Posts Tagged ‘parties’
April 7, 2015 | by Sadie Stein
Reading about the parties of decades past, it sometimes seems they were all similar, and all awful—or at least that they had an intolerably high jerk quotient. Think of the celebrations in Cheever novels, or O’Hara stories: full of jerks, everyone drunk and uncouth and parochial.
It should come as no shock that Vladimir Nabokov took a jaundiced view of the midcentury American party. In fact, were I some hapless Wellesley or Ithaca hostess, you couldn’t have paid me enough to invite him to a dinner or sherry hour, even after he became a literary sensation. Imagine the appraisal you’d be in for—his curled lip, his chilly politeness, his scathing mental commentary, his careful evasion of the menu’s vulgarities. For your trouble, you’d be caricatured, at best, as some sort of composite Charlotte Haze–esque grotesque, fawning over his manners and dripping with self-assured provincialism. And that would be the good outcome. It’s hard to think of someone you’d want less at a midcentury faculty tea, save maybe a seething Shirley Jackson.
The following comes from Nabokov’s 1951 story “The Vane Sisters.” Read More »
December 19, 2014 | by Colin Fleming
The great English tradition of Christmas ghost stories.
I’ve long thought of Christmastime as a season of mostly pleasant intrusions: thirty or so days of remembering to tend, checklist style, to the latest pressing bit of Yuletide business that comes racing back to you. The well wishes. The trip to the Home Depot. The seasonal ales.
This is the Fezziwig side of Christmas, that portion that makes you look up the word wassail when you encounter it and think, Ah, that would be fun. But what of the darker elements of Christmas—and what of Christmas for those people who enjoy making merry most years but may have hit upon a bit of a tricky patch? What succor of the season might they find at the proverbial inn?
Having experienced both sides of Christmas, there is but one constant I am aware of that serves you well both in the merriest of times and in the darkest: the classic English Christmas ghost story. You’d think Halloween would be the holiday that elicits the best macabre stories, but you’re going to want to check that opinion and get more on the Snow Miser side of the equation. Time was the English loved to scare you out of your mind come December, but in a fun way that resulted in stories well afield of your typical ghost story outing. Read More »
September 30, 2014 | by Sadie Stein
I have always planned to one day throw a big party and give everyone a survey at the door. Here is what it would say:
Hi! My name is: _______________________
☐ The Host
☐ The Hostess
☐ I came with a friend
☐ I’m crashing
I am from: ________________________________
Now I live: ________________________________
I have lived there for: _________________________
What I like about it: ___________________________
What I don't like about it: _______________________
My rent is*: _________________________________ *For New York Use Only
I went to school in: ________________________________
I graduated in: ________
(I am ____ years old.)
I work at: ________________________________________
My partner is here: YES / NO.
He/she is the one wearing ___________.
A few of my primary hobbies and interests are: ___________________________
I am drinking: ____________________________________________________
May 2, 2014 | by Sadie Stein
You never really get over secret childish chauvinism about your birthday month. At least, I never did. In my mind, May will always be the best month of the year; emerald, the best birthstone; and lily-of-the-valley, the finest flower. (On the subject of Taurus, I am agnostic; I have always resented the fact that we are supposed to be stubbornly rolling around in velvet or something.)
Because my own birthday falls so early in the month, and because I was definitely on the “preciousness” spectrum, my eighth birthday had a May Day theme. I knew little of the day’s ancient roots or traditional practices, let alone its adoption by the labor movement. But I had a Tasha Tudor book called Around the Year that featured young girls, flower garlands, and a beribboned maypole, and I was sold.
For my birthday, we gathered flowers, made May baskets, and left them on neighbors’ doorsteps while we hid nearby. They must have been very confused. Although my parties were generally homespun affairs, on this occasion my mom hired a gentleman in Renaissance dress who played a hurdy-gurdy while we danced around a maypole that a friend’s dad had constructed from a birch trunk. We were all terrified of the hurdy-gurdy man, and kept our distance.
“The Merry Month of May” was written in 1599 by the prolific playwright and pamphleteer Thomas Dekker. Dekker was widely considered a wastrel and a hack—Ben Jonson dismissively called him a “dresser of plays about town”—and he spent seven years in debtors’ prison. But his pastoral is one of the most enduring paeans to the fifth month. Somehow I doubt it was in the hurdy-gurdy man’s repertoire. Read More »
March 5, 2014 | by Sadie Stein
Once upon a time, a very nice couple whom I didn’t know very well threw some kind of party. I can’t remember what the occasion was, but I do know that they lived in a nice apartment near the Broadway-Lafayette F stop, and that I went to the party with a former boyfriend. It proved to be a memorable evening.
We made small talk with lots of nice people. At some point we found ourselves clustered together with two other couples; at least one component of each was an architect. Some public figure had just come out as gay, and one of the guests said something innocuous about the importance of being true to oneself.
“Oh, I agree,” said one of the women, blandly. “Take my father-in-law, for instance. It wasn’t until he got terminal cancer that he was able to tell the world who he really was.”
“What was that?” said my ex-boyfriend. Read More »
February 27, 2014 | by David Pablo Cohn
How many hotheaded academics does it take to solve a riddle?
I don’t know what the best thing was about Jim Propp’s parties. They were a crystalline picture of the specialized, rarefied company I kept when I lived in Cambridge in the midnineties, parked on Mass. Ave. halfway between Harvard and MIT. Profs, postdocs, and assorted academic keepsakes from the cream of Boston academia all piled into Jim’s Victorian four-square house in Somerville for an evening of … well, we never quite knew what the evening would bring.
Technically, these were “word game” parties. Each was planned around a series of intellectual challenges arranged around the house more or less like evil wizards, ax-wielding dwarves, or more mundane impediments in a typical game of Dungeons & Dragons. You’d team up with a couple friends (or the pretty redhead who was probably dating one of your professors, if you could), and make your way from room to room, solving bits and pieces of puzzles that—if you were lucky—you could string together for the grand solution. The prize was bragging rights until the next party, six months down the line.
In any case, it all began with the invitation. Twice a year, a mysterious envelope would appear. I remember the first one I received: a single sheet with nothing but a swirling Spirograph flower on one side, and the letters RSVP below it. Where, when, and how were left to the recipient, presumably after he or she had coaxed the secret out of the cryptic drawing. Read More »