William Sergeant Kendall, Narcissa (detail).
- Today in mirrors: they’re everywhere. As Alexandra Kleeman points out, they’ve proliferated to such a degree that our self-image is inescapable. There’s never been a better time for ridiculously narcissistic people to walk the earth, and never a harder time for everyone else: “For much of mirrors’ long history, they were luxury items, fragile and expensive to produce, owned mainly by the aristocratic and the wealthy. Who could have imagined, then, that they would one day be so cheap and so common that we’d use them to wallpaper our bathrooms and dance floors, line our skyscrapers with their smooth, shiny surfaces, and affix them to our cars? … In the elevator, I watch myself in the convex security mirror, my head ballooning. When you seek out—or seek to avoid—your own reflection, the modern city becomes a hall of mirrors: car windows, reflective walls, and plate glass are everywhere, transmitting a cacophony of different versions of you—this one too short, that one too wide, another one with a sickly color you’ve never seen before. Your own face runs rampant through the world and, like a word repeated too many times, begins to lose its reference.”
- The art of literary hate mail endures, though you’d think people today would have better things to do or at least more prominent people to hate. William Giraldi offers a history of the form, a glimpse at some of his own hate mail (received, not sent), and, best of all, a sample of D. H. Lawrence’s scornful contributions, which reveal him as a true master of spleen: “To poet Amy Lowell in 1914: ‘Why do you deny the bitterness in your nature, when you write poetry? Why do you take a pose? It causes you always to shirk your issues, and find a banal resolution at the end.’ To Katherine Mansfield in 1920: ‘I loathe you. You revolt me stewing in your consumption,’ to which he amends this barb: ‘The Italians were quite right to have nothing to do with you.’ To critic John Middleton Murry in 1924: ‘Your articles in the Adelphi always annoy me. Why care so much about your own fishiness or fleshiness? Why make it so important? Can’t you focus yourself outside yourself? Not forever focused on yourself, ad nauseam?’ To Aldous Huxley in 1928: ‘I have read Point Counter Point with a heart sinking through my boot soles … It becomes of a phantasmal boredom and produces ultimately inertia, inertia, inertia and final atrophy of the feelings.’”
- Forty-five years ago, Sports Illustrated hired Hunter S. Thompson to write five hundred words about a motorcycle race in Vegas. What emerged from the assignment was … different: “The final version would clock in at 204 pages (more than sixty thousand words)—over the course of which Thompson would manage to include a grand total of twenty-two psychopharmacological substances. Acid/LSD appears the most: it’s mentioned thirty-nine times and is consumed, in scene, twice. Mescaline comes in second, referred to on nineteen different occasions, but regarding consumption it takes top billing … While Hunter Thompson would manage to include in Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas a wide variety of subjects, one theme we tend to overlook, today, is a perspective on drugs that manages to articulate, with surprising foresight, our own present-day relationship with psychopharmacology—with stimulants, especially. After all, Thompson wasn’t taking Dexedrine to get high, to expand his consciousness; his amphetamine use could be egregious, yes, and on these two trips, after so many days of constant consumption—of drinking and not sleeping—the end result, the general degradation of his physical and mental state, would seem to suggest otherwise. But he didn’t use the drug to escape the reality of the world around him … ”