Monday, July 14, 2008

oh, please.

Have you seen the latest issue of The New Yorker?!!? Of course Harold Bloom is a goddamn Yankees fan!!! He would be!

As for that other business, I'll get back to you.

Saturday, July 12, 2008

Allen Shawn in the NYT Magazine

Remember William Shawn's daughter Mary? Allen Shawn's autistic twin sister? Sure you do. Anyway, Allen Shawn writes about her in the NYT Magazine's "Eat, Memory" column a few weeks back. It's a tough piece.

He begins, "These days, children with the degree of autism, mental retardation and elements of schizophrenia from which she suffers are more likely to live in a group home than to be institutionalized. Indeed, even the notion of 'suffering' that I just suggested has come to look a bit suspect, since it implies that it is 'best' for a person not to have certain 'deficits.' And I am no longer certain that she suffers more than others . . . "

Here, he reveals his own attitude towards his sister. He assumes she suffers. Wait, no, scratch that, he used to assume she suffered. But then the passive construction of the second sentence - his assumption has come to look suspect - inserts a bit of distance and suggests that it really just looks suspect to other people. What about to him? Maybe he's not entirely on board with accepting her, as is, as other people "these days" might. So things are kind of up in the air. He's self-conscious about his more conventional judgments and values, he's revising them, but they are very present. Good set up.

And then he tells a story: about how the family hosts annual birthday parties for Mary, and they invariably serve the same thing, a menu that Mary gets excited about and talks about and anticipates and so on . . . same thing, every year for 50 years.

Well, finally, one year, Mom is aging and the kids (and assorted "friends") have to throw the party, but things spin out of control a bit and someone makes a platter of antipasti and someone makes a salad and some fruit and Mary enjoys it and Allen realizes "how vast and mysterious we all are." Even Mary.

On the one hand, the story is great. Shawn is confronting the limitations of how he and the family have related to his sister in the past.

On the other hand, the story is old hat. "We" watch a disabled woman become human. While she eats. Shawn mentions "our mother" and "our friends" and the we of the our is always he and his brother.

The photo is infantilizing and reeks of the dining room scene in The Miracle Worker. The author's prose is better; he describes Mary's "comfortable, confident . . . ease" at the party.

Also annoying is the mysterious role of "an extraordinary woman named Marjorie" who lives with his mother when she is, you know "unable to take care of herself in any way" and helps throw the most recent party. Allen Shawn does not tell us if her extraordinariness is paid, professional labor. I suspect it is and I think that that should be recognized.

But all in all, I'm glad he wrote it and I'm glad I read it.

Wednesday, July 09, 2008

the head swims: acocella and kinsley

In the real heat of summer, the kind we have now, this caught my fancy,

At first, I thought I was alone in the pool. It was a sparkling blue gem, implausibly planted in the skyscraper canyon of downtown Los Angeles, as if David Hockney, heading toward Beverly Hills, had taken the wrong exit on the I-10 freeway. This fine pool was the consolation and only charm of the Soviet-style complex where I had rented an apartment so that I could walk to work at the Los Angeles Times. It was early, not even 6 A.M. I had finished my laps and was enjoying the emptiness of the pool, the faint sounds of downtown gearing up for the day, and the drama of the looming office towers . . .

Then what I had thought was a ripple in the water turned out to be—no, not a shark . . . It was a tiny old man in a tiny black bathing suit. He was slowly, slowly completing a lap in the next lane. When, finally, he reached the side where I was resting and watching, he came up for air. He saw me, beamed, and said, “I’m ninety years old.” It was clearly a boast, not a lament . . .

The rest is here, "Reflections, Mine is Longer than Yours, The Last Boomer Game" by Michael Kinsley, in the old April 7 issue. It is best described as cynical.

I recently had a similar experience when an elderly swimmer told me that, although today he felt slow, "On Wednesday, I felt like Johnny Weissmuller."

Also very cool, Acocella's recent preview of Mark Morris "Romeo and Juliet." How is Christian Science relevant? Well, you'll have to find a paper copy of the July 7&14 issue and read it to find out.

Saturday, July 05, 2008

it's the little things

I think I love Chiasson's profile of Frank O'Hara in the old April 7 issue. I like the title, "Fast Company," and I like all the following bits:

"(...he called writing 'playing the typewriter.')"

"(in the words of a home-town friend) the spot to 'lie down on a chaise longue, get mellow with a few drinks, and listen to Marlene Dietrich records.'"

and, of course,

"glistening torsos sandwiches"

Of these four, the first is Chiasson quoting a letter written by O'Hara, the second is Chiasson quoting O'Hara's "home-town friend," and then, the third is an actual O'Hara poem.

But it all sounds pretty darn good to me.

I absolutely loved this bit of analysis, from Chiasson:

"When O'Hara includes, in his poems, urine and sequins, aspirins and Strega, it's not because he's addicted to reality - on the contrary, he is addicted to artistic transformation, and is distressed by the fact that bits of the world haven't been subjected to mimesis, and preserved by it."

I loved O'Hara at the movies and living in apartments.

But maybe Chiasson is addicted to sandwiches. He mentions the sandwich image on at least 3 separate occasions. That's a little annoying. And the bit I liked, above, about the chaises, well, actually, it is part of a sentence that is way too long and contains too much information. The sentence about the chaises also mentions, in passing, that (1) post-WWII Harvard "overflow freshmen slept on cots in the gym" and (2) Edward Gorey was O'Hara's college roommate!! Chiasson also relies too heavily on parentheses.

NYT also has a review of the Selected Poems.

And I found James Wood's review of Rivka Galchen's Atmospheric Disturbances (June 23) really compelling. Like, I felt compelled to find and read the book. And that never happens. I was dizzy by the end of her short story, "Region of Unlikeness" so I think I'll be fairly swooning by the end of the novel.

Thursday, July 03, 2008

a case of the giggles

Even if you usually skip such things, you might want to read Lauren Collins' review of the much-maligned restaurant Ago in the July 7&14 issue. She carefully and methodically works up to the kind of cliched pun that smacks you silly with its utter brilliance.

I also loved this:

And I'm a big fan of Anu Garg's A.Word.A.Day (thanks, little-brother-who-gives-the-greatest-gifts). Recently they used a funny quote from Anthony Lane to demonstrate the not quite medicinal use of the word "costive." Check it out.


Tuesday, July 01, 2008

all in good time

Look at this: a faux Schjeldahl review. Clearly ersatz, not just because the author uses the word "duh" but because the tone is pissy and dismissive, which Schjeldahl never is.

Note to C-Monster: This should be more legible is right. The photo (not just the clunky prose) is difficult to read.

Gawker recently noticed a Gladwell backlash.

And Martin Schneider, at Emdashes, stumbles onto the old flickr set of TNY author photos that was so generously shared with us the year before last.

Finally, someone that is not me coined the phrase "New Yorker Fatigue," abbreviated NYF. Of course it's abbreviated. We're exhausted (Sorry Em).