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Letters & Essays: V-Z

Letters & Essays of the Day

Denis the Pirate

By Denis Johnson

Ever since the earliest humans learned to sail boats on the sea, there have been pirates. Their main job is to steal treasure and bury it in secret places, but they also sink ships, take prisoners, collect strange animals, and perform bizarre tricks of magic. The most bloodthirsty and terrible pirate ever to sail the Caribbean Sea was my own great-great-great-great grandfather, Denis the Pirate. In the early 1700s no man lived who did not fear his name.

Milking the Moon

By Eugene Walter

Eugene Walter was one of those personages who turn up in life and leave, well, an indelible impression in which all personal characteristics—manner, speech, dress and so on—are memorably distinctive. The first time I saw him was in the spring of 1952—an apparition standing in the doorway of the cramped Paris Review office on the rue Garanciere. He was wearing a faded linen suit, the kind plantation owners traditionally wore, at least in the movies, set off with a white panama hat.

A War of Religion?

By Simone Weil

Men have often dreamed of putting an end to the problem of religion. It was the dream of Lucretius: “How many crimes have been inspired by religion!” (1). The Encyclopedists thought they had done it, and in fact their influence made itself felt in every country and across every continent.

And yet there is scarcely a human being now in the world who does not experience every day in his own inner life the reverberations of a great single religious drama that has the whole planet at its theatre.

 

Sketches of Paris

By Edmund White

One of our neighbors is the famous couturier Azzedine Alaia, the minuscule “architect of the body’ as he’s often called because he creates his garments directly on his models, whereas someone like Christian LaCroix dashes off a sketch which he tosses at a trained team of seamstresses who interpret and realize even his most far-fetched inspirations. Alaia works sometimes late into the night, his mouth full of pins, as he drapes and pulls and turns and twists and dances around the dais like Pygmalion dressing an already transformed and fully alive Galatea.