Tuesday, August 27th, 2013

Let Us Go Then

This begins the seven-episode Kindle Serial "An Experience Definitely Worth Allegedly Having: Travel Stories From The Hairpin." (Episode Two, by Maria Bustillos, is excerpted here.)

I. Aerobics

Here is something weird I did when I lived in Buenos Aires: I did a lot of aerobics. My favorite class was at 6:30 p.m., and when I say it was my favorite I mean that I would plan afternoon and evening dates with friends around it, so that—no matter what—at six o’clock or so every night, I’d be in shorts and tennis shoes cutting across the traffic on Avenida Gaona, with the buses honking along and the late-afternoon light slanting, and [...]


Marvelous Spinster Barbara Pym At 100

A note in Barbara Pym's diary instructs: "Read some of Jane Austen's last chapters and find out how she manages all the loose ends." Next entry, a fairly typical one: "The Riviera Cafe, St. Austell is decorated in shades of chocolate brown. Very tasteless, as are the cakes." This was written in 1952. She was 38, had published two novels, Some Tame Gazelle and the resplendent Excellent Women, and was at work on the next. It had taken 15 years of dutiful revising and circulating it around for Some Tame Gazelle to find a publisher. During the rewrites she had tried to heed her agent's advice to "be more wicked, [...]


How To Be Old: Two Women, Their Husbands, Their Cats, Their Alchemy

"Beauty is a responsibility like anything else, beautiful women have special lives like prime ministers but I don't want that."

The writer and painter Leonora Carrington was 33 and a very beautiful woman when she wrote that line in The Hearing Trumpet, a book that is, among many other topics—alchemy, the Holy Grail, the perversities of nuns, the difficulties of getting goats and wolves to live together—also about being very, very old. This was in 1950; her best friend was a Spanish painter named Remedios Varo.

In the book, Carrington appears under the alias Marian Leatherby, who is 92 and has a beard. She has no [...]


How To Be A Monster: Life Lessons From Lord Byron

In 1816, a young doctor named John Polidori was offered the position as traveling physician to George Gordon, Lord Byron. Polidori was saturnine, caustic, ambitious, well-educated and handsome. He had graduated from medical school at 19 (as unusual then as now) and this offer came not a year later. Over the objections of his family, he accepted. Polidori had literary ambitions; here was an amazingly famous poet asking him to join him on a tour of the Continent. It must have felt like fate was tugging him along. In confirmation of how well things were going, a publisher offered him 500 pounds to keep a diary of his travels with [...]


My Attempt To Make Elderflower Cordial

A series about foods we miss and our quests to recreate them.

A few years ago, on a trip to Edinburgh, I had an elderflower drink that I keep thinking about. I don't remember what it was specifically called on the menu—cordial, elderflower water, or some variant—just that it was so cool and refreshing that it seemed weirdly magical on that day. It was a late afternoon in November. My husband and I had been to this little graveyard in the old part of the city (martyrs, moss) and then stopped into a restaurant nearby. It was too early to be having dinner but that's the nice part [...]


How To Give Birth To A Rabbit

Mary Toft was 23 when she gave birth to her first rabbit. Other rabbits—six, seven, eight of them—followed. It was 1726. Toft lived in Godalming, a small rural town in Surrey; news of the births skipped its way to London, and the king's anatomist was dispatched to investigate. He was unimpressed with Mary, describing her as "of a very stupid and sullen Temper." Nevertheless, after witnessing a rabbit birth himself—the 15th!—he returned to London convinced of the extraordinary, preternatural nature of the births. (And why not, amazing things happen to stupid country people all the time: they're sold magic beans, they haul talking fish out of the water, they give [...]


Victoria Grayson's Unfortunate History As A Hamptons Hostess, In Chronological Order

• Last night's Charity Wine Auction: Two guests kidnapped from elevator as they're leaving the party.

• Liberty Project benefit dinner: Wife of a Supreme Court nominee reveals to assembled guests that her husband beats her, is crooked judge.

• Thanksgiving dinner: Victoria discloses to guests that at age 15 she was forced to shoot a man and take the blame for his death.

• Second wedding to Conrad: Groom toted off by police during the reception.


On Advice To Kids

When my friends started having children, as much as I thought about what role I'd play in their kids' lives, it was as the sort of friend of the family who, when you're teetering through teenagerdom and your early 20s, takes you out to lunch or dinner (often arriving, fortuitously, when you're most off course and down-at-heel), gives you Rilke and Asimov and the Brontes at the junctures when they can do their most good, takes your ambitions seriously, lets you be yourself while providing some calibrating sense of what the world at large will eventually expect from your conversation, etc. I had a couple such 'aunts' myself, my mom's [...]


11 Liz Taylor Things It Was Fun To Watch & Read While "Liz And Dick" Was On

1. Elizabeth Taylor as Helen Burns in the 1943 version of Jane Eyre.

The movie, which had Orson Wells as Mr. Rochester and Joan Fontaine as Jane Eyre, was made when Taylor was 11. It was filmed right before National Velvet made her famous. Just a year before, a casting director at another studio had complained, "Her eyes are too old, she doesn't have the face of a child." About this role, a biographer writes: "So tiny was her part, as one of the classmates of young Jane (Peggy Ann Garner), that she got no billing on the credits; and years later when she wanted her own [...]


How To Get Your Lion Back When It Runs Away: Life Lessons From Tippi Hedren

Tippi Hedren and Melanie Griffith on the set of Roar.

Of course you know Tippi Hedren from The Birds. Less likely is that you've seen another movie she was in called Roar. It came out in 1981 and starred Hedren along with her then-husband, two of her stepsons and her daughter Melanie Griffith. (A third stepson worked behind the scenes.) It was a complete family production, filmed at their canyon ranch in Acton, out toward the desert from Burbank and Chatsworth. In addition to playing the lead role, Hedren's husband, Noel Marshall, acted as the movie's writer, producer and director. Hedren shopped for the movie's wardrobe. She also operated a backhoe [...]


Look Back in Eyeliner: Three Girls at a Duran Duran Sleepover in 1984

Today is Nick Rhodes' 50th birthday. He's the youngest member of Duran Duran, so they, the pretty mascara-ed wild-boy new romantics, are all safely embarked on their 50s now. They remain pretty (and I'm not just being polite, they do), and Nick hasn't stopped wearing mascara and I hope he's pleased every day with all the new de-clumping formulas available, but still, it gives you vertigo. Do the jumpsuits still fit? Does John Taylor ever avoid invitations to go out so he can stay home and watch Veronica Mars? Does Simon LeBon say to friends at dinner, "Lately if I drink more than two glasses of red wine, I [...]


The Bodybuilder's Guide To Getting Rid Of "Computer Back"

Do you suffer Computer Back? I do. Mine is caused by the terrible habit of hunching over the laptop while also curling my legs under the chair in a sort of corkscrewed position that is osteomuscularly nightmarish but somehow conducive to concentration. When I stand up I look like a stooped, slightly concerned turtle. Now, lots of people have Computer Back, and nearly everybody with whom I've talked about it has, at some point in the conversation, brought up the fact that Philip Roth works at a standing desk. That tidbit, you'll remember, came out in a 2000 David Remnick profile, and it apparently haunts the imagination of everyone [...]


The Epic Live-Tweeting Of Last Night's Park Slope Coop Meeting

Last night Park Slope Food Coop held its monthly members meeting. At 7:26 p.m., senior Reuters Opinion editor Chadwick Matlin began live-tweeting the proceedings; two hours and 14 minutes later, "meeting is adjourned." It's difficult to pick a favorite here but "In europe I have been using the biodegradable, and they degrade so fast by the time you're at checkout you don't know where the bag is," "'but my collards won't fit!' — one of the actresses in the silent film PSA," and ""My name is Robert Dow. No relation to Dow Chemical." have to be contenders.

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46 Things to Read and See for David Foster Wallace's 50th Birthday

Today would have been David Foster Wallace's 50th birthday, and if you'd like to mark it, here are some things that might interest you to read (or watch) and revisit. The list isn't intended to be comprehensive; for that there's the Howling Fantods, not to mention this, this and that. This is more like an old trunk, some favorite things that got packed away and today's maybe a nice day to take them out and rummage around a little: Remember when Frank Bruni peeped inside DFW's medicine cabinet? etc.


111 Male Characters Of British Literature, In Order Of Bangability

111. Frankenstein's Monster (Frankenstein, or The Modern Prometheus) 110. Uriah Heep (David Copperfield) 109. Casaubon (Middlemarch) 108. Bradley Headstone (Our Mutual Friend) 107. Samuel Pickwick (Pickwick Papers) 106. Gussie Fink-Nottle (Right Ho, Jeeves) 105. Keith Talent (London Fields) 104. Jerry Cruncher (Tale of Two Cities) 103. Hercule Poirot (The Mysterious Affair at Styles) 102. Ham Peggotty (David Copperfield) 101. Thorin Oakenshield (The Hobbit) 100. Tracy Tupman (Pickwick Papers) 99. Julian Malory (Excellent Women) 98. C.J. Stryver (A Tale of Two Cities) 97. Charles Arrowby (The Sea, the Sea) 96. Dr. Watson ("A Study In Scarlet")


The Weekend Odyssey of Wisconsin's Wandering Democrats

Tell me, Muse, of the men and women of many ways, who were driven far journeys, after they had fled Madison's shining Capitol. Hard was their exile amid the labyrinth toll roads of northern Illinois, many their adventures, narrow their escape from the wild monster Rahm, new king of Chi-town, who is said to rip the fucking heads off men and devour them. Speak of the bloating effects of Endless Pasta bowls, the huddled iPhone calls with constituents at wind-swept gas stations, and these brave heroes' diligence in keeping up with the email streaming ever daily through their state accounts. Then caught up, here, goddess, begin our story on [...]


Greetings from the Bear-Infested Asheville Satellite Office

Once upon a time (last December), we went out looking for a managing editor for this website, and we met a ton of amazing people. Long story short: we now want you to meet Carrie Frye, who has written and edited previously at About Last Night and Asheville's Mountain Xpress. She can be reached at caaf at theawl dot com.

Hi and hello! I completed orientation over the weekend ("Core-ee Seek-a") and now it's just a thrill to be sitting here at a desk with my Awl stapler and pen set, filling up the calendar with items that, while we're enjoying a mood of excessive first-week politeness, the [...]