Now It’s Your Turn to Live Here, and Other News


On the Shelf


Still from Grey Gardens.


  • “I can’t stand being in this house,” Little Edie says in Grey Gardens. “In the first place, it makes me terribly nervous. I’m scared to death of doors, locks, people roaming around in the background, under the trees, in the bushes, I’m absolutely terrified.” And now, reader, you can own that house—for just twenty million dollars! Sally Quinn, the D.C. doyenne who restored the East Hampton home and threw many a lavish party there, is putting it on the market, with a glass menagerie of Little Edie’s kitten figurines still intact. Katie Rogers writes, “The home was long ago restored to its old Hamptons charm, and cleared of all cat smells—unless, Ms. Quinn said, you happen to stick your nose into a particular corner of the foyer after a rainstorm that lasts days. The house is decorated in soft blues and floral wallpaper and is dotted with plenty of fat-leaf potted plants. It is vibrant even in winter … Whoever buys Grey Gardens will be taking on a home with a nearly mythic history. Completed in 1897, the home became infamous under the care (or lack thereof) of Little Edie and her mother, Edith Ewing Bouvier Beale, the first cousin and aunt of Mrs. Onassis. Their plight generated headlines when the Suffolk County health department raided the house in 1971; the authorities cited every known housing code violation … ‘This home will not be attractive to a Russian oligarch,’ Ms. Quinn said dryly.”
  • Writing about other people is torture—not for the writer, but for the written. Emmanuel Carrère says to Wyatt Mason, “To write about others is an enormous problem. The sincerity that you can exhibit with yourself, you have no right to inflict on anyone else … It makes me think of a sentence, something absolutely horrible … It was fifteen or twenty years ago, in an interview with General Massu of the French Army, who had been accused of torturing men in Algeria … In the interview, Massu said, of la gégène—torture with electric prods from a generator—‘Listen. Don’t exaggerate. The prods? I tried them on myself. It hurts, but not worse than that.’ The nonsense of that statement! … I have used the generator on people other than myself. And that bothers me. I don’t like that idea. I’m not a good man, unfortunately. I would like to be a good man. I admire goodness and virtue most. But I am not very good.”

  • Then again, goodness is overrated. Don’t let anyone take away your right to be an asshole. Take it from this American billionaire, J. Tomilson Hill, who wants the world to know that it’s totally kosher for him to reject a museum’s £30.7 million offer for a rare painting he owns: “He said he warned the National Gallery and the Arts Council before they started fundraising that he ‘would not accept a value for the picture lower than my cost.’ He added: ‘They went ahead, despite the warning … Their argument that they wasted all this time and effort to raise the money, only to have the offer rejected, rings very hollow’ … Hill purchased Portrait of a Young Man in a Red Cap in 2015 for $48m (£30.7m). The National Gallery raised the money, primarily from the Art Fund, the Heritage Lottery Fund and the Treasury. But Hill argued that, since the Brexit vote in June, the steep decline in sterling’s value against the dollar meant the offer would leave him short by $10m (£8m). The work is one of only fifteen surviving portraits by the Florentine painter Pontormo, and one of the only examples of his work that resides outside his native Italy.”
  • Advice for utopians: don’t underestimate the mileage you’ll get out of a nice, functioning bureaucracy. As Alexa Clay writes, “perhaps the irony is that many of the administrative and managerial forces that individuals are running away from within mainstream society are exactly the organizational tools that would make intentional communities more resilient: that regardless of how much intentional communities with utopian aims seek to step to one side of worldly affairs, they succeed or fail for the very same pragmatic reasons that other human enterprises—notably businesses and start-ups—succeed or fail … Bronson Alcott (the father of Louisa May Alcott, the author of Little Women) was characterized by the essayist Thomas Carlyle as a ‘man bent on saving the world by a return to acorns’. In 1843, Alcott founded Fruitlands, an experimental community in Harvard, Massachusetts. An agrarian commune influenced by transcendentalist thought, and built on renouncing the ‘civilized’ world, Fruitlands abolished private property and cherished, yet struggled, with self-sufficiency, refusing to hire external labor or depend on external trade. Attracting a little over a dozen people, Fruitlands failed after seven months. Acorns, it seems, couldn’t cut it.”
  • In which Daniel Wenger catches the Ellis Island ferry with Dustin Lance Black, the screenwriter-cum-activist who wrote Milk and, now, When We Rise: “When We Rise depicts gay people as the country’s midcentury migrants. In the first episode, the central characters are living closeted lives in Arizona, Togo, and Vietnam. Each sees a 1971 issue of Life with ‘Gay Liberation’ on the cover and a long article on ‘Homosexuals in Revolt’ inside. In time, they all make it to San Francisco, where liberation awaits, at least for a while … On the ferry, Black emerged from the restroom. ‘This was a safe space for gays for generations,’ he joked, referring to the long tradition of men’s-room cruising. ‘When We Rise’ doesn’t include much sex, but a couple of scenes do take place in a bathhouse. ‘Anyone who watches it from that period is probably, like, That’s a lot of towels,’ he said. ‘Originally, we were told that we could show the sides of butts, but then the broadcasting standards changed, and when we showed ABC they were, like, Hmm. So now there are some digital towels.’ ”