From Barbara, Wanda (c) The Estate of Barbara Loden. Courtesy UCLA Film & Television Archive.
The last couple of days, with work as my excuse, I’ve been losing myself in our back issues. This morning I was moved by a poem I haven’t read in years, “The Mutes,” by Denise Levertov, first published in 1965: “Those groans men use/passing a woman on the street/or on the steps of the subway…” Then, in our summer 1966 issue, I found a letter from Allen Ginsberg describing his first acid trip, at Big Sur, on the same day that LBJ underwent gallbladder surgery: “President Johnson went that day into the Valley of Shadow operating room because of his gall bladder & Berkeley’s Vietnam Day Committee was preparing anxious manifestoes for our march toward Oakland police and Hell’s Angels. Realizing that more vile words from me would send out physical vibrations into the atmosphere that might curse poor Johnson’s flesh and further unbalance his soul, I knelt on the sand surrounded by masses of green bulb-headed Kelp vegetable-snake undersea beings washed up by last night’s tempest, and prayed for the President’s tranquil health.” —Lorin Stein
An excerpt of Nathalie Léger’s new book Suite for Barbara Loden appears in our Fall issue. It’s one of my favorite pieces, a multigenre portrait of Léger, Loden, and Wanda (the titular subject of Loden’s 1970 film, which Loden wrote and directed and in which she stars). Léger sets out to write a short notice of Loden for an encyclopedia but quickly becomes mired in the task. How do you describe a person you don’t know? What constitutes their essentialness? And how do you tell their story simply? Since closing our Winter issue last week, I’ve taken up the rest of the book, and I’ve found it to be one of the most affecting stories I’ve read in a long time. A mix of observation, recitation, and imagination, Suite persists in the idea that no single perspective is sufficient in gaining an understanding of a person, and also, perhaps, that no accumulation of perspectives is sufficient either. “There I am,” Léger writes, “still unable to grasp the truth of this life in its official version, the version that is both overloaded and sparse. Born. Died. In the distance the barking of a dog and the sound of trucks maneuvering: the only illusion of reality, the only depth.” —Nicole Rudick Read More