The Daily

Posts Tagged ‘obituaries’

A Pocket Versailles, and Other News

October 19, 2016 | by

The penthouse at Trump Tower. Photo: Sam Horine.

  • Thom Jones, a high school janitor whose short stories vaunted him into the literary spotlight in the early nineties, has died at seventy-one: “ Jones worked on the Betty Crocker Noodles Almondine line at a General Mills plant. He was fired as an advertising copywriter because, he was told, a client would not countenance his proposed slogan for the Jolly Green Giant—which was more or less, with an expletive inserted, ‘These are the best peas I ever ate’ … His ferocious, semiautobiographical short stories about boxers, custodians, soldiers, crime victims, cancer patients and asylum inmates coupled a fateful machismo—the eternal pessimist Arthur Schopenhauer was his hero—with grim humor.”
  • Our indefatigable efforts to drill into Trump’s psyche have led us to this: a close consideration of his interior decorating. Back in his eighties heyday, the Donald—still with Ivana then—turned to the designer Angelo Donghia to help him tame the Trump Tower penthouse. But in the intervening decades, something, some remaining tendril of good taste, was irrevocably broken, and now, as Thomas de Monchaux writes, the Trump penthouse is overstuffed with decorative diversions: “From the reflective ceilings to the gilded Corinthian capitals, a would-be Sun King eventually built himself a hall of mirrors, a pocket Versailles. Closer to the truth may be that a restless eye sought for itself a home that, detail upon detail, eye-catcher upon eye-catcher, provides constant diversion. The current Trump penthouse is a place for a short span of attention, a place without threat of stillness, a place where you don’t spend a lot of time wondering whether something is right or wrong. Ironically, the task of making such a place is not a matter of quick judgment and definite attitude, but is methodical, belabored, and slow.” 

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Dario Fo, 1926–2016

October 14, 2016 | by

Dario Fo, sweater game on fleek.

If you’ve exhausted the Internet’s rich store of Bob Dylan think pieces, you might turn your attention to another Nobel laureate: Dario Fo, the Italian playwright, who died this week at ninety. The Vatican once declared his play Mistero Buffo, a kind of one-man political-satire revue, to be “the most blasphemous show in the history of television.” (If you’re confused, this was in 1977, well before the undeniably satanic Pretty Little Liars hit the airwaves.) As the New York Times has it, Fo and his late wife–collaborator, Franca Rame, did more to upend the art of political theater than anyone in their generation: “Basing their art on the tradition of the medieval jester and the improvisation techniques of commedia dell’arte, Mr. Fo and Ms. Rame thrilled, dismayed and angered audiences around the world. Together they staged thousands of performances, in conventional theaters, factories occupied by striking workers, university sit-ins, city parks, prisons and even deconsecrated churches.” Read More »

The Scary Peeper

September 28, 2016 | by

Nothing so appalling …

In Canada today, Home Depot announced that it was pulling a Halloween decoration called “Scary Peeper Creeper” from its shelves. Shoppers were deeply perturbed by the Peeper’s pockmarked, rubbery visage, and for good reason—he’s designed to scare the living shit out of people. “Realistic face looks just like a real man is peering through the window at you,” boasted the description on Home Depot’s website; all that’s missing is the labored mouth-breathing. The manufacturer advises sticking him “on the passenger side of a car window, in a bedroom window, basement window, kitchen window, bathroom window, or garage window … We’d love to hear where you’ve gotten good results with your Scary Peeper!”

The debacle brought to mind Herschell Gordon Lewis, cinema’s very own Scary Peeper, who got very good results with his pictures. He died yesterday at ninety. (It’s been a bad week for voyeurs.) In his forty-one turns as a director, he did more to popularize gore, splatter, and willful puerility than a Peeper in every window could do. His films range from the out-and-out depraved (Blood Feast, Blood Feast 2: All U Can Eat, Miss Nymphet’s Zap-In) to the merely lascivious (Boin-n-g!, Living Venus, The Adventures of Lucky Pierre), but—per the Peeper Code of Conduct—they were always, always in poor taste. Read More »

Gregory Rabassa, 1922–2016

June 14, 2016 | by

Photo via New Directions

We’re sorry to learn that Gregory Rabassa, the translator best known for bringing Gabriel García Márquez’s One Hundred Years of Solitude into English, has died at age ninety-four.

Rabassa, whose translations include Cortázar’s Hopscotch and Mario Vargas Llosa’s Conversation in the Cathedral, was renowned for the care with which he introduced a host of Latin American writers to the Anglophone world. García Márquez praised Rabassa at length in the The Paris Review in his 1981 Art of Fiction interviewRead More »

Congratulations, You’re Everywhere, and Other News

May 12, 2016 | by

William Sergeant Kendall, Narcissa (detail).

  • The art of literary hate mail endures, though you’d think people today would have better things to do or at least more prominent people to hate. William Giraldi offers a history of the form, a glimpse at some of his own hate mail (received, not sent), and, best of all, a sample of D. H. Lawrence’s scornful contributions, which reveal him as a true master of spleen: “To poet Amy Lowell in 1914: ‘Why do you deny the bitterness in your nature, when you write poetry? Why do you take a pose? It causes you always to shirk your issues, and find a banal resolution at the end.’ To Katherine Mansfield in 1920: ‘I loathe you. You revolt me stewing in your consumption,’ to which he amends this barb: ‘The Italians were quite right to have nothing to do with you.’ To critic John Middleton Murry in 1924: ‘Your articles in the Adelphi always annoy me. Why care so much about your own fishiness or fleshiness? Why make it so important? Can’t you focus yourself outside yourself? Not forever focused on yourself, ad nauseam?’ To Aldous Huxley in 1928: ‘I have read Point Counter Point with a heart sinking through my boot soles … It becomes of a phantasmal boredom and produces ultimately inertia, inertia, inertia and final atrophy of the feelings.’”
  • Forty-five years ago, Sports Illustrated hired Hunter S. Thompson to write five hundred words about a motorcycle race in Vegas. What emerged from the assignment was … different: “The final version would clock in at 204 pages (more than sixty thousand words)—over the course of which Thompson would manage to include a grand total of twenty-two psychopharmacological substances. Acid/LSD appears the most: it’s mentioned thirty-nine times and is consumed, in scene, twice. Mescaline comes in second, referred to on nineteen different occasions, but regarding consumption it takes top billing … While Hunter Thompson would manage to include in Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas a wide variety of subjects, one theme we tend to overlook, today, is a perspective on drugs that manages to articulate, with surprising foresight, our own present-day relationship with psychopharmacology—with stimulants, especially. After all, Thompson wasn’t taking Dexedrine to get high, to expand his consciousness; his amphetamine use could be egregious, yes, and on these two trips, after so many days of constant consumption—of drinking and not sleeping—the end result, the general degradation of his physical and mental state, would seem to suggest otherwise. But he didn’t use the drug to escape the reality of the world around him … ”

Jenny Diski, 1947–2016

April 29, 2016 | by

Jenny Diski died yesterday. You might have discovered that fact if you happened to visit the London Review of Books, where Diski published essays, reviews, and blog posts for nearly twenty-five years. Or maybe, like me, you learned it on Twitter, where, hours before the obituaries arrived, old tweets of Diski’s, some of them years out of date, started swirling back into circulation. They joined a tumble of appreciative links and quotations, an accumulation whose size quickly disqualified the possibility of happy coincidence. This is how death announces itself now, at least for the artists who don’t rate a breaking-news alert on our phones: a surge of mentions on social media, a collective attempt to plug up the vacuum of absence with digital abundance. For a moment you think you’ve lucked into an outpouring of spontaneous enthusiasm. Finally! you tell yourself. We’re talking about her now! But then quickly enough the rational brain reasserts itself and begins working down the checklist: Are they handing out Nobels today? A genius grant, maybe? Was someone quoted by Beyoncé? No? Oh. Oh, no. Read More »