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Posts Tagged ‘relationships’

Not Weird About Brooklyn

September 18, 2013 | by

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I had to put my leather loveseat up on Craigslist three times before someone answered the ad, and then that someone, in all of New York City, was the guy my closest friend had been sleeping with a few months earlier. I’d never met him, but I knew that he’d once had to leave her house late at night to go take some kind of medication, and that he got really, really sweaty during sex. Also that he didn’t have Internet access at home, kissed exclusively in chaste little pecks, and had two alarmingly close friends who were women. He and Marie were both writing novels about angels. They’d met at the university where they both taught writing and had both earned MFAs in fiction (at different times), and after they’d written together at a coffee shop one winter afternoon, they relocated to his kitchen table for what Marie called “the download”: a pre-hookup conversation about family and spirituality that lasted for hours. Read More »

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The Gift of Hunger

January 25, 2013 | by

The first time I cooked for him, it was the height of August. The meal was very simple: a salad; a pasta; some peaches I roasted and served with ice cream. Nothing special. And he seemed to like it okay. But the writing was on the wall: this was a man who ate to live, and not the other way round.

For some of us, this is unthinkable. I am always plotting my next meal, mulling over my last, calculating my degree of appetite. Those days when illness robs me of hunger are among my most hopeless. I remember food scenes in movies and books better than others. The city is mentally mapped by cookies and hamburgers; noodle stands are my landmarks; a trip is an opportunity to eat new things, and work up an appetite, and try more. Read More »

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Well-Read Lovers; Constant Rejection

November 18, 2011 | by

This week we asked our friend Angus Trumble to give us the benefit of his wisdom—and received an embarras de richesses. Thanks to all for your questions and to Angus for his answers; there was none we could bear to cut. By day Angus is the senior curator of paintings and sculpture at the Yale Center for British Art. By night, and sometimes also by day, he blogs on such topics as the euro crisis, the Ladies of Bethany, and his own globe-trotting adventures.

Dear Angus,
Do the best readers make the best lovers? Would you be more likely to break up with someone if they never read, or read all the time?

I am flattered that you feel I have the necessary qualifications to provide an accurate answer to this question. In my experience, the well-read can be excellent lovers, although there are times when a specific literary prompt may inhibit the natural flow, as for example when one’s partner genuinely believes himself to be some sort of Vronsky, when in fact he lacks the magnificent build, military bearing, disposable income, or even the remotest capacity to smolder. I can quite confidently say that it is unlikely that I would ever commence a relationship with a person who never read, which removes the need to break up with him. My parents’ marriage survived a period in the late fifties, when my mother read the complete works of Sir Walter Scott, evidently led in his direction by a genetically encoded taste for the lowering mist, gloomy crags, and bloodstained crofts and glens of the Highlands of Scotland. On the whole, therefore, I am for readers—although it is also true that I would immediately eject anyone whom I caught in bed with a romantic novel by the late Dame Barbara Cartland.

Have you ever had a story accepted for publication through a slush pile?

As a matter of fact I have, although it was a book review and not a story. My first long article for The Times Literary Supplement was entirely unsolicited and dealt with what struck me at the time as a wholly new and remarkable historical analysis of, of all things, the epidemiology of the Black Death. To my astonishment, in due course this offering propelled me onto the front cover, together with an enormously magnified photograph of a plague-carrying flea. So there is hope.

What should you do if you don’t like a book halfway through? How do you know when you should give it up?

For years, far too many years, I fell into the dangerous trap of being determined to finish a book despite having reached the conclusion half way through—or at the very least having become deeply suspicious—that in all probability this would not give me pleasure or profit. Yet essentially I am an optimist, and therefore, I suppose, when faced with undeniable evidence that a novel in which I am immersed is, for example, a bleak and depressing saga of frustrated sexual longing and entirely populated by characters of scarcely conceivable dullness, part of me hopes that twenty pages hence there awaits bright flashes of comic genius that may yet salvage the experience. Optimistic though I continue to be, from the vantage point of comfortable middle age I can now say that this is never true and that certainly the healthiest, most sensible, and efficient strategy is to abandon ship.

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Age Gaps; Authorial Décor

July 29, 2011 | by

The man Im dating is smart, charming, charismatic, handsome ... and almost twice my age. Everyone around me keeps saying that our relationship is destined to fail. Do you have suggestions for reading that will give me hope for a happy ending?

Oh, dear. As a wise relative once said to me, “It’s easy to love in a vacuum—it’s other people who are the difficulty.” While it’s true that literature does have its share of unhappy May-December relationships (Laughter in the Dark, anyone? A Gentle Creature? Keep these titles far from smug naysayers!), there’s no shortage of success stories, either. Off the top of my head: Jane Eyre, Sense and Sensibility, Emma, Little Women, Gigi, Little Dorrit, Daddy Long-Legs … and I’m sure readers can name others. I’d even add Rebecca to that list—the DeWinters may have their issues, but I wouldn’t say the age gap is one of them. I can’t pretend any of these is guaranteed to make your friends keep their views to themselves, but I hope they provide a little comfort.

I need help putting together my first-ever apartment. Can you share the decorative tastes of any writers you know? Or literary passages about especially inspiring interior spaces?

My decorating training began and ended with a childhood love of a 1928 book called The Young Decrorators, in which a bunch of kids learn the basics of interior decoration.

That said, I do have a few ideas. If you’re looking for literary inspiration, I feel bound to invoke Joris-Karl Huysman’s paean to hedonism, A Rebours (variously translated as Against the Grain and Against Nature):

He had long been a connoisseur in the sincerities and evasions of color-tones. In the days when he had entertained women at his home, he had created a boudoir where, amid daintily carved furniture of pale, Japanese camphor-wood, under a sort of pavillion of Indian rose-tinted satin, the flesh would color delicately in the borrowed lights of the silken hangings.

This room, each of whose sides was lined with mirrors that echoed each other all along the walls, reflecting, as far as the eye could reach, whole series of rose boudoirs, had been celebrated among the women who loved to immerse their nudity in this bath of warm carnation, made fragrant with the odor of mint emanating from the exotic wood of the furniture.

So there’s that. On the other end of the spectrum, I am also a major fan of Dorothy Draper’s Decorating is Fun which, while not technically “literature,” is colorful enough to double as entertaining reading. And Serious Pleasures, the biography of bright young aesthete Stephen Tennant, contains jaw-dropping descriptions of his home, Wilsford Manor (inspired by Huysmans). As to authorial décor, you might get a kick out of this slideshow of writers’ homes.

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Paradise Lost

July 19, 2011 | by

Photograph by Little Sophie.

Four years ago, I embarked on a relationship with a man twenty years my senior, whose Florida home, a few streets over from my condo, boasted wall-to-wall carpeting with a space-galaxy motif, a vintage circus-sideshow banner in the master bedroom, and a six-foot-tall statue of a gecko dressed as a jester, which overlooked the backyard. My family was reluctantly supportive, in that “you’re our daughter and we love you, even if your choices worry us” manner. I had survived, just barely, one brutal heartbreak after another in my midtwenties. It was refreshing to find someone who embraced the eclectic, rallied friends to swing by for dinner, and appeared with surprise snacks when I was scribbling fiction poolside. But mostly, I felt relieved at finding someone who was nice, a champion of my own long-stifled quirkiness.

He had spent eighteen months in federal prison twenty years before, on a fraud felony. Ah, but wasn’t the past just the past? It wasn’t fair to hold a human being to a mistake made so long ago. Didn’t I have my own shameful moments, perhaps not felonies or arrests, but black marks when I had been less than my best self? Don’t we all?

In the spirit of loving kindness, as I watched my fiction burst to life under my new love’s backyard Buddhist prayer flags, I dismissed any signs of cautionary red. A mentor of mine calls fiction writers “literary cannibals.” I was having fun, and my writing responded to the offbeat environment of vinyl Jesus figurines embedded with Magic 8 Balls, wind chimes, and the Grateful Dead. Halfway through a grueling semester in a low-residency M.F.A., I had been questioning my ability to master fiction. Now my adviser proclaimed I had achieved a breakthrough—“a talent for inventing loopy comic situations.”

Things only seemed to get better. My man and I came up with affectionate names for each other—I was Babette and he was Babu. Real monikers fallen away, the relationship carved its own offbeat identity.

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