How do you manage to apologize to someone when you think you also deserve an apology (but believe you are never going to get one, and the conflict remains unresolved)? Is there some way to prove a point while also expressing a sincere desire to be friends again?
The short answer, I think, is no. You probably can’t make your point and make up at the same time.
But it sounds as though—whatever went down—there were plenty of hurt feelings to go around. Maybe you can set aside the question of blame, and the unresolved conflict, and focus on the feelings. To start with: you feel rotten, and you’re sorry to have hurt your friend. If you own up to that, you’ll make it that much easier for your friend to let down his or her guard.
Don’t expect an actual apology—even if you do get an apology, it probably won’t be the one you want. We’re human, so we all feel our own pain more sharply than the pain we cause in others. Try to correct for that bias, if you can, and at least you’ll know you’ve tried. (Thanks to Geoff O’Sullivan for the sage counsel on this hard question. We’ve all been there.)
One of my students mistakenly believes the Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers 1930s to be the pinnacle of American glitz and glamour. Aside from the obvious—Scott Fitzgerald, Midnight in Paris, A Moveable Feast, and the like—what ought I offer to open her eyes to vastly superior qualities of the Lost Generation and its Jazz Age?
If your student can handle a strong dose of decadence—sex, drugs, and experimental lit—give her Geoffrey Wolfe’s biography of the expat publisher Harry Crosby Jr., Black Sun.
Twist or shout?
A little of both.
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My interest in Owen Wilson (American actor b. 1968) is admittedly creepy, undoubtedly perverse, and possibly based on nothing more than the fact of our shared last name. For I, too, am something of a Wilson.
A shared Anglo-Saxon surname, however, is merely the first parallel between our lives. To wit: Like O., I was born into an artistic family (our mothers are visual artists, our siblings work in film); I too was a self-proclaimed “troublemaker” in my youth; I too once wore blond hair that hung to my shoulders; I too have a large and distinctive nose; I too have a younger brunette brother; I too have struggled with depression; and I, too, consider myself primarily a writer, though like O., I would happily accept any acting job offered regardless of script quality, assuming the pay is substantial. Did I mention we have the same taste in women? He has been romantically linked to Kate Hudson, Demi Moore, and Sheryl Crow; I have not. But I have often imagined those three in erotic concert, Crow’s “All I Wanna Do” winnowing from my iPod dock as their cougar paws explore my body’s nooks.
But, though we’re both Wilsons, only one of us (O.) is of true Anglo-Saxon origin. I come from a small clan of Jewish Wilsons née Wilsick née Wilczyk, and my true self is apparent under even the dimmest bulb of scrutiny. Read More
Why is it that when I ask people in Los Angeles if they have heard of The Paris Review, they either know exactly what I am talking about or look at me with utter confusion?
—Susan, Los Angeles
Funny, the same thing happens back East. The fact is, for all its influence over the decades, The Paris Review has never had more than 20,000 subscribers at a time. Usually a lot fewer. On the other hand, last year we did a survey (not scientific, but not not scientific) and discovered that our subscribers tend to read the magazine from cover to cover. If you know the magazine, you generally know it cold. And you stand a passable chance of being a writer, or agent, or editor, or critic yourself. So, in the republic of letters, the Review is unavoidable, but that republic is tiny. (If you told most book-lovers that one single little magazine had published the first major stories of Jack Kerouac, Philip Roth, and David Foster Wallace, very few would believe you. Which is to say, if The Paris Review didn’t exist, no one would think to invent it.)
Plus, here we are, a quarterly published in English, in New York City, named after a city in France. A review that runs no reviews—only interviews. A fiction and poetry magazine whose founding editor was America’s most famous sportswriter, performance artist, and fireworks technician.
What’s not to be confused?
I just belatedly saw Midnight in Paris this weekend (I know, I know … ). As Gil Pender puts it for 1920s Paris, what would be your “Golden Era” (if an enchanted vintage car could take you there)?
Do you believe in golden eras? Was the sky any bluer when Hemingway wrote the last sentence of The Sun Also Rises? Later, of course, he looked back on that time with yearning, and his nostalgia is contagious: he and his friends had been young. And a few of them happened to write great novels in their youth. On the other hand, they saw the world as a ruin: the real world, the world they had looked to inherit, was destroyed in the war, never to be recovered. As for Paris, the great moment of art and literature in Paris had ended a decade before they got there.
I skipped the movie, but I saw the trailer, and I know the feeling—either you admit that Paris makes you nostalgic or you pretend you are someplace else. I’ve felt the same way in Kansas City. I feel it all the time in New York. The sight of Diane Keaton smoking a cigarette, banging on a typewriter, with a telephone—a real telephone—clamped against her ear fills me with longing more acute than any picture of Le Dôme. And it’s not because I prefer Woody Allen’s older movies, or because I do love the novels of the seventies, but because it all happened just about the time I was born and things started falling apart. Read More
Whenever she was asked about her start in the world, the legendary saloonkeeper Bricktop—born Ada Smith—replied:
On the fourteenth day of August 1894, in the little town of Alderson, West-by-God-Virginia, the doctor said, “Another little split-tail,” and on that day Bricktop was born.
T. S. Eliot later added, “…and on that day Bricktop was born. And to her thorn, she gave a rose.”
Bricktop is a not a familiar name to most people today, though the crumbs of her extraordinary life are indispensable to the telling of a certain moment in the history of Americans in Paris and café society everywhere. Woody Allen’s latest movie, Midnight in Paris, could hardly recall the days of Gertrude Stein, Ernest Hemingway, or the Fitzgeralds without Zelda crying, “Let’s go to Bricktop’s!”
Ada Smith, like many African Americans of her day, was born poor. Her mother, who ran a boarding house, had a passion for cleanliness and a self-confessed trigger-fast Irish temper. Around 1900, the family moved from Virginia to the South Side of Chicago, where Ada got her first taste of the theater. She hung around the stage doors of Chicago’s great vaudeville houses, waiting for the likes of Sophie Tucker, a belting singer known as “The Last of the Red Hot Mamas,” to emerge. But it was the back rooms of saloons, with their sawdust-covered floors, that captured her imagination. Read More