Monday, August 23, 2010

New Yorker: Face-Blind by Oliver Sacks

Did you all take my advice and listen to the Radio Lab episode about Face Blindness featuring Chuck Close and Oliver Sacks? If not, please do so immediately, and then read this article in this week's New Yorker on the same topic written by Sacks himself.

I am oddly fascinated by the idea and greedily read the entire article this morning before work upon its discovery. Sacks writes about his ailment with a deft clarity and lets us into his tricky world with an empathetic voice that understands our confusion.

Again, the links:
Radio Lab episode: Strangers in the Mirror
New Yorker article: Face-Blind


Friday, August 20, 2010

The New Yorker: Fiction Podcasts

My newest obsession-- The New Yorker's fiction podcast series.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Slouching Towards Bethlehem

"I think we are well-advised to keep on nodding terms with the people we used to be, whether we find them attractive company or not. Otherwise they turn up unannounced and surprise us, come hammering on the mind's door at 4 a.m. of a bad night and demand to know who deserted them, who betrayed them, who is going to make amends. We forget all too soon the things we thought we could never forget. We forget the loves and the betrayals alike, forget what we whispered and what we screamed, forget who we were."
-Joan Didion, Slouching towards Bethlehem

I reread Joan Didion's essay "On Keeping a Notebook" from her compilation, Slouching Towards Bethlehem again last night in search of some clarity. I've said it before, and I'll say it again-- I love Didion-- but I also fear her. I think she's good for me, to be honest. She toughens me up a bit.

What Didion is suggesting is a net. When I first came across this bit of Slouching Towards Bethlehem, I read it in terms of past failures, past embarrassments. 'Do not forget to acknowledge the error of your ways' I could hear her preaching through those thick rimmed glasses and that strict black turtleneck. (I always picture her looking down at me, although I'm sure I stand two feet dominant.)

But it wasn't until reading this chapter for the gazillionth time last night that I realized that Didion is in fact commenting on our innocence. In addition to our embarrassments, or mistakes, and our demons, Didion is referring to our Best Selves. (I realize that this may sound a little GOOPy,--goopy! ha!-- but let's try to think of it as literary and maintain some dignity, shall we?)

You see, I can scroll through this blog-- my notebook of sorts-- and tell just by my confidence in prose who I was at the time. I can tell when I felt beat down and I can tell when I was being built up. I can tell when I was happy and excited and bursting at the seams to share and I can tell when I was dark and trying to shroud it in excuses. Yes, I can get dark. You've yet to see it here, on these pages, but I can get dark and it isn't fun for anyone.

I just entered my fourth year in this city and while I bask at the knowledge I've gained in the past three years, I cower at the harshness that all too quickly leaves my lips. I will call out that cab driver for taking the wrong exit and I'll aggressively lurch at the rudeness of waitstaff. My blood boils over slow walkers on Broadway and I despise loud teenagers on the train. I didn't used to be that way.

The point is this: New York can make you hard. And without acknowledging the people we used to be, we will not only forget who we were, but who we are.

If you're familiar with her more famous essay in Slouching Towards Bethlehem, 'Goodbye To All That', you know to what I'm referring. It's a mean essay, a hard one, especially for young girls who are new to New York. It was a mean thing for me to read my first week here, sitting at the reception desk of my new job as an assistant at an important publishing house (or so I decided to believe.) I read the essay with a knot in my stomach, scared to death that one day I wouldn't be the girl in love anymore. That one day I would turn into a girl locked in my apartment with a paralyzing fear of the city. But even amidst her harshness, Didion gives us a nodding glance at her past self:

"I remember walking across Sixty-second Street one twilight that first spring, or the second spring, they were all alike for a while. I was late to meet someone but I stopped at Lexington Avenue and bought a peach and stood on the corner eating it and knew that I had come out out of the West and reached the mirage. I could taste the peach and feel the soft air blowing from a subway grating on my legs and I could smell lilac and garbage and expensive perfume and I knew that it would cost something sooner or later—because I did not belong there, did not come from there—but when you are twenty-two or twenty-three, you figure that later you will have a high emotional balance, and be able to pay whatever it costs."

New York is constantly telling us to look ahead. It's a city of ambition and conquerors and dreams. But in order to maintain here, we must also look back. We must keep on nodding terms with our past innocence.

Happy weekend, New York. I'm off to eat a peach.

Thursday, August 12, 2010


Good, right? Now watch it again and you'll catch even more brilliance in the minutia.

And here's the podcast to match:

Thanks, Radiolab. I really do love you.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Forms of Love

I've been sitting here for days with a Google window open, trying to post about the things I've done lately-- there are many! Movies, music, art shows, bands, food, wine, weekends away... But life is getting in the way and summer is calling me outside, so let's settle on a poem and call it a day.

This poem was recently featured on Garrison Keillor's Writers' Almanac (which I usually listen to in the morning between my shower and my coffee. It only takes a minute!). I've written many times about love in it's many forms-- the vastness of love beyond Eros-- and Addonizio nails its impact. The seventh 'I love you' is my favorite. Enjoy.

Forms of Love

by Kim Addonizio

I love you but I'm married.
I love you but I wish you had more hair.
I love you more.
I love you more like a friend.
I love your friends more than you.
I love how when we go into a mall and classical muzak is playing,
you can always name the composer.
I love you, but one or both of us is/are fictional.
I love you but "I" am an unstable signifier.
I love you saying, "I understand the semiotics of that" when I said, "I
had a little personal business to take care of."
I love you as long as you love me back.
I love you in spite of the restraining order.
I love you from the coma you put me in.
I love you more than I've ever loved anyone, except for this one
I love you when you're not getting drunk and stupid.
I love how you get me.
I love your pain, it's so competitive.
I love how emotionally unavailable you are.
I love you like I'm a strange backyard and you're running from the
cops, looking for a place to stash your gun.
I love your hair.
I love you but I'm just not that into you.
I love you secretly.
I love how you make me feel like I'm a monastery in the desert.
I love how you defined grace as the little turn the blood in the
syringe takes when you're shooting heroin, after you pull back
the plunger slightly to make sure you hit the vein.
I love your mother, she's the opposite of mine.
I love you and feel a powerful spiritual connection to you, even
though we've never met.
I love your tacos! I love your stick deodorant!
I love it when you tie me up with ropes using the knots you
learned in Boy Scouts, and when you do the stoned Dennis
Hopper rap from Apocalypse Now!
I love your extravagant double takes!
I love your mother, even though I'm nearly her age!
I love everything about you except your hair.
If it weren't for that I know I could really, really love you.

Wednesday, August 4, 2010


Sloane Crosley (I know.) said it best in her recent compilation of essays, How Did You Get This Number:

"I took one hundred-thirty-two photographs in Alaska, one hundred of which were of icebergs. Sometimes you can see otters or fishing poles in the background. Sometimes you can see the ghost forest, betraying their vampire-like nature by showing up in pictures. Mostly it's a lot of ice. I blind people with iceberg photos. Here's a iceberg from far away. Here it is again, up close. Here's a chunk of it floating in the water. Here it is from the boat, from the shore, from the sides, give me cold, give me big, you're chiseled like an ice sculpture, you're a cube and the ocean is your glass. Brrr, baby, brrr. The pictures are frustrating.

What I want to say is this: Here is a country that is ours but not ours. A crazed landscape of death and marriage with bells to acknowledge both. Here is the longest breath of fresh air you will ever take, the bluest stream you will ever dip your hand in, the humane thing to do. Why does none of it show up on film? Maybe I need a better camera."

Jerry Saltz's Favorite Paintings in NY

Another fantastic Jerry Saltz piece in this week's New York Magazine. READ IT. Not only does he compare art museums to swimming pools, but he rejuvenates lesser known works tucked into corners by brilliant painters like Stettheimer, Ingres, and Hartley.

With his typical passion and verve, Saltz gets us excited about paintings, makes us want to dip into the Brooklyn Museum, MoMA, The Met, The Frick. Not an easy task, with rooftop bars calling our names. I also like that he narrowed the category to Western paintings and didn't attempt to appease everyone across the spectrum. I mean, genius Jerry, genius.

I'm going to go out on a limb here, by asking for comments, but what are your favorite paintings, in New York, or elsewhere? The first one that pops into my head is this piece by Tiepolo on display at the Met, at the top of that white marble staircase right when you enter. Refreshing, indeed.