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Actress Ziyi Zhang is probably best known for her roles in the Oscar-winning films Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon and Memoirs of a Geisha. Now she co-stars in a new film, The Grandmaster, where she plays a fierce martial artist who stops at nothing to protect her family's legacy. But she says she can "do better than just kicking ass." She can seriously act, too.

The daily lowdown on books, publishing, and the occasional author behaving badly.

Novels are low-tech objects. They can't be plugged in, they've got no buttons or knobs, and they don't make your eyes pop out of your head as you watch creatures or asteroids zigzag across a screen. Usually, novels have no visual aids at all. So if you want to know what Anna Karenina looks like, well, you just have to read the book.

No place seems safe these days from someone's terrifying, post-apocalyptic imaginings. Los Angeles is wrecked in the movie Elysium, the South is zombie-ridden in TV's The Walking Dead, and now— thanks to writer Ben Winters — even the quiet streets of Concord are at risk of annihilation.

There's nothing quite like the sweet, succulent taste of Maine lobster. And fishermen off the state's rocky coastline have been catching more and more of the tasty crustacean over the past five years.

But that surging supply has overwhelmed Maine's limited marketing and processing capabilities and driven down the prices paid to lobstermen.

When the drug company Merck Animal Health announced plans to suspend sales of its Zilmax feed additive last week, many observers were shocked.

Yet concern about Zilmax and the class of growth-promotion drugs called beta agonists has been building for some time. In an interesting twist, the decisive pressure on Zilmax did not come from animal welfare groups or government regulators: It emerged from within the beef industry itself, and from academic experts who have long worked as consultants to the industry.

Colombia. The drug trade. Multiple plane crashes, drive-by shootings, Peace Corps hippies who peddle drugs, and an actual hippo on the loose. Despite all of that, there's actually not much plot to this novel. This is more of a metaphysical detective story where cause and effect can be difficult to pin down — a book where the events that matter most occur inside the characters.

What's a baker to do when all foodies can talk about, on both sides of the Atlantic, is the cronut craze, a croissant-doughnut that NPR reported on earlier this year? Simple: Come up with an equally addictive hybrid dessert.

The new FX series The Bridge begins with the discovery of a body on a bridge that connects El Paso, Texas, and Juarez, Mexico. In it, a Mexican detective, played by Mexican actor Demian Bichir, has to work with an El Paso homicide cop to solve what turns out to be a serial murder case.

Transcript

CELESTE HEADLEE, HOST:

I'm Celeste Headlee and this is TELL ME MORE from NPR News. Michel Martin is away. Pulitzer prize-winning playwright August Wilson may be best known for a 10 play series of dramas that explore black life in America, one for each decade of the 20th century. The series includes plays like "Ma Rainey's Black Bottom," "The Piano Lesson" and of course, perhaps Wilson's best-known work "Fences."

(SOUNDBITE OF PLAY, "FENCES")

The daily lowdown on books, publishing, and the occasional author behaving badly.

The legendary minimalist short story writer Raymond Carver distilled the last decade of his life in his poem "Gravy." "Gravy, these past ten years," he writes. "Alive, sober, working, loving, and being loved by a good woman."

Getting Past Pesto To Re-Imagine Basil

Aug 21, 2013

Basil is a mega-celebrity of the herb world and has some of the same problems that come with fame. Known mostly for its starring role in pesto, it's recognized by many people primarily as an ingredient in other Italian dishes such as pastas and caprese salads. But if it were up to basil, it might prefer to be recognized for its work in lesser-known cuisines and recipes (the indie films and off-Broadway plays, if you will), where it shines in a different way and brings a new dimension to food.

It's time for mom and Clary to have the talk.

No, not that talk. Jocelyn (Lena Headey) needs to tell teenage Clary (Lily Collins) about angels and demons, vampires and werewolves, magic chalices and sacred blood — not to mention hidden sanctuaries, interdimensional portals, the identity of her father and the existence of an unknown brother. Plus something nutty about J.S. Bach.

No wonder she's been putting it off.

If you find yourself craving New Orleans food, you could go there and melt in the sweltering heat for a dose of gumbo or praline bacon. Or you could settle in on your couch, as I've been doing, and torture yourself watching reruns of the HBO series Treme. It's set in post-Katrina New Orleans and, along with the music, it puts the city's food on center stage.

The writer Elmore Leonard has died. He was 87 years old and had recently suffered a stroke.

For decades, Leonard — working at the very top of his profession as a crime writer — had been widely acclaimed, and universally read. He published 46 novels, which resulted in countless movie and TV adaptations, including the movies Out of Sight and Get Shorty and the TV series Justified.

Today's Internet users have become accustomed to stories of hacking, identity theft and cyberattacks, but there was a time when the freedom and anonymity of the Web were new, and no one was sure what rules — if any — applied to its use. Many thought the Internet was beyond government regulation, its very chaos a source of creativity and strength.

Okay, background information first.

As an apartment-dweller, I have lived for 20 years in a series of white-walled boxes with neutral carpets. I have assembled and eventually ripped apart the kind of furniture that comes with an Allen wrench. And I have had my adventures. When leaving an apartment in Brooklyn, I tore a sofa bed apart with my bare hands and feet — broke it and destroyed it — because it was old and I knew I'd never get it through the door again.

The daily lowdown on books, publishing, and the occasional author behaving badly.

'Schindler' Author Returns With A Tale Of The Great War

Aug 20, 2013

Is there more to say about World War I nurses and their patients after Hemingway's uber-classic A Farewell to Arms? The saga of ambulance driver Frederic Henry and his beautiful English nurse Catherine Barkley is generally thought to be an unrivaled fictional treatment of what was called, at the time, the Great War. Could a different novelist squeeze additional juice from this particular grape?

Founded in the mid-19th century, French luxury leather goods maker Moynat became renowned for making traveling trunks for the moneyed set. Though a pioneer in its field, it fell on hard times and closed its doors in the 1970s.

These days, the fabled company is undergoing a resurrection — turning out limited quantities of luxurious, handmade bags that rely on centuries-old craftsmanship.

On a recent day, Moynat's CEO, Guillaume Davin, leads me up the back stairs of the company's flagship boutique in Paris.

In the old days, when a book came out it just had to compete with other books. But these days a book has to compete not only with other books, but also with blog posts and tweets and tumblrs and everything else in written form. There's only so much that readers feel like reading, and as a result, every year many good books get lost under a tide of prose.

When you watch a DVD these days, there's a whole array of extras waiting for you after the movie — commentaries, deleted scenes, special re-creations that add to the experience.

But what if you are a novelist and want to do the same? Could you? Should you?

What's thick-skinned and leathery, about the size of an egg, essential for guacamole and sold eight for a dollar?

No, not limes. Hass avocados. This year, anyway. These pear-sized fruits usually weigh half a pound or more. In the summer of 2013, though, hundreds of thousands of trees in Southern California are sagging with the tiniest Hass avocados in local memory — some just the size of a golf ball.

One of the most intriguing figures of 20th-century warfare is T.E. Lawrence, the British army officer who immersed himself in the culture of the Arabian Peninsula's Bedouin tribes and played a key role in the Arab revolt against the Ottoman Turks during World War I. He became a well-known and romanticized figure in post-war England, and was immortalized in the 1962 film Lawrence of Arabia.

Canadians have given us so much, from the BlackBerry, a kind of phone your parents' older friends used to use, to Leslie Hope, the lady who played Kiefer Sutherland's wife in Season 1 of 24. But perhaps towering above all is poutine, which translated from the Quebecois is "stuff poured onto french fries." Usually it's some variation of cheese, meat and gravy, but I was told that in Portland, Ore. (naturally), at a food truck (naturally), you can get peanut butter and jelly on fries. So I went, naturally.

The legendary artist began her career in 1963, the same year as the March on Washington. She talks to guest host Celeste Headlee about her life, work, and why no one originally wanted to hear her story.

The daily lowdown on books, publishing, and the occasional author behaving badly.

* Some of the language in the summaries above has been provided by publishers.

Copyright 2013 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

More than 90 percent of Americans say public libraries are important to their communities, according to the Pew Research Center. But the way that love translates into actual financial support varies hugely from state to state.

Vermont, for instance, brags that it has more libraries per capita than any other U.S. state. Some of them are remarkably quaint. In Ludlow, one library is a white clapboard Victorian, slightly frayed, ringed by lilies and sitting by the side of a brook.

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