Arts & Life

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In his essay "On Liars," philosopher Michel de Montaigne famously wrote that the truth has a single face, while its opposite has "a hundred thousand faces."

That disproportion is reflected in the English dictionary. We have only a handful of words to describe statements that correspond to reality, like "correct" and "accurate." In fact, we don't even have a single word that means "tell the truth," which is probably to our credit.

Part 5 of the TED Radio Hour episode Dying Well.

About Lux Narayan's TED Talk

Lux Narayan analyzed 2000 New York Times obituaries, of both famous and not-so-famous people, over a two-year period. One common thread among them? A fierce desire to help others.

About Lux Narayan

Lux Narayan is CEO and co-founder of Unmetric, a social media intelligence company based in New York and India.

About Caitlin Doughty's TED Talk

Mortician Caitlin Doughty is trying to find a more natural and sustainable way to bury our loved ones. But to get there, she says: we need to rethink how we view death altogether.

About Caitlin Doughty

Caitlin Doughty is a mortician and the founder of The Order of The Good Death, a group of funeral industry professionals, academics and artists exploring ways to better prepare for the end.

Part 2 of the TED Radio Hour episode Dying Well.

About Emily Levine's TED Talk

Writer Emily Levine has stage IV lung cancer. But instead of fearing the inevitable, she decided to embrace her new reality, and face death with humor and gratitude for a life well-lived.

About Emily Levine

Part 1 of the TED Radio Hour episode Dying Well.

About Jason Rosenthal's TED Talk

Before Jason's wife Amy died, she wrote a heartbreaking farewell essay: "You May Want To Marry My Husband." Jason Rosenthal remembers Amy's life — and the lessons he learned from her death.

About Jason Rosenthal

Kidding is weird. It's tough to know what to make of it.

This is not a complaint.

The premise — a beloved, earnest, Mister Rogers-like host of a children's show finds himself plunged into a deep, dark emotional crisis — seems like a set-up for cheap parody, for taking cynical pot-shots at, well, a lot of things: kids' shows; earnestness; serene public facades that hide private chaos and cruelty.

Kidding takes some of those pot-shots. More than a few. But you can tell, sort of, that its heart isn't in them.

There's an old Klingon proverb that says revenge is a dish best served in under 95 minutes, by a fondly regarded actor who's been out of the limelight for a while. With Taken, French cinematographer-turned-director Pierre Morel rejuvenated the formula, stretching a single, highly quotable telephone speech ("If you are looking for ransom I can tell you I don't have money, but what I do have are a very particular set of skills....") into a $900 million film and TV franchise while granting a then-50-something Liam Neeson a new lease on, well, death.

Don't think of it as a reversal.

Think of it as the first act of a movie in which the lead — an incredibly attractive, symmetrically faced character — is up against seemingly insurmountable odds. Except in this version, that handsome-yet-relatable hero is the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences. The challenge it faces is trying to make the sluggish annual Oscar ceremony a bit more lively. Only, it's meeting a lot of resistance.

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"This town could keep a secret," says one of the small-town Arizonans who appears in Bisbee '17. But the people who most wanted Bisbee's secret kept — the executives of a copper-mining company — are long-gone. And a centennial is a fine opportunity to discuss events of the past, however unspeakable they once were.

Actor Burt Reynolds, who played good ol' boys and rugged action heroes in an acting career that spanned seven decades, has died. Reynolds died Thursday morning at a Florida hospital following a heart attack. He was 82.

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The voice of country singer-songwriter Blaze Foley sounds familiar, even if you've never heard it. It has a timbre, an ache that doesn't slow a song — as if to say, "Look how sad I am" — but drives it.

Foley was one of those artists who, however unruly his life, could center himself in his writing and playing long enough to sit in judgment on himself. That's what the director Ethan Hawke and the star Ben Dickey capture in the new film Blaze — and whatever else they miss it's more than enough.

The cause of the surprising January death of Dolores O'Riordan, singer of Irish band The Cranberries who rose to fame in the '90s with a string of radio hits including "Zombie" and "Linger," has been determined. London Inner West coroner Dr. Shirley Radcliffe found O'Riordan's death to have been an accident, caused by alcohol intoxication and drowning.

This story is the first in NPR's new Morning Edition series produced by The Kitchen Sisters (Davia Nelson & Nikki Silva) called The Keepers, stories of activist, archivists, rogue librarians, curators, collectors and historians — keepers of the culture and the cultures and collections they keep.

Over a decade ago, students of Dr. Marcyliena Morgan, then a Professor of Linguistics at UCLA, started dropping by her office, imploring her to listen to hip-hop.

As you read this, the NPR Movies team is settling into their seats in movie theaters across downtown Toronto. For the next week, we'll be sitting in those seats or ones very similar to them, in the dark, taking furious notes, as we each power through marathon sessions of movie-watching.

Sylvia Acevedo grew up on a dirt road in New Mexico. Her family was poor, living "paycheck to paycheck."

After a meningitis outbreak in her Las Cruces neighborhood nearly killed her younger sister, her mother moved the family to a different neighborhood. At her new school, young Acevedo knew no one. Until a classmate convinced her to become a Brownie Girl Scout.

And from that moment, she says, her life took on a new path.

On one camping trip, Acevedo's troop leader saw her looking up at the stars.

There was a time when journalist April Ryan was just another face in the crowd of the White House press briefing room.

She started covering the White House for American Urban Radio Networks more than 20 years ago. In an interview with NPR, she looks back at how nervous she was the first time she raised her hand to ask a question.

Former Secretary of State John Kerry says that partisan politics are harming America — and they have been for a while. In fact, when he ran for president in 2004, Kerry, then a Democratic senator from Massachusetts, contemplated naming Republican Sen. John McCain as his running mate.

In an epigraph to The Most Dangerous Branch: Inside the Supreme Court's Assault on the Constitution, Justice William J. Brennan is quoted as saying of the nation's highest court: "If you have five votes here, you can do anything."

Justice Brennan, who died in 1997, was celebrated for path-breaking opinions but also for his effectiveness as a behind-the-scenes, judicial deal-maker. In this possible majority of one that Brennan describes, author David A. Kaplan, a former legal affairs editor of Newsweek, reads danger.

Viola Davis is known for her roles in movies like Fences and The Help. She's won an Oscar, an Emmy, a couple of Tony Awards — the list goes on and on.

But as we sit in her trailer on the set of the TV show in which she stars, How to Get Away with Murder, she tells me about a time before all of this — when she grew up in a condemned building in Rhode Island, sleeping on the top bunk with her sister to be safe from rats on the floor.

She had a way to get away from all that.

In the tribal region of Pakistan where Khalida Brohi grew up, girls didn't typically go to school. Instead, some were forced into marriage at a very young age — and punished by death if they don't act according to plan.

That's what happened to Brohi's 14-year-old cousin, Khadija. Khadija's family had arranged a marriage for her, but Khadija fell in love with someone else and ran away. Then, Brohi says, "Three men arrived and they took her ... to a place where her grave was already dug and she was murdered by my uncle right there."

There's life in the old road trip saga yet. That's just one of the many things that Gary Shteyngart's spectacular, sprawling new novel, Lake Success, affirms.

Throughout his career, Shteyngart has proven himself a cheeky comic daredevil, but never more so than in this novel. More than "just" an artistic tour de force, Lake Success aims — and succeeds — in saying something big about America today.

John Kerry's new memoir, Every Day Is Extra, begins like Barack Obama's literary Dreams From My Father and — over the course of nearly 600 pages — slowly morphs into Hillary Clinton's paint-by-numbers political tome Hard Choices.

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The first thing you notice about Drew Michael's new stand-up special is what's not there. There's no stage, no audience, no laughter, except for maybe your own - just a comic pacing in a shapeless darkness thinking out loud

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

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