The Daily

Our Daily Correspondent

She Taught the Boys Anatomy

May 27, 2015 | by

college widow

From the poster for The College Widow, 1927.

In her essay “Yellowstone Park,” collected in Memories of a Catholic Girlhood, Mary McCarthy describes a friend:

In school she had the name of being fast, which was based partly on her clothes and partly on the direct stare of her reddish-brown eyes, very wide open and rounded by the thick lenses of her glasses so that the whites had the look of boiled eggs. She made me think of a college widow.

Now, there’s a term you don’t hear anymore! The “college widow”! Once a byword for a predatory vamp, the college widow is an extinct American species. Read More »

The Symbol of Hospitality

May 26, 2015 | by

Ferenczy,_Karoly_-_Pineapple_(1911)

Károly Ferenczy, Pineapple, 1911.

Yesterday, I was walking down the street, enjoying the warm weather and the city’s relative emptiness—a lot of people had gone away for the long weekend—when I saw someone who looked familiar, an old man on a bench outside an empty asphalt playground. How did I know that face?

It came to me all of a sudden. It was the old man I had seen some months ago in the supermarket, yelling at the cashier and accusing all and sundry of elder abuse. Back then, his face had been contorted with impotent rage and the terror of senility.

Now, as I stared at him, arrested, he met my eyes. “Can I have a few pennies?” he said. “A few pennies for a pineapple?” Read More »

The Lindworm

May 22, 2015 | by

Schiltberger_Lindwurm_vnd_einhiren

An illustration of the Lindworm doing battle, circa 1477.

Last night, as part of the Norwegian-American Literary Festival, four Norwegian writers—Gunnhild Øyehaug, Lars Petter Sveen, Kjersti Annesdatter Skomsvold, and Carl Frode Tillerspoke at New York’s 192 Books. James Wood, who moderated, asked them to address the question of perceived Norwegian literary tropes like solitude and loneliness. Sveen pointed out another: the shared cultural knowledge of fairy tales. 

Of course, you’ll find solitude and loneliness there, too. Norwegian fairy tales are, even by the genre’s grim standards, dark, thematically and often literally, too (e.g. “East of the Sun, West of the Moon”). For an American audience, accustomed to tall tales that focus on the heroic, and devils who rarely do anything worse than argue with sharp-witted Yankee lawyers, Norway’s fairy tales are downright scary.

“The Lindworm”—also translated, when it is, as “The Lindworm Prince”—is a story with variations across Scandinavia. The version anthologized in the seminal Asbjornsen and Moe collection goes thus: Read More »

Pomp and Circumstance

May 21, 2015 | by

14762537151_069e166202_o

From The Cap and Gown, 1900.

A young friend recently asked me if I had an old graduation gown she could wear for a third-grade play in which she was playing a Supreme Court Justice. I keep many of my old things and have a pretty decent dress-up chest at this point; I’ve helped with costumes before. But this time, I had to tell her I didn’t.

You see, the morning of my college graduation, in Chicago, I was running late. I snatched what I thought was my gown from the closet—only to arrive at the gymnasium and discover that in my haste I’d grabbed my roommate’s black rain slicker. Read More »

Get Your Kicks

May 20, 2015 | by

I have often said that I wish I had invented blue jeans: the most spectacular, the most practical, the most relaxed and nonchalant. They have expression, modesty, sex appeal, simplicity—all I hope for in my clothes. ―Yves Saint Laurent

This late seventies Levi’s commercial is no “I’d Like to Teach the World to Sing.” Let’s just get that out there right now—because after Sunday’s Mad Men finale, watercoolers across the nation have had that iconic Coke jingle sung around them. The Levi’s campaign may suffer by comparison, though it is, like the Coke jingle, a classic McCann Erickson Me-Decade production, designed to make iconic American brands appeal to happening youth. The anniversary of Levi Strauss’s patent grant seems like a good excuse to celebrate it. Read More »

Bus Pass

May 19, 2015 | by

L0052260 A stethoscope representing an advertisement for safe sex

I was anxious about the doctor’s appointment. Not because I thought there was anything much wrong with me, but because I knew they’d want to do “blood work” as part of the “workup,” and that the moment they brought out that thing they use to tie you off, and I saw the vials, my vision would blur, my extremities would tingle, and I’d faint like a neurasthenic fool.

Pull yourself together, I thought. That was the old you. Now you’re a grown-up woman of the world who’s not ruled by her neuroses. To prove it, I added a silk scarf to my ensemble; I draped it in a fashion I’d recently noticed on a hypersophisticated, unneurotic mannequin. Read More »