My Astounding And Yet Not At All Unusual Day In Culture

by David Orr

As you may be aware, The Paris Review has been publishing a series of blog posts called “The Culture Diaries,” which are apparently diaries about… culture. The diarists thus far have been a delightful assortment of sophisticated folks, a few of whom appear to consume culture — perhaps even Culture — in amounts that would stagger much larger land mammals. Anyhow, since The Awl is basically The Paris Review with more videos of bears, the editors here suggested that I offer a glimpse into my own humble work schedule as the poetry columnist for The New York Times Book Review. (This is not, of course, in any way a parody of The Paris Review series. That would be uncivilized.)

9:00 a.m.: Wake from a dream in which François Villon and I are sharing a dream about Susan Sontag making out with Simone Weil. Hot. Yawn artfully. Make vain attempt to free my left arm, which is trapped beneath the slumbering bosom of “Marguerite,” whom I met last night at a party in Soho for a Hungarian rotogravure artist/DJ. No success.

9:02 a.m.: Ask my wife if she could perhaps assist. Merci!

9:25 a.m.: Post toilette, began my morning perusal of the Berlin papers. Sigh over inadequate coverage of my friend Gerhard’s production of Michel de Ghelderode’s Red Magic, which he has staged entirely in ecru. Philistines, the Germans. I will have to write stern letters to several editors. Possibly using my ostrich quill.

10:15 a.m.: Sex, hastily, then beignets.

10:30 a.m.: Prepare to enter my “writing mode.” Place one hand on a dictionary originally owned by T.S. Eliot (a fortune at auction, but worth it!). Place the other hand on a bathrobe belonging to Hart Crane. Place my feet in a laundry hamper thought to have been briefly in the possession of James Merrill’s dentist. Soak it in.

11:00 a.m.: Begin sketching thoughts about John Ashbery’s translation of Rimbaud into moleskin notebook. Ostrich quill? Oui. Oui indeed.

12:30 p.m.: Gaze poetically heavenward while sharing a light lunch of organic pearl onions and filet of local cassowary with James Franco and Harold Bloom at the Yale Club. Franco gets a little tipsy and punches a waiter while shouting something about “Twitter” (possibly “water” or “mother”; his enunciation was suffering). Waiter out cold. I cover waiter with my favorite made-to-measure ascot and flee.

2:35 p.m.: Sex, hastily, then petit-fours.

3:00pm: Drinks in Alphabet City with Greta, a Norwegian tea sculptor and amateur horticulturist whose great-grandfather invented the meatball. We agree that the state of Danish cinema is dire. Adrien Brody is seated beside us, and I deliberately order a Stella while smirking.

4:00 p.m.: Sex, hastily, then meatballs.

4:20 p.m.: Realize I’m a bit drunk. Decide to call on my friend Laurence, a philosopher cum structural engineer whose father invented the ounce. We debate the merits of capitalism in light of Dior’s recent scandals and the existence of Canada. I collapse on a settee and accidentally write three erotic short stories that will be falsely attributed to Michel Houellebecq by Le Monde.

6:30 p.m.: Realize that I am still a bit drunk. Realize that realizing that one is drunk is… banal? Yet what is banality but the infinite white space of sobriety? Write this down in Moleskine notebook for possible publication in N+1.

6:39 p.m.: Send text to Lorin Stein, editor of The Paris Review: “heymrfancyshrts.”

6:40 p.m.: Immediately regret text.

6:41 p.m.: Send text to Lorin Stein: “sorry mrfancyshrts.”

6:42 p.m.: Throw phone away.

6:43 p.m.: Retrieve phone and send text to James Franco that reads, in its entirety, “what.”

6:46 p.m.: Pre-prandial drinks with Joyce Carol Oates and Meghan O’Rourke. Both wearing black.

8:00pm: Dinner with Jonathan Franzen in his private arboretum. Franzen sporting blindfold again, has trouble with fork. Awkward scene involving prawns.

9:30 p.m.: Sex, hastily, then slightly bloody shrimp cocktail.

10:00 p.m.: Attend Wallace Shawn’s latest play, Yes, I Was in ‘The Princess Bride’ but my Dad Edited The New Yorker and My Plays are Huge in Europe, Also Remember ‘My Dinner with Andre,’ Which You Probably Haven’t Seen But Feel Vaguely that You Should Have, and Yes, You Should Have.

12:00 a.m.: Participate in standing ovation.

12:05 a.m.: Standing ovation still going on.

12:08 a.m.: Sex, hastily, then leg cramps.

1:00 a.m.: Post-play drinks with two matadors, Gore Vidal, a team of Belgian weightlifters, the last man to see John Berryman alive, and Peter Singer. Tense moment between matadors and Singer is rescued when Vidal challenges weightlifters to justify Flemish.

2:30 a.m.: Home at last. Fall into a dream in which Villon and I are having a dream about Susan Sontag having a dream about Edmund Wilson’s cat making out with Simone Weil. Wake in terror.

2:35 a.m.: Sex, hastily, then… repose.

David Orr is the poetry columnist for The New York Times Book Review; his most recent piece was on Maxine Hong Kingston’s verse memoir. His book Beautiful & Pointless: A Guide to Modern Poetry will be published in April by HarperCollins.

Images of Rimbaud and Eliot via Wikimedia Commons.