Here are the first lines of the new David Mitchell novel, The Thousand Autumns of Jacob de Zoet, forthcoming in July: “‘Miss Kawasemi?’ Orito kneels on a stale and sticky futon. ‘Can you hear me?’ In the rice paddy beyond the garden, a cacophony of frogs detonates. Orito dabs the concubine’s sweat-drenched face with a damp cloth.”
“[I]f your kid isn’t reading yet, he won’t know you’re gender-swapping Elliot the elephant.” Lifehacker considers how to get boys to read so-called “girls' books,” i.e., enjoy books with both male and female protagonists. Pair with T.K. Dalton's consideration of gender, childrearing, and reading.
Over at Public Books, Jared Gardner explores the theme of pain and illness at the heart of many graphic narratives. As he explains it, “Illness, mental and physical, is arguably comics’ invisible master theme, deeply woven into their genome and shaping the stories they tell, from the earliest newspaper strips (chronic allergies in Winsor McCay’s Little Sammy Sneeze) through the rise of superhero comics (from Batman’s PTSD in 1939 through the Fantastic Four’s radiation poisoning in 1961).” Pair with Paul Morton’s Millions piece on the history of Marvel Comics.
As John Steinbeck's classic Travels With Charley nears the half-century mark, a writer has retraced the author's cross-country journey and come to the conclusion that the resulting book was full of inaccuracies and outright fabrications. The journalist Bill Steigerwald, whose article appears in the current issue of the libertarian quarterly Reason, says he didn't set out to trash the Nobel laureate. "As a libertarian, I kind of liked the old guy," Steigerwald tells the New York Times. "He liked guns; he liked property rights."
The VQR's last issue, "The Soviet Ghost," was one of the most heart-wrenching reading experiences I've had in a long time. Now it's got a series of video interviews with Chernobyl workers to seriously depress (and also greatly inform) you all over again.
Random House is releasing a collection of previously unpublished poems and stories from Truman Capote’s youth, recently found in the archives of the New York Public Library. Over at Full Stop, Jacob Kiernan examines the keen political conscience in Capote’s never-before-published work. As he explains it, “While his early stories are structurally simple, they evince a prescient social conscience.”
The estimable New York Times Magazine profiled Patricia Lockwood this week, and in the process printed the phrase “tit-pics” for probably the first time in the Grey Lady’s history. Lockwood’s name should be no stranger to Millions readers, of course, as I’ve previously steered readers’ attention toward The Poet Laureate of Twitter’s works in the past (such as this one, and this one, and this one, too.) As a bonus, Dwight Garner reviewed her latest collection, Motherland Fatherland Homelandsexuals, for the paper as well.