Summer vacations are where we do some of our most serious thinking — whether we're sitting by the ocean, cradled in a hammock, or strolling alongside a river. And yet, when it comes to summer reading, we can be quick to grab the latest flashy espionage novel or an earthy romance slathered in buttery prose. Not that there isn't a time and place for brain popcorn, but lately, I find that I want my summer reading material to match my buzzing mind. And for that kind of constant engagement, I turn to memoir.
In 2011, NoViolet Bulawayo was awarded the Caine Prize for African Writing for her short story "Hitting Budapest." In this raw, fierce tale of a gang of near-feral children on the hunt for guavas, the young writer delivered one of the most powerful works of fiction to come out of Zimbabwe in recent years — a clear-eyed indictment of a government whose policies, in the decades since independence, have left many of its citizens destitute.
Vaslav Nijinsky as the faun at the premiere of the Ballets Russes' production of Afternoon of the Faun at the Theatre du Chatelet in Paris in May 1912. Click here to see the full costume.
Credit Wadsworth Atheneum Museum of Art
Léon Bakst's 1912 costume design for The Afternoon of a Faun.
Credit Victoria and Albert Museum, London
Henri Matisse's satin costume for a dancer in The Song of the Nightingale (1920).
Credit 2013 Estate of Pablo Picasso/Artists Rights Society (ARS)
Set designer Alexander Schervashidze enlarged and reproduced a Picasso painting, to serve as a front curtain for "The Blue Train" (1924).
Credit Metropolitan Museum of Art
This 1910 gelatin silver print by Eugène Druet shows Nijinsky in Siamese Dance. The story goes that when asked how he jumped so well, Nijinsky answered, "It's simple. You just jump up there and wait a little while."
If your idea of ballet is a flurry of tutus and toeshoes, a new exhibition at the National Gallery of Art in Washington will expand your vision. "Diaghilev and the Ballets Russes" shows the revolutionary impact a group of dancers, composers, artists and choreographers made on classical dance at the start of the 20th century.
Here's a question: If you go to the movies and the scheduled showtime is, say, 7:30, when do you actually expect the movie to start? If you said 7:30, you go to very unusual screenings. If you said 7:45, you're closer to what many experience. If you said 7:50, you're still in range: There's often some advertising other than trailers, the limit for trailer length is 2 1/2 minutes, and theaters sometimes run seven or eight trailers. Eight would add up to 20 minutes.
Open a design magazine or turn on a home decorating show these days, and it's clear: Midcentury modern is hot. It first showed up in the 1950s and '60s — think low-slung sofas, egg-shaped chairs and the set of Mad Men. My first midcentury modern find was a dining set I bought on Craigslist for $75. There was something about the clean lines and gentle curves of the wooden chairs that got me.