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Scott Simon

Harold Evans sees a lot of fog all around us: Murky words, qualifiers, and subordinate clauses that clog a sentence and route expression into obscurity. Puffed up phrases, passive voices, misused words and words with no meaning, verbs twisted into nouns, buzzwords and hackneyed terms that make the language we use to deliver news, exchange opinions, trade stories, give direction, and declare love into a pea-souper of imprecision and cliche.

One of the world's most lauded novelists has produced her first collection of short stories in decades. The Purple Swamp Hen and Other Stories is by Penelope Lively, who won the Man Booker Prize in 1987 for Moon Tiger and had a bestseller in How it All Began. Her latest is a collection that looks at life in ancient Pompeii, and modern-day western metropolises. They are often short, even for short stories — and subtly simple, or, if you prefer, deceptively nuanced.

A new film starring Richard Gere follows a Jewish man who pops up on the streets of Manhattan dropping names, handing out cards and promising to connect people. That man, Norman, befriends an Israeli politician whose career is on the outs. Three years later, the politician, Eshel, returns as prime minister and their paths cross again.

A short film that's filled with big Hollywood names premiered Tuesday in Bentonville, Ark. The Forever Tree, a black historical fantasy film, stars Wendell Pierce and Olivia Washington. It made its debut at the third Bentonville Film Festival, which aims to headline creative works by women and filmmakers of color.

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