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Posts Tagged ‘Sinclair Lewis’

Barnaby Conrad: Author, Matador, Bon Vivant, and Thorn in Hemingway’s Side

March 4, 2013 | by

Barnaby as matadorMy brief acquaintance with Barnaby Conrad, one of the bon vivant-iest of all modern bon vivant writers, happened because a stranger decided to wear a certain necklace one evening last fall. I’d been invited to a Fashion Week trunk show in one of New York City’s trendier hotels. I almost didn’t go. I hate trunk shows. But I did go, and the designer greeted me at the door. There was a lovely starkness about her: those gaunt cheekbones and long hands and limbs; Modigliani likely would have loved her. Dangling from a chain around her neck: a charming little brass charm in the shape of a bull.

“My father was a bullfighter,” explained the designer, who’d created the charm herself. “American. You’re an author, right? Then you probably know him: Barnaby Conrad, the writer.”

I did not, as a matter of fact, know Barnaby Conrad. Shame on me: as it turned out, Truman Capote had known Barnaby Conrad. So, for that matter, had Noel Coward and Eva Gabor and William F. Buckley. Sinclair Lewis, John Steinbeck, Alex Haley, and James Michener: they all knew him well. And Hemingway too—although, at one point, he apparently wished that he’d never even heard of Barnaby Conrad.Barnaby Conrad

The first thing that you learned about Mr. Conrad, even when you met him in abstentia: he was charming and very appetite-driven. Two weeks ago, he died at the venerable age of ninety, having authored more than thirty-five books detailing, among other topics, his descent into alcoholism, the secrets of Hemingway’s Spain, and the hijinks of the international bon ton in midcentury San Francisco. He was a Renaissance man with a talent for dwelling at epicenters of rarified, exclusive realms: as one of history’s few high-visibility American bullfighters (while in Spain, he went by the name “El Niño de California,” i.e., the California Kid), the proprietor of a who’s-who nightclub, and also as an accomplished artist (several portraits of his famous friends hang in DC’s National Portrait Gallery). Read More »

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Staff Picks: Sexual Humiliation, Advanced Style

March 16, 2012 | by

“No one wants to be called a penis with a thesaurus. For an English-language novelist, raised and educated and self-consciously steeped in the tradition of the Anglo-American novel, in which female characters, female writers, and female readers have had a huge part, the prospect of not being able to write for female readers is a crisis. What kind of novelist are you if women aren’t reading your books?” Elaine Blair on DFW, sexual humiliation, and that obscure object of desire, the woman reader. —Lorin Stein

I’ve been reading and rereading galleys of The Poetry of Kabbalah, an anthology of Jewish mystical verse translated (and massively annotated) by Peter Cole. This is ambitious poetry. It combines liturgical solemnity with outrageous flights of metaphor, and Cole’s versions match the originals step for step. About the Poems of the Palaces, a series of hymns from the first millennium, Cole writes that it is “a poetry written for men who would become like angels, serving and praising God. It is not a poetry of ‘personal voice’ or ‘a meter-making argument’ with a ‘self.’ Rather, it is a verse rooted in the magical power of letters and words.” —Robyn Creswell

I was so excited when Ari Seth Cohen's Advanced Style landed on my desk—my love of the blog is no secret and being able to peruse these grandes dames at my leisure is even better! —Sadie Stein

Here’s an example of why some people need actual bookstores: if I hadn’t seen it sitting there at the Strand, I'd never have picked up Babbitt—and what could be better for a bad mood on a Saturday night with a cold? —L. S.

If you are like me and springtime puts you in a whimsical, dancing mood, try The Band Wagon with Fred Astaire and Cyd Charisse. Though I am too timid (and clumsy!) to dance like that myself, I live vicariously through their twirls and sashays through Central Park. —Elizabeth Nelson

The huge, knotted automobile parts now on view in the John Chamberlain retrospective at the Guggenheim each look like brushstrokes made massive, three-dimensional, and wonderfully kinetic. —Deirdre Foley-Mendelssohn

The Wilder Quarterly is the perfect thing to read in these early days of spring: the Brooklyn-based magazine is a stylish paen to all things green and growing and donates part of proceeds to the Fresh Air Fund. —S. S.

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Staff Picks: Bookshop Door, Thinking Fast and Slow

September 16, 2011 | by

The Greenwich Village Bookshop Door at the Harry Ransom Center.

Thinking, Fast and Slow sums up the cognitive research that won Daniel Kahneman a Nobel Prize in Economics (a first for a psychologist). It is also an old-fashioned work of philosophy: a series of DIY experiments that teach you how and why to doubt your intuitions about things as basic as cause and effect. —Lorin Stein

The Ransom Center has launched a curiously fascinating exhibit online, based around a door from Frank Shay’s bookshop that was signed by hundreds of the habitués of 1920s Greenwich Village, including Theodore Dreiser, John Dos Passos, Upton Sinclair, Sherwood Anderson, and Sinclair Lewis. The original shop was across the street from my current apartment and exploring the site, and the interconnected histories of the people who frequented the store, is a nifty way back in time—like a portal to twenties social networking. —Deirdre Foley-Mendelssohn

I’ve been looking forward to pulling Dalkey Archive’s new collection of stories and essays by Mina Loy off my shelf, but it hasn't yet found it’s way into my reading cycle. I have managed to dip my toe in by way of Triple Canopy’s excerpt of her play “The Sacred Prostitute,” a very funny send-up of, among other things, men’s attitudes toward women. What’s more, some young genius at the magazine has put a handful of CF’s sublime, seductive drawings into the mix. —Nicole Rudick

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