Summer vacations are where we do some of our most serious thinking — whether we're sitting by the ocean, cradled in a hammock, or strolling alongside a river. And yet, when it comes to summer reading, we can be quick to grab the latest flashy espionage novel or an earthy romance slathered in buttery prose. Not that there isn't a time and place for brain popcorn, but lately, I find that I want my summer reading material to match my buzzing mind. And for that kind of constant engagement, I turn to memoir.
In 2011, NoViolet Bulawayo was awarded the Caine Prize for African Writing for her short story "Hitting Budapest." In this raw, fierce tale of a gang of near-feral children on the hunt for guavas, the young writer delivered one of the most powerful works of fiction to come out of Zimbabwe in recent years — a clear-eyed indictment of a government whose policies, in the decades since independence, have left many of its citizens destitute.
Vaslav Nijinsky as the faun at the premiere of the Ballets Russes' production of <em>Afternoon of the Faun</em> at the Theatre du Chatelet in Paris in May 1912. <a href="http://www.npr.org/assets/img/2013/05/29/3202983_archive.jpg">Click here to see the full costume</a>.
Credit Edward Gooch / Getty Images
Léon Bakst's 1912 costume design for <em>The Afternoon of a Faun</em>.
Credit Wadsworth Atheneum Museum of Art
Henri Matisse's satin costume for a dancer in <em>The Song of the Nightingale</em> (1920).
Credit Victoria and Albert Museum, London
Set designer Alexander Schervashidze enlarged and reproduced a Picasso painting, to serve as a front curtain for "The Blue Train" (1924).
Credit 2013 Estate of Pablo Picasso/Artists Rights Society (ARS)
This 1910 gelatin silver print by Eugène Druet shows Nijinsky in <em>Siamese Dance</em>. The story goes that when asked how he jumped so well, Nijinsky answered, "It's simple. You just jump up there and wait a little while."
If your idea of ballet is a flurry of tutus and toeshoes, a new exhibition at the National Gallery of Art in Washington will expand your vision. "Diaghilev and the Ballets Russes" shows the revolutionary impact a group of dancers, composers, artists and choreographers made on classical dance at the start of the 20th century.
Here's a question: If you go to the movies and the scheduled showtime is, say, 7:30, when do you actually expect the movie to start? If you said 7:30, you go to very unusual screenings. If you said 7:45, you're closer to what many experience. If you said 7:50, you're still in range: There's often some advertising other than trailers, the limit for trailer length is 2 1/2 minutes, and theaters sometimes run seven or eight trailers. Eight would add up to 20 minutes.
Open a design magazine or turn on a home decorating show these days, and it's clear: Midcentury modern is hot. It first showed up in the 1950s and '60s — think low-slung sofas, egg-shaped chairs and the set of Mad Men. My first midcentury modern find was a dining set I bought on Craigslist for $75. There was something about the clean lines and gentle curves of the wooden chairs that got me.
Prescription painkillers are among the most widely used drugs in America. In the decade since New York Times reporter Barry Meier began investigating their use and abuse, he says he has seen the number of people dying from overdoses quadruple — an increase Meier calls "staggering."
"The current statistic is that about 16,000 people a year die of overdoses involving prescription narcotics. ... It's a huge problem. The number of people dying from these drugs is second only to the number of people that die in car accidents," he tells Fresh Air's Terry Gross.
Earlier this month, we told you about a U.N. report that makes the case for insects to improve global food security: They're cheap, plentiful and environmentally sustainable. Now, the coming of the 17-year cicadas provides East Coast Americans, for whom bug eating is considered novel at best, with an opportunity to try local insect cuisine.
Tuesday night on The Voice, Adam Levine — who's the lead singer of Maroon 5 when he's not judging reality television — had two of the singers on his team eliminated. To understand this, just know that each of the four judge-coaches (Levine, Shakira, Usher and Blake Shelton) starts out with a team of singers they're mentoring, and as they go through the competition, the coaches get pretty attached to the folks on their team and try to help them win. If one of your singers wins, you're sort of the "winning" coach for that season.
French film <em>Blue Is the Warmest Colour</em>, winner of the Palme d'Or at the 2013 Cannes Film Festival, tells the story of a teenager named Adele (Adele Exarchopoulos) who falls in love with a blue-haired art student named Emma (Lea Seydoux).
Credit Wild Bunch
John Powers, a <em>Fresh Air</em> critic at large, writes about film and television for <em>Vogue</em> and <em>Vogue Daily.</em>
Credit John Powers
Actors Garrett Hedlund (from left), Justin Timberlake, Carey Mulligan, directors Joel and Ethan Coen, Oscar Isaac and T-Bone Burnett attend the <em>Inside Llewyn Davis</em> press conference at the Cannes Film Festival on May 19.
"It was the film of the festival," critic John Powers tells Fresh Air's Terry Gross about Blue Is the Warmest Color, this year's Palme d'Or winner at the Cannes Film Festival. When Powers says "film of the festival" he means "it was the film that people loved the most, some hated the most, and everyone talked about the most."