Celebrate van Gogh’s birthday (March 30, 1853) with this post from Brain Pickings on the artist’s meditations on the human pursuit of greatness.
“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.
“First, humans domesticated the horse. Then, we invented analgesia for the horses while we got rid of God—eliminating pain while also eliminating pain’s previously greatest meaning. This made a lonely universe. We partially solved loneliness by inventing smartphones, but this also created our now endless distraction—which, fortunately, can be treated with Vyvanse.” Sasha Chapin for Hazlitt on his friend Rachel, who is living with a terminal illness.
"To be able to sing under that kind of oppression I think, in a lot of ways, is the very essence of survival, of a people, of the ability to have to the hope to make something beautiful amongst so much wretchedness." Tyehimba Jess, author of the fantastic new collection of poetry Olio, is interviewed over at The Literary Hub.
2012 could be the year that we get to know Sergei Dovlatov, and our own Sonya Chung may have played a role. Her 2009 piece on the forgotten Russian humorist helped land one of his stories in PEN America. Soon we started seeing Dovlatov mentioned everywhere, and last year, Counterpoint published The Suitcase, and now The Zone will be released this week. Other new releases this week: An Available Man by Hilma Wolitzer, Heft by Liz Moore, and The Evening Hour, a debut novel by Carter Sickels.
Is that a severed prostitute's nipple in my Mozart? At City Journal, Heather MacDonald mourns the rise of slick, irreverent productions of classical operas in Europe known as Regietheater (director's theater), a theory of opera direction that holds the director's take on an opera to be as (0r more) important than the artist's text.