As a young musician coming up in the early 1970s, Bruce Springsteen played in the bars of Asbury Park, N.J., a hardscrabble urban beach town full of colorful characters. The town fired his imagination and inspired him musically, but still he found himself longing for more.

Springsteen tells Fresh Air's Terry Gross that he knew that if he was ever going to make his mark on the larger world, it would be through his words.

Charles Wang is having a bad year. Then again, so is much of America. It's 2008, and the financial crisis is wreaking havoc across the economic sphere. A Chinese immigrant-turned-millionaire who owns a successful chemical company that makes artificial urea for the cosmetics industry, Charles has a lot to lose, and sure enough, he loses it all: His empire of "faux pee," as he self-deprecatingly calls it, has collapsed. He's left destitute.

Copyright 2016 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.


Copyright 2016 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.


The main character in Rabih Alameddine's new The Angel of History is a gay, Arab writer living in San Francisco.

Alameddine is a gay, Arab writer living in San Francisco. But he says the character, Ya'qub — or Jacob — is not based on his life. For one, Jacob's sex life is a little more ... adventurous than his.

"He's somewhat of a sexual masochist, and I keep thinking, you know, well, for me, rough sex is having sex on linens that are less than 300 count cotton," Alameddine jokes to NPR's Kelly McEvers.

Specially trained dogs have been known to sniff out explosives, drugs, missing persons and certain cancer cells, but author Alexandra Horowitz tells Fresh Air's Terry Gross that extraordinary olfactory abilities aren't just the domain of working dogs.

The tea gardens of Darjeeling, in the foothills of the Himalayas, produced significantly less than 1 percent of India's 2.6 billion pound output last year. Yet Darjeelings are considered the "Champagne of teas," the finest in the country and some of the most exquisite and sought-after in the world.

The harvesting season in Darjeeling runs from mid-March through November, as the tea bushes gradually progress through a quartet of distinct seasons known as "flushes." The tea is often sold not only by single estate (like wine) but also by flush.

When 49-year-old artist Eleanor Flood wakes up one weekday, she makes herself a promise. "Today will be different," she vows. "Today I will radiate calm. Kindness and self-control will abound. Today I will buy local. Today I will be my best self, the person I'm capable of being. Today will be different."

Luke Cage was one of the first black superheroes to appear in the pages of Marvel Comics, back in the 1970s.

Put in prison for a crime he didn't commit, he eventually gets put into a machine where he gains powers like super-strength and bulletproof skin. And, like many good Marvel characters, he's now on TV — in the new show Marvel's Luke Cage.

Before he served in Vietnam, author Winston Groom says he wanted to write but didn't have anything to write about. Going to war changed things.

"Any experience like that, I mean, it's like being in a year-long car wreck," he says. "It's traumatic. ... And I thought, Well, at least I've done this. Let's see if I can make some sense of it. And I wrote my first book, called Better Times Than These, and it did well and I was off and running."