Emily St. John Mandel's new novel, Station Eleven, opens with a vain actor — and is there really any other kind? — who dies of a heart attack onstage as he plays King Lear in Toronto. His co-stars can't remember if he had a family to notify. But soon, within minutes, the death of one man playing Lear disappears into the vast, mass death of a worldwide plague called the Georgia Flu.
It's been a scuffle of candidate platforms, fickle endorsements and even a few dignified bouts of mud-slinging — and for once, the hubbub had nothing to do with American politics. In fact, it featured a cast of characters you might not have expected: those men and women of letters, the poets.
On Friday, British poet Simon Armitage won election as the newest Oxford professor of poetry. He edged out Nobel laureate Wole Soyinka and American poet A.E. Stallings.
Villains are staples of stories for kids. Making them bigger, meaner, madder, more impossible to defeat — that's how you build the ideas of fear and then, inevitably, of courage. A small person faces a giant, or a witch, or a wolf, or Jafar, or Cruella De Vil, or the Buy 'N' Large, and by watching that happen, you learn. You learn what it takes to beat the bad guy. You learn that you, too, can beat the bad guy. You learn not to lose heart and not to give up. You use something inside yourself to beat something outside yourself.
I'm just going to tell you right off the bat, you guys: we really liked Inside Out. This does not exactly make us outliers in the critical landscape, but we sit down this week with the great Kat Chow of NPR's Code Switch team to talk about the film. It's a thought-provoking story and visually inventive, so we'll spend some time on the various creative forces at work. At the same time, we ding its one weak scene that unfortunately shows up in a lot of the trailers and we debate who cried the most.
Psychologist Dan Gilbert shares research on what he calls the "end of history illusion," where we think the person we are right now is the person we'll be for the rest of time. Hint: that's not the case.