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Our Daily Correspondent

Fabric of Our Lives, Part 2

May 2, 2016 | by

Karl Herbsthoffer, Junge Dame im Boudoir, 1829.

Last Friday I wrote about an encounter with the platinum card­–carrying elite. But this is a two-part story, you see. For many years later, long after that glimpse into the lives of the rarefied, I found myself at the local flea market.

This is a sort of addiction in my family: even when houses are being sold and divested or apartments are bursting at their meager seams or neighbors have called the city to complain about the sheds on our property (depending on the generation), we are incapable of curbing our need for “bargains.” We brake for thrift shops; we brake hard for furniture on the curb; we scour the local papers for tag, yard, or garage sales. Read More »

Fabric of Our Lives

April 29, 2016 | by

It’s not as if I could afford it. I could never have afforded a nightgown that expensive, and in that moment of my life—marginally employed, tenuously housed, financially and otherwise insecure—I could afford it even less than usual. The week before, a piece of my tooth had fallen out, a jagged shard, its edges brown with decay. I kept it in a dish by my bed. It had become an object of some fascination, but I really needed to go to the dentist. 

But I wanted that nightgown so much. I craved it as I hadn’t craved a thing since childhood. It was, in fact, the sort of thing I hadn’t wanted since childhood—feminine and pretty and frivolous. A whisper-thin slip of cotton so fine, so precious, that it transcended price and moved into the realm of the divine. Read More »

Lord of the Wireless

April 28, 2016 | by

One of the many treasures preserved in the British Library’s audio archive is this vintage lesson in “English Conversation.” As a document of instruction, it’s interesting enough. But it also bears the distinction of being an early recording of J. R. R. Tolkien. Read More »

No Regrets

April 27, 2016 | by

Marietta Peabody Tree, from the cover of No Regrets.

My mother has been on somewhat of a socialite kick lately. For a while, when I talked to her, she was reading No Regrets: The Life of Marietta Tree. “Someone who ought to have had a lot of regrets,” was her acid review. From there, she moved on to a biography of the famous Cushing sisters. Read More »

At the County Fair

April 26, 2016 | by

An illustration by Garth Williams for Charlotte’s Web.

To a little kid, the county fair was pure enchantment. There was a puppet show and a 4-H cake booth and animals and gardens. There were kiddie rides, too, and a man who made wonderful charms out of molten glass. My favorite activity was the “fish pond,” in which you were handed a fishing rod, dipped the hook into a wading pool, and came out with a toy. I liked that it required no luck, no skill, and no courage. Read More »

Diamonds and Pearls

April 25, 2016 | by

From a 1916 Vanity Fair cover.

“How are you?” asked a smiling acquaintance on the street. 

“Well, I’m pretty down about Prince—but aren’t we all?” I said reprovingly. 

“Oh yes,” she murmured. “Of course.” I saw her blinking quickly in an effort to summon tears. “It’s the end of an era, isn’t it?” Read More »