Though the stuffing is a little depleted after two years, I’m still wearing this long black down coat a lot, in part because, as Max says, the collar makes it look like something Sean Young would’ve worn in Bladerunner, but mostly because it’s the closest thing I know to staying in bed while traveling to work on Monday mornings. On me it’s almost ankle-length.
The only thing is that I think some of the ultra-Orthodox people in my neighborhood get confused, mistaking me for a bad Orthodox woman (red lipstick, bright green scarf, shiny patent leather booties) rather than recognizing me for the filthy shiksa my sundresses and short skirts instantaneously mark me as in other seasons. Maybe my haircut and glasses muddle things, too?
I can tell because on wintry mornings adults disapprovingly meet my eyes rather than staring at the ground or barreling toward me with three-seater strollers, and some of the boys at the Yeshiva openly goggle.
The sign (above) about the “immense pritzus” of short skirts was hanging all over my neighborhood earlier this year.
With the Cheney sisters at war over marriage equality, and their parents taking sides, it’s really the perfect day to remember former second lady Lynn Cheney’s novel, Sisters, and its love affair between two women:
Particularly since she herself seems to have forgotten the plot!
The railing of the hotel balcony in Pau. I was on the train from Paris to Pau with my French editor when he received the email that I’d accepted his offer for Station Eleven. He showed me the email, which I looked at but couldn’t really read. (“Re: STATION ELEVEN de Emily St-John Mandel.”) “We are very happy,” his colleague said. “I’m happy too,” I said, because I’ve come to believe that being published by Payot/Rivages in France is one of the best things that can happen to a person, publishing-wise.
Later, two days of the wonderful Un Aller-Retour dans le Noir festival in Pau. I mostly stood or sat behind a table with my first two novels stacked in front of me. I struggled to speak with people in my broken French, they struggled in their broken English, we smiled at one another when words failed and every so often a translator swept in and saved us. One and only one person was unpleasant about it. “You should really speak French,” he said.
I thought, you should really refrain from telling strangers what to do, but said “I’m working on it,” instead. Still, a cold stab of disappointment. He was the first person who’d been unkind.
He picked up my first novel, which was published in English as Last Night in Montreal. “I am from Montreal,” he said.
Of course you are, I thought. People from France, in my experience, don’t behave this way about language. “You know the city?” he asked.
"Yes, I used to live there," I said. I didn’t add "and I left because of people like you." He considered the book for a moment, asked where in Canada I was from, didn’t understand me when I said British Columbia but did understand Columbie-Britannique. He considered the book some more. I’ve occasionally been criticized by Quebecois critics for my portrayal of the city in Last Night in Montreal, but the book is true to my experience there. I lived in a city where I was hated for speaking the wrong language, and that’s the city I wrote about. The book is dark and deeply critical of the city. I didn’t tell him this.
He decided to buy it. “Would you inscribe it to my niece,” he said, and gave me her name, “and write ‘to remember Montreal.’”
"With pleasure," I said.
“ Family photographs are as subject to mortality as people are. You think, I remember that picture — I wonder where it can be? And the answer is, nowhere. It got thrown out, by somebody who said, “After I’m gone, who will care about these things?” Or by somebody who didn’t even know what it was a picture of. The past is forever being swept away in the interest of neatness and order. It is unforgivable, or at least I don’t intend to forgive it.
“ The argument that the advent of the Internet somehow marks a Telecom Year Zero after which nothing will ever be the same can be made only by ignoring the actual history of literature. Look at Kafka’s obsession with telephones; or the way the phonograph, for Bram Stoker, mirrors the vampire as a machine for bringing the dead to life (or, conversely, storing the living in dead form); or at the obsessive attention Samuel Richardson’s Clarissa is forced to pay to ink and desks and messengers.
Source: The New York Times
Cooking Thanksgiving this year using recipes only from my collection of cookbooks by duchesses (here, Buccleuch).
Puffins?! I am amazed, horrified, and impressed, in roughly equal amounts. Obviously this resulted in an instantaneous Duchess of Buccleuch lookup. Thank you for the history lesson, LC!
“ A hundred and forty characters doesn’t sound like much, but as Twitter has shown over the course of its short, intense life, they’re enough to aid a revolution, ruin a reputation or direct help after a disaster. Critics tend to focus on the irresponsibility or narcissism of the form, or to say it breeds snark or false praise, or that it enables people to feel politically involved when they’re just ranting from their couches.
Sure, Twitter can facilitate the spread of misinformation. It sometimes operates (as a friend of mine once put it) as a live feed from the id. Some people use it solely to tear things down, and others to ingratiate themselves around the clock. And of course political one-liners are no substitute for being on the barricades, no matter how much @pourmecoffee makes me laugh. But ways of tweeting are so diverse that these criticisms serve as a kind of Rorschach test, revealing more about the critic and what attracts his or her attention on Twitter than they do about the form itself.
Twitter’s utility and appeal lies not just in its brevity but in its randomness and ability to surprise. Within its confines, the uses to which it can be put are virtually unlimited. Even now, on the eve of its anticipated I.P.O., its true function refuses to be pinned down, and “Hatching Twitter,” a fast-paced and perceptive new book by Nick Bilton, a columnist and reporter for The New York Times, establishes that uncertainty and dissension about its true purpose has characterized Twitter from its inception….
Instead of everybody changing Twitter handles for Halloween, could we all just make our avatars Doré engravings?
This one, my favorite of all, is from his illustrations for Poe’s The Raven.
Donna Tartt reads from her wonderful new novel, The Goldfinch, tonight at Congregation Beth Elohim, and talks with me about the book! I’m over the moon, obviously.
If you’d like to join us, reserve a spot here. And if you’re not around or not free tonight or are killing time until you can get out to the bookstore, I recommend logging in to Harper’s — and, just in general, subscribing if you don’t — and dipping into her archives there.
Apart from the “Sleepytown: A Southern Gothic Childhood, with Codeine" (a feat! originally published as a memoir though the author reportedly classifies it as fiction), there’s "Team Spirit,” a memoir reproduced from Oxford American, about…. her time as a cheerleader. The Christmas pageant story and the appreciation of J.F. Powers are really good too.
More Tartt archives here, here, here, and here. Another great story of hers, “The Ambush,” is also worth tracking down, and her afterward to Portis’ True Grit, too. Also, if anybody has a copy of her appreciation of Iris Murdoch, you know where to find me.
"I didn’t realize Donna Tartt published a short story in The New Yorker in 1993????? It’s called “Tam O’ Shanter,” and it’s two pages (sub. only):
THIS IS HOW THOSE OF US WHO DIDN’T GET A GOLDFINCH GALLEY ARE COMPENSATING UNTIL TUESDAY.
Here’s another Donna Tartt short story (though it was originally published as an essay): ”A Southern Gothic Childhood, With Codeine.”