odds and ends / 6.8.2021
















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Photo of a bedroom at Santa Maddalena, Baroness Beatrice Monti della Corte's writer's retreat in Tuscany:

... of Gary Shteyngart, author of Absurdistan, she explains, 'He learned to take a bath here. (Of his Tuscan transformation, Shteyngart was inspired to write in the guest book, 'I came barely knowing the difference between a horse and a cow. I leave a coffee-making, salad-serving Man of Nature.') And now, as dessert is served, Beatrice turns to Kunkel, who, it appears, is unversed in the consumption of fresh ricotta. “You must use the brown sugar,” she instructs, waving a small silver spoon. “This is the way it is eaten.”
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Page from a florilegium compiled to celebrate the baptism of Princess Elizabeth of Hesse, ca. 1596.

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Detail from The Gleaners and I (Agnès Varda dressed as a potato).

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Charlotte Brontë likened her writing process and that of her sisters to potatoes growing in a cellar. I know that women possess this particular power of interiority and silence. Perhaps the great women artists are nocturnal creatures who prefer to create freely in the darkness. In this way, too, they avoid being referred to as ‘one of these neurotics.’ Perhaps they choose their overshadowing? If they go unnoticed they can be as madly inventive as they like, without making anyone jealous.


Celia Paul, "Painting in the Dark.London Review of Books, Vol. 42, No. 24, December 17, 2020.

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Agnès Varda’s refusal to be limited in her life and work as a woman influenced her love of the potato. During a talk at the French Institute in New York in 2017, she told fans she saw herself 'as a heart-shaped potato – growing again,' in reference to her return to film. Varda explored her longtime fascination with tubers in her 2000 documentary The Gleaners and I. Fully embracing the theme, she dressed up as a potato to celebrate the presentation of her immersive art installation Patatutopia at the 2003 Venice Biennale. The project was built using 700 pounds of tubers.


Hannah Weiss, "Heart-shaped potatoes left in a shrine outside Agnes Varda's Paris home." Dazed, April 2, 2019. (Varda was affectionately nicknamed "dame patate.")

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[W]hen we meet Ní Ghríofa at the start of her memoir, A Ghost in the Throat, her life is distinguished by its mundanity: she is a housewife and mother to two young sons, a third on the way. In short order she has three young sons, with a fourth child on the way. The family is struggling to get by on one income, and rising rents drive them from one apartment to the next. “The baby sleeps in a third-hand cot held together with black gaff tape, and the walls of our rented bedroom are decorated not with pastel murals, but with a constellation of black mould.” To keep up with chores, she makes lists and takes satisfaction in crossing off tasks as she completes them, a kind of parody of her vocation where writing a line and scratching it out is standard practice. She reads The Very Hungry Caterpillar aloud a hundred times, plays an old mixtape with Radiohead’s “Karma Police” as a substitute lullaby to get the baby to nap, and takes that opportunity not to get some shut-eye of her own but to close herself in a room with a breast pump so she can donate to a national milk bank for infants in neonatal ICUs.

The milk bank takes on metaphorical importance, as does the idea of donation—female donation—in its many forms. She points out that in pregnancy, a woman’s body will leach itself of its own nutrients to ensure the health of the fetus. This is not a complaint. As Ní Ghríofa finds herself humming a U2 lyric from her adolescence, “And you give yourself away, and you give yourself away,” she contemplates the nature of altruism with some ruefulness, but never resentment. For one thing—as per “Karma Police”—she believes in cosmic reckoning.

Ange Mlinko, "And You Give Yourself Away.The New York Review, 5/13/2021.

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Every day I battle entropy, tidying dropped toys and muck-elbowed hoodies, sweeping up every spiral of fallen pasta and every flung crust, scrubbing stains and dishes until no trace remains of the forces that moved through these rooms. Every hour brings with it a new permutation of the same old mess…. If each day is a cluttered page, then I spend my hours scrubbing its letters. In this, my work is a deletion of a presence.

Doireann Ní Ghríofa, A Ghost in the Throat.

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Neel’s portraits of relationality are not just for other mothers but speak to and include us all. Endless need and poignant insufficiency. Multiplicity and defiant self-reliance. Self-fashioning and its seams. Intimate entwining. Solitude in togetherness. If Neel’s vision of complex personhood was indelibly impacted by her own maternal loss, then perhaps this intimate estrangement is what makes room for us and allows for our simultaneous identification and disidentification with her subjects. We are all Judy, none of us is Judy, only Judy is Judy, and we only know Judy through Carmen’s love for her, which is to say not at all, which is only part of what Alice Neel gives us here. “A face that only a mother could love” was every face that Neel painted.


Ara Ostaweil, "Staged Mothers.Artforum, Summer 2021.

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A close look at Berthe Morisot's In England (Eugène Manet on the Isle of Wight): "It’s a very rare thing in art history before the 20th century: a painting of an artist’s husband. But it is not a portrait of her husband." (NYT)

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My interests are my feelings, particularly with regard to when I grew up. I grew up around people who came from Europe, people who remembered the first time they saw a film, the first time they saw TV, the first time they used a telephone; people who had many difficulties communicating across an ocean, let alone traveling across it. And I had the experience of introducing a few of these people to computers, to the internet... My generation was the bridge, but like the sort of bridge the army rolls across and then blows up. I’m not sure what the river in this metaphor might be: maybe it’s time? Can I Google it? Still, whatever the river is, I’ve known both sides: raised with books only to find myself convenienced, and oppressed, and entertained to death by screens. I have feelings for both sides. And that means I can describe them. And I write those descriptions into books that some people keep on a shelf and other people leave floating on a cloud. I wonder if anyone actually reads them.

 

Joshua Cohen, interviewed by Sam Jaffe Goldstein for The End of the World Review, 6/2/2021.

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"As happens with many writers, she faded away, and so did her work."

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I have never read a more remarkable account of time beyond a human scale. This account feels especially worth revisiting now, when time poses a new problem for humans: we’re running out of it. Or it’s running out of us—we are the grains of sand falling through the thin neck of years left before we reach three degrees too far.

Namwali Serpell, writing for The Paris Review about William Hope Hodgson's 1908 novel, The House on the Borderland.

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One thing that we have to be very mindful of is that, when there are offers of big cultural or corporate concessions to the demands of, for example, race-equality movements, those offers ... are not for the marginalized. They are not for people on the periphery. They are for the white consumers of politically correct, or politically-consonant-with-the-moment products. And those products are books. They are news articles. They are sometimes literal soup packets and milk bottles that have different branding on them. Then we end up in a situation where we prop up the status quo by catering to the white consumer’s guilt and the white consumer’s desire to appear politically aware and have the right credentials.


Nesrine Malik, interviewed by Isaac Chotiner. The New Yorker, 6/3/2021. 

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Related: "Your trauma is my entertainment."

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The least we can do is remember—to try, after the riots, after the speeches, after the backlash and elections, and after this latest (live-streamed) liturgy of American “criminal justice,” to recall what really happened, extracting and reconstructing the whole flabbergasting sequence. Last year something massive came hurtling into view and exploded against the surface of daily life in the US. Many are still struggling to grasp what that thing was: its shape and implications, its sudden scale and bitter limits. One thing we know for sure is that it opened with a riot, on the street in Minneapolis where Floyd had cried out “I can’t breathe.”


Tobi Haslett, "Magic Actions.n+1, 5/7/2021.

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sunday tune: orange juice - rip it up and start again



And there was times I'd take my pen
And feel obliged to start again
I do profess
That there are things in life
That one can't quite express


imaginary outfit: cicada

 


Some of us (the luckier ones) are tentatively emerging from the long pause, burrowing out of our safe hidden places, hungry for contact with other bodies. Blinking our reddened eyes (a year of tears leaves its traces), a landscape both familiar and strange appears. What happens next?

Eager to shed my athleisure pandemic exoskeleton as I re-enter the dizzying world beyond my house, I idly scroll through the websites of shops in far places that I wish I could visit, wondering what to wear. It appears that I must make my peace with ruffles and flounces; they are ubiquitous. And according to my algorithmic identity, I am expected to dress as though I am perpetually picnicking in a vineyard somewhere in California, in voluminous flowing cotton gowns. Is ruffle or puffed-sleeve size a 21st-century flex, like the codpieces worn by sixteenth-century European men? The powerpuff girl rises again!

I do not know what I want, exactly, but puffy softness does not quite suit my mood. Fortunately for the economy, I am the sort of person who can always find something to want, somewhere, and subtly flounced sundresses, stompy three-strap clogs, amply-pocketed totes, and beribboned straw hats work for me, not to mention vintage celluloid bug pins and floral silk masks. (As long as my kid needs to wear a mask, I am wearing one, too. And not having to arrange my face to match other peoples' social expectations is a sneaky little pleasure I plan to enjoy as long as possible.)

Hello again, world ...

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Clyde Adriatic ribbon sun hat (past season) / Toit Volant bandeau tier ruffle dress / Samantha Pleet bouquet face mask / Victorian hand-carved celluloid cicada brooch / Clare V. Marine washed-denim tote / Beklina buckle clogs

book report: funny weather and floating worlds

 

David Wojnarowicz: Untitled (Face in Dirt), 1991.


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Her face was the fresh imprint of her age. She spoke the words that were there for her to speak; she wore the only kind of shirt available at that time. It was not possible to see where she would go wrong.

Patricia Lockwood, No One Is Talking About This.

Olivia Laing has a beautiful house that I see from time to time on Instagram, scrolling as I do looking for bookish interiors and artfully jumbled gardens, and that is why I read Funny Weather. As someone who has cobbled together a precarious career at the edges of writing, I am fascinated by writers whose full-time hustle is getting to think and write about whatever they want, who've achieved a cruising altitude above the grind of proofreading business reports and ghostwriting copy. Plus, it was available at the library and had an appealing cover: calamine-pink, with a memorable David Wojnarowicz photo—Untitled, (Face in Dirt). It is a self-portrait of the artist in black and white, his brow, closed eyes, nose, parted lips, teeth, and chin visible, surrounded by dry dirt clods.

Funny Weather collects a variety of profiles, essays, and reflections Laing wrote in this century's troubled teen years for publications including frieze, New Statesman, and the Guardian on artists, writers, and the politics of the moment. It was published in the U.S. in May 2020. Unlucky timing, maybe, though the book is packaged as a response to the fractures of our time—the subtitle is Art in an Emergency. In the introduction, Laing says that the essays are about artists who make work "concerned with resistance and repair." She writes about the poets and painters of the New York School—lovable Frank O'Hara, etc.; Johns and Rauschenberg and Warhol and Basquiat; Conceptual artists "blow[ing] the bloody doors off the venerable white cube gallery"; musicians much beloved, like David Bowie, Freddie Mercury, and Arthur Russell; white women writers critically lauded, some with TV and movie deals, including Maggie Nelson, Hilary Mantel, Ali Smith, Chris Kraus, and Sally Rooney. 

The idea is that these creators and their works can help when the world shifts:
Can art do anything, especially during periods of crisis? In 1967, George Steiner wrote a famous essay in which he observed that a concentration-camp commander could read Goethe and Rilke in the evening and still carry out his duties at Auschwitz in the morning, regarding this as evidence that art had failed in its highest function, to humanize. But this makes art sound like a magic bullet, which should reorganize our critical and moral faculties without effort, while simultaneously obliterating free will. Empathy is not something that happens to us when we read Dickens. It's work. What art does is provide material with which to think: new registers, new spaces. After that, friend, it's up to you.

I went back and read the introduction again after I read the book, a bit underwhelmed and perplexed by who was included, and tripped on that "it's up to you." I remember the first time I read anything about Robert Rauschenberg and Jasper Johns, two artists Laing writes about here. I was a teenager, and I picked up Calvin Tompkins' Off the Wall: Robert Rauschenberg and the Art World of Our Time. Before I read it, I would have had no idea how to look at a goat stuck in a tire or a painting of flag, and getting clued in to a way to understand them thrilled me. It was like getting a secret decoder ring. And I suppose it was up to me to read the book, but I needed its help to even know where to begin with those artists, and how it got on my parents' bookshelf and the fact that later I could travel to look at goats and flags for myself were products of privilege and circumstance. Art is conversations and convergences, and no one navigates it without guides. 

Laing's essays—thoughtful and accomplished, zeitgeistily enraptured by bodies and the radical potential of queerness—are rooted in love; one section is titled "Love Letters." Reading them feels validating when they are about things I enjoy—the exhilaration of someone smarter than me beautifully explaining why something I already appreciate is worthy, like a stream of happy-making candy-pink hearts bubbling up at the lower lefthand corner of the screen. But these days, my love feels a little suspect. I would like to think the fact that white people made so many of my favorite books and songs and movies and works of art is somehow innocent, but it's not, not really. I realize again and again how much I have miss and continue to miss, the ways that how I see is a product of my place and time, and of the market, that wildly unfair space. This book never let me forget that it is a product. Behind the words, I could see a ribbon of choices unfurling: essays commissioned and paid for by editors and publications looking for clicks and eyeballs, their subjects influenced by curators and galleries and PR people, bundled to create new value for the writer and a publisher. These artists chosen because their work, radical and resistant as it may be in certain contexts, can be understood and packaged and sold by an industry of people who make money convincing someone like me to read, look, think, and buy. Being loved is so very valuable.

Being a persuadable customer of literary criticism, recent reviews sold me on reading Kazuo Ishiguro's new book, Klara and the Sun. I had read very little of his other work, though, and decided to go back to his earlier stories. I tumbled into a pair of novels written over thirty years ago about shifting awareness, memory, and culpability that felt uncannily urgent, ideas picked up at the exact right time. 

An Artist of The Floating World and The Remains of the Day are similar in tone and structure (Floating World was published in 1983, several years before Remains of the Day). First-person narration loops backwards from abbreviated moments in the protagonist's present to more discursive moments in the past. Slowly (at least, if you are me, ha) the pieces begin to form a picture. In An Artist of The Floating World, Masuji Oji is a Japanese man on the edge of old age, living in a house that is beautiful but damaged. Around him, the city is rebuilding after war; one daughter is looking to get married, another has a young son. And sideways and slantwise, painfully and in pieces, he is evaluating what his life as an artist has meant as the world around him has changed. As a promising young painter, he came under the sway of a friend who convinced him that his art should be for something, and he chose to break with his teacher and make work that spoke to crisis, a choice that ripples through his life in unsettling ways. In The Remains of the Day, a British butler named Stevens makes a short trip to visit an old colleague, reflecting on his life in service to a Lord Darlington, a man, who, for a handful of years, seemed to be standing at the fulcrum of world events, though just how only slowly becomes clear. I had dim notions that this was a love story (cue the melancholic visages of Anthony Hopkins and Emma Thomson) and it is, but not in the way I expected. It, too, is about choices and their repercussions, but Stevens' worldview, prioritizing service and self-sacrifice, blurs his agency. His job was to do what was asked, not to see, not to act, and yet he has to live with the things done and undone, what he saw and what he missed. 

In my memory, that David Wojnarowicz photo registers as an image of resistance. But whenever I actually look at it, I am struck by its ambiguity. It could be burial or it could be emergence. It could be torture or it could be transcendence. Things change so much depending on how you look at them.


book report: april 2021


April was slim, reading-wise—partly because (and I don't know why) I decided to read/re-read a bunch of Kazuo Ishiguro before tackling Klara and the Sun and it operated like a literary muscle relaxer, slowing me down and making me feel somehow both sloppy and lucid (or maybe just deluded). (I am currently wading through the Kafka-esque twinings of The Unconsoled; more on that another time, maybe). But the little stack of books I read packed potent joys. 

A few weeks ago, I linked to an essay by Alice Jolly praising boring books:

It turned out that every word of the book was necessary, everything made sense and everything seemed both surprising and inevitable. I was left knowing that Madame Bovary is extraordinary, one of the best books I had ever read. But I had to face up to the fact that for long passages I had also been bored by it. Was it possible for a book to be boring and brilliant? Clearly it was.

Josephine Tey's Miss Pym Disposes is not boring, though if you stopped reading it halfway through, you might think that it is. 

Well-behaved, middle-aged Lucy Pym has become a minor celebrity after publishing a book of pop psychology:

She read her first book on psychology out of curiosity, because it seemed to her an interesting sort of thing; and she read all the rest to see if they were just as silly. By the time she had read thirty-seven books on the subject, she had evolved ideas of her own on psychology; at variance, of course, with all thirty-seven volumes read to date. In fact, the thirty-seven volumes seemed to her so idiotic and made her so angry that she sat down there and then and wrote reams of refutal. Since one cannot talk about psychology in anything but jargon, there being no English for most of it, the reams of refusal read very learnedly indeed.

An old school friend who once stuck up for a bullied Lucy ("Lucy had gone home and enjoyed jam roll-poly instead of throwing herself in the river") is now the head of a women's physical education college (shades of a down-market Gaudy Night). She asks Lucy to come and give a talk about her book, and Lucy prolongs her stay, wrapped up in the world of the school, its rigor and rituals, and the personalities of the teachers and students as they prepare for graduation. Then, as the pages dwindle and the reader, perhaps baffled by the fact that this book has been billed as a murder mystery, is lulled, something shocking happens. Lucy's psychological insight is put to the test, and here is where Tey becomes a slight-of-hand artist, pulling off a satisfying, gasp-eliciting finale in a scant few pages, deftly turning the story from one thing into another.

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Some summer in my teenage years, I picked up an old, crumbly paperback by Mary Renault and for a sunbaked afternoon or two was swept off into the world of Alexander the Great. Madeleine Miller's Circe conjured that same sense of transport and strangeness, electrified by myths and stories half-remembered, so when I saw a new(ish) short story by Miller on my library app, I clicked "borrow." Galatea is told from the first-person perspective of the beautiful sculpture brought to life through Pygmalion's obsessive love. His obsession—and sense of possession—is the shape of Galatea's life, and the story finds her confined in a remote facility, under the care of people who monitor and drug her between his visits, until she finds a way to escape. A familiar myth recast as a troubling, twisted tale of toxic patriarchy.  

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I re-read Joan Druett's Island of the Lost because it is one of those true stories that I can't quite believe is true: in 1864,  few months apart, two different groups are shipwrecked on the Aukland Islands, 285 miles south of New Zealand in the subantarctic. One group, blessed with cooperative, ingenious folks, leads an almost Robinson Crusoe-like existence for over a year. They figure out how to make soap, tan leather, construct a smithy, and ultimately make a boat (forging hundreds of hand-cast nails!) that they sail hundred of miles to find help. In the other group, anarchy and social division reign. Most of the survivors die, and the remaining three are ultimately rescued by a plague ship. All the castaways survived by eating a plant called stilbocarpa; it prevented scurvy and bleached their teeth, so that when they were rescued, they all had uncannily gleaming grins.

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Kathryn Davis' Versailles is a history of a person (Marie Antoinette) but also a place, mostly told from Marie Antionette's first-person perspective:

After Léonard took off the curling papers, he frizzed my hair with a hot iron, combed it out with nettle juice, powdered it with bean flour, then mounted a ladder in order to affix the horsehair cushion that would form the armature for the final hairdo.

Cypresses and black marigolds and wheat sheaves and fruit-filled cornucopias—a hairdo reminding everyone that while they mourned the loss of one king, they also looked forward to the bounty the next would bring. Or how about the Inoculation hairdo, commemorating the Princes's victory over smallpox? One day Léonard made me Minerva. One day he made me an English garden with lawns, hills, and streams. One day he made me the world.

Really, you could put anything on your head .. so long as it didn't (excuse me) snap your neck. 

Léonard used long steel pins to hold the cushion in place and combed my own hair up over it. Then he matted everything down with pomade, creating a kind of moist hive under which fleas and lice bred, and soon enough there wasn't a fashionable lady alive who wasn't using a long thin stick identical to the one Léonard made for me, complete with a little ivory claw, to scratch away at her scalp like mad.  

There are also dramatic interludes structured like one acts with chatty lap dogs and ladies-in-waiting; appearances by Bread, personified; discussions of how the grounds are planted; and servants doomed to die from pox. It's like the marvelous eccentric aunt of Danielle Dutton's gemlike and glittery Margaret the First.

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An anxious author can't stop going to parties with other artsy types and blabbing about his important new novel to skeptical, self-involved friends: is it Park Slope, ca. 2013? No—Paris, 1895. Over a hundred years ago, André Gide wrote Marshlands, a self-referential novel that lacerates literary pretension, pioneered autofictional forms, and foretold our post-truth reality:

"But it's not about truth, you can change the facts to make them be whatever you want."

"I arrange the facts to make them conform to the truth more closely than they do in real life. I can't explain it to you now, it's too complicated."

His friend is doubtful:

"I'm afraid this story of yours might be the least little bit boring."

A vastness of silence—subsequent to which I cried, my voice full of feeling: "Angela, Angela, please! When will you understand what books are about?" 

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Gerard Dou, Old Woman Reading, c. 1631 - c. 1632

odds and ends / 5.7.2021

 









Jean Brusselmans: Lilas (Seringen), 1934.

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Candlesticks that look like carnivorous plants by Tommy Mitchell.

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Wax-seal-encrusted treasure box by Parvum Opus.

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Colleen Herman, Something Warm

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NOMASEI ballerinas (tiny gold hands!)

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Klingspor-Schriften type sample. Offenbach: Gebrüder Klingspor, 1951.

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Photo of the artist Rose Wylie, by Sam Wright for the NYT Style Magazine.

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A moment extends to time passing as sense impression of a rose, including new
joys where imagined roses, roses I haven't yet seen or seen in books record as my
experience.

Then experience is revelation, because plants and people have in their cells
particles of light that can become coherent, that radiate out physically and also
with the creativity of metaphor, as in a beam of light holographically, i.e., by
intuition, in which I inhale the perfume of the Bourbon rose, then try to separate
what is scent, sense, and what you call memory, what is emotion, where in a
dialogue like touching is it so vibratory and so absorbent of my attention and
longing, with impressions like fingerprints all over.

I'm saying physical perception is the data of my embodiment, whereas for the
rose, scarlet itself is matter.

Mei-mei Berssenbruggefrom "Hello, the Roses."

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To start, think about what you like. Consider your own taste. What is your perfect soup? Is it clear? Creamy? Spicy? Thick? Think about its components. What ingredients do you have access to? We will offer some suggestions and a simple road map, but this is not an edict; improvisation is an essential part of cooking.

Who are you feeding? Reflect on this with every step.


Emily Hilliard and Rebecca Wright, "A Soup Recipe: Questions and Interpretive Instructions for a Present Process and a Future Meal." Ecotone

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It’s not that literature can’t be personally uplifting, or even morally improving; but when you insist that this is what literature is for, you make a claim that sits at odds with the manifest intentions of most writers and readers. Why do I read? Largely because I hate to be bored, and books are my favourite way of not being bored. (Also, a little bit, because I like people to think of me as someone who reads books.)


Sarah Ditum, "Books Won't Save You." UnHerd,  4/27/2021.

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[Jane] Harrison was the foremost figure in the Cambridge Ritualists, a group of classical scholars who infused the study of ancient Greece with modern theories of “primitive” ritual. The holophrase, a linguistic instance in which subject and object are rendered indistinguishable, fascinated her. In her book Themis: A Study of the Social Origins of Greek Religion (1912), she provided an example of a holophrase ascribed to an indigenous language of Tierra del Fuego: mamihlapinatapai, which means “looking-at-each-other-hoping-that-either-will-offer-to-do-something-which-both-parties-desire-but-are-unwilling-to-do.” She believed this suggested pre-modern speakers’ total involvement with their environments, the self dissolved in pure relation. The duality of mind and body is superseded by an articulation of shared reality.


Dustin Illingworth, "Little Funny Things Ceaselessly Happening." Poetry, 3/1/2021. 

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"I want a holophrase."—Hope Mirrlees, Paris.

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Clariloops.

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What if hope exists not for any individual human being now living—but rather for the members of future generations, who though powerless to redeem us, might nevertheless be able to overturn the injustices we have been subject to and carve out a better existence for themselves? In this view, hope is not for “us” but it is nevertheless related to us, by means of our connection to other, future human beings. “I” might not be able to hope for anything. But “we” certainly can meaningfully hope for a better world—through the actions we might take, through the world and across generations, together.


Tom Whyman, "Why, Despite Everything, You Should Have Kids (If You Want Them)." NYT, 4/13/2021.

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This pure feeling I have and my certainty of what has caused it: the sight of the children … the rousing music, the marching feet. A feeling of one in distress who sees help coming but does not rejoice at his rescue—nor is he rescued—but rejoices, rather, at the arrival of fresh young people imbued with confidence and ready to take up the fight; ignorant, indeed, of what awaits them, but an ignorance that inspires not hopelessness but admiration and joy in the onlooker and brings tears to his eyes.


Franz Kafka, from a diary entry dated March 1922 describing hope:. 

Archeologists found a lost 3,000-year-old city in Luxor: "Work is underway and the mission expects to uncover untouched tombs filled with treasures." (Washington Post.)


gifts some mothers might enjoy




































A reproduction of Francesco Primaticcio's Double Head, because to be a mother is to become one thing in the eyes of the world, and something else entirely to yourself.

A shiny snake bookmark, plus a new book to tuck it into (maybe a pair of novellas by Natalia Ginzburg, an anthology of poems about the weathera book of breakfast recipes that includes "useful tips like the top songs for boiling an egg to, and how to store mushrooms," or a rare and covetable exhibition catalog documenting 500 years of women's work.) 

Life Everywhere, a poster by Lexie Smith for New York Communities for Change: a compendium of "133 cut and collaged scans taken from six Simon & Schuster field guides: Mushrooms, Trees, Horses and Ponies, Fossils, Cacti and Succulents, and Shells."

A Regime des Fluers perfume that makes you smell like a cactus

A water glass that looks like a seething sample of microscopic pond life.

honey pot woven purse, impractically sized for toting useful items such as books and whatnot, but perfect for stashing foraged mushrooms and emergency snacks.

A long-coveted sweater in blossom pink.

Minty-fresh shoes + a bunch of flowers that last forever (or nearly).

A kit for low-key manicures.

Tiny earrings shaped like whirling balls of incandescent gas.

A way to tell the future, by Rebecca Artemesia. 

Sunshine-colored silk scrunchies for overgrown pandemic 'dos.

An hourglass, plus a glorious hour all alone. 

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Other gifts for mothers, from other years: 2017 / 2018 / 2019 / 2020