What We’re Loving: Being Stranded, Being Stoned, Krumping


This Week’s Reading


Promotional still from Dock Ellis & the LSD No-No

When you grow up in Los Angeles with divorced parents, you’re always getting stranded somewhere, usually in your own home. This particular conundrum, unique to the geography of LA, is novelized in Darcy O’Brien’s A Way of Life, Like Any Other, a loosely fictionalized account of his sordid childhood in mid-century Hollywood, published in 1978. O’Brien is the only son of two fading film stars, whom he is burdened to babysit. Like all proper LA novels, this one has Malibu, western stars, prostitutes, “screenplay ideas,” Mexican food. But what I was most struck by was O’Brien’s portrait of the LA child as a captive audience. As our protagonist more somberly puts it: “My jailer had forgotten what I was in for but he wanted to keep me there for company.” That is what happens when you are stranded. Parents confide in you, and not just your own parents—anyone’s parents, perhaps because they truly are seeking decent advice, or maybe just because you’re the only other soul they’ve encountered that day. Our hero learns all the right coping mechanisms: make friends with the kid that has a car, play your parents against each other, move in with a nice Jewish producer who has more rooms in his house then he knows what to do with, and then try desperately to convince someone to love you, or at the very least to sleep with you. —Hailey Gates

Ever heard the story of MLB pitcher Dock Ellis’s having thrown a “no-no” in 1970 while he was as high (on LSD) “as a Georgia pine?” Well, now you have. —Stephen Hiltner

Earlier this week, on a flight from the Midwest to the East Coast, I read William Morris’s lecture “The Lesser Arts” to distract myself from the ear-popping, the altitude, and the beginnings of a cold. It’s Morris at his philosophical best: a manifesto on the use and value of the decorative arts, speaking against the notion that they’re somehow “lesser” than other fine arts. “Everything made by man’s hands has a form, which must be either beautiful or ugly,” spoke Morris, “beautiful if it is in accord with Nature, and helps her; ugly if it is discordant with Nature, and thwarts her … the hand of the craftsman is guided to work in the way that she does, till the web, the cup, or the knife, look as natural, nay as lovely, as the green field, the river bank, or the mountain flint.” As I engaged with the text, the interior of the plane—with its many small miracles of engineering packaged in just as many sins of design—felt more and more like a post-apocalyptic bomb shelter. To Morris, even late-nineteenth century London was an abomination of ugliness: “a whole country or more covered over with hideous hovels, big, middle-sized, and little.” One can only wonder what he would think of 2014 London—or, for that matter, New York City. —Clare Fentress

A few weeks ago, when I wrote briefly about Howard Moss, Lorin recommended “Ménage à Trois,” a poem Moss published in The New Yorker in 1969. (Subscribers can read it here.) You might expect, given the title, a bit of titillation—but this is Moss, and his is a household of jaded appetites. Wry, unforgiving, and larded with tart apercus, the poem tells of a trio on a harrowingly dull vacation: “The food is dreadful. The weather worse./ So much for all the touted joys/ Of the Riviera—or wherever we are.” That kind of weariness pervades, and charges, the whole thing. Moss’s exhaustion makes for oddly buoyant verse, and you have to admire the verbal precision behind his contempt: “We provide pornography/ (mental) for the neighbors, who watch our blinds/ As if they were about to disclose an orgy.” That disclose is spot-on. As we approach the treacle-fest that is Valentine’s Day, a ménage as loveless as Moss’s is a fitting aperitif: bitter, but stimulating. “A little citrus kiss,” to borrow a turn from the poem. —Dan Piepenbring

As I watched Ben Wheatley’s very black comedy Sightseers (2012) last night, I couldn’t help but remember a quote from William Gass, who said, when asked about his magnum opus, The Tunnel, “I don’t think anything is sacred and therefore I am prepared to extol or make fun of anything.” Wheatley belongs to the same camp, especially the “make fun of anything” part of it. In Sightseers, he follows a seemingly milquetoast couple, Chris and Tina, on a caravanning trip through the English countryside—it quickly devolves into an anorak Bonnie and Clyde when the two kill a bunch of people. Its comment on the “English character” is cruel—after Tina harangues Chris for murdering an innocent person, he says, “He’s not a person, he’s a Daily Mail reader”—but the film isn’t soulless. Deep down, it’s about what happens to quiet desperation when it grows extremely loud. —Justin Alvarez

For my thirteenth birthday, I crimped my hair; for my twenty-fourth, I went to the ballet. Which one? Balanchine’s Jewels, accompanied with compositions by Fauré, Stravinsky, and Tschaikovsky. Mine was an evening of dazzling leotards, exquisite sets, delicate music, and even more delicate dancers—it was all very mesmerizing. But even with the production’s modern flare, I couldn’t help but wish I were watching Rennie Harris’s hip-hop company, Rennie Harris Puremovement, who—as Joan Acocella convincingly advertised in The New Yorker—just finished a run at the Joyce. Don’t get me wrong, for the classically inclined, I highly recommend Balanchine’s take on cabochon. It’s just that the transition from crimping to krumping makes a bit more sense for this gal. —Caitlin Youngquist