The actor and playwright's quarantine media diet is as dramatic as you'd expect
John Cameron Mitchell, the actor, playwright, screenwriter, director, and host of the podcast, Anthem: Homunculus. He is best known for creating Hedwig and the Angry Inch, which began life off-Broadway in 1998, before being turned into a movie, and being revived, in 2014, on Broadway, where it won four Tony Awards.
The Great Believers by Rebecca Makkai
A very moving multi-generational epic about the effect of AIDS on love, family, and art.
The City We Became by N.K. Jemisin
A very fun alt-Marvel sci-fi/fantasy about a strange virus-like creature (hm!) attempting to destroy New York lest it inadvertently destroy other multiverses. Each NYC borough has an avatar: ie, Manhattan is a gay multiracial former graffiti artist, Brooklyn is a black former rapper/councilwoman, Bronx is a Native American arts administrator, Queens is an Indian-American graduate student, and Staten Island is an insecure, xenophobic but deeply neighborhood-proud librarian. The avatars of Sao Paolo and Hong Kong are here to help. Weirdly topical and touching.
The Burgess Boys by Elizabeth Strout
Another one of her lovely small-town meets big-town empathetic stories about the legacy of tragedy and the possibility of change.
The Strange Bird: A Borne Story by Jeff VanderMeer
An incredibly moving sci-fi fairy tale novella that has resonances of Jerzy Kosinski’s The Painted Bird about a cyborg bird—part bird, part machine, part human on a quest to find its maker. A new classic.
A Canticle for Leibowitz by Walter M. Miller Jr.
A strange, erudite, multi-generational quasi-sci-fi epic about a small religious abbey that canonizes a Jewish scientist and preserves the world’s surviving texts during a slow-motion apocalypse.
Cool Town by Grace Elizabeth Hale
Examines how Athens, GA became the melting pot of American indie music with the B-52’s, Pylon, and REM. Interesting, but I missed learning about the rise of the Elephant 6 Collective (Neutral Milk Hotel, etc) in the ’90s.
Anything by Octavia Butler
Grande dame of sci-fi. Her unsparing, humane stories lack subtext (we know everything) but somehow remain subtle and frighteningly possible. I love particularly the Lilith’s Brood trilogy.
The Absolute Book by Elizabeth Knox
Unpublished in the US, I’ve started this unusual and extremely well-written fantasy. Slate called it a masterpiece.
Excellent, like an understated Breaking Bad (which I never got into).
What We Do in the Shadows
Today’s funniest series, lame Staten Island-based vampires from creators Taika Waititi and Jemaine Clement of Flight of the Concords.
Still a barn-burner, Claire Danes can still cry on “Action!” and probably on “Cut!”
Riverdale’s Hedwig episode
Bonkers and ultimately moving.
The Good Fight
The best contemporary topical-issues show.
Super well-made Israeli thriller in the Homeland vein—flirts with right-wing apologia though.
Binge-worthy naturalistic Neapolitan Mafia soap opera.
Tales from the Loop
A low key sci-fi fairy tale that is more interested in people than science or fantasy. Minor key sweetness.
Netflix-based doc about a ’70s summer camp for disabled kids and the civil rights activists who came out of it. Best doc of the year so far!
Never Rarely Sometimes Always
Spare, heartfelt drama about a teenager seeking an abortion. Almost too low-key for its own good.
The Velvet Underground
Directed by Todd Haynes and coming to Apple TV. Just watched a rough cut and it’s mesmerizing.
The Nick Drake/Cat Stevens of Cuba. Brilliant.
Gentle Scottish rainy-day balladeer-in-the-headlights. So calming to my Scots soul.
Trans African American soulstress. Check out her live album. Incredibly sassy version of “Money (That’s What I Want).”
The Alabama Shakes singer’s new solo album is funk and modern as shit.
They tackled every possible musical trend over many decades and, with their supreme hooks, mastered them. Check out their pre-disco work especially: the psychedelic Idea and Horizontal albums, Main Course and Children of the World for expert white-boy funk and slow jams.
Beverly Glenn Copeland
Trans, African American, classically trained singer-songwriter from Philly, now living in Canada. Pure love and spirituality. Check out his “Ever New” and “Sunset Village.”
See what Olivia Laing and Michael Cunningham have been consuming under lockdown.