I spent some time in a local bookstore last night. I’m in a fallow period between good novels and good television shows, which makes life almost unbearable. When Caleb came home last night, I was lying facedown on the sofa, my phone chucked on the ground, moaning that if I had to read the Daily Mail one more time, I would scream.
This past weekend, I finished Going Clear, the scientology expose by Lawrence Wright. I left it at a friend’s house, but when I get it back, I’ll write a review. Let’s just say that I brought it to a party, and sat in the corner to read it, that’s how addictive it was. Don’t take that as an indication that it was a great book, however.
This past weekend, I read “How Do You Raise a Prodigy?” , an article in the New York Times magazine. It made a somewhat oblique—and rightfully so—argument that prodigy is just as much of a handicap as it is a blessing. Did I just use the word oblique correctly? Anyway, you can read the article yourself, so that I don’t have to summarize it, but it got me thinking a little bit about the role a parent has in “creating” a prodigy.
I personally don’t know any prodigies except for my brother Stuprendan, who is brilliant enough to affect the behaviors of a mathematical prodigy, without being one.
There’s a lot of things to be said about the Countess de Castiglione, but I’m tired, and in a terrible mood, so if you want to know more about her, you can read this article in the New York Times.
Instead of giving you facts—because honestly, fact checking, just like grammar, is noisome—I’m going to write this biography after only cursorily reading her Wikipedia page. Which means that I made most of this shit up. Imagine me listening to “Ice” by Kelly Rowland, featuring Lil Wayne for absolutely no reason besides the fact that I am actually listening to it right now, as you’re reading this.
About half of my time spent alone with Caleb is having discussions about who has better taste in art and furniture. Half is definitely an exaggeration. Let’s say 75% of the time we’re talking about our relationship, 10% of the time about work, 10% of the time about ourselves, and 5% of the time we’re debating chairs.
Like the Herman Miller molded fiberglass Eames chair that we have in our living room, which abuts the “battleship,” more commonly referred to as the chaise lounge.
“That thing is like a Bakelite bracelet,” I say to him. “Everyone wants to collect them, but no one actually sits in one.”
“I sit in it,” he says, walking over to it, and planting himself down. “It’s very comfortable.”
“It’s like sitting in a McDonald’s chair,” I say. “And no you don’t, not unless I challenge you to it.”
“I bought it at a flea market in San Francisco from an old lady who didn’t even know what she was sitting on,” he protested.
“Her ass probably hurt like a motherfucker,” I say.
As I prepare for cohabitation—which, given that I’ve never done it before, feels as monumental as graduating from college—I keep on encountering evidence of people who were not capable of it. First, there was that article in the New York Times that warned against it, which prompted an afternoon of wailing. Then, I came upon Martha Gellhorn, the writer, war correspondent, and third wife of Ernest Hemingway, who said of her difficulty domesticating:
“There is too much space in the world. I am bewildered by it, and mad with it. And the urge to run away from what I love is a sort of sadism I no longer pretend to understand.”
The funny thing is that all of my internal struggling against moving in with Caleb is really pretty half-hearted. I always say that you can tell the way you feel about something by the advice that other people give you—in subtle queues, in the tone of their voice, in the way that they phrase a question, they signal to other people how they would like them to respond. And every time I ask someone, even my therapist (although not my parents—I actually might never tell them that I’m moving in), if it’s the right decision, the answer is always an unequivocal yes.
Because in my secret heart of hearts, I’m really looking forward to it. It feels like an exciting beginning, the kind of thing that will change my life for the better. I’ve struggled for so long by myself, often depressed or disinterested, that the idea of having someone else—to do laundry with, to decorate with, to share bills with—feels like an incredibly luxurious relief. For the first time in my adult years, life might actually become so easy, that it can be lived rather than fought against.
What I’m really having trouble letting go of is the kind of childish idea—for I realize that to withhold yourself and your personal space is, in many ways, a way of delaying the eventuality that you must go through stages of life, and, in doing so, confront your own death WAA WAA—that I’m meant to live life as independently as did women like Martha Gellhorn.
“I get called Esther from Orphan or Claudia from Interview with A Vampire. so mean. whatever. I can play a decoy on ‘To Catch A Predator.’” —a Tweet by Dakota Rose
This the story of Dakota Rose, known as Kotakoti in the East, and Dakotakoti in the West. It is a story of double identities and betrayals. It is the story of a misunderstood girl who looks like a doll, but has the heart of a teenage girl. It is a story that might land you in jail for pedophilia, because Dakota Rose is only 16-years-old, but the pictures you see of her in this post might give you an erection, even if you’re a girl.
In 2007, a caché of 30,000 negatives was found in an abandoned storage unit. A young man, John Maloof, bought them for $400 at an auction, and started developing them. He was 26 years old, and he was a real estate developer in Chicago.
Not knowing if the photographs were anything special, he began posting them on Flickr, where they received an enormously popular response. Whoever had taken them became an insta-Internet-celebrity. It was a digital love story trawled from an analog time.
I’ve been thinking a lot about Lana Del Rey the past few days. Her album is dropping on January 30, which means that the publicity elves underneath her must be whirring their magic machines, bringing her to the attention of people like me, who enjoy music but don’t follow it. I’m the last stand before she hits the Michael Buble market.
Lana del Rey, apparently, has been around for a while, or at least a few months. She first appeared on the music scene in June, when she released her single “Video Games.” Since then, she’s become one of the most hated musicians in the industry, derided for her past, her lack of musical talent, her good looks, her record deals, her music videos, being sexy, eating food, walking, and the way she came out of the womb.
People hate Lana Del Rey so much that Maura Johnston of The Village Voice named “Video Games” the“2nd Most Infuriating Song of 2011.” They hate her so much that they write long, nonsensical essays giving her the power to define what’s wrong with an entire generation of young women in America, like Amy Klein of the indie band Titus Andronicus, who says:
“Lana Del Ray is waiting for you to come home so you can go to bed and act out all of your wildest fantasies which is exactly what she wants to do—what you want to do, that is. Lana Del Ray is waiting for you because she is your mirror.
(This sounds awesome to me.)
Everyone is talking about the death of Lana Peters neé Svetlana Stalin, the daughter of one of the 20th centuries most harmless doves, Joseph Stalin.
I haven’t been able to join in on the conversation because Tumblr was down for me yesterday. But now, I’m back.
Svetlana was born in 1926 to the Stalin and Nadezhda Alliluyeva, his second wife. She was his fifth child.
A few years ago, in the midst of one of my worst depressions, I picked up Winter’s Tale by Mark Helprin. It was summer, and I was in the throes of an impossible romance. For a week, I rode the subway, and read it in the cool air—up to Harlem, and back to Brooklyn, from Queens to Manhattan, from Woodlawn to Union Square. Being underground with it was the only respite I had from my heat-induced misery. The book made me dream of snow and darkness and the emptiness of winter. It served as an outlet for all of my unrequited love, past and present and future.
The book is stunning. It’s an elegy to the history of New York. It’s a fairy tale of biblical proportions. It’s a fantasy novel written well (ha! you thought that was an oxymoron).
I’m trying to do justice to what it accomplishes, but I keep on typing sentences, and deleting them, because I can’t put into words how the book seems less a novel than a re-telling of some kind of epic, primal dream that I’ve had for years, but always wake up forgetting. A reviewer in the New York Times said it best:
“I find myself nervous, to a degree I don’t recall in my past as a reviewer, about failing the work, inadequately displaying its brilliance.”
One time, many years ago, I spoke to Jeanne Moreau on the phone. I was working for a photographer who was doing a project with her, and he asked me to call her. From the depths of her apartment in Paris, she answered in French, her voice deep and husky.
“‘Allo?” she said.
The rest of the conversation was brief. I was arranging for a car to pick her up, to take her to a recording studio. She was angry that I was bothering her, and made no motions to hide it. For Jeanne Moreau was an icon, and I was a lowly assistant speaking in barely passable French. At the end of our exchange, she hung up without saying goodbye.
I came upon Luise Rainer searching through the photographs in the Library of Congress archive a few weeks ago. I have no idea why.
Upon research, it turns out that she is not some essentialized stereotype, as are most of the women found in the Library of Congress Collections—”The Jewess”, “The Civil War Widow”, “The Prematurely Aged Wheat Picker,” “The Queen,” “The Heiress on an Egyptian Excavation”—but rather, she is a bona fide Hollywood star.
Rainer was born on January 12, 1910, to a businessman and an upper-class Jewess (no photo of her mother was found, so I will substitute one of those aforementioned essentialized portraits below).
She is still kicking around in London, which makes her, at 101, the oldest person alive to have won an Academy Award.
I spent the weekend finishing an essay about a time last year that I spent traveling alone in Argentina.
There’s almost nothing more empowering than realizing that you are capable of it, especially as a woman. It’s not because it proves that you can speak a language well, or that you’re brave for trying new things, or that you’re particularly worldly. It’s because when you can do things by yourself, without relying on other people to keep you company (or even just to show up), you learn that you can really do anything at all. It frees you from boredom and loneliness.
(Man, the above paragraph bored even me.)