What makes us happy: NPR

Jaquel Spivey and the cast of ‘A Strange Loop’ perform during the 75th annual Tony Awards on June 12 at Radio City Music Hall in New York City.

Charles Sykes/Invision/AP

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Charles Sykes/Invision/AP

Jaquel Spivey and the cast of ‘A Strange Loop’ perform during the 75th annual Tony Awards on June 12 at Radio City Music Hall in New York City.

Charles Sykes/Invision/AP

This week, NPR released its list of the best games of 2022 so far, quidditch has rebranded itself as “quadball,” and J. Lo is now Jennifer Lynn Affleck.

Here’s what NPR’s Pop Culture Happy Hour team was paying attention to — and what you should check out this weekend.

The Protagonist's Journey
The Protagonist's Journey

The Protagonist’s Journey: An Introduction to Character-Driven Screenwriting and Storytelling

I don’t think I can talk about Beyonce’s “Break My Soul” without getting mad anymore, so I switched to a book I like called The Protagonist’s Journey by Scott Myers. It’s an introduction to screenwriting and storytelling driven by character-driven narratives.

The book is very straightforward and easy to read, but it also provides a lot of thought, especially if you’re writing and get stuck. You can just flip through the pages and have great ways to generate new ideas.

Myers is an amazing writer who has worked in Hollywood for about 30 years, so having all of this knowledge in one book is very nice. — Joelle Monique

hurricane season and paradise

Fernanda Melchor
Fernanda Melchor

I think one of my favorite feelings is finding an author that makes you want to read. There’s this Mexican novelist, Fernanda Melchor, who now has two recently released books in English: paradise and hurricane season. She reads a bit heavy, in the sense that she writes about ecosystems of desperation, misogyny and poverty that lead to terrible violence.

His first book, hurricane season, is the one I would recommend the most. It centers around the murder of the local witch in this Mexican town (she’s the kind of person to go to if you need your employer to fall down the steps and you need to drink some sort of potion or something ). Through the characters, the author creates different entry points that lead you to how the witch was killed and what led to her murder.

Melchor writes in these really long William Faulkner-like sentences, the kind that can take you through decades and in and out of physical and psychological spaces. She makes it feel as easy as breathing, writing about all the different elements that can create that perfect storm of violence.

It’s not an easy read. There are passages where I had to put the book down because it was so disturbing and uncomfortable. But she’s such a gifted writer that I can’t recommend her highly enough. It’s really fascinating; it’s one of those books you’ll be thinking about when you’re not reading it. paradise is a shorter and easier read, but it’s just as heartbreaking. —Marc Rivers

A strange loop


Last week I had the chance to go see a live theater performance for the first time since the pandemic. I happened to find myself in New York and I saw A strange loop. We’ve talked about it in other pop culture happy hour episodes of our Tony Awards season, and it’s just as fantastic as everything I’ve heard and read about it says.

The musical is written by Michael R. Jackson and is about a young, fat, queer black man. His name is Usher, and he’s an usher in various Broadway plays, including The Lion King, which is referenced several times in the show. He wants to do his own musical theater play, but he also has to come out to his parents, his parents not accepting him and his parents wanting him to write a Tyler Perry play, for the Lord’s sake.

The cast is also comprised of Usher’s six thoughts, six individual blocks played by six different actors, including “self-hating” and “horny.” If you find yourself in New York, you should definitely try to see the show. I’ve been listening to the soundtrack on repeat (ha-ha) for about a week. I loved it and I want to see it again. —Aisha Harris

More Recommendations from the Pop Culture Happy Hour Newsletter

by Linda Holmes

I listened to Patrick Radden Keefe’s audiobook excellent collection Rascals, which brings together years of reported stories of criminals and wrongdoing and generally bad behavior. You’ll hear about government corruption, defense against the death penalty, El Chapo and Mark Burnett. It is an excellent book, and its narration is exceptional. (Note: his publisher shares a parent company, Penguin Random House, with mine.)

You have probably already seen Emmanuel the emu, right? Staring at the camera getting ready to peck her senseless while her best friend tells her, “Emmanuel, don’t do it? » Be sure to follow the account, Knuckle Bump Farmsbecause it’s great fun.

It sounds a bit depressing, but the Dan Kois series overflows to Slate on the 50 Best Fictional Deaths is really interesting and covers a lot of ground. Good product.

NPR’s Maison Tran adapted the Pop Culture Happy Hour segment “What’s Making Us Happy” into a digital page. If you like these suggestions, consider subscribe to our newsletter for recommendations each week. And listen to Pop Culture Happy Hour on Apple podcast and Spotify.

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