The Daily

This Week's Reading

Staff Picks: Barbie’s Dream House, All the Single Ladies

October 14, 2011 | by

Lisa Yuskavage, Babushkas, 2011, oil on panel, 8 x 6 inches. Courtesy David Zwirner.

While I was in Los Angeles, I had the chance to see two very different—but very “California”—exhibits, both of which I’d recommend to anyone. The first, Robert Irwin’s “Way Out West” at L&M Arts, is a light installation that's visually engaging on its own terms, but even more so to those familiar with Irwin’s writing. More straightforward but just as interesting, LACMA’s “California Design, 1930–1965” is a colorful, exhilarating showcase of all things “modern,” from lobster-print swimsuits to Ray and Charles Eames’s living room (which is fully reassembled in the museum) to the original Barbie Dream House. It’s a survey not just of West Coast design, but of the crafting of the modern conception of California as we know it. —Sadie Stein

Sigrid Nunez’s Sempre Susan doesn’t just evoke Susan Sontag, the person, with hard-won sympathy, insight, and cool; it contains (in a very tiny space) material for an entire novel of idealism and disillusionment. This Sontag—who “often struck me as someone who wanted to be feeling ten times what she actually felt”—is a tragic figure, and this memoir captures the spirit of the spirit of her times. —Lorin Stein

I had, much to my shame, never read the fiction of Alan Hollinghurst until this last Indian summer weekend, when I found myself utterly absorbed in the world of The Stranger’s Child. Its prose is marvelously precise, its subjects both literary and sensual, and its general character inimitably English. —Deirdre Foley-Mendelssohn

Lisa Yuskavage’s ethereal paintings are on display at David Zwirner until November 5. —Jessica Calderon

Last spring, the culture guerrillas at Bidoun went to Cairo to check in on the revolution. They came back with their Summer issue (#25), which includes interviews with graffiti artists, tour guides, ex-members of the Muslim Brotherhood, and hard-core metal musicians. Also, dream narratives, photographs, and thumbnail sketches of the dozens of the new political parties. There is very little analysis and no claim to know what comes next. But, more than anything else I’ve read, it gives you a sense of life on the ground. —Robyn Creswell

I just discovered the blog Letters of Note and could not tear myself away. They’ve archived, photographed, and transcribed amazing correspondences: everything from a letter Kurt Vonnegut wrote to his family describing his capture in 1944, to a vintage rejection slip from Sub Pop records addressed to “Dear Loser.”  —Artie Niederhoffer

Everyone I know has been sending me Kate Bolick’s fascinating piece on marriage, coupling through history, gender imbalances, and, well, as the title says, “All the Single Ladies.” —D. F. M.

2 COMMENTS

2 Comments

  1. Stephen Cahaly | October 16, 2011 at 9:24 am

    Lorin: could you please try and shed a little light on why so many postmortem retrospectives on Susan Sontag – Terry Castle, Eliot Weinberger, Daniel Mendelsohn (though by faint praise), and now this one – are all out to get their back on her? Why must her story be framed as “tragic” and recommended here for that reason? Arrogance is not a sin. You would think her rise out of humble beginnings straight into the center of discussion on American culture is a heroic one – that’s the way I still see it and I’m sure many still do. Only Mark Greif seems to have given her the respect she deserves. It sounds like so much cheap payback of the bitchy boss (though only once she’s gone of course) for having maintained high standards, a high intolerance for underachievement, a cultural stereotype you’d think we’d have put in our past by now? I hope the idea of a hero, intellectual or otherwise, isn’t dead.

  2. online boekhouden | January 24, 2013 at 8:51 am

    It sounds like so much cheap payback of the bitchy boss (though only once she’s gone of course) for having maintained high standards, a high intolerance for underachievement, a cultural stereotype you’d think we’d have put in our past by now? I hope the idea of a hero, intellectual or otherwise, isn’t dead.

Leave a Comment