The Daily

Author Archive

In Flight

May 19, 2016 | by

Photo: NARA.

On a plane, I sat between an aging nerd and a teenage boy. The nerd informed us both with contemptuous superiority that we’d be told to put our bags up in the bin and then, when we were, said, “I told you.” He spent the rest of the flight playing chess on his tablet and reading A Clash of Kings. The teen read Sartre’s Critique of Dialectical Reason. Read More »

And Thou

May 18, 2016 | by

I pity you, because presumably you—unlike me—do not own an apron that features a loaf of bread, a jug of wine, and the word thou. So how could you possibly celebrate the birthday of Omar Khayyám? You could read from the Rubaiyat, of course. If you happen to be in Nishapur, you could visit his stunning mausoleum. Or you could try a little light non-Euclidean geometry or take out your telescope and ponder his many astronomical discoveries …

Even if you do all of those things, though—even if you own the same apron I do—you can still devote an hour or so to 1957’s Omar Khayyám. “In this dramatic adventure,” Paramount’s capsule description says, “a Persian philosopher poet attempts to thwart conspiring assassins.” Read More »

The Shakespeare Garden

May 17, 2016 | by

Perhaps you ran across a story in today’s New York Times about re-creating Emily Dickinson’s Amherst garden. Historians are discovering the layout of the family’s conservatory and planting heirloom varieties of fruit trees that would’ve grown in the orchard. Dickinson was apparently a prolific gardener—a talented amateur naturalist who attended carefully to her studies of the natural world. The article explains that her expertise “profoundly shaped her poetry”: Read More »

Pity the Fool

May 16, 2016 | by

From Paris à travers les siècles, 1879.

Good madonna, give me leave to prove you a fool. —William Shakespeare, Twelfth Night

I feel sorry for people who don’t suffer fools. They’re missing out on so much! The quotidian, absurd human comedy; several of Shakespeare’s finest characters; TV. 

I can speak with total authority on this point, because I am a fool. I am also descended from a long line of fools. I don’t mean we’re given to gnomic utterances on the futility of existence: we’re just idiots who don’t know how to do practical stuff. We’re also very prone to prancing around and singing. True, some of us are also asses, a couple are gullible, and a few are jerks—and there are occasional exceptions that prove the rule, like my brother, for instance. But I think fool is our genus. Read More »

The Songs We’re Stuck With

May 13, 2016 | by

Real McCoy.

At a coffee shop, standing on line (because I’m a New Yorker, and for some reason that’s where we stand with lines—on them, never in them), I began to cry. This in itself was not so extraordinary—the mascara has not yet been invented that’s proof against my tears—but this jag happened to be music related. The José Gonzalez cover of “Heartbeats” had come on the sound system, and the time-machine jolt to 2006 was so sudden that my body didn’t know how to respond except with tears, although it wasn’t grief I felt. Read More »

Greenwich Village, 1971

May 12, 2016 | by

Djuna Barnes.

Although she died in 1982, at the age of ninety, Djuna Barnes seems to have recorded her voice on only a few occasions. The tape below was made in her Patchin Place home in 1971. Barnes is best known for Nightwood, her modernist classic, but she had a long and thriving career as a journalist and in the avant-garde literary scene. Her body of work, including The Book of Repulsive Women, Ryder, and The Ladies Almanack, spans aestheticism, Dada, and high modernism. Her books are deep, often challenging, and crucial. Read More »