Wednesday, March 01, 2006

feb 21, 1925 better late than pregnant, part 4 of 4

One of the things that made the inaugeral February 21, 1925 issue of The New Yorker feel so different, so of its time, was a very timely consciousness of the relationship of New York to a culturally threatening Old Europe.

This actually had a somewhat good side, with America and New York defined, in contrast, as "democratic" opposed to, say "aristocratic," as in the following:

At a fashion show, "The democratic spirit of our time is strengthened almost daily by the arrival of Dukes and Duchesses from other republics, all eager to help America maintain its Jeffersonian simplicities [...] From left to right they were: le Duc et la Duchesse de Richelieu, the Countess Drue and the Baron de Vaux. Another democrat, Miss Marie Dressler, was their fellow judge of beauty."

Or is Dressler just a comic figure, and they are poking fun? Depends on how you look at it; two photos of Dressler. In any case, she's Canadian.

On the Italian director of the Metropolitan Opera, who gives the public what they want, "Perhaps, again, it is simply a disinclination to discover America, a reluctance which has built up a defensive disdain. He has found it as unnecessary to study American minds, American aspirations, American art, as to study American language." And this seems to make the author, signed Golly-Wogg, so angry that he becomes sort of insulting . . .

Combine this with that jab at von Sternberg and you find that what The New Yorker seems afraid of is culturally influential European immigrants, particularly those that don't learn the things the New Yorker would like them too, or, you know, jump right in the old melting pot, a popular concept at the time. This actually seems like an unpleasant part of the emergence of "American" modernism, and the new freedom from European aesthetic tradition that folks were so excited about at that time, where it merges with a kind of xenophobia.

That said, there was a beautiful portrait of the opera director by Miguel Covarrubias, less a caricature than the written profile was. In the same style as this later portrait of FDR.


On flapper jokes. For some reason when I was little I thouht flappers were mythic. Like, there hadn't really ever been any flappers, they were imagined after the fact. Maybe, maybe not. But the following joke caught my eye:

On "The Painted Lily" "She is invariably late for an appointment, and has usually forgotten something vitally important - not infrequently herself."

And it is this that gave rise to the title of series (now thankfully done - I sense my readers were bored), "Better late than Pregnant." Well, that and the Golden Girls and the fact that I was late to the anniversary party.

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