The influential and controversial poet, playwright and essayist Amiri Baraka, formerly known as LeRoi Jones, was one of the key black literary voices of the 1960s. The political and social views that inspired his writing changed over the years, from his bohemian days as a young man in Greenwich Village, to black nationalism and later years as a Marxist.
This is FRESH AIR. I'm Dave Davies in for Terry Gross. The new film, "The Invisible Woman," charts the hidden relationship between Charles Dickens and a young actress for whom left his wife, but who for years never showed up in biographies of Dickens. It's the second film directed by Ralph Fiennes, who also plays Dickens and features Felicity Jones as the actress, Nelly Ternan.
Julian Fellowes may be the Lord Fellowes of West Stafford, but the English screenwriter, director and novelist says his background "was much more ordinary than the newspapers have made it." What he means is that he did not grow up with servants waiting on him hand and foot, as people have seen done for the Crawley family on Downton Abbey, the hit television series Fellowes created.
For the past two decades, Rosanne Cash has lived with her family in Manhattan, but in 2008, she was asked if she wanted to help with a project to restore the childhood home of her father, Johnny Cash, in the small town of Dyess, Ark. She agreed and went down there to do some fundraising — and in the process, she and her husband, producer-songwriter-guitarist John Leventhal, took some car trips throughout the South, soaking up history and music.
Midway upon the journey of our life I found myself within a forest dark, For the straightforward pathway had been lost.
Allowing for translation, those are the immortal opening lines of Dante's Divine Comedy. Here, some seven centuries later, are some of Lynn Darling's opening lines from her new memoir, Out of the Woods: "The summer my only child left home for college, I moved from an apartment in New York City, to live alone in a small house at the end of a dirt road in the woods of central Vermont."
Jan. 9 marks the 100th birthday of drummer Kenny Clarke. One of the founders of bebop, Clarke is less well-known than allies like Dizzy Gillespie and Thelonious Monk, but his influence is just as deep.
That thing that jazz drummers do — that ching-chinga-ching beat on the ride cymbal, like sleigh bells? It gives the music a light, airy, driving pulse. Clarke came up with that, and that springy shimmer came to epitomize swinging itself.
Two new miniseries this week are worth special mention — and couldn't be more different.
True Detective, which begins Sunday on HBO, is a combination series and miniseries, kind of like American Horror Story on FX. Each season is designed to tell a different, self-contained story, followed the next year by a new tale with new characters and sometimes even new actors. This first season of True Detective is an eight-hour murder mystery starring Matthew McConaughey and Woody Harrelson, neither of whom is expected to return next season.
Masha Gessen is a prominent journalist who is also a lesbian and an outspoken LGBT rights advocate in Russia. After Russia passed two anti-gay laws in June, she decided it was time for her, her partner and their children to leave. In late December, they moved to New York.
"The only thing more creepy than hearing someone suggest the likes of you should be burned alive is hearing someone suggest the likes of you should be burned alive and thinking, 'I know that guy.' "
Novelist Gary Shteyngart was a wheezing, asthmatic and fearful 7-year-old when he and his parents emigrated from the Soviet Union to Queens, New York, in 1979. (This was soon after America negotiated a trade deal with the Soviets that included allowing Jews to immigrate to Israel, Canada or the U. S.) He tells Fresh Air's Terry Gross that his health was a deciding factor in his parents' decision to move.