Arts and culture

At times in her new novel, it seems Ludmila Ulitskaya has her sights set on depicting the entire Soviet Union. The battered tramps, the generals and detainees, the dissidents and KGB informers, scholars, bullies, bumblers and nonpersons — all the lives, large and little, that shaped the hulking 20th-century empire like the dots on a pointillist painting. She crafts a cast of dozens in The Big Green Tent, with an eye trained as intensely on high-altitude Soviet policy as it is on the paupers stretching every last ration.

Humor and horror taste great together, a fact Paul Meloy knows well. The British author's debut novel The Night Clock strikes exactly that balance, with the added perk of dark, far-flung fantasy. Set in contemporary England, it revolves around Phil Trevena, a 40-something who — like Meloy himself — works as a psychiatric nurse, counseling the mentally ill.

True confession: I joined Twitter in order to follow a curry truck while I was living in the San Francisco Bay Area. The Bay Area had plenty of Indian buffets, but Indian street food was hard to find.

Back here in Kolkata, there's street food everywhere. Puffed rice tossed with pungent mustard oil, onions and chilies. Indian wraps with a layer of egg, crispy phuchka shells dunked in tangy, tamarind water.

What I didn't expect to find: a food truck.

Hours after launching a Kickstarter campaign to revive a TV show that made it fun to watch horrible movies, Mystery Science Theater 3000 creator Joel Hodgson has raised more than $500,000 — a quarter of his $2 million goal.

When it comes to enjoying the flavors in food, our tongues really aren't that useful. They can detect just a few basic tastes: sweet, salt, sour, bitter, umami, and maybe fat.

When Saturday Night Live's Colin Jost and Michael Che became co-anchors of the show's "Weekend Update" segment, they knew they had big shoes to fill.

" 'Update' is such an institution," Che tells Fresh Air's Terry Gross. At first, "you really just try to do what's worked before, what you've seen working, what you've loved about it."

But the co-anchors say they realized the segment was stronger if they dialed up their banter and acted more like who they are off camera. "Episode by episode, we've been bringing that a lot more," Che says.

Wild foliage, the cries of fishmongers, near-crazed love, musty rooms and forbidden sex overspill Brazilian author Milton Hatoum's 2000 novel The Brothers. For Fábio Moon and Gabriel Bá, adapting this book into comic form must have seemed both scary and inevitable. The second novel from the multiple-award-winning Hatoum, it concerns two men who are twins — just like the Brazilian artists, who have themselves won multiple awards.

'The Pickle Index' Is A Tart, Tangy Multi-Platform Romp

Nov 10, 2015

The Pickle Index app — one way to experience Eli Horowitz's newest novel and multimedia project — opens with what looks like an ad for an Apple product. Millennials gather to feast together in a stylishly decorated home, laughing and communing silently behind a veneer of electric pop. They lay down newspaper; they tuck napkins into their shirt collars. But instead of plates of steamed seafood or roasted vegetables, a tray is overturned before them, and there are ... pickles. Huge, meaty dill pickles. The hip young friends joyfully pick up the pickles.

Betsy Broun, director of the American Art Museum, grew up in a small town in Kansas. When she saw the photographs of women in Vogue -- with their pinched waists and impersonal expressions — "it never even dawned on me that those women lived on my planet," she says.

Irving Penn took those posed, perfect, glossy images — some of which are now on view at the Smithsonian American Art Museum in Washington, D.C.