Even Sandwiches Are Real Estate, and Other News


On the Shelf

No joy to be had here.

  • In times of hardship, where can we turn to find even one morsel of pleasure, one solitary crumb of joie de vivre? Well: there are sandwiches. Except, no, today even sandwiches are compromised. The chopped cheese sandwich, for instance—ground beef, onions, melted cheese, lettuce, and tomatoes on a hero roll—is a bodega classic, cheap and delicious. Now it’s gone fancy, with bougie versions popping up in New York and London at much higher prices. “This is a classic story,” said Michael W. Twitty, a culinary historian. “You create something in a state of want, a state of necessity, and then it becomes prime real estate in someone else’s hands.” There is thus no solace to be found in sandwiches, for even they are real estate.
  • At the Lefferts Historic House, in Brooklyn’s Prospect Park, stands the “Monument to the Unelected,” a lawn full of fifty-eight signs for losing presidential candidates. The artist Nina Khatchadourian, who runs the monument, has just added one more. Amanda Petrusich writes, “Neither the designs nor the signs themselves are archival; Katchadourian fabricated each one anew from corrugated plastic sheets. ‘Of course, it’s a project about politics and history, but it doesn’t take a position on who should win any given election,’ she told me. The monument, rather, is ‘a statement of fact—it’s what we have collectively done, up until now’ … Campaign-sanctioned political signs, Katchadourian pointed out—the ones you can order from a local field office—are often purposefully simple, a blunt visual instrument that, like blunt rhetoric, arouses emotions more than ideas. 

  • Writers have fared poorly with Trump: witness Tony Schwartz, his embattled ghostwriter for The Art of the Deal. Photographers—with their medium naturally, if only moderately, better suited to egomania—have won his favor more often. Now a few of them have looked back on their photo shoots with Trump. William Coupon, most surreally, remembers having him hold a dove: “This was taken in 1983 to go with an article in Manhattan Inc, a prestigious and influential magazine throughout the 1980s. It pretty much invented this idea of businessmen as celebrities. In the article, Trump expressed his desire to be a peace negotiator between the Israelis and Palestinians. So we decided to get this bird to symbolize peace. It worked great graphically—though I had to clean up the poop that eventually ran down Trump’s sleeve … I shot him again in 1992, for the Jewish Defense League. He was holding a small baby tree.”
  • Emilio D’Alessandro spent thirty years working for Stanley Kubrick. His new memoir details some of his odder assignments: “D’Alessandro meets Kubrick during the preproduction of A Clockwork Orange … One of his first responsibilities is the delivery of the enormous porcelain phallus employed by Alex to bludgeon a woman to death in Clockwork … In Rome, D’Alessandro visits a museum exhibition of Kubrick’s personal effects and finds that every item signifies a fleeting moment shared with the late master: handwriting he had recopied, a string he had tied to Kubrick’s Eyemo camera. It’s as much Stanley’s gallery as Emilio’s. He can’t resist reaching out to grasp the past, his past, these artifacts from a distant age. A museum attendant stops him. ‘Come on,’ he tells the attendant. ‘I must have already touched it millions of times! If you had any idea how much cat’s pee I’ve cleaned away from under there, you wouldn’t stand so close!’ ”
  • When politics are at their most Manichean, James Meek writes, everything flattens out: we look forward to the other side’s suffering more than the triumph of our own. And when the other side wins? “I still feel it. I still feel more disgusted, angry and ashamed about the other side winning than I do about my side losing. My champions were fading and insubstantial even before they fought. It saddens me more that America just elected its own id than that in doing so it destroyed the Hillary Clinton project. I will be thrown deeper into despair by the coronation of President Le Pen than into mourning for any of her opponents. It is no longer enough to be offered something to vote for, something to tweet about, an object of loathing. It is never enough to call a march with a whiteboard for a banner. Am I too jaded to hope, in politics, for something real—something, not someone—to yearn for, and not just something to hate?”