The Daily

Author Archive

Steins

July 23, 2015 | by

steinsHere are the things you hear most often when you announce plans to marry someone who happens to have the same last name:

  • That’s convenient!
  • Guess you won’t have to change your name!
  • Are you changing your name?
  • Is he taking your name?
  • Are you hyphenating?
  • Are you related?
  • I bet you’re sick of everyone joking about your having the same name!

Not remarking on this seems to be completely out of the question. Read More »

Beauty

July 22, 2015 | by

From a 1960s Avon ad.

There are certain unpleasant life experiences that are not palliated by the fact that you know that they’re meaningless. I am speaking here of something specific: the particular horror of being pressured into spending money on things you know you do not want.

When I was seventeen and had to go to the prom with a senior in my homeroom, my mom and I went to Nordstrom so I could buy some simple makeup. Neither of us wore any. My mom entrusted me with a credit card, went to do something else, and came back an hour later to find me miserable, clown-like, clutching a tiny bag and having spent a hundred dollars, then an astronomical sum. And somehow it was very hard to explain to her that the saleswoman had had a wooden leg, and I’d felt unable to deny her anything. I used the lipstick for six years, to justify it, even though the color looked very strange, and it was quickly caked with sand and grit. Read More »

All’s Fair

July 21, 2015 | by

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Tove Jansson. Photo: Per Olov Jansson

 

They lived at opposite ends of a large apartment building near the harbor, and between their studios lay the attic, an impersonal no-man’s land of tall corridors with locked plank doors on either side. Mari liked wandering across the attic; it drew a necessary, neutral interval between their domains. She could pause on the way to listen to the rain on the metal roof, look out across the city as it lit its lights, or just linger for the pleasure of it.

They never asked, “Were you able to work today?” Maybe they had, twenty or thirty years earlier, but they’d gradually learned not to. There are empty spaces that must be respected—those often long periods when a person can’t see the pictures or find the words and needs to be left alone.

—Tove Jansson, “Videomania,” Fair Play

There are not many really good books that portray functional relationships. Certainly not the relationships of artists. Well, that’s not a shocker—happy families, as we are told, are all alike. Fair Play, Tove Jansson’s 1982 portrait of a partnership, is an exception.

Fair Play is based on Jansson’s relationship with the artist Tuulikki Pietilä, with whom she shared a life, and a home, for some forty years. If you have read Jansson’s classic Summer Book, certain things about Fair Play will be familiar: the island setting, the spareness, the less-is-more portrait of human connection. These things will be familiar even to those who only know Jansson from her most famous works, like Finn Family Moomintroll. (Indeed, Pietilä was the inspiration for the competent Moomin character Too-Ticky.) Read More »

I Know This Much Is True

July 20, 2015 | by

A_picture_is_worth_a_thousand_words

Years ago, an old boyfriend of mine had an academic colleague. One day, he said, “Language informs consciousness—we know this.”

We found this sentence so hilarious that we incorporated it into our lives. Whenever either of us was being didactic or ponderous, we’d catch ourselves and say, “Language informs consciousness—we know this.” Sometimes we’d just use parts of it: “Varick Street runs North–South—we know this.” It was a rhetorical device that functioned both to leaven the conversation and to end it. It was useful for sweeping, ludicrous generalizations—“dancing requires gum—we know this”—and highly specific observations. “Cloves are the scepters of elves—we know this.” Read More »

Dress Code

July 17, 2015 | by

Kenneth_1962

From a 1962 Clairol ad.

My mother called me to ask how much to tip on a haircut. “A normal haircut,” she said.

“I usually tip upwards of 20 percent,” I said, “but of course it’s at your discretion.”

“That seems awfully high.”

“I don’t know, not for something you wear every day. And if you have a relationship with your hairdresser—” Read More »

Rubbernecking

July 16, 2015 | by

Photo: Max A. Khlopov

In the moment, it was hard even for those of us steps away to know what had happened. A bicycle, a school bus, an improbably loud collision, a figure thrown clear, screeching brakes. Then we were all running and calling 911 at once, as if this one moment justified telephones. We actually put our hands over our mouths in horror; we actually said, “Oh my God!” although I don’t know what we would have done if we had never seen a movie or read a book or heard language. Read More »