Wednesday, July 9, 2008

New Yorker, New York Times, New Post!


I know I know, long time no blog. But thanks to everyone who said, "when's the next post?" I have more ideas than time these days, but that's an excuse. My computer got stolen, but that's an excuse too. It's been hot, the fires in California, the film festival, a thousand reasons for what amounts to writer's block.

But I've been running across things in magazines I want to share, and in the New Yorker, the New York Times Magazine, and in the daily New York Times. Where to begin?

If you are a Mad Men fan--and who isn't who has even seen one episode--you must immerse yourself in the NYTimes Magazine think piece published a few weeks ago. It's a great look at what makes the series the best thing on TV, how realistic it is or isn't, what's the real social comment that the writers are trying to make (this will surprise you--it's not what you think), but mostly it's a juicy portrait of the neurotic Matthew Weiner, the creator and show-runner of Mad Men. And the best news of all: the DVD of the first season is out, so you can catch up on it, before the second season starts on July 27th.

One more from the New Yorker. If you didn't read the elevator article (sorry, Ed!) a few months ago, you will be a total loser at the office water cooler. Everyone is talking about it and the accompanying video. Now here's the thing that's most interesting about the article. This guy's life was ruined by the event. Things happen to us that become bends in our life trajectory--it changes everything, but compare and contrast what happened to the guy in the elevator what happened to Laura Bush.

"I Smoke. I read. I admire."


Did anyone read the Maureen Dowd op-ed in the New York Times about Laura Bush yesterday? Someone has written a fictional account of her life. Fair enough, but the editorial by Dowd about the book, had these really provocative paragraphs:

Once in a while, you’ll read about something she’s said, like that legendary line she uttered to her future in-laws — “I read, I smoke, and I admire” — that makes you realize how intriguing it would be to see the real Laura. One with her guard down and outside of the Kabuki-like job of first lady.

But there’s only one vessel that can ferry you past Laura’s moat, and that’s fiction. Ms. Sittenfeld has creatively applied her crayons to all the ambiguous blanks in the coloring book. It isn’t an invasion of privacy. Art has always been made out of the stories of kings and queens. Fictionalizing historical figures is fine. Fantasies about public figures are inevitable. The question of an ostensibly ordinary girl who lives through extraordinary things will always be gripping. For “Madame Bovary,” Flaubert partly drew on the real-life story of Delphine Delamare, a village doctor’s unhappy wife who had lots of lovers and a premature and humiliating death.

And the story of the quiet, pretty librarian who could suffer the fate of being an old maid if not rescued by the dashing hero is a favorite American narrative — from “The Music Man” to “It’s a Wonderful Life.”

During her husband’s presidential runs, many reporters shied away from asking Laura Bush about the freakishly horrible accident she had when she was 17. Hurrying to a party, she ran a stop sign in Midland, Tex., one night on Farm Road 868 and ran into a car that turned out to be driven by the golden boy of her high school, a cute star athlete she was believed to have had a crush on. He died instantly of a broken neck.

As Ann Gerhart wrote in “The Perfect Wife”: “Killing another person was a tragic, shattering error for a girl to make at 17. It was one of those hinges in a life, a moment when destiny shuddered, then lurched in a new direction. In its aftermath, Laura became more cautious and less spontaneous, more inclined to be compassionate.”

Laura has rarely spoken publicly about it, except to say in 2000 that “it was crushing ... for the family involved and for me as well.”

How could a novelist not be drawn to such a tragedy? It’s easy to imagine all that guilt, shame, conscience, fear, sex and nightmares in the hands of Eudora Welty or Larry McMurtry.




Wow. Did you know that about Laura Bush? I knew she was a big reader, a closet smoker, but I didn't know about that tragic accident. And she made a pretty good life for herself, except she married the most public idiot of her generation. Still, reading this: I love her. And I love Dowd.

And I love New York, The New Yorker, and The New York Times. I have nothing to say about New York really except see Sex and the City. Even though the NYT review called it shallow. Duh! (And not just shallow, but "the pits, vulgar, shrill, and deeply shallow." Thank god movies can be all of those things and deeply enjoyable at the same time, thank god Laura Bush made it, and thank god for Mad Men.

3 comments:

Lisa said...

This was a really provocative post, Mark. I hadn't seen the elevator article, nor video (i am freaked out), nor the Dowd piece on Laura Bush.

I did see the Dowd piece on how to choose a partner (never choose a guy who has no friends).

Thanks for the nice little late-night snack for my brain. G'nite! lisa schiffman

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