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In 1909, the Wild West was a little less wild than it used to be.

Spokane, Wash., still had enough saloons to soak the town, but there were opera houses and vaudeville theaters too. It was the unofficial capital of that corner of the West — rapidly industrializing, with a tangle of railroads and men looking for work, like the two brothers at the heart of Jess Walter's new novel, The Cold Millions. It's a adventure tale based on actual events in the early days of the labor movement.


Now, you have likely seen it or felt it yourself. Now a recent survey shows how the nation's bitter political divide is taking a toll on friendships. As NPR's Tovia Smith reports, with political polarization hitting a fever pitch, even decades-long relationships are caving under the pressure.

TOVIA SMITH, BYLINE: It's been happening everywhere on social media and in real life.

SHAMA DAVIS: I did straight up say, dude, I'm done. Lose my number.

SMITH: That Shama Davis from LA.

As a young man, Joe Biden was fixated on a singular goal: "On his first date with his future wife, he told her mother that he wanted to grow up to be president," New Yorker writer Evan Osnos says.

Osnos, who writes about the Democratic presidential candidate in his new book, Joe Biden: The Life, the Run, and What Matters Now, notes that the 2020 election represents Biden's third bid for the presidency.

One night in the 1950s Diane di Prima was at a party at Allen Ginsberg's place in New York City. It was usual poet stuff — talking, reading, smoking, drinking — until 11:30 p.m. came around and di Prima said she was going home to relieve her babysitter. Jack Kerouac, also a guest, shouted, "Di Prima, unless you forget about your babysitter, you're never going to be a writer."

Neandertals are ancient humans who sometimes mated with early Homo sapiens in Europe and Asia — then went extinct around 40,000 years ago. Yet their genes live on in many of us.

If your ancestry traces back to populations outside sub-Saharan Africa, there's a good chance that your genome includes contributions from Neanderthals. In Kindred: Neanderthal Life, Love, Death and Art, archaeologist and science writer Rebecca Wragg Sykes explains in splendidly engaging prose why this fact is cause for wonder and celebration.

Sarah Cooper is in a tough spot. A great spot! But a tough spot. And from that spot, working quickly to make her special Sarah Cooper: Everything's Fine, she has managed to create one of the most effective pieces of the year when it comes to representing what this year has felt like.

As the election nears, many are thinking about how much has changed during President Trump's administration.

Carlos Lozada, a Washington Post writer who took it upon himself to read scores of books from the past four years, has some ideas on the topic. He has now written his own book called What Were We Thinking? A Brief Intellectual History of the Trump Era.

When COVID-19 forced New York City into lockdown in March, Harlem chef and restaurateur Marcus Samuelsson had a choice: stay or go. Born in Ethiopia and raised by adoptive parents in Sweden, Samuelsson says leaving the city during the pandemic "would be the easier way out."

But he decided to stay.

The New Wave musician and former Talking Heads frontman David Byrne cannot have known a pandemic was en route when he decided to convert his 2019 Broadway show, American Utopia, into an impressionistic, sweetly illustrated adult picture book — created in collaboration with the much-loved artist Maira Kalman.

Copyright 2020 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.



It's been nearly five years since Adele released her blockbuster Grammy-festooned album 25 — so you'd

Narcissus stares a little too long at his reflection during a video call. Stuck at home, Medusa tries to cut her own unruly curls.

In his series Greek Quarantology, illustrator Jonathan Muroya recasts Greek gods and myths to creatively capture aspects of life during the pandemic.

Cixin Liu's To Hold Up The Sky is a 1974 Chevy van with icy moons and swirling nebulae painted on the side that you saw for sale by the side of the road in a snowstorm. It is a copy of Heavy Metal you found stuck in the back of the rack at Empire Comics when you were looking for old Savage Sword of Conan issues to read on a long road trip with your parents.

The most gripping moment in the HBO miniseries The Undoing involves the most natural of things. It happens in the first episode, between a bunch of wealthy Manhattan moms planning a fundraising event for their hoity-toity private school, and Elena (Matilda De Angelis), the noticeably younger and conventionally hot new mom whose fourth-grade son got in on a scholarship.

Doug Jones starred as the sexy sea creature in The Shape of Water, so we've invited him to play a game called "Hey, check out the shape of this water!" Three questions about ice and snow sculptures.

Click the audio link above to find out how he does.

The kids in I Am Every Good Thing are compared to the best things: moonbeams on brand new snow, the center of a cinnamon roll, a perfect paper airplane that glides for blocks.

When Derrick Barnes first started writing children's books 15 years ago, he didn't see Black kids — and Black boys in particular — being depicted in this way.

"Whenever you saw a black male character in children's books, he was either playing basketball, he was a runaway slave, or just visually looking very docile or assimilating," Barnes says.

Copyright 2020 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.


A lot is going on with Benson and Mike. They have explosive sex, but are not quite sure they get along, or where they're going.

Mike is a Japanese American chef at a Mexican restaurant in Houston. Benson is a Black daycare employee who doesn't really care much for children.

Mike's mother, Mitsuko, has just arrived from Japan to visit. But Mike's about to fly off to Osaka to hold the hand of his father as he dies. So Mitsuko will bunk with her son's boyfriend. What could go wrong?

What could go right?

A complicated but passionate love story with a plot ripped from the headlines, Snapped is the latest book in Alexa Martin's highly-regarded Playbook series. And once again, Martin delivers another heart-warming romance with loads of laughter and sensuality — but she also doesn't fumble the ball when it comes to providing a hard-hitting plot.

Imagine The Office, but in St. Petersburg, Russia. And instead of Dunder Mifflin, it's the Russian government's Internet Research Agency. A new online play called Russian Troll Farm: A Workplace Comedy, co-produced by TheaterWorks Hartford, TheaterSquared in Fayetteville, Ark., in association with The Civilians, does just that.

Copyright 2020 Fresh Air. To see more, visit Fresh Air.


This is FRESH AIR. I'm TV critic David Bianculli.

Copyright 2020 Fresh Air. To see more, visit Fresh Air.


Mascot Fashion Show

Oct 23, 2020

Sports mascots strut down the runway. Comedians Danielle Perez and Madison Shepard guess who they are.

Heard on, The Daily Show & What The Constitution Means To Me: Kids In America.

Go The Distance

Oct 23, 2020

Comedians Danielle Perez and Madison Shephard identify classic films re-imagined in the era of social distancing. Home Alone didn't make the cut since it remains virtually unchanged.

Heard on, The Daily Show & What The Constitution Means To Me: Kids In America.

Heidi Schreck: Kids Read The Constitution

Oct 23, 2020

Heidi Schreck's play, What the Constitution Means to Me, is based on a prize-winning speech she gave as a 15-year-old at American Legion halls across America. Since its 2019 Broadway debut, it's been attended by the late Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, and was a finalist for the 2019 Pulitzer Prize for Drama. A taping of the performance is now available on Amazon, directed by Marielle Heller (Can You Ever Forgive Me?, A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood).

Elvish Presley

Oct 23, 2020

Daily Show correspondents Ronny Chieng and Michael Kosta go on an epic quest in this music parody game where musician Jonathan Coulton performs Elvis songs re-written to be about characters from The Lord of the Rings.

Heard on, The Daily Show & What The Constitution Means To Me: Kids In America.

Press X To Save The Princess

Oct 23, 2020

The Konami code won't save The Daily Show's Ronny Chieng and Michael Kosta as they take on a true/false quiz about video games.

Heard on, The Daily Show & What The Constitution Means To Me: Kids In America.

Roald Dahl's 1983 novel The Witches takes place in a world where witches really exist, though they don't wear pointy hats or fly around on broomsticks. Instead they walk among us, disguised as ordinary women but wielding extraordinary magical powers, which they use to wipe out young children — their greatest enemies.

The first time the player is given control of Wander, the young and androgynous-looking protagonist of Shadow of the Colossus, they are confronted with a vast and unfamiliar landscape bathed in a cold yellow sun. Towering cliffs lie in the distance, while a rocky ridge cuts through the scrubby middle-ground. New players won't know it yet, but this place, referred to as the Forbidden Lands, is empty — except for 16 towering giants and a smattering of wildlife.

Copyright 2020 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.