Arts & Culture

Arts and culture

'Smoke' Author Dan Vyleta Keeps It Messy

4 hours ago

The river Avon is crowded: swans, boaters, a swimming dog or two. On the bank, an excited old man waves at each boat like a castaway sighting rescue.

Stratford is all pubs and thatched roofs and sweet shops, with its daytrippers and slightly suffocating, kitschified Shakespearean pedigree (I say that: I still contemplated buying an "Out, damn spot" novelty eraser). The author Dan Vyleta teaches in nearby Birmingham, but lives here with his partner, a literary translator. We're sitting on a bench on the opposite bank from the happy castaway, looking at the Avon.

Copyright 2016 NPR. To see more, visit NPR.

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

Novelist Joe Hill has a pronouncement to make: "The world is really divided into two kinds of people. People who adore plague novels and wimps."

Known mostly for graphic novels, Fantagraphics has ventured occasionally into prose — including His Wife Leaves Him, the 2013 novel by award-winning author Stephen Dixon. Letters to Kevin is Dixon's second book for Fantagraphics, and while it's also a work of prose, it veers a bit closer to the publisher's wheelhouse: It's profusely illustrated by Dixon himself. It's a risky move; most of Dixon's rudimentary sketches are of the don't-quit-your-day-job variety.

Classical music fans know the names Mendelssohn and Schumann. Chances are, Felix and Robert leap to mind — but Felix's sister Fanny was also a composer, and so was Robert Schumann's wife Clara. Those are just two composers featured in Anna Beer's new book, Sounds and Sweet Airs: The Forgotten Women of Classical Music.

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

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

The copper craft makers in Seffarin Square in the historic district of Fez, Morocco, bang out designs on platters and shape copper pots to a rhythm.

Called the medina, neighborhood streets lined with domes and archways take you back through the history of the dynasties and occupiers that ruled Morocco from the 9th century on. At the center of the square is the Qarawiyyin Library, founded more than a millennium ago.

Even car racing fans may be surprised to learn that in the 1920s a poem would grace the pages of the race-day program. But then, what better way to get the juices flowing, amid the exhaust, screaming engines and checkered flags, than a few lines of verse?

In case by now you didn't know it,

the Indy 500 has brought back its poet.

Ben Collins is a very, very good driver. You may have seen him drive on the European race circuit, or on the BBC show Top Gear, or in the James Bond movies. He's written a book called How to Drive so that you, too, can come to a screeching stop right at the edge of a cliff. (Or so we hope.)

Since Collins knows a lot about gears, we've decided to quiz him on Richard Gere.

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

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

On the first page of Girls on Fire, author Robin Wasserman asks us to imagine a group of teenage girls on a bus. "Give in: Pick a pair of them, lost in each other, a matched set like a vision out of the past," she writes. "Nobody special, two nobodies. Except that together, they're radioactive: together, they glow."

Playwright Dominique Morisseau is kind of the unofficial poet laureate of Detroit. She has written three plays about her hometown and her latest, Skeleton Crew, looks at four African-American automobile workers struggling with the economic downturn in 2008. The play is currently running off-Broadway, where it's gotten rave reviews.

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