The Sleep of Reason and Hearing

Sometime in late 1792, Spanish painter Francisco Goya fell ill with an undiagnosed malady. It was a long and painful period that started with headaches, dizziness, auditory problems, and depression. During this time of agony, the painter suffered from severe hallucinations as well. The cause of his illness was never determined, though his friend Martin Zapatero noted that “the nature of this illness [was] of the very worst kind.” He was forty-six, and he did survive, but with permanent hearing loss.

After Manet: The Wife, the Fish, and the Philosopher

She had fair and healthy skin, slightly red on the cheeks, and flawlessly taut around the eyes. Her aquiline nose was the most prominent feature of her face, protruding over shapely lips. Brown eyes, light like unripened almonds, were half-covered by sleepy eyelids, and framed subtly by modest brows.

A Man Who Dreams: Walton Ford’s “Barbary”

On a foggy, grim October evening in 1913, the famous Barnum’s Circus was transporting its animals and equipment through the cobblestone streets of Leipzig, Germany, when a streetcar collided with one of its carriages. Inside this particular carriage were eight Barbary lions from North Africa, all of whom escaped and disappeared into the mist. For four long hours, wild beasts haunted the city’s dark alleyways, before the lions were hunted down and killed by local police. […]

The End of Writing, or Ursula Monkton

This is a story about monsters. I met one on a hot summer day on the subway to Coney Island. While listening to an audiobook, ‘The Ocean at the End of the Lane’ (HarperCollins, 2013), read by its author Neil Gaiman, he gave a name to someone I already knew well: “The thing that called itself Ursula Monkton hung in the air, about twenty feet above me, and lightnings crawled and flickered in the air behind her.” […]