French Frame Frenzy, and Other News


On the Shelf

Image via J. Paul Getty Museum / Hyperallergic

  • We’re in the midst of serializing Chris Bachelder’s novel The Throwback Special—a book about middle-aged men who meet annually to reenact the 1985 NFL game in which Joe Theismann fractured his leg on live TV—whose whole gestalt I’ve tried in vain to describe to people. Fortunately, in a new interview Bachelder does my work for me: “The play is just five seconds long, but it has extraordinary density and power. It’s like some kind of astronomical event … Even if you know nothing about Lawrence Taylor or Theismann or the NFC East or the 1985 season or what quarter it was or what the score was, you still have this visceral reaction to this gruesome injury. You can still feel the terrible randomness and chaos. It opens up the awful possibility in our minds that any single play—or any single plan or design—could end up like this. All of this interests me, and the play is useful to me as a writer because it’s so contained and discrete. It’s not like trying to write about an entire game or an entire season … So the play itself is circumscribed and dramatic, but the novel is primarily concerned with it as a locus of nostalgia for these middle-aged men. There is something almost primitively spiritual about their desire to reenact this disastrous play.”
  • Real talk from across the pond: “I was the head of the Piers Gaveston Society, which is the society that David Cameron allegedly stuck his dick in a pig for. I never did that … No one, as far as I know, fucked a pig’s head. But if they had it wouldn’t have mattered (provided it was consensual). Fucking a pig’s head is not what makes David Cameron a rubbish prime minister.”
  • In LA, a new opera called Hopscotch is testing the limits of the genre—it’s set in cars, and the audience has to climb into a limousine to start: “Attendees will be told to show up at their start time at an address along one of three colored routes. Once inside the limo, they will be driven, along with a handful of musicians, for about ten minutes. Throughout this approximately ten-minute ‘scene,’ which, yes, takes place inside a car, a vocalist may sing along with a prerecorded track playing on the car’s stereo, or there could be two singers and an alto saxophone, or the car may drive by a quartet on the street and the sound will be piped into the limousine as it passes … The car will arrive at a location where the group will disembark to witness the next scene, which will take place in a public space. Once that concludes, the group will be ushered into a different limousine, inside which the next scene will unfold.”
  • Today in thoughtful remarks on largely forgotten Portuguese modernist classics about existential despair: pause to remember Fernando Pessoa’s The Book of Disquiet, which is “much more philosophical quandary than it is a novel, and retroactively engineered at that, where various editors and translators arranged the hundreds of fragments and diary-type entries. As a result, no two editions are truly the same in order or content (my edition by the British publisher Serpent Tail Classics was on the slender side, only 272 pages, whereas the Penguin edition is 544 pages). Throughout the course of the ‘novel,’ Soares documents his days as a bookkeeper on Rua Douradores and the heavy ontological and existential musings that weigh down his hours, particularly the disconnect between the vivid world of the mind and the monotony of a daily, work-driven existence.”
  • Art history’s all well and good, but what’s really instructive is the history of the French frame: “Louis XIII was fond of an Italian influence in his frames, while Louis XIV, being ostentatious in all corners of life, preferred the gilding and carving to be as elaborate as possible. Later Louis XV honed it down for more stately, but still very sculptural shapes, and finally Louis XVI favored an even more subdued aesthetic, although it all came crashing down with the French Revolution. Nevertheless, this frenzy for frames had an impact on the exhibition of art across the continent.”