Arts & Culture
June 17, 2013 | by Lindsay Gellman
Two years ago yesterday I followed a man dressed in black into a small pharmacy in Dublin. Bars of yellow soap covered the shop’s dark wooden shelves and countertops. I watched from across the shop as the man conversed loudly with the pharmacist, gesticulating as he spoke. He ordered a specific type of lotion. He then grabbed a bar of soap, indicating that he’d return later to pay for the soap and lotion. I lifted a bar to my nose and sniffed: lemon. The man waved goodbye to the pharmacist and left. I put down the soap and followed him out.
While I don’t usually stalk errand-running strangers in foreign cities, this was an exception: I was participating in Bloomsday, the annual reenactment of James Joyce’s Ulysses, on the anniversary of day the novel takes place, June 16, 1904. The man clad in black was an actor portraying protagonist Leopold Bloom as he moves through his day in real time, in the actual spots around Dublin where Joyce set his narrative. I was part of a spectator’s group of about thirty people—some dressed in period garb, including an unwitting infant in a lace collar and antique stroller—that trailed Bloom through the streets of Dublin throughout the day. We visited a home on Eccles Street that could have been Bloom’s. The pharmacy was Sweny’s, a Dublin establishment still selling the same lemon-scented soap that Joyce first made famous in 1922. Read More »
June 14, 2013 | by Sadie Stein
When I was a junior in college, I treated my creative writing seminar to a story that was, even by my standards, bizarre. (I don’t mean experimental, or particularly interesting, by the way—just peculiar.) It was a piece of—well, I guess you’d call it fan fiction, or maybe real person fiction, about the later life of Kay Thompson, the performer and author of Eloise. If memory serves, this opus was set in Portofino, and involved Thompson descending into madness. (There was also a gay companion.) It was completely fabricated and also terrible. That story is, not tragically, lost to the mists of time. But I was excited to see that I am not the only one indulging in speculative Eloise fiction! In a piece on “Five Spinoff Novels I’d Love to Read,” Edan Lepucki writes:
When I was younger, I didn’t wonder much about the parents of Eloise, the six-year-old heroine who lives with her British nanny in the Plaza Hotel, putting sunglasses on her dog Weenie and combing her hair with a fork. Now when I read the book to my son, I think about them a lot. It’s wealth that allows Eloise’s mother to neglect her daughter, and it’s the mother’s absence that haunts the book. What do we know of the woman? Eloise tells us that she is 30 and has “a charge account at Bergdorf’s.” Her mother knows Coco Chanel, and has AT&T stock and “knows an ad man whatever that is.” Sometimes she goes to Virginia with her lawyer. Eloise’s father is never mentioned. (Is the lawyer Eloise’s dad, and Eloise just doesn’t know it?) I’d love to read a novel narrated by Eloise’s mother. She’s a rich fuck-up, to be sure, maybe a functioning alcoholic with a penchant for Bloody Marys at breakfast and champagne every afternoon. She loves her daughter, but can’t stand to be around her for more than a few minutes. She jets off to Milan, to Paris, forgetting to remember her offspring back in Manhattan. There would definitely be a strange and/or degrading sex scene involving the owner of The Plaza.
We may be a match made in heaven!
June 13, 2013 | by Sadie Stein
Of Mr. Capote’s prose it is hard to speak temperately. It is some sort of jargon quite unfamiliar to me. Of the information he seeks to convey, I am no judge. I have a distant acquaintance with a few of the subjects. Mr. Cecil Beaton I have known, not well, for nearer fifty than forty years. He has always struck me as a genial, hospitable, light-hearted fellow; to Mr. Capote he is ‘one of the most remarkable fellows alive’; and formidable, ‘bitter as bile to those in the Beaton bad-book, unhappy souls who entered this no-exit Hades’; and ‘haughty’; but above all ‘serious.’ ‘When discussing personalities Beaton invariably, asks, “But would you say X is a serious person?”’ Not invariably, Mr. Capote, I assure you. I have never heard him ask this question. Perhaps he likes to pull their legs a little when he goes to America.
—Evelyn Waugh on Observations, by Truman Capote and Richard Avedon, 1959. (Made available along with the rest of The Spectator’s vast archive.)
Image via ColinSpencer.co.uk.
June 12, 2013 | by Ivan Brunetti
I learned not only how to read from comic books, but also how to see. I learned about line, shape, color, value, space, texture, color, balance, harmony, unity, contrast, variety, rhythm, repetition, emphasis, continuity, spatial systems, structures and grids, proportion and scale, and composition by studying and copying the drawings from the comic books of my Italian childhood. The word disegno literally meant drawing, but also design. Thus, the two were forever fused in my mind, each inseparable from the other: drawing is design, and design is, essentially, drawing.
This drawing is but one example of childhood drawings (many, alas, have been lost or destroyed). They were done between the ages of four and six, circa 1971–73. I consider this by far my best period as an artist. The drawings are careful, sincere, and free of pretension. If my house were to catch fire, the small box of my remaining childhood drawings is the only artwork of mine I would try to save. Read More »
June 11, 2013 | by Lindsay Gellman
Today, Sotheby’s is auctioning off a collection of sixteen letters and ten postcards that William Faulkner wrote from Europe to his family in Oxford, Mississippi, chronicling his first trip to the Continent in the early fall of 1925. The collection of handwritten correspondence—which includes sketched self-portraits, as well as Faulkner’s musings on growing a beard (“makes me look sort of distinguished”) and dining alone in his hotel room (“here I sit with spaghetti”)—is expected to fetch between $250,000 and $350,000.
The collection seems to provide glimpses of a relatable, human Faulkner: a twenty-eight-year-old who went to nightclubs, griped about money, and signed off as “Billy.” Yet the letters also hint at the profound influence that this trip—specifically, the modernist painting Faulkner first saw in Paris—would have on his fiction. In a letter dated September 22, 1925, he writes, “I have seen Rodin’s museum, and two private collections of Matisse and Picasso (who are yet alive and painting) as well as numberless young and struggling moderns. And Cézanne! That man dipped his brush in light …” Read More »
June 10, 2013 | by Dave Tompkins
Skeletons seem to be preternaturally deft swordsmen. This one is giving Sinbad all he can handle, at one point throwing its shield like a Frisbee. It’s a roadhouse move, executed with zing and grimace. Sinbad ducks and the shield crashes into the evil sorcerer’s lab, causing a model dinosaur to take a header off the top shelf.
This scene from 1958’s The 7th Voyage of Sinbad was created by Ray Harryhausen, a special-effects pioneer who recently died, at the age of ninety-two. Only in this lost world could a model Sauropoda look faker than a skeleton wielding a scimitar. The realness was in the time and dedication that went into letting that shield fly, its rotation not unlike the UFO that Harryhausen drunkenly crashed into the Capitol two years earlier in Earth vs. the Flying Saucers. While destroying national landmarks makes for a good time, stop-motion animation also demands archeological patience. A mere shoofly of a skeleton’s wrist can equal a full day’s work. For Harryhausen, a little boy’s “dinosaur phase” evolved into a lifetime of endless adjustments and clicks, a shot for every move and turn. One of his biggest challenges and triumphs was activating Medusa’s snake perm in Clash of the Titans (1981), not to mention the instant ossification induced by her stink-eye. Harryhausen would also embellish the legend: Medusa as a graceful archer with snake arrows was as myth-busting to me as a Kraken showing up in a movie without tentacles. Read More »