The Daily

Author Archive

Put Your Antlers On

November 18, 2015 | by

An Abbots Bromley Horn Dance, ca. 1900.

These days I’m not really one for flash mobs, ubiquitous improv, or other anodyne, faux-spontaneous acts of pranking and merrymaking. I mean, you do you—I’ll be over here, surly and unwacky. I think it’s because a part of me knows I could have gone in that direction, very easily; with one slight twist of fate or genetics, I might be riding the subway in my underpants right now. It is very nearly in my blood. Read More »

Old Maps

November 17, 2015 | by

Islandia, a map by Abraham Ortelius, ca. 1590.

Many years ago, on a family vacation in another country, we took an English-language tour of a medieval university. The group saw the antique telescopes and charts used by famous astronomers, and the stone-floored laboratories where philosophers had tried to turn lead into gold. And there was a room filled with maps—sixteenth-century maps, we were told. These were objects of beauty, filled with colors and sea monsters, fanciful by modern standards. Read More »

A Narrow Street at Dawn

November 16, 2015 | by

From a Bantam paperback edition of The Last Time I Saw Paris.

Over the weekend, I found myself picking up Elliot Paul’s 1942 memoir of prewar Montmartre, The Last Time I Saw Paris. (It must have been a gift from my grandfather; at any rate, it’s a discard from the Salinas Public Library.) A novelist, journalist, and, later, screenwriter, Paul was in the thick of Lost Generation artistic circles. He was friends with Gertrude Stein, a coeditor of Transition, an intimate of James Joyce. The book is unquestionably a “portrait” of that time, and an elegiac one: cafés, cheap rents, local characters, and literary cameos all abound. And yet it’s not wholly steeped in nostalgia; by its end, the series of vignettes has begun to illuminate the more sinister tendencies of some of his neighbors, and forecast an end to an era that was already rosy with setting-sun glory. Which makes it so strange that the cover—striped in the bleu, blanc, rouge, bearing a Montmartre street sketch—should be emblazoned with the following words: “A book about the France the whole world prefers to remember.”

This passage is from the chapter “A Narrow Street at Dawn”: Read More »

Book and Bed

November 13, 2015 | by

Photo: Book and Bed

Plenty of hotels around the world feature libraries, or aspire to various bookish overtones—rooms named after different writers, curated volumes in each suite. But most of these spots have, you know, something else going for them, like pools or cocktails or cozy accommodations. Then there’s Tokyo’s Book and Bed, which I learned about from Mashable, and which is, by contrast, defiant about its lack of comforts. “The perfect setting for a good nights sleep is something you will not find here,” the hotel’s website says: Read More »

A New Secret

November 12, 2015 | by

John Singer Sargent, The Birthday Party, 1887.

“It’s weird,” my brother, Charlie, said. “Lately a lot of my friends have been talking about learning things about their parents.”

“You mean, secrets?” said my mother. It was her birthday; we were having lunch. Read More »

Elle Nous Juge

November 11, 2015 | by

From Some Are More Human Than Others.

Early in 2016, New Directions will publish All the Poems, the complete works of Stevie Smith. Smith’s poetry—which Diane Mehta called “playful” and “carnivalesque” even as she acknowledged the elliptical voice’s “uncertain likeability”—have a well-deserved cult following. This makes sense. Her work has a whimsical flintiness, a combination she somehow pulls off; her performances were cannily theatrical such that people still talk about them today; and her books, as physical objects, are equally intriguing. Consider the literal Novel on Yellow Paper, or the unapologetically bizarre Cats in Colourone of the best acts of literary defiance ever written or published. Read More »