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Arts

Arts and culture

Tax records and literary criticism are strange bedfellows. But over the weekend, the two combined and brought into the world a literary controversy — call it the Ferrante Furor of 2016.

To put it briefly: Elena Ferrante, an admired and cherished Italian novelist, has always made it clear that her name is a pseudonym and her true identity is not for public consumption.

Courtesy of John Waters

What you think of the film director John Waters might depend on how you came to know him. Maybe you first saw his work “Hairspray,” a 1988 film with Ricki Lake as a plucky Baltimore teen fighting segregation. It was later the subject of a remake and also adapted as a bright and bouncy musical. Or maybe you know his earlier work, which earned him a reputation for depicting shocking things, like bodily functions, sex acts, and more.

From the lingering sins of a nation's snarled roots to the complexities of mental illness and even to the colorful quest for a name of one's own, the books that round out this year's Kirkus Prize shortlists won't let you easily forget history — on whatever scale it's defined.

William Patrick Kinsella, the Canadian author whose award-winning book Shoeless Joe was adapted into the beloved film Field of Dreams, has died at the age of 81.

His literary agent Carolyn Swayze issued a statement Friday confirming his death, calling him "a unique, creative and outrageously opinionated man."

In the world of literary prizes, Britain's Man Booker stands out as one of the most prestigious and lucrative. So every year, writers and their publishers and agents are eager to learn who made the final cut. Tuesday, the six writers who made it to the shortlist were revealed.

Two Americans, two Brits and two Canadians are now competing for the award, which is given each year for a novel written in English that has been published in the U.K.

You say you're fixing to make a new Star Trek show? Or film? Or novel, comic book, videogame, song cycle, stage play, puppet show or series of cave paintings? Great! Here's what you'll need to get started — the five essential building blocks of Trek:

1. A Cool Spaceship

... Duh. It's called Star Trek. It's about trekking. (Or in the case of Deep Space Nine, which is a space station and not a spaceship, getting trekked to and from). Don't forget the nacelles.

Ed Ronco / knkx

Expect heavy traffic in Seattle this weekend. 

The enormous Bumbershoot festival happens at Seattle Center. The University of Washington Huskies football team opens its season at home this weekend. The Mariners are playing. And the giant gaming convention PAX West is going on at the Washington State Convention Center.

The V&E Simonetti Historic Tuba Collection in Durham, N.C., is the result of an obsession that grew one oompah-pah at a time.

Vincent Simonetti started playing tuba in high school in the 1950s — and it was love at first puff.

"And I would draw it in study hall. I'd draw pictures of it. I don't know why. I just became obsessed with it," he says.

Actor and writer Gene Wilder, who brought his signature manic energy to films such as The Producers, Blazing Saddles, Young Frankenstein and the role that forever ensconced him in the collective memory of a generation of children, Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory, has died. He was 83.

Wilder died early Monday at his home in Stamford, Conn., of complications from Alzheimer's disease, according to a statement from his nephew Jordan Walker-Pearlman.

We're not going to bury the lede here: Bob Ross' hair was actually straight. Just ask his longtime business partner, Annette Kowalski, who knew Ross better than anyone — he had just gotten out of the Air Force, and was unsuccessfully trying to make a living as a painter, she says.

Juan Gabriel, a singular superstar who transcended borders and the trappings of gender with meticulously crafted pop songs and a flamboyant showmanship that earned him the nickname the "divo of Juarez," has died, according to the Los Angeles County Department of Medical Examiner.

Juan Gabriel was 66 years old and he was found at a residence in Santa Monica with no apparent foul play.

Typically superheroes spend their summertime helming big budget franchises for movie studios. This year, with blockbuster season winding down and schools opening their doors, Marvel's following up its summer at the multiplex by giving its superheroes a new assignment.

Good news: We've got a Code Switch podcast extra for you this week — Karen Grigsby Bates sat down with NPR's movie critic, Bob Mondello, to talk about Southside with You, a new independent film about Michelle and Barack Obama's very first date, back in the summer of 1989.

The film takes place over the course of a single afternoon, and, as the title suggests, is set on the South Side of Chicago.

Comedy Central is canceling The Nightly Show with Larry Wilmore after Thursday's episode.

The announcement came as a surprise Monday with the network cutting loose the politically conscious show a few months before the presidential election.

In a statement, Comedy Central credited Wilmore and his staff with generating conversations "by addressing social issues of great importance to the country, always challenging people's attitudes, perceptions and bias."

Florangela Davila / KPLU

Let’s take a minute to consider what it’s sometimes like when you go see art. You walk into a museum. You take a look around and you’re just not feeling it. It’s as if someone’s thrown a party and everyone else but you is having a really good time.

Susan Stamberg, however, has been demystifying the arts for the public for decades through her stories on NPR.  Now a special correspondent, Stamberg was the first woman to anchor a nightly news program and has been with the network since its inception in 1971.

“First Lady of Radio,” I say to her.

Using specialized X-ray imaging, a team of researchers in Australia has revealed a striking painting of a woman's face hidden under French Impressionist Edgar Degas' Portrait of a Woman.

The researchers believe the auburn-haired woman in the hidden work — which they also attribute to Degas — is Emma Dobigny, who was reportedly one of Degas' favorite subjects and modeled for him in 1869 and 1870.

Jon Pack

Comedian Mike Birbiglia is in Seattle Friday Aug. 5 for screenings of his new film “Don’t Think Twice” at SIFF Cinema Uptown. Birbiglia wrote, directed and stars in the movie that focuses on six friends who are part of an improv group called The Commune. His name might be familiar because of his contributions to public radio shows such as This American Life.

Birbiglia says he decided to use improv in the movie because it's his "first love."

Ask Walter Mosley what he does, and he'll say, simply, "I'm a writer." And he's written a lot: 52 books, about 30 short stories and another 30 or 40 articles, he says. While most writers specialize in one or two types of books, Mosley refuses to be constrained. He has written mysteries, science fiction, erotica, young adult fiction, plays, opinion pieces and essays. He has even penned a slim book that instructs would-be fiction writers on how to get started.

Helen Gurley Brown, the tiny, tough and influential editor-in-chief of Cosmopolitan, who transformed the staid family magazine and took circulation to giddy heights, did so by lubricating its pages with one word: sex.

Make that extra-marital sex.

You might not know Marni Nixon's name, but you've probably heard her. The singer dubbed the voices for Deborah Kerr in The King and I, Natalie Wood in West Side Story and Audrey Hepburn in My Fair Lady — three of Hollywood's biggest movie musicals.

Nixon died Sunday at 86 from complications from breast cancer.

It was the summer of 1979, and disco was taking over the world. Donna Summer, Chic and Gloria Gaynor were at the top of the charts. Just a few months earlier, the Saturday Night Fever soundtrack had been named Album of the Year at the Grammy Awards. Radio stations were switching to all-disco formats.

Cynthia Ozick is revered by those who love literature. She's written novels, but also short stories and essays. Her fiction has been nominated for various awards and she's received high praise from critics as well as her fellow writers.

But you won't find her on best-seller lists. Ozick seeks neither fame nor fortune from her writing. For Ozick, she feels it a necessity to write. "I can't not," she says.

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