A Week in Culture: Sarah Crichton, Part 2


The Culture Diaries

This is the second installment of Sarah Crichton’s culture diary. Click here to read part 1.

Sarah Crichton. Photograph by Joyce Ravid.


7 A.M. Morning edition. The New York Times. Kagan, oil spill, crushing debt. Market’s going to hell in a hand basket. Leaving late today because I’ve put off a mammogram long enough. Kill time with Architectural Digest. Jean Strouse has an article on a house in Costa Rica. These days, fewer magazines send fewer writers to fewer fab spots on their dime. Good on you, Jean Strouse! Tear out pages with decorating tips I’ll never use. Killing more time, turn on Morning Joe. Tired of the banter, go to YouTube and watch the Lady Gaga and Beyoncé video people have mentioned, “Telephone.”

9 A.M. Wander back to kitchen where the radio is still on. BBC World. Bangkok is preparing to explode, and expats are calling in with observations in real-time. Very exciting. Hard to pull away to leave for mammogram. In fact, decide to pretend I have a ten-thirty appointment, when I know full well it was ten.

10:45 A.M. Have brought Janet Malcolm article to appointment with me; I’m almost done. (It’s very long.) She’s visiting the Bukharan part of Forest Hills, and has just accidentally spotted the little girl who has, in essence, been orphaned by the murder: “A child on a tricycle, pedaling vigorously and laughing in a forced and exaggerated manner, preceded [the couple]. It was Michelle. Gavriel recognized me from the courtroom, and paused to exchange a few words. Walking to the subway, I swore at myself. Had I stayed in Khaika’s garden another minute, I would have had the chance to observe Michelle in the heart of her feared father’s family. But perhaps my glimpse of her face distorted by mirthless laughter sufficed for my journalist’s purpose. I thought I got the message.”

11:00 A.M. The View comes on. In the doctor’s. I try hard to stay focused on my magazine. I lose the battle. The show is too weird to ignore.

11:45 A.M. Back on the No. 4 train to Union Square. Manage to finish Malcolm piece, and mourn the fact that it’s over.

6:40 P.M. Home. As I cook, All Things Considered. Marketplace—they’re playing “Stormy Weather,” which means another bad day on Wall Street. I have shameful plans for the rest of the night. I think, Yes! At eight, American Idol: we’re getting to the finish. And when that’s over: Glee. Fine, mock me. But I love that Matthew Morrison; loved him as a love-struck Italian boy in Light in the Piazza, and as a love-torn lieutenant in South Pacific. I love a song-and-dance number.
 I have an hour before AI (as they say), so I put on an old Segovia LP (I love the pops of the vinyl against the warm strings), and read a large chunk of a surprisingly good manuscript. At eight, I forget my plan and put Joni Mitchell’s scratchy For the Roses on the turntable. The vinyl pops pop pop. I stage my own song-and-dance number. If this were Shindig!, they’d give me a cage.

10:50 P.M. Damn. Missed all shows, but catch a few final moments of Julianna Margulies in The Good Wife. She is so beautiful.

11:00 P.M. Jon Stewart is very good tonight: Release the Kagan.

11:30 P.M. Dip around in Jules Feiffer’s memoir.


5:15 A.M. More Feiffer.

7:00 A.M. Waiting for an egg to boil, pick up Time Out. Exciting: Sara Rudner, a dancer I’ve worshipped for many many years, is returning to the Baryshnikov Arts Center in a few days to perform a dance I saw back in 1994, the last time it was performed. I go online and buy one ticket for Friday night. More and more these days I go places alone, and I’m content.

7:30 A.M. As I get ready, I download a CD of the new LCD Soundsystem that my nice assistant burned for me.

10:40 A.M. Hard day. Nothing is quite right. Check out a YouTube video a new friend suggested when we were discussing attitudes about weight. Fat Rant by Joy Nash. Very funny, very fresh way to address weight. Watch Fat Rant 2 and Fat Rant 3, too.

11:30 A.M. I can’t concentrate on my work. Maybe it’s the four cups of coffee I’ve had in the last hour and a half? I’d prefer to blame something else, something bigger, say, the Internet. I Google an article I’ve always meant to read: “Is Google making us Stupid?” from The Atlantic a few years back, by Nicholas Carr. Try to read the piece, but keep getting interrupted. Will read tonight.

3:30 P.M. Just remembered that Laura Miller wrote a piece in Salon about Carr’s piece and his resulting book, The Shallows. Track it down and print it out for later. Is there a wiser critic than Laura Miller?

5:15 P.M. alert comes in every day at this time. House porn for Brooklynites.

7:00 P.M. Fix an omelette and watch The Lehrer Report. The oil-spill reports become unbearable. So go back to kitchen and read cookbooks, with WQXR in background. WQXR is so much more interesting since the sale to WNYC. I have four women coming for dinner on Saturday night. We all met in college, and have a reunion coming up, but no one wants to go. So this is our own private reunion. I have three new cookbooks: Thomas Heller’s Ad Hoc at Home; Alice Waters’s In the Green Kitchen, and the new Gourmet cookbook. I want to make everything in Ad Hoc at Home.

9:20 P.M. Now is not the time for new things. I’ll cook old favorites: Greek-shrimp casserole from an old wonderful cookbook by Helen Hecht, the wife of the poet Anthony Hecht, and the novelist Elizabeth Gaffney’s almond cake.

10:00 P.M. Pick up old New York Review of Books. Read Tony Judt’s essay, Ill Fares the Land: “Something is profoundly wrong with the way we live today. For thirty years we have made a virtue of the pursuit of material self-interest: indeed, this very pursuit now constitutes whatever remains of our sense of collective purpose. We know what things cost but have no idea what they are worth. . . . We cannot go on living like this.”
 Depressed, cruise around Facebook, which depresses me more, except for a haunting version of Springsteen’s Thunder Road, sung by Martha Plimpton, and posted by Kurt Andersen. Wish I had seen her cabaret show.
 Why do people who don’t know me want to be my friend? Kurt has 3,222 friends. We have sixty-seven in common. Susan Orlean has 1,997 friends. We have fifty-one friends in common. I friend Sub-Zero. Now I’m in the pool to win a whole new state-of-the-art kitchen for free.

11:00 P.M. Love Feiffer, but I don’t want his life tonight. I want Pattie Boyd’s. Pull from bedside stacks, Wonderful Tonight, her memoir of life with George Harrison and Eric Clapton. Quite sweet. She grew up in Kenya.


4:49 A.M. Bad dream. Scrounge around on floor by bed and pull up a New Yorker. Read a new Cursing Mommy by Ian Frazier. Read parts outloud to scare away the scary monsters, and amuse self. “Fuck fuck fuck fuck fuck fuck fuck.” Fall asleep mid-fuck.

8:30 A.M. Pilates. If that doesn’t belong in a Culture Diary, I don’t know what does.

9:40 A.M. On the A train, pull Lepore/Malcolm New Yorker from bag. Read the story from Allegra Goodman. 
All day: Read e-mails, answer e-mails, delete e-mails.

6:40 P.M. On iPod, going to dinner party, watch an old Bush-era Jon Stewart episode. Damn, it’s so sharp, so clear. Better than my TV at home. Laugh too loudly. Disconcert group around me.

11:50 P.M. Missed Real Housewives of New York. All the housewives: of Orange County with their belief that happiness is just one breast implant away, of Atlanta with their McMansions. Cartoony, sure. But revealing, too, and on the New York series at least one or two of the women are going insane in front of our eyes. This is literature. I’m too tired to watch tonight, but check website to see what I missed. Oh how funny! The lead advertiser is K-Y Jelly. I’d love to see the market research.


7:30 A.M. I missed yesterday’s film of plumes of oil gushing, gushing, exploding in the gulf, but it is still everywhere today. On TV, online, in the paper. I need to pretend for a few hours that all is copacetic.

3:20 P.M. Patty Marx e-mails: “We’re going to see Strindberg’s Creditors tonight at the Harvey/BAM. Maybe you should see if there’s a free ticket and join us?” Donmar Warehouse/Alan Rickman (oh I love Alan Rickman) has directed. The Times called it “thrilling.” I have my ticket for Necessary Weather. But that’s way the hell over west on Thirty-seventh Street at eight, whereas Creditors is at seven-thirty at BAM, which is a short walk from my house. Go online, and there are four singles and one is on the aisle, which is what me and my legs demand. I buy it.

9:10 P.M. Creditors is over. Brilliant. And short. I realize how little Strindberg I’ve seen. A lot of Miss Julie. Not that much else, and nothing like this. Kevin Kline and Phoebe Cates are there. Ach—the perfect Gustav! You should play that role, I tell him. He smiles a wicked smile: “I know.”

9:30 P.M. Home. Herbal tea, and pick up the new Franzen novel, Freedom, out in September. Dive in, meet Patty and Water Berglund of old St. Paul, am blissfully engulfed for hours and go to bed.

Sarah Crichton, a former editor of Seventeen and Newsweek, is the publisher of Sarah Crichton Books at Farrar, Straus and Giroux.