1. Read We Need New Names
A Zimbabwean author’s vivid first novel.
Darling, Bastard, Chipo, Godknows: With a little imagination, that could almost be a grammatically correct sentence. In fact, those are the central characters of We Need New Names, a remarkable debut novel set partly in an unnamed African country and partly in America, by the Stegner Fellow NoViolet Bulawayo. —Kathryn Schulz
Reagan Arthur Books, May 21.
2.–3. Hear and See Audra McDonald
New album, new PBS special.
It’s entirely possible that Audra McDonald is the greatest singer alive. Her huge range (of ability and vocals) can turn even iffy revivals or operas into compelling events, which may be why she has five Tony awards already, with a lot of years still ahead of her. Her new album, Go Back Home, shows off her core strengths—it’s all American musical-theater standards by Sondheim, Guettel, Comden and Green, and more—and she’ll sing selections on the PBS telecast next week.
Nonesuch Records, May 21; Audra McDonald in Concert: Go Back Home, PBS, May 24, 9 p.m.
4. Read A Delicate Truth (or Anything) by John le Carré
Work your way back.
If you’ve already torn through A Delicate Truth, the new John le Carré novel (out earlier this month), go back and read his old stuff. To inspire you, here’s an irresistible sentence from Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy: “By the by, he is a virgin, about eight feet tall, and built by the same firm that did Stonehenge.” Start there, or with The Spy Who Came in From the Cold. —K.S.
5. See The Jukebox
Funny storytelling, inspired by karaoke.
This evening, co-hosted by Vulture’s Margaret Lyons, looks to be a fun one: Guest performers (this time, they’ll include Janeane Garofalo, Peter Grosz, and Griffin Newman) each tell a story that’s inspired by or connected to a song, and then they karaoke-sing it. This month’s theme is “prom,” so expect a certain amount of Boyz II Men.
Union Hall, 702 Union Street, Park Slope; May 21.
6. See A Family for All Occasions
The Labyrinth Theater Company finds its way back.
We don’t seem to see as much from the Labyrinth as we did a few years ago—Philip Seymour Hoffman, Stephen Adly Guirgis, and their collaborators are very busy people these days. So we are eager to see what Hoffman does when he directs playwright Bob Glaudini’s classic setup: A newly retired dad and his exhausted wife and oblivious son are visited by his promiscuous daughter and her peculiarly influential new boyfriend.
Bank Street Theater, 155 Bank Street, through May 26.
7. Read Jon Mooallem’s Wild Ones
The subtitle tells it all: “A Sometimes Dismaying, Weirdly Reassuring Story About Looking at People Looking at Animals in America.”
It features a “copulation hat” for captive falcons on the third page. It turns Thomas Jefferson’s quest to find a woolly mammoth in America into intriguing political history. It includes a pseudo–chase sequence involving the author, a polar bear, and Martha Stewart. There is, in short, ridiculously lots to love about Jon Mooallem’s Wild Ones—starting with its thoughtful and troubling observation that our increasingly extravagant effort at species conservation is a corollary to, as much as a solution for, our habit of rendering wild animals extinct. —K.S.
Penguin Press, May 16.
8. See The Office
The final episode.
That’s what she said, and that’s all she wrote.
May 16, NBC, 9 p.m.
9. See Richard Serra: Early Work
Hollywood is all on about the latest Iron Man blockbuster: Enter the art world’s original man of steel (and lead) in a kick-ass show of very early artworks. Installed by the superhero himself, the show is dense with work, energy, and ideas. Huge slabs, interspaced with old metal doors, sliced pipes, hanging felt, lead coils. All create a solar system of some of the strongest, most original work of the late sixties. —Jerry Saltz
David Zwirner, 537 West 20th Street, through June 15.
10. See Inside Amy Schumer
Off to a great start.
This new series’ sketch comedy revolves around social awkwardness, a little like that of The Kids in the Hall, and is bracketed with stand-up sets from the likes of Tig Notaro (who is also a writer on the show). Schumer’s timing is great, and she knows how to work the small screen without mugging. It’s a rarity: a female-friendly, consciousness-raised comedy zone that is also funny. Extremely promising.
Comedy Central, Tuesdays, 10:30 p.m.
11.–13. See, Hear, and Consider Matthew Barney
Multimedia artist, in every medium.
The Morgan’s show of drawings by this nearly impenetrable artist opened last week with a flurry of affiliated events. At the museum itself, Barney will show the results of his latest “Drawing Restraint” performance, the twentieth in the series. At the Public Library, he’ll sit down with the curator and interviewer Paul Holdengräber and attempt to put some portion of what he does into words. And if you want to try to make sense of it at home, Rizzoli’s companion book contains two smart essays about his work—including one by psychotherapist Adam Phillips.
Morgan Library & Museum, though September 2; New York Public Library, May 21, 7 p.m; Rizzoli.