Kiss the Leaves, Don’t Be Naughty, and Other News


On the Shelf

From the (fairly creepy) Brazilian cover of My Sweet Orange Tree.

  • Everyone loves a good international children’s-lit imbroglio, all the more so when K-pop stars enter the fray. Please note, then, that Korean pop legend IU stands accused of sexualizing the story of My Sweet Orange Tree, a Brazilian novel more than forty years old, which she recently adapted for her song “Zeze.” The book concerns a kid—yes, it’s Zeze—who gets into a lot of innocent trouble and faces corporal punishment as a consequence. But IU’s lyrics tell a different tale: “Zeze, come on up the tree quick and kiss the leaves, don’t be naughty and don’t hurt the tree, come up the tree and get the youngest leaf … you are innocent but shrewd, transparent but dirty and there is no way of knowing what’s living inside.”
  • Christopher Logue was a fine poet, but I’ll always wonder what might’ve been if he’d stayed the course as an actor: “His considerable work in theatre and film as actor, playwright and screenwriter nourished the poetry, much of which was dramatic in nature … Rather pleased with his performance as Cardinal Richelieu in Ken Russell’s 1971 film The Devils, Logue boasted to the director Lindsay Anderson that he had a future as ‘the only English poet / film star.’ To which Anderson responded, sighing: ‘You will never be a star. You might become a featured player specializing in intellectual villains, artistic misfits, et cetera.’ ” (He did, it must be said, score the role of “Spaghetti-eating fanatic” in Terry Gilliam’s Jabberwocky, from 1977.)
  • The great irony of psychoanalysts is that many of them, despite the depth of their insights into filial relations, were shitty parents. Reading their family memoirs is an illuminating experience, especially in the case of Franz Alexander, whose granddaughter Illonka has written a book about him: “Her grandfather declined to house her, as if, she said, he was punishing her for her mother’s choices. She wound up in a Catholic residence for girls in downtown Los Angeles. She didn’t know that she had family in San Diego, Cleveland, New York, Chicago, Madison, and Dallas. No one told her. When Franz Alexander died, in 1964, two years later, Ilonka was adrift. Although she had two half-sisters, she thought of herself as an only child … The biggest lie: Franz told everyone that he didn’t know where Ilonka’s mother’s was. He was embarrassed, Ilonka said, analyzing him.”
  • Today in publishing-industry nostalgia: Remember when magazines were rolling in the dough, and when their words-to-pictures ratio was nearly one-to-one? I don’t, either. But Robert Hughes does—he was Time’s art critic for thirty-one years, and it was, he says, good: “Being the art critic of Time in the seventies was like enjoying a perpetual research grant from the most benign of foundations. I could go more or less anywhere I wanted, look at anything I wished to, and be paid generously for doing it … If there was a show in Rome or Florence, Paris or Brussels, Berlin or London, or indeed practically anywhere in Europe, a show that could be argued to hold some interest for an intelligent reader and from which two, four, or six pages of splashy color could be extracted, off I would go … When I heard some power hog from the movie industry bombing on about the truffes sous la cendre he had recently demolished at Le Park 45 during the Cannes Film Festival, I would not need to wonder what they tasted like.”
  • And today in nostalgia, full stop: Alanis Morissette’s Jagged Little Pill is twenty years old, and she’s here to remind you: “I remember telling them, ‘Well, if you wanted a record that sounded like Dan Steely, then maybe you should have signed someone in their thirties, rather than me, a nineteen-year-old.’ This was met with silence, in typical form. My friend quickly leaned over and said, ‘It’s “Steely Dan,” Alanis.’ Oh, jeez. I said, ‘Well, regardless, this record represents me, and anything other than this is not a record I am interested in being a part of.’”