Arts & Culture

Arts & culture

Fresh Air Weekend highlights some of the best interviews and reviews from past weeks, and new program elements specially paced for weekends. Our weekend show emphasizes interviews with writers, filmmakers, actors and musicians, and often includes excerpts from live in-studio concerts. This week:

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LOURDES GARCIA-NAVARRO, HOST:

Madness and genius make a familiar literary couple whose success with readers, I suspect, depends on a certain amount of gratified vanity: who wouldn't like to imagine that their moods and eccentricities are down to brilliance? Ethan Canin's new novel is about the "the unremitting quarantine" of this type of genius — a genius transmitted from father to son like a curse — and about the fight to reject this dark inheritance.

Author Naomi Novik is a world builder. She writes books about dragons, witches and dark woods — and she's also designed computer games. "I'm an engineer and a writer," she says, "and I find that those two things are not uncomplimentary."

Novik's career as a writer and programmer started in the same place — her sophomore college dorm. "I ended up rooming in a dorm that was basically a solid wall of female scientists, and every Wednesday we would all watch Star Trek: The Next Generation."

Presidential campaigns may inspire people to vote, but they rarely inspire people to compose music. Jazz pianist Marcus Roberts takes up the challenge on a new EP called Race for the White House, which explores the personas of four different candidates from this year's election cycle.

One of those candidates is Donald Trump; you can hear the song Roberts wrote to represent him below. It features a whistle, which he says is meant to express a particular vision of Trump.

An animated film is up for best documentary short at the Oscars this year. It's only the second time an animated film has been in the running since the category was established in the 1940s. Last Day of Freedom is the story of Bill Babbitt, a man who turns his brother in for murder, hoping the police will help his brother get the care he needs for PTSD.

The Babbitts' story is told through more than 30,000 drawings, most of them in black and white. They were created by Dee Hibbert-Jones and Nomi Talisman, two Northern California-based artists.

Adam Cohen's new book tells the story of the 1927 Supreme Court case Buck v. Bell. The ruling permitted the state of Virginia to sterilize an "imbecile" — a scientific term of the day. Cohen discusses the decision, and its legacy, with NPR's Robert Siegel.

Copyright 2018 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

At an estate sale in Rochester, N.Y., in 2009, a rare book seller came upon a curious literary artifact. As it turned out, it was a memoir written in the 1850s by Austin Reed, a black man who spent most of his life in prison. It's the earliest known prison memoir by an African-American writer, and it has now been published as The Life and the Adventures of a Haunted Convict.

It doesn't taste like chicken and it's definitely not a fish, but some people in St. Louis are eating beaver for Lent.

Many Catholics abstain from eating meat on Fridays in observance of Lent, the season of penance between Ash Wednesday and Easter. The church has made exceptions — at times, in some places — for aquatic mammals such as beavers, muskrats and capybara.

Copyright 2016 Fresh Air. To see more, visit Fresh Air.

Transcript

DAVE DAVIES, HOST:

Copyright 2016 Fresh Air. To see more, visit Fresh Air.

Transcript

DAVE DAVIES, HOST:

These days, it can be hard to ignore all the messages to eat less meat and more vegetables.

Last year, the World Health Organization used its megaphone to publicize the link between cancer and excessive red meat consumption.

Dexter Palmer does not do simple. His debut novel, 2011's The Dream of Perpetual Motion, was a complex, intricate mechanism of a book, a postmodern steampunk sprawl set in a dreamlike world. His second (and unrelated) novel, Version Control, is equally complex. But Palmer picks a far less fantastic setting for his latest reality-distorting vision: A fictional college town in New Jersey called Stratton, just a handful of years in the future.

Eleven-year-old Neel Sethi is about to be kidnapped by monkeys. Rigged up to a harness in front of a blue screen, he prepares to run, leap and cavort — a live-action dance that will later be mixed with computer-generated animals.

I came home from a trip the other day with a small plastic bag filled with 4 ounces of brown powder that, truth be told, made me a little nervous.

The powder had a strong odor that reminded me of badly burnt coffee, with perhaps a note of brown sugar.

I didn't dare open that bag. It contained crude caffeine, about 90 percent pure. That small bag held as much caffeine as 1,000 tall lattes from Starbucks, or 2,000 cans of Coke or Pepsi. It was enough to kill several people.

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