Embrace Your Inner Airport, and Other News


On the Shelf

Bjorn Krogstad, Figure in Airfield, 1983.

  • The airport is more than a place—it’s a state of mind. If you’re still wracked with anxiety and frustration whenever you head to JFK, be advised that the whole world is essentially an airport at this point, and it’s up to you to make peace with the essence of airportness. Christopher Schaberg writes, “Airportness transcends airports themselves. It has to do not so much with surface-level features such as sloping hallways and undulating rooflines but a host of more disparate effects that make air travel something humans can internalize and learn to live with. Airportness is how flight becomes natural to us, expected and accepted: contrails in the sky, layovers between flights … Airportness is all around us, exceeding not only airports but also air travel itself, perhaps even becoming a kind of proxy for what it means to be American. Airportness shifts from the derogatory to the sacrosanct, sliding from protected spaces to abject places.”
  • You might’ve held off on reading Kierkegaard because you assume that, like most philosophical writing, his books are stiff, boring clumps of logical premises shouted at you by a dead white man. But you’re wrong. They’re unlike any other philosophical writing before or since. Will Rees explains, “John Updike famously argued that Kierkegaard’s works owe much to the art of novel-writing. After all, they are written by and about fictional characters whose worldviews they attempt to occupy from within. In a way that would please the contemporary teacher of creative writing, Kierkegaard does not tell—he shows. But we mustn’t get carried away; we do Kierkegaard a disservice if we simply appreciate his books. By departing from the normal philosophical form, they arguably tighten rather than slacken the demand on our attention, because arguments are present, but one must search for them, and often they reside in what Kierkegaard’s characters do not or cannot say—in the implicit gaps in their imperfect world views.” 

  • Artemisia Gentileschi was a woman painting in the Renaissance—itself a rare thing. But her work—visceral, violent depictions of Biblical stories—puts her among the greatest artists of her era, Jonathan Jones argues: “Gentileschi achieved something so unlikely, so close to impossible, that she deserves to be one of the most famous artists in the world. It is not simply that she became a highly successful artist in an age when guilds and academies closed their doors to women. She also did what none of the other—rare—Renaissance and baroque women who made it as artists could manage: she communicated a powerful personal vision. Her paintings are self-evidently autobiographical.”
  • Alice Neel was painting several centuries after Gentileschi, but she was not one to be outdone in the disturbing category. Claire Messud, walking through a new exhibition of Neel’s work, sees both “solace and challenge”: “Neel’s portraits are rarely serene but always memorable. Her early paintings range from the unsettling to the disturbing. In her nude painting of her estranged daughter Isabetta (1934, repainted 1935), the prepubescent girl stands arms akimbo with one foot forward, her gaze frank but also unseeing, her child’s body frank also, but flattened and greenish, her feet peculiarly large. In Degenerate Madonna (1930), a mother notable chiefly for the ghostly black nimbus of her hair, a mouth like a gash, and fierce elongated nipples like bloody daggers, overlooks a ghastly-gray bald infant with a skull of hydrocephalic proportions, tiny crooked features and stiff white legs like a doll’s; while the faint profile of a second bald-headed child—or the infant’s reflection—looms bodiless in the background.”
  • American baseball is fine, if you like all that waiting around and stuff. Mina Kimes just went to see baseball in South Korea, and on the whole it sounds like they’ve made some improvements, at least where fan culture is concerned: “Throughout the game, the fans perform a variety of coordinated moves: tomahawk chops, gentle thrusts, wax-on, wax-off hand motions … The entertainment is relentless. After high school girls perform in a dance competition called ‘Giants Idol,’ the LED stadium lights abruptly shut off and everyone raises a cellphone, forming a flickering mass. Later, a silent army of workers distributes thousands of orange plastic bags, which the fans inflate into balloons and tie to their heads like billowing hats; from above, the crowd must look like an ocean of buoys. At the end of the game, everyone unties the bags and uses them to clean up trash.”