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Posts Tagged ‘camp’

Love Story

June 26, 2014 | by

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From the cover of Barbara Cartland’s The Romance of Food.

“The hallmark of Camp is the spirit of extravagance.” —Susan Sontag, “Notes on ‘Camp’”

Too much camp is bad for the soul. It’s unwholesome, lacking in spiritual nourishment—like eating only processed foods. Irony is no substitute for feeling, detachment no replacement for intellectual engagement: enough camp begins to eat away at both. After a steady diet of midcentury educational films, salacious memoirs, and Florence Foster Jenkins recordings, one begins to feel oneself morphing into a sort of soulless Lord Henry Wotton, and the only remedy is beauty, spareness, and fresh air. Part of the problem is that earnest camp is heartbreaking; in order not to cry, one needs to put up defenses, and this is in itself exhausting.

Periodically, I need to go on cleanses. In these virtuous moods, I resolve to listen to only the finest music, read the best books, watch films worthy of the term. I banish my collection of 1930s Love Story magazines. I shun the “High Gruck and Outsider Art” playlist on my Spotify account. The words “Russ Meyer” are not to be mentioned in my hearing.

The problem is that in the midst of this, your copy of Barbara Cartland: The Romance of Food arrives in the mail from England and tempts you like a rosy-hued she-devil. And then it follows you everywhere, with the promise of easy laughs and garish pictures and oddity nonpareil. You can hide it in the closet. You can stick it under the kitchen counter with the other cookbooks. Still you hear its siren song, which is sort of quavery and backed by a lot of lush strings. Read More »

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Candy Crush

June 2, 2014 | by

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Photo: Evan Amos, via Wikimedia Commons

My brother was one of those kids who loved camp. He started young, went for years, and, when he was older, returned as a counselor. During the school year, he and his friends would periodically meet up at an Outback Steakhouse in Midtown. He still attends the weddings of those friends.

There was one kid in his bunk who was the camp outcast: a physically uncoordinated know-it-all who, in the grand tradition of nerds, managed to maintain an inviolate sense of wounded superiority. His response, when taunted, was to say—with an irony that was surely intended to be devastating—“You’re so kind.” You can imagine how effective this was.

I guess my brother was nice to him, in an offhand sort of way. Maybe he just wasn’t actively cruel. All I know is, when we went up there on family visiting day, this kid wouldn’t leave him alone. Mostly he stood around, nearby. But several times he appeared at my brother’s shoulder and held out a hand, silently proffering candy: Airheads, Pop Rocks, those long, flat Jolly Ranchers. While I found the whole thing kind of weird, my brother seemed to take it as his due. Read More »

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Darcy and Elizabeth Go to Summer Camp

January 1, 2014 | by

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In honor of the new year, we are bringing you some of your favorite posts from the past twelve months. Happy holidays!

This summer, in honor of the Pride and Prejudice bicentennial, the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill held its first annual Jane Austen Summer Program, described informally as the “Jane Austen summer camp” and inspired in part by the Dickens Project at UC Santa Cruz. Our correspondent kept an illicit diary of his experiences, excerpted below.

Thursday, June 27

4:35 P.M. I have been hoodwinked into wearing many hats at this conference, some of them literal. E-mails from the braintrust inform me that I am to play Mr. Darcy at the Meryton Assembly on Saturday night, to which end I must shave my beard and attend two sessions of Regency dance instruction, all while perfecting my scowl. During convocation, I scan the order of the dance: “Braes of Dornoch”; the “Physical Snob”; “Mr. Beveridge’s Maggot.” The more boisterous sounding the dance, the more I fear for my newly fitted tights and breeches on generous loan from the Playmakers Repertory.

Professor James Thompson of UNC is our first plenary speaker. Thompson explains the etiology of the program, suggests that next year’s gathering will likely focus on Sense and Sensibility, and floats the idea of one day holding a summer conference about “Austen and the Brontës.” From the collective intake of breath, he may as well have been talking of 2Pac and Biggie. Thompson also expresses gentle alarm over suspected "crypto-Trollopians" in audience, a joke that lands with shocking force among this mix of academics, various regional representatives of JASNA, garden-variety superfans, Ladies of a Certain Age Wearing Sun Visors, archaic dance enthusiasts, and one very precocious eleven-year-old who takes notes at each of the plenaries. I give thanks that Thompson is a friend and banish anxiety over the tights. Read More »

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“Hooray for Santy Claus!”

December 20, 2012 | by

You may well know the 1964 camp classic Santa Claus Conquers the Martians as one of the worst films ever made, but did you know there’s also a novelization? That's right: in 2005, Lou Harry gave us the print version the world needed.

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Siegfried and Roy: Masters of the Kitchen

May 24, 2012 | by

The one chance I had to see Siegfried and Roy perform live, in May 2003, I was too broke to go. A friend was getting married in Las Vegas, and all of us were staying four to a room at the (now demolished) Stardust because it was the cheapest option on the Strip. (My salary from the anarchist bakery where I was working at the time didn’t allow for much extravagance.)

At some point during the wedding weekend, we ended up at the Mirage, home to Siegfried and Roy’s signature white-tigers-and-smoke-machines show. I clearly remember looking at the enclosure where the tigers lived, but strangely, I can’t remember whether we actually saw any of them. We did visit the gift shop, where someone picked up a copy of Siegfried und Roy: Meister der Illusion, an astonishing book, made all the more enjoyable because I couldn’t understand a word of the text. Read More »

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Campy Fiction; Smoking Strictures

March 9, 2012 | by

Watching a marathon of Twin Peaks has gotten me thinking about camp. There are movies and television shows that we delight in, and discuss seriously, though the content may not be “serious.” What can be said about campy contemporary fiction? Please give me a list of fabulous, outlandish books, preferably with a narrator who will repulse and delight me all at once. Something bad, but well-written.

Delight may not be the operative word, but David Vann’s new novel, Dirt, is outlandish, repulsive, well-written, and utterly over the top. (In one climactic scene, the teenage hero imprisons his mother in a toolshed after she threatens to have him arrested for the statutory rape of his cousin.) True to its title, the book is down and dirty. I am not sure whether the camp is intentional—but then I often suspect that many of the best “camp” artists, as for instance Lynch and Almodóvar, do mean it. Their sincerity is their power.

If you’re looking for high camp—without the Sturm und Drang—it doesn’t get campier than James McCourt’s 1971 send-up of the opera world, Mawdrew Czgowchwz (pronounced “Mardu Gorgeous”). And if soap opera’s more your speed, try Cyra McFadden’s 1977 The Serial: A Year in the Life of Marin County.

Dear Lorin,

I've recently moved to Manhattan only to learn that I am actually a ghost—that I am, apparently, an apparition. Needless to say, this discovery has been rather disconcerting, but my chief worry is that the recent strictures regarding smoke in apartments and Central Park will cause me rapidly to be evicted from my apartment, and possibly excommunicated from the city outright. I have it from trusted sources that you are at once smoking, wispy, and nebulous—indeed, altostatus cumulus—and yet you seem to face little threat from the law. Lorin, my friend, how do you do it?

Spiritedly,
Spook

Dear Spook,

My secret is I don't smoke very much. It's bad for you! It's probably even bad for ghosts ...

To the wise members of The Paris Review,

The only poem I have ever memorized was for Spanish class in ninth grade. It is time to add to the repertoire, but which poem do I choose? I imagine that it would be a comfort—something inspiring about living, loving, the natural ups and downs of being human. Perhaps something about choices, or appreciation. Not too long or too short. Something to share when the moment is right, or something to keep to myself, to repeat in a chant-like form on long runs through the woods. I maintain full confidence in your advice.

Sincerely,
Julia

Dear Julia,

Once my friend Cary and I had a poem-memorizing contest. He memorized poems by Richard Hugo. I memorized poems by Keats. Each poem had to be longer than fourteen lines, and each of us had to pay the other a dollar for every line we muffed. My favorite of the poems I learned is the “Ode on Melancholy,” which I think may fit the bill. At least, I go around repeating it to myself in low moments, and it seems to do the trick. (Note that the word globed should be pronounced with two syllables.) Read More »

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