- Liz Brown reviews a new biography of Emily Post for the Los Angeles Times: “Claridge tracks Emily’s rise from vivacious debutante to poised but neglected society wife and mother against the backdrop of the Gilded Age, deftly tucking in such capsule anecdotes as the déclassé Vanderbilts vying for high-society acceptance and instructions for preparing terrapin, which includes a directive one isn’t likely to forget: ‘Remove the skin from the feet.’ “
- Interviewed about his forthcoming book How to Live, Henry Alford admits to thinking, as he accompanied his mother to buy a Chiquita banana costume, “I bet Joan Didion doesn’t do this kind of research.” Bonus: On his new blog, Henry deconstructs Louise Bourgeois’s love of spirals.
- At Slate, Christine Kenneally reviews Henry Hitchings’s history of English (which I reviewed not long ago for the now-defunct New York Sun) along with books on English by John McWhorter, Mark Abley, David Crystal, Roy Blount Jr., and Ammon Shea: “It’s hard to resist the urge to pick a particular kind of animal as the perfect emblem for English. McWhorter says it’s a dolphin among deer. He calls German, Dutch, Yiddish, Danish, and other close English relatives antelopes, springbok, and kudu. English has evolved so far away from the basic language body plan, he says, that it swims underwater and echolocates.”
Category: the doings of friends
- On her new blog, Laura Miller notes that Pauline Baynes, illustrator of C. S. Lewis’s Narnia books, died this summer: “Lewis, it must be said, had no real eye for art, and he used to gripe about Baynes behind her back, complaining (in a letter to Dorothy Sayers) of her poor grasp of animal anatomy. He doesn’t seem to have recognized how well she captured Narnia’s distinctly Medieval flavor.” (A side note: I had the good fortune to be able to read in galleys Laura’s new book on Lewis, The Magician’s Book: A Skeptic’s Adventures in Narnia, and I can’t recommend it highly enough, especially to anyone who was as besotted as I was by the books as a child.)
- My boyfriend, Peter Terzian, recently interviewed the graphic novelist David Heatley for Time Out New York: “I was getting fan mail from a couple twentysomething boys, saying, ‘Oh, your strip gave me a boner,’ and I thought, This isn’t what I had in mind.”
- Peter has also reviewed Jed Perl’s Antoine’s Alphabet: Watteau and His World for the Abu Dhabi National: “Perl’s tour de force is an analysis of Gersaint’s Shopsign, a panorama of a shop interior. . . . The mirrors, clocks and toiletries that the customers peruse and assess ‘raise certain questions: Who are we? What can we make of ourselves? What will we become?’ “
- Insanely prolific, Peter has also reviewed Julian Barnes’s Nothing to be Frightened Of for Bookforum:
We survive in the genes we pass along and in memory, Barnes reasons, but for how long? Here’s where he really scares the bejesus out of you. In a couple of generations, everyone who ever knew you will be dead, and your grave will go unvisited. This may hold true for all of the bodies in the cemetery, and, in any case, it will eventually be paved over to make room for suburban housing. A writer like Barnes, who is childless, at least leaves behind his collected prose. But just as there will be that last person who remembers you and visits your grave, there will be, at some point, the last reader of a Julian Barnes book.
- On the n+1 blog, A. S. Hamrah tries to discover what movies mean to northern California:
At the town’s unmanned used bookstore there’s chart next to a lock box with a slot in it for money. The chart tells book lovers to leave whatever they think a book is worth in the box—$10 for great books down to a dollar for ones that are just okay. You pick out a book, shove in a dollar or two, then turn around to confront a sign reading something like “This store is under constant video surveillance.” “California Über Alles,” I thought, as I left with a volume of S. J. Perelman’s letters.
- Matthew Price reviews Wojciech Tochman’s Like Eating a Stone: Surviving the Past in Bosnia for the New York Times Book Review: Tochman “describes the efforts of Ewa Klonowski, a Polish forensic anthropologist connected to the Bosniak Commission on Missing Persons, as she works at a mass grave: ‘Now the first white body bags are coming up. The workmen lay them out on the grass. The relatives of the missing people stand around as Dr. Klonowski examines the bones, identifying their age and sex.’ “
- In the same issue of NYTBR, Craig Seligman reviews Marcella Hazan’s Amarcord: “Maybe a strong editor could have given it more shape, but the Hazans are not what you would call putty in an editor’s hands. I know this partly from having done a stint at Food & Wine during a period when they had a column in the magazine. I never dealt with them directly, but I don’t remember anyone who did getting off a call from them with a sunny smile.”
- In Paper Monument, Keith Gessen explains the corruptions of life in Putin’s Russia:
Seven years and many suspicious deaths later, Ksenya Sobchak, the deceased mayor’s pouty, blonde, 24-year-old daughter, appeared in jeans and a tank top on the cover of hte Russian edition of Gala. The top button of her jeans was undone so that readers could see more of her midriff. . . . Panyushkin’s first question to the magazine’s first celebrity cover model was whether her father had been murdered. Sobchak’s response was both cruel and correct. “I don’t think that’s a suitable topic for a glossy magazine,” she said.