woodson

Part 3 of the TED Radio Hour episode Teaching For Better Humans.

About Thomas Curran's TED Talk

Many students feel unrelenting pressure to be ... perfect. Social psychologist Thomas Curran warns that striving for perfectionism isn't just impossible — it's also dangerous to children's health.

About Thomas Curran

If you thought Texas was a whole 'nother country, welcome to Lake Caddo, a sprawling, irregular inland sea divided between Texas and Louisiana. Surrounded by jungle-like foliage (that's right; East Texas is a different ecosphere from the rest of the state) and rife with wildlife, Lake Caddo has long been home to people looking to "hide in plain sight," as one character in Attica Locke's new Highway 59 novel, Heaven, My Home remarks.

It happens on every road trip — you're driving from city to city, natural wonder to natural wonder. Every hour is a magical combination of rustic beauty and historic landmarks and fascinating people. Until, one day, things change: The scenery turns gray; the people lose their charm. You find yourself at a rest stop with no toilet paper, where the vending machine eats your last single. It's 90 miles to the nearest motel. Small, but menacing-looking rodents scurry across the road.

You, my friend, are in Podunk. Or as some people say, "Some Podunk town in the middle of nowhere."

ARI SHAPIRO, HOST:

We want to warn you that some listeners may find this next story disturbing. Today we learn more about a case in Illinois involving the discovery of thousands of fetal remains at the home of a former abortion provider. After Ulrich Klopfer died earlier this month, the remains were discovered in his garage. Authorities in Illinois released more information today. NPR's Sarah McCammon attended a press conference at the Will County sheriff's office outside Chicago and joins us now.

Hi, Sarah.

SARAH MCCAMMON, BYLINE: Hi, Ari.

ARI SHAPIRO, HOST:

We want to warn you that some listeners may find this next story disturbing. Today we learn more about a case in Illinois involving the discovery of thousands of fetal remains at the home of a former abortion provider. After Ulrich Klopfer died earlier this month, the remains were discovered in his garage. Authorities in Illinois released more information today. NPR's Sarah McCammon attended a press conference at the Will County sheriff's office outside Chicago and joins us now.

Hi, Sarah.

SARAH MCCAMMON, BYLINE: Hi, Ari.

Like an unkillable horror-flick villain, Silvio Berlusconi repeatedly clawed himself back from the grave, becoming prime minister in four Italian governments. Loro depicts the media-mogul-turned-politician in the period of his 2008 comeback, but it doesn't primarily tell the story of that resurrection. Director Paolo Sorrentino's stylish but overloaded satire is less sober narrative than drunken tone poem — a buzzing, throbbing attempt to simulate the experience of living in Berlusconi-world.

Flamboyant, terrifying, and pointedly timely, Matt Tyrnauer's documentary Where's My Roy Cohn? tells the story of one of America's most notorious political fixers while grounding him in an American half-century that allowed him to seed, and thrive on, its worst impulses.

'Ad Astra' Soars

Sep 19, 2019

With its austere surfaces and jaundiced view of humanity's interplanetary destiny, James Gray's stirring sci-fi epic Ad Astra can't help but evoke Stanley Kubrick's 2001: A Space Odyssey, the paterfamilias of all "serious" space movies. But in fact it's a closer cousin to another long-delayed, wildly over-budget spectacle that initially fared better with ticket-buyers than critics, only to be revealed in time as a masterpiece: Francis Ford Coppola's Apocalypse Now.

There is nostalgia, and there is Downton Abbey.

Nostalgia bathes the past in a golden light that falls patchily, shining clear and steady on what was tidy and genteel, while leaving an era's ugliest, most brutal recesses sunk in shadow.

For many observers of modern jazz, pianist Jason Moran became a known entity 20 years ago, with the release of his debut album. For Adrienne Edwards, curator of performance at the Whitney Museum of American Art, his name first circulated more recently, as a kind of rumor.

On this week’s episode of Keepin’ It Real, Cam Marston tells us the story of a coach who had started acting like his players. Or, maybe, it was the opposite. Either way, it led to disappointment…

Edited by Jalen Hutchinson

In 2013, Edward Snowden was an IT systems expert working under contract for the National Security Agency when he traveled to Hong Kong to provide three journalists with thousands of top-secret documents about U.S. intelligence agencies' surveillance of American citizens.

Rachel Cusk is a writer who worries more about truth-telling than likability.

During the 2016 election, I worked in events at Politics and Prose, one of Washington, D.C.'s best-beloved bookstores. My office shared a wall with Comet Ping Pong, a similarly beloved pizza restaurant that became the target of the alt-right conspiracy Pizzagate. The conspiracy, which posited Democratic Party higher-ups trafficking children for sex beneath Comet's concrete floors, was conceptually ludicrous.

The famed architect conceived a number of dwellings for the mass market to be made from concrete blocks. The idea never took off. But in New Hampshire, one such building is now hitting the market.

TERRY GROSS, HOST:

This is FRESH AIR. "Heaven, My Home" is the latest crime novel by Attica Locke, a prize-winning novelist also known for her television work, which includes writing for the hit series "Empire" and the recent Netflix mini series "When They See Us." This new book is the second in a series about an African American Texas ranger. And our critic-at-large John Powers says that Locke knows how to write a mystery novel that stings.

Paul Kingsnorth's Savage Gods is a series of questions in the shape of a book.

On the surface, the writing deals with the author trying to make sense of his need to belong to something meaningful, his desire to connect with an older reality tied to the earth. Right underneath that, however, are a series of other questions that wriggle around like termites inside the wood of Kingsnorth's heart: What does it mean to belong? Can we connect to culture in a world where there is none? Can words truly communicate life?

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