The Daily

Posts Tagged ‘childhood’

A New Secret

November 12, 2015 | by

John Singer Sargent, The Birthday Party, 1887.

“It’s weird,” my brother, Charlie, said. “Lately a lot of my friends have been talking about learning things about their parents.”

“You mean, secrets?” said my mother. It was her birthday; we were having lunch. Read More »

Books by Covers, Et Cetera

October 14, 2015 | by

For a kid, it’s better than your name in lights: your name in appliqué.

Back when the world was new and there weren’t three Sadies in every kindergarten class, I worshipped the Lillian Vernon catalog. My love for the mail-order tome was purely theoretical; although it arrived in the mailbox regularly, we never ordered anything. But the pages filled with personalized things—pink-dotted linens, pencil cases, dolls, beanbag chairs, Christmas stockings—seemed wonderful to a child who had never found a keychain with her name on it. I remember in the late eighties the name Madison often appeared in the pictures, rendered in a round, admirably legible embroidered font. 

That was the primary lure for me, and I’m sure for others, too. But the catalog opened my eyes to a whole realm of adult luxury beyond monograms. Hammocks. Seasonal wreaths made of artificial flowers. Eyeshades. The world seemed so full of things, both exciting and overwhelming. One item made a particular impression on me: a book cover for paperbacks. Was it needlepoint? Or am I conflating it with the hymnals at my grandmother’s church? Either way, I know the copy advertised its ability to “hide that trashy romance novel!” Read More »

Gamelife: The Game

October 12, 2015 | by

Michael Clune’s Gamelife is an excellent new memoir about computer games. We could tell you all about it, but there are better means of description: as Clune writes, “computer games taught me how to imagine something so it lasts, so it feels real.”

With that in mind, we’ve gotten together with Farrar, Straus and Giroux to present Gamelife, the world’s first computer game about a memoir about computer games. No floppy disk required—simply click below to begin.

Click to play.

If you’d rather hear more about the book the old-fashioned way, I’ll be talking to Clune tomorrow night, Tuesday, October 13, at McNally Jackson. The event begins at 7:30 p.m.

Nap Time

August 31, 2015 | by

Stanisław Wyspiański, Śpiący Staś, 1904.


What hath night to do with sleep? ―John Milton, Paradise Lost

One of the cruelest and most arbitrary displays of grown-up power has always seemed to me our approach to jet lag. Post red-eye, a child is diminished and cranky and disoriented. Almost sick with fatigue, she falls gratefully into deep slumber on the first bed offered, maybe after killing several unpleasant hours until that bed is ready, perhaps fully understanding the privilege of sleep for the first time. And then, a scant hour later, she is shaken briskly awake by some grown-up. Can’t sleep too long! They tell you. Have to fight the jet lag! Must get on local time! And the day—you’re wasting the day! 

At least, that’s how it always was in my family. Even then I knew—knew!—that I could have slept five, six hours and still, come evening, have gone to bed whenever they wished me to. How cruel to be deprived of this newly discovered treat, sleep! And I knew that whatever we saw would be through a haze of sleeplessness, and that as a result all my first experiences with new places were exhausted, resentful, and aggressive. My heart twists for the miserable little children I see disembarking from a long-haul night flight, and the drawn, exhausted faces of their parents. Read More »


August 25, 2015 | by


German students fencing in the 1820s.

The other day, I stopped to give myself a talking-to. I’m worried about you, I said sternly. Your constant outrage is not healthy, and all these self-righteous interventions with strangers are completely out of control. I didn’t want to be the one to say it, but you’re turning into your mother. 

I was appropriately horrified. I knew what angel-me was talking about: the time my mom slammed on the brakes to leap out of the car and accost the neighborhood kids whose snowball had sailed into the street. Or the time she yelled at a preteen for smoking on the sidewalk in front of the rec center. Or the time she lectured a car full of my classmates about their grammar. Read More »

Letters of Note

August 13, 2015 | by


Thomas Rowlandson, A Book Auction, 1810-15.

In his late twenties, my father was a habitué of the Charles Hamilton Autograph Auctions at New York’s Waldorf Astoria, where he would snap up anything that went unsold at the end of the day; in this way he earned the nickname The Vulture. Charles Hamilton himself was a noted signatures expert who had given testimony in a number of prominent forgery cases. His auctions were known for their quality and their miscellany, and for the personality of their proprietor. ‘‘Unless you have a soul made of solid lead,’’ he purportedly said, ‘‘your pulse quickens and your eyes brighten when you look upon something that a great man actually held and into which he put his personal thoughts.’’

My father, due to his own somewhat indiscriminate buying practices, ended up with a somewhat unfocused collection of bargains. He had some good pieces of ephemera—two tickets to Andrew Johnson’s impeachment, a dinner invitation from Thomas Jefferson—but he also had a single strand of John Keats’s hair. And then there were the ones that got away. There was that time Hamilton auctioned off Harry Truman’s World War I diaries, and the asking price was a bit high, and no one was allowed to inspect them before bidding, “and they might have been incredibly boring,” but still … Read More »