Lethem’s Puking Cats, and Other News


On the Shelf

Jonathan Lethem’s vomiting-cat collection. Photo: David Brandon Geeting for the New York Times


  • Arthur Fournier is in the business of library building, too. No, he does not have any vomiting cats to offer. But his cache of rare books has its own specialties: “These days my clients are a nice mix, including several private collectors who are serious, passionate, and devoted. They are building incredible collections on topics no one else is. For example, I have one client who is working in the area of counterculture and leftist groups in the U.S. and abroad in the 1960s with a special focus on armed struggle and liberation. Another client has asked me to help him build a very specific and unique library related to aviation and topics in experimental jet craft during and after the Second World War. And another is collecting French underground and New Wave magazines from the 1960s to the 1990s. It’s great to get into a synchronous groove with someone who has the vision to collect adventurously and help him or her find the best materials.”
  • Maggie Nelson closed out 2016 as everyone should have, by watching the “Darling Nikki” scene in Purple Rain: “Did I want to be Prince or be with Prince? I think the beauty is, neither. He made it O.K. to feel what he was feeling, what I was feeling. I wanted to be a diminutive, profuse, electric ribbon of horniness and divine grace. I bought a white shirt with ruffles down the front and wore it with skintight crushed-velvet hot pants, laid a full-length mirror on the floor, and slithered on top of the mirror, imitating Prince’s closing slither on the elevated amp in ‘Darling Nikki.’ Yeah, he’s telling Apollonia to come back, but you can tell he doesn’t really give a shit about Apollonia. He’s possessed by something else, his life force onstage. Half naked, wearing only black bolero pants and a black kerchief tied over the top part of his face, his torso slick with sweat, Prince is telling us a story. An important one.”
  • And Rajeev Balasubramanyam remembers listening to Wham! in the working-class Lancashire of 1984: “In contrast to the dull, rainy, post-industrial landscape around me, they always looked as if they were having the time of their lives. They were young, beautiful, tanned, and made spectacular pop music. Their first two albums were called Fantastic and Make It Big. After their first number one single, George Michael performed on Top of the Pops in a T-shirt with ‘Number 1’ embroidered in gold on it; in the video, he wore one with ‘Choose Life’ printed on it in bold black letters. In gloomy, northern, cold, racist England, this was what I wanted to hear. I wanted hope. I wanted fun.”