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Arts and culture

I first saw Crazy Rich Asians at an advance press screening at a small, newish theater in Manhattan's Chinatown, and let me tell you: I arrived a little anxious and skeptical.

If you've spent more than five minutes with me, you'll know that I am predisposed to those two emotions. It did not escape me that the theater holding the press screening could be considered still another gentrifying force in rapidly changing Chinatown. The fact that I and the friend I brought were one of the few Asian-Americans in the theater also did not escape me.

Nico Walker is in jail for robbing banks.

He can use the pay phone for 15 minutes at a time, and then he has to wait a half-hour. It took a while to do an interview.

That's also sort of the way he wrote his debut novel, Cherry — on a typewriter, with a hundred-or-so other guys looking over his shoulder.

"It was something that I was doing when I was locked up," he says. "Something to pass the time. But I didn't — I wasn't planning to write a novel, you know, autobiographical or anything like that."

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

TERRY GROSS, HOST:

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

TERRY GROSS, HOST:

I've been a fan of Kevin Wilson's writing since 2011, when I read his debut novel The Family Fang. That novel delved into the life of a husband and wife pair of performance artists who worked their young children into their pieces. Without being pat about it, Wilson drove home the realization that every family constitutes its own rag-tag troupe of performance artists and that children are mostly at the mercy of their parents' "acts."

When film critic Roger Ebert left the Cannes Film Festival premiere of Do the Right Thing in 1989, he had tears in his eyes. Few film-going experiences, he reflected in a 2001 essay, rivaled that first viewing of the Spike Lee classic.

In the early '90s, scarring kids for life became big business. R.L. Stine and Christopher Pike became brand name industries, minting money and traumatizing children. Stine had his Fear Street and Goosebumps series, while Pike turned out a seemingly endless line of young adult novels about teenagers killing teenagers, ancient dinosaurs disguised as teenagers killing teenagers, ghost teenagers killing non-ghost teenagers, and Greek gods reincarnated as teenagers killing teenagers. But this was simply the final development in decades of YA horror.

David Joy's new novel The Line That Held Us begins with a terrible accident.

Darl Moody is looking to poach a deer in the woods, when he accidentally kills another man — Carol Brewer, who is himself poaching for ginseng roots. Both are "working-class rural people who are just kind of doing what they have to do in order to survive," as David Joy says in an interview.

'Baghdad Noir' Presents A City Of Diverse Experiences

Aug 12, 2018

Just when you think the Noir Series from Akashic Books has gone everywhere — Lagos, Montana, and earlier this year, Prague — editors Tim McLoughlin and Johnny Temple (the publisher of Akashic) find a new city or country or locale. The latest entry, Baghdad Noir, edited by Samuel Shimon, identifies neighborhoods and places in which the stories happen, with a frontispiece map showing city districts.

Perhaps best known for his novel A Bend in the River, V.S. Naipaul was a controversial figure in the literary world. The Nobel Prize-winning writer died on Saturday at his London home, the author's agent confirms to NPR. He was 85.

His wife Nadira Naipaul, who was at his side when he passed, said he was "a giant in all that he achieved and he died surrounded by those he loved having lived a life which was full of wonderful creativity and endeavor," The Associated Press reports.

A new movie from director Spike Lee has a premise that's almost impossible to believe.

It's 1978 and a black police detective in Colorado Springs, Colo., manages to infiltrate the Ku Klux Klan. He not only gets a membership card straight from Grand Wizard David Duke, but he's also asked to lead a local chapter because he's everything they are looking for — loyal, smart and a true believer.

He establishes a relationship with David Duke over the phone. And for meetings in person, he recruits a white co-worker to go in his place.

First, Nell Stevens wrote Bleaker House, a memoir about failing to write a novel. Now, in The Victorian and the Romantic, she has written a memoir about struggling to write her doctoral dissertation.

Writing about how writing is hard tends to be solipsistic and dreary, but these procrastination-born books have, instead, a kind of truant charm — like they know they should really be the other, more serious thing, the great work, but we're all here now so we may as well go get a drink.

This week we recorded our show in Chicago's Millennium Park, and invited Illinois native Jeff Tweedy to play our quiz. As a kid Tweedy lied about knowing how to play the guitar, but he must have figured it out eventually because he went on to form the bands Uncle Tupelo and Wilco.

Tweedy will play a game called "A Yankee, a hotel, and a foxtrot" — three questions about the namesakes of one of Wilco's most beloved albums.

Click the audio link above to see how he does.

When we first meet Yi Jin, the lithe heroine of Kyung-Sook Shin's atmospheric, tragic novel The Court Dancer translated by Anton Hur, she stands at a ship's helm beside "a tall Frenchman, his pale face covered in a mustache," while she holds "a hat embroidered with roses and a coat to wear later when the wind blew," with a "light blue dress that rustled like lapping waves." That last image is appropriate, since Jin is gazing out on the ocean for the first time.

Ling Ma was in the last months of a tedious office job when she began writing her first novel. The company was downsizing, and as her coworkers got laid off, the office became "silent and desolate," Ma recalls.

Eventually Ma lost her job, too. The first few weeks were liberating — she called her unemployment check her "arts fellowship" — and she turned her attention to her debut novel.

To tell how the nation's first black beer festival came to be held in Pittsburgh, you might start with a beer.

Maybe it was that introductory Sam Adams Boston Lager that longtime Michelob and Heineken guy Mike Potter drank more than a decade ago. "It had a completely different profile, a completely different taste, you know, completely different aroma," he says. "It just elevated my curiosity."

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

DAVID BIANCULLI, HOST:

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

DAVID BIANCULLI, HOST:

Spike Lee's new movie, BlackkKlansman, is based on a true story, but the plot sounds crazy enough that you'd be excused for thinking he'd just made it up. It's about an African-American police officer, Ron Stallworth, who went undercover in the 1970s to infiltrate the Ku Klux Klan ... by joining it.

Stallworth was the first black officer hired by the Colorado Springs Police Department. In the film, when his chief and the mayor tell him they're hoping he'll "open things up," they don't anticipate that he'll go about that task in quite the way he chooses to do so.

One of the first things actors learn is how to become highly suggestible: Take a cue from a director, a script, a parent, a memory or a dream, and use it to become someone else. Acting classes instruct on the fine art of removing that layer of yourself that says, "No, I shouldn't do this, it isn't me." Fail to break down those walls, and you aren't much of a performer; knock too many down, and you may lose yourself.

Uneasy lies the wrist that wears the big diver's watch, but Jason Statham never looks especially perturbed in The Meg, an agreeably daft if disappointingly bloodless sea creature-feature from the auteur who brought you Three Ninjas and Phenomenon — the film that asked us to imagine, What if John Travolta were smart?

'Dog Days' Is Shaggy But Lovable

Aug 9, 2018

Short Cuts meets Love, Actually ... in Dog Days, an ensemble rom-com-o-rama that brings Los Angeles dog owners together under the reasonable thesis that dogs make everyone's lives better. In fact, the film itself exhibits a dog-like sensibility: Simple, shaggy, ingratiating, lovable, and totally disinterested in aesthetics, like a St. Bernard's lick across the face.

Summertime is for road trips. Atlas Obscura and All Things Considered are traveling up the West Coast, from California to Washington, in search of "hidden wonders" — unique but overlooked people and places.

Driving on Interstate 5 in Turner, Ore. — about an hour south of Portland — it's hard to miss the towering road sign, topped by a waving Humpty Dumpty: "Enchanted Forest Theme Park. Next Exit."

Earnest yet unpredictable, Nate Powell's graphic novel Come Again is a perfect example of what's possible when a creator roams outside of set conventions. Come Again fits no particular genre, though much of its style and tone resemble the slow-building, true-to-life narratives of Craig Thompson, Lucy Knisley and Mariko and Jillian Tamaki. But a touch of the mystical keeps this book off-kilter, raising the stakes on a story that might otherwise have seemed thin.

If only the worst thing about Netflix's Insatiable were its lazy portrayals of fat people or its tone-deaf deployment of sexual assault and abuse as comedy or its embrace of racist tropes or its portrayals of people with Southern accents as dumb hicks or its white-hot conviction that same-sex attraction is either inherently hilarious or a teaching moment.

Oh, if only.

In a letter to its members sent this morning, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences (AMPAS) listed three changes approved by its Board of Governors.

1. A three-hour Oscars telecast

We are committed to producing an entertaining show in three hours, delivering a more accessible Oscars for our viewers worldwide.

In 1973, documentary filmmaker Jennifer Fox wrote a story for her eighth-grade English class that alluded to a young girl's intimate relationship with a middle-aged man and woman. At the time, Fox's teacher assumed the story was fiction.

It wasn't.

"The Tale," as it was called, was based on Fox's own experiences with her male running coach and female horseback riding coach — which Fox considered normal at the time: "I wrote at 13 with no concept of abuse at all," she says. "It was a love story; it was a relationship."

"Hate comes in many forms," Arjun Singh Sethi writes in American Hate, a collection of victims' testimonials.

Sethi, a Sikh American, is an activist lawyer and law professor who has become "sensitive to the rising tide of hate violence." We should not be surprised by this rise, he says, since "Trump told us who he was a long time ago... a racist and a sexist ... his ideologies are white supremacy and greed. He is the hater-in-chief..."

In the anthology The Art of Friction: Where (Non)Fictions Come Together, Marcia Douglas likens the kind of writing she does to spellcasting. And her new book, The Marvellous Equations of the Dread: A Novel in Bass Riddim no doubt has the air of a spell.

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