Seduced Yet Again by Colonel Sanders, and Other News


On the Shelf

From the cover of Tender Wings of Desire.


  • You know that Borges story, “The Library of Babel,” where he imagines a world containing all possible books? Perforce, one such book would have to be a romance novel in which a Kentucky-born fried-chicken magnate—the very same one whose face and name are emblazoned on fast-food franchises around the world—seduces an errant noblewoman at a dockside bar. And now, I’m happy to report, that book actually exists. True, it was a statistical inevitability. Someday, someone would sit down and string together the letters properly, and a Colonel Sanders romance would come to be. But who would’ve thought we’d have the good fortune to be alive for it? Kate Taylor writes, “To celebrate Mother’s Day—the chicken chain’s best-selling day of the year—KFC published Tender Wings of Desire, a novella following the love affair between Lady Madeline Parker and Colonel Harland Sanders … ‘The only thing better than being swept away by the deliciousness of our Extra Crispy Chicken is being swept away by Harland Sanders himself,’ George Felix, KFC’s U.S. director of advertising, said in a statement.” (As for the novella itself, here’s a representative passage: “They were so consumed that it took every ounce of their restraint not to give into the first right then and there. The flames would continue to rage throughout the night until the fire was too much, and at last they could let it engulf them.”)

  • Vinson Cunningham reads John McWhorter’s new book Talking Back, Talking Black, which mounts a compelling linguistic case for Black English: “McWhorter offers an explanation, a defense, and, most heartening, a celebration of the dialect that has become, he argues, an American lingua franca … In five short essays, McWhorter demonstrates the ‘legitimacy’ of Black English by uncovering its complexity and sophistication, as well as the still unfolding journey that has led to its creation. He also gently chides his fellow-linguists for their inability to present convincing arguments in favor of vernacular language. They have been mistaken, he believes, in emphasizing ‘systematicity’—the fact that a language’s particularities are ‘not just random, but based on rules.’ ”
  • In Vienna, Owen Hatherley celebrates the Gemeindebauten—apartment blocks of public housing from the twenties and thirties that realized an ambitious vision of working-class life in the city: “The Gemeindebauten were a response not only to the housing crisis but also to a more existential dilemma. What would be the identity of the city, now that it no longer ruled an immense land empire that extended from Trieste on the Adriatic to Lviv beyond the Carpathians? To the social democrats the answer was clear: Vienna would be a metropolis dedicated to the welfare and edification of its inhabitants, particularly the long-neglected working classes … The Hofs can be understood as not merely practical but ideological. No less than Gothic churches, they are absolutely loaded with rhetoric: massive mid-rise superblocks articulated with towers, archways, loggias, and bays; embellished with bas-reliefs, tiles, metalwork, and sculptures depicting workers and worker families. The labor-intensive construction was itself an integral part of the program: a means of employing as many workers as possible … Over the decades, the Gemeindebauten of Red Vienna have continued to function as vital and attractive housing, with accessible and attractive public spaces that remain a respite and a pleasure.”