Monitor picks

Opposites attract

Like an imaginary dinner party that convenes unlikely guests the Sundance Channel hosts Iconoclasts, pairing creative luminaries from different fields to discuss themselves and each other. It kicks off Oct. 26 at 9 p.m. with surfer Laird Hamilton and Pearl Jam singer Eddie Vedder. Coming soon: Poet Maya Angelou and ribald comedian Dave Chappelle.

Move over Wilbur (or pig tales)

Piggley Winks seems destined to join Wilbur, Freddy, Porky, and Babe in the porcine pantheon of beloved children's characters. On PBS's Jakers! Grandpa Piggley tells stories to his grandpigs about growing up in Ireland with pals Ferny the calf and Dannan the duck. Stay tuned for two live-action features: the sweet "Meet the Grandparents" and a segment that honors the oral storytelling tradition. Mel Brooks is also on hand as Wiley the sheep. (Check local listings.)

Regal reading

For those who prefer their 18th-century monarchs without a pop soundtrack, check out the acclaimed biography that inspired Sofia Coppola's new film. Marie Antoinette: The Journey, by Lady Antonia Fraser, takes a scholarly yet sympathetic look at the queen and has led many to rethink the standard portrait of Marie Antoinette as a monster of selfishness.

A 'beauty' of a novel

Zadie Smith's On Beauty, now in paperback, updates E.M. Forster's "Howard's End" for the present day. Smith examines the culture war with more exuberance than most "literary" novelists seem able to muster these days.

This podcast life

Fans of This American Life no longer need to rearrange their weekends to catch the offbeat NPR radio show. It's available as a free podcast on Mondays through or The first download features personal recordings not intended for public broadcast, including "the greatest voicemail message ever."

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