- Today in occasions for self-satisfaction: a new study suggests that readers of literary fiction have an improved understanding of other people’s emotions, which doesn’t explain why that guy reading Shalimar the Clown on the train was such a jerk to me. “Academics David Kidd and Emanuele Castano, from the New School for Social Research in New York, put more than 1,000 participants through the ‘author recognition test,’ which measured exposure to fiction by asking respondents to identify writers they recognized from a list … Those who had recognized more literary fiction authors in the list were better at inferring others’ feelings, a faculty known as theory of mind.” (People have gotten very excited about this on Twitter, but no one seems to have reached the article’s devastating conclusion: “ ‘It doesn’t mean you can give Don DeLillo to an autistic child and they’ll be fine.’ ”)
Why I borrowed a name from Salinger.
Ask someone who Seymour Glass is and they’ll tell you he’s a Salinger character: the eldest of the precocious Glass family, a misanthrope who shoots himself on vacation in “A Perfect Day for Bananafish.” But if that someone works in the New York fashion industry—specifically, in the editorial departments of select glossies—their response might be, Didn’t he used to work here?
That’s me they’re thinking of. Read More
- We’re closer than ever to electing a woman president—a political outcome that seemed fantastical even in 1992, when Donna Karan made an almost farcically outlandish ad campaign called “In Women We Trust” depicting a woman in high office: “Karan’s ads make the presidency look like it was art-directed by Lana Del Rey—all slo-mo and high contrast, shallow focus and delicate, practiced ennui. In Madame President’s ticker-tape parade, her crisp oxford blows open to reveal a presidential décolletage supported by what looks like a black lace bustier. She juggles childcare duties with required reading in a tube top. Our suspiciously youthful commander-in-chief commands the respect of her old, male associates in double-breasted pinstripes and a skirt slit up to there, hair always blown back, nary a part nor pore in sight. It’s a dream within a dream: A woman makes it to the top of the political food chain with her composure, mood lighting, and sensual wardrobe intact.”
- Say it’s 1661 and the Catholic Church has just locked you away because you’re Jewish. There’s a good chance you’ll be burned at the stake. You could mope about it. Or you could do what Francis von Helmont did: “he took his imprisonment in stride, and between trips to the torture chamber he conceived his theory of language. Usually referred to as the Alphabet of Nature, the small book outlines Francis’s concept of Hebrew and his scheme for teaching deaf-mutes to speak it. The frontispiece to the book shows Francis sitting at a table in his cell in Rome; facing a mirror, he is scientifically measuring his lips with a pair of calipers … Given Francis’ belief that all true knowledge is latent in our microcosmic bodies—accessible through divine revelation—it is not surprising that his model of language imagines the Hebrew characters as being almost engraved inside us, physically wedded to our mouths.”
- You probably read the Boxcar Children as a kid—many generations have—not realizing that those children were capitalist shills, seducing you with images of an illusory meritocracy: “There remains something mildly and even pleasurably heretical about the way the Boxcar Children locate the outer limits of amusement in decorous productivity—the way that, for them, there’s no better use of total independence than perfectly mimicking the most respectable behaviors of adults. They earn money, do chores when no one’s watching (‘The children could hardly wait to put the shining dishes on the shelf’), and engage in none of the mischief that other literary children take to when left to their own devices … Hard work, here, is presented as at once deviant and rewarding, and kids respond to this—I know I did—with their rarely united desires to be both unsupervised and good.”
- If you’ve always wished that “A Supposedly Fun Thing I’ll Never Do Again” was a photo essay, your prayers have been answered: for his series “End of Crisis,” William Minke embarked on not one but two cruises, photographing the diversions on ships that aren’t exactly state of the art. “I’ve always been fascinated by heterotopias and coexisting worlds,” he says: “After reading A Supposedly Fun Thing I’ll Never Do Again by David Foster Wallace I decided to go on a journey of cruise ships because his description of on-board life sounded very bizarre … As a traveller one can leave behind everyday life on thirteen decks of roulette tables, bingo and shopping malls twenty-four hours a day.”
- Indonesia is enormous, beautiful, heterogeneous, populous … but no one is bringing its literature into English, Louise Doughty writes: “There are some countries so vast and diverse that any attempt to summarize them feels insulting: such is Indonesia. With a population of 258 million, it is the world’s fourth most populous nation and the largest formed by an archipelago. When it was guest of honor at the Frankfurt book fair last year, it appeared under the banner ‘17,000 islands of imagination,’ a phrase describing its geography but also encapsulating the complexities of representation … As yet, little of its literature has been translated into English … According to Goenawan Mohamad, Indonesia’s most well-known public intellectual and founder of Tempo magazine, which was banned for a while under the Suharto regime, ‘Asian writing is noticeable only when it comes from the site of calamity. Normally, a prolonged war, preferably one involving the U.S., or a genocide, or a tsunami, brings it to the focus of the world media, and the literary market comes next.’ ”
Among the black-and-white photographs in Meryl Meisler’s show at Steven Kasher Gallery is a vitrine that houses ephemera from Meisler’s youth in Massapequa, Long Island. One piece, from 1969, is an invitation to a swingers’ party that asks attendees to rendezvous in the Island Discount parking lot and boasts that “Our Color Coded Computer Carefully Coordinates Closely Compatible Couples, (put that in your Funk & Wagnalls).” Group adultery aside, this sounds like a fun bunch. And Meisler’s photographs, which she began taking in her early twenties, bear out that notion. In one, an older woman lounges on a bed (whose butterfly spread matches the wallpaper that matches the curtains) while staring openmouthed and goggle-eyed at the camera. In another, a young man in a too-short terry bathrobe shaves while a woman brushes his hair, another man climbs onto the counter to stick his foot in the sink, and a third man, visible only in the mirror, views the scene over the top of the shower doors. The Meislers and their friends are like Tina Barney’s affluent subjects gone astray: kitchsy, boisterous, and lovin’ it. —Nicole Rudick
A year ago, our director of advertising (read, “the person who sells our ads”) left the Review to host a TV show about fashion weeks around the world—Pakistan, China, the Gaza Strip, you name it. Since then, we haven’t seen much of Hailey Gates (though she did attend one Paris Review party via FaceTime from the Congo). So it was with delight and curiosity that we received the trailer for her show, “States of Undress.” It premieres next month on Viceland. We’re staying tuned … —Lorin Stein Read More
Looking for Proust’s muse in Paris.
After making a careful study of contemporary fashion plates, Baudelaire came to the conclusion that one couldn’t examine clothes apart from the individual wearing them. “You might as well admire the tattered rags hung up as slack and lifeless as the skin of St. Bartholomeu,” he wrote in his essay “In Praise of Cosmetics.” In order to “recover the light and movement of life,” clothes needed to be animated by a living body, and it was only on this living body that they were to be understood. One wonders what he would’ve made of the nascent trend of the fashion exhibition, in which the fashions of yesteryear appear on mannequins, those motionless abstractions of the human figure.
“La Mode retrouvée,” now at the Musée de la Mode in Paris, and coming in September to New York, uses clothes as a sort of Pompeiian ash in order to sketch the person who once filled them out. In this case, it’s the Comtesse Élisabeth Greffulhe (1860–1952), who was by reputation the most fashionable woman of her time. At her salon on the Rue d’Astorg, an integral part of the political and artistic milieux, she arranged for what was thought to be the impossible Russian-Franco alliance, as well as the reception of Fauré, Wagner, Isadora Duncan, and the Ballets Russes in Paris. Historians of the era have argued that no patron did more for music than she. And this at a time when, no matter the fact that she was married into wealth and rank, she had neither rights nor property as her own, as was the case for all women under the civil code of the Third Republic. Read More
The French are known for how they wear scarves. That’s such a cliché that it hardly merits repeating. But like so many clichés, it’s rooted in truth. And today I was reminded of that.
I was at a clothing store in Paris. While I sat on a low bench and waited for a friend to emerge from the dressing room, I watched women of all ages try on scarves and wraps in front of a nearby mirror. Each woman tried on her scarf differently; some draped, some wrapped, some poufed the lengths of fabric into tall, proud collars. Several tried more than one effect, seeing how the cloth behaved. But one thing they all had in common. Read More