- May Day viewed through the prism of Bartelby the Scrivener.
- In Afghanistan, women are risking their lives for poetry.
- The Metropolitan Museum of Art’s wall text will now reflect Gertrude Stein’s complicated war record.
- Controversial almost-ran New Yorker covers.
- The Star Wars cookbook.
- Last but not least, books authored by famous animals.
When the French fashion houses began to open again in 1946–47 after World War II and the occupation, American magazines thought it worthwhile to send people over to report on them. I was one of those people. I edged into the fashion world almost sideways. I thought I was going to write art features when I was recruited by Vogue. But Mrs. Chase thought otherwise, and her word was law.
I found myself on one of those first transatlantic flights that stopped over for the night at Gander, Newfoundland, to refuel. You rested, fully dressed, in one of a line of cots in a kind of barracks. My immediate neighbors were a group of Dominican monks—Italian, no English. I had studied Italian a long time ago in college but had had no opportunity to practice. I could only remember a few lines of Dante, about returning from hell, not much of a conversational opener. I tried it out, anyhow, and got a gratifying response.
My traveling companion was a small, angelic, and gifted artist who was the magazine’s dessinateur. He went under the name of Eric. My entire professional training was a hissed injunction as I left for the airport: “Keep Eric sober.” Keeping Eric sober turned out to be a major project, but if his gait was sometimes unsteady, his line never wavered. Read More
Let America wonder about Untitled by Anonymous—I got my Madoff fix in Paris, from a profile in XXI magazine. A quarterly devoted to long-form journalism, with generous helpings of fact-based bandes dessinées and photo essays reminiscent of the old National Geographic, XXI has been a somewhat unlikely hit with readers and bookstores. The magazine runs no ads, has no publicity department, conducts no market research, has minimal Web presence, and offers no discount to subscribers. As cofounder Patrick de Saint-Exupéry explains, “The magazine’s worth what it’s worth.” —Lorin Stein
I’ve been reading Beryl Bainbridge’s last novel, The Girl in the Polka Dot Dress, which was published posthumously this year. It’s strange and bleak and interesting, a little disturbing. It’s apparently based on Bainbridge herself, as well as the mysterious woman rumored to have been involved in Robert F. Kennedy’s assassination. —Sadie Stein
This weekend I plan to check out the Lucian Freud show at the Met. Freud, who died in July, once said, “I paint people, not because of what they are like, not exactly in spite of what they are like, but how they happen to be.” He’s not for everyone, and that’s a good thing. —Cody Wiewandt
I’m currently working my way through this little audio treasure: forty years of Polish experimental radio. —Natalie Jacoby
I’ve been flipping through Nabokov’s annotated copy of Madame Bovary at the Berg Collection in the New York Public Library. If Flaubert’s prose doesn’t astound, then Nabokov’s illustrations of Emma Bovary’s chignon, his passing jibes at less than adequate translators, and the chronological maps of the author’s life will. —Mackenzie Beer
The relaunch of Take the Handle—an “online hub of rascalism, repartee & recreation”—includes short pieces by former Review editor Nathaniel Rich as well as an interview with the makers of Plimpton!, the forthcoming documentary of the Review’s first editor. —Deirdre Foley-Mendelssohn
In Paris I found myself reading several postbreakup novels: After Claude (thanks, Sadie!), plus two books by Jean-Philippe Toussaint about a recurring ex-girlfriend named Marie. (My favorite, The Truth About Marie, comes out next month.) Toussaint has been described as a writer of nouveaux nouveaux romans, but he is dreamy and funny and haunted in a way all his own. —L. S.
The New York Post outdid itself with this piece of reportage. —S. S.