“It all adds up to a fascinating portrait-of-the-artist-on-the-make in the booming 1950s. And it makes you wish the stories were better.” Year-in-Reading alum Jess Walter reviews a new (911-page) collection of stories by Kurt Vonnegut. See also: “2 B R 0 2 B”, a “lost” Vonnegut story that first appeared in the sci-fi journal Worlds of If in January 1962.
In 1970, a journalist named Joseph Epstein wrote an essay for Harper’s that came to a frightening conclusion: that Epstein would, if possible, “wish homosexuality off the face of the Earth.” The incendiary language inspired Merle Miller, a former editor at the magazine, to publish a call-to-arms, “What It Means to Be a Homosexual,” that became the basis of the book On Being Different. Emily Greenhouse puts the essay in context at Page-Turner.
Apocalyptic literature is nothing new, but it may, according to Grayson Clary, be entering a new era. In Bookforum, he argues that Benjamin Percy’s The Dead Lands ushers the genre into its mannerist phase. Sample quote: “The Dead Lands is really the stripped, buffed skeleton of a road story, set up to show off—attractively—an enormous quantity of decorating tropes.” You could also read our interview with Percy.
You probably knew a Lothario was a character before his name grew into a generic euphemism for “Guy You Don’t Want Your Daughter Dating,” but what about “brainiac,” “mentor,” and “pamphlet”? It turns out character names have been making their way into everyday vocabulary for thousands of years.