In the Kitchen with Salvador Dalí, and Other News


On the Shelf

Photo: Taschen, via the Guardian

  • This holiday season, the gourmand in your life will accept one gift and one gift only: Salvador Dalí’s cookbook, with its recipes for frog pasties and thousand-year-old eggs. Any kitchen without it is disappointingly ordinary and should be destroyed immediately. “Dalí’s lavish and erotic cookbook Les Diners de Gala was first published in 1973, featuring 136 recipes compiled by the painter and his wife Gala. Divided into twelve chapters with titles such as ‘Prime Lilliputian malaises’ (meat) and ‘Deoxyribonucleic Atavism’ (vegetables), the book also features sumptuous Dalí illustrations and photographs of the painter posing alongside tables loaded with a banquet’s worth of food. Chapter 10, entitled ‘The “I Eat GALA”,’ is devoted to aphrodisiacs. In one illustration, a disembodied head with biscuits for hair and a fringe made of a jar of jam sits on a platter alongside a large cube of blue cheese, the sides of which show a crowd in front of a mountain. Another shows a desert scene in which a telephone receiver is suspended on a twig over a melting plate holding two fried eggs and a razor blade.”
  • I hadn’t known the comic novel was under attack—unless, maybe, its enemies have taken a page from Donald Trump’s book and refused to telegraph their strategies in advance—but here, nevertheless, is Howard Jacobson rising to its defense, and reaching deep back into the canon in search of its ancestry: “The novel is never more itself—certainly it never has more fun being itself—than when its heroes fall drastically short of that heroism whose function is to right wrongs, settle scores and put the fractured times back together again … Call this narrative the atheism of the real. It is the great achievement of the novel in prose. I mean no disrespect to those whose imaginations take them to fantasy in any of its forms. The novel can and should do anything. Yet there can be a bias among those of us who love novels nearly as much as we love life (and sometimes even more) in favor of the flight-of-fancy novel, the introspectively other-worldly, let us call it, as against this worldliness, except when what is of this world is to airy thinness beat, as luminescent as angels’ wings, so exquisite in its quiet dailiness that we can see right through it.” 

  • Emily Witt’s new book, Future Sex, looks at the glut of technologies available to improve, streamline, or explode our sex lives—and how those technologies often serve as impediments more than anything. Alexandra Schwartz writes, “[Witt] was going to see how strangers in California used the Internet to organize and make sense of their desires, but the life she intended to hack was her own … Witt is a sharp observer of the behavior and the motivations of others, a wry, affectionate portraitist of idealistic people and the increasingly surreal place they belong to. Among other things, Future Sex offers a superb account of the absurdities of San Francisco in the first half of this decade, a bouncy castle of a city where the private pleasures of the conquering tech class are construed (and marketed) as social benefits for all.”
  • Did Ed Sheeran rip off Marvin Gaye? Did Robin Thicke? You could form your own opinion, or you could ask a forensic musicologist, whose job it is to analyze songs for copyright infringement: “Society’s become enamored by the romantic myth of creativity … The idea that inspiration comes to us in a genius-like way from God or the spirit or whatever. Often for songwriters, that is how it feels emotionally. But, of course, every songwriter is partly a product of their influences. Allowing yourself to be influenced by a song—just not copying the melody, chords or lyrics—is perfectly fine. I mean, isn’t that what songwriting actually is?”
  • Given the prominence of the phrase extreme vetting in the news cycle lately, it’s worth looking back at Francis Galton, a nineteenth-century English scientist who pioneered the fine art of personal-data collection, eventually resulting in the debut of the SAT: “The SAT led the way for other intelligence and personality tests designed to group people into hierarchies or categories; the industry term for them was ‘people-sorters’ … standardized tests like the Binet-Simon, the Stanford-Binet, and the SAT were used for evaluative purposes from the start, and they’ve had (and have) a real and immediate impact on the life chances of those who took (and take) them. Scoring low on an intelligence test could get you barred from access to higher education or a white-collar job. It could also be aggregated with other scores and used to consign your entire race or ethnicity to subhuman status.”