“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.
When Damien Searls first read W.G. Sebald, he thought the German writer was uniquely good at factoring historical circumstance into his thinking. Sebald’s unyielding reminders of the horrors of the past were a nice corrective to the feel-good pablums of the ‘90s. But reading Sebald now, Searls thinks something has changed. What happened? The world went online. (Related: Greg Walklin on Sebald’s A Place in the Country.)
Starting today and lasting until the end of the summer, The New Yorker is completely free online, including archives back to 2007. What to read? To start off, try searching the fiction page for, say, George Saunders. There’s that famous Lawrence Wright piece on Scientology. Or feel free to consult the magazine’s own roundup. But I happen to be most impressed by this grandaddy of all longform articles on six survivors of Hiroshima (subscription required).
In the current Broadway production of Twelfth Night, Mark Rylance plays Olivia, a role which sees him plaster his face in white makeup and style his hair into a “pouf like a charcoal brioche.” Rylance, the first artistic director of the Globe Theatre in London, projects such a palpable “air of distracted grief” in his performance that “the carapace of theatricality evaporates,” Charles Isherwood writes. The Times theater critic also highlights the work of John Douglas Thompson and Harriet Walter.
In the late 1860s, James Crichton-Browne, director of the West Riding Lunatic Asylum, gave Charles Darwin a collection of photographic portraits depicting the “afflicted and insane.” What followed was a six-year relationship in which both men corresponded about “the physical manifestations of natural selection.”