Boomtown Boudoir


Eureka
March 25, 2009, 6:05 am
Filed under: Hyperbole | Tags: ,
Photo of Joan Didion and Family in Central Park, 1970 by Dominick Dunne

Photo of Joan Didion and Family in Central Park, 1970 by Dominick Dunne

Now I know what to wear to work.

I recently read The Year of Magical Thinking and the only thing I liked about it was the way Didion named, over and over again, the exact locations where she and her husband ate lunch or dinner, but  the contrast between the subtly mismatched floral prints and the “are you speaking to me?” expression in this photo have redeemed the six or so hours I spent slogging through the book.

I have logged into google at least thirty times this week to look up and inspect pictures of Joan Didion. I can’t help but feel that I would have really liked 1969-1973ish, living near Central Park with a bag held up with chains and a highball every night before dinner. I think that’s why I didn’t like The Year of Magical Thinking. Beneath all of its touchingly dispassionate tragedy, there seemed to be a deeper layer of smug, which had the perhaps desired effect of making me duly jealous.



The Tufts
March 8, 2009, 3:06 pm
Filed under: Hyperbole | Tags: , , , ,
Painting by Henry Darger

Painting by Henry Darger

“Do you remember a night in here where I sat down with you guys and you started talking to me about the tufts? Because I just wanted to come over here and tell you how offensive that was. Really not cool.”

It’s N, this goofy art kid who’s friends with Angry Mike from the Last Drop, a few years younger than me, prone to outrageous outfits and apparently, offense. I’m sitting in McGlinchey’s with four guys, drinking my porter out of one of those old-timey glass mugs that is covered in textured ridges that feel really satisfying under your fingers as you fondle it in between sips. And trying to figure out what this kid is talking about. “I said what that offended you?”

“The tufts?” he kept saying, in this very accusatory voice. Eventually I make him spell the word out for me. T-U-F-T-S. Yep.

“The college?” I want to know. My cousin went there, and that’s the sum total of my information about Tufts.

“No, the kind that sprouts from young boys’ chests.” N is about six kinds of pissy, hand on the hip, talking out of his neck. “And it was unbelievably awkward and offensive to me and I have thought of it every time I have seen you since then.”

“That’s offensive! That’s offensive!” my friend Ben heckles from beside me, pointing at N. I push his hand down and tell him to shut up because it has occurred to me that this is some kind of gay thing. N is gay, and he is telling me all of this like I see him and mutter “fag” under my breath, such being the depth and breadth of my casual insensitivity regarding homosexuality. “I don’t know what to say, N. That sounds extremely creepy and I certainly believe you that I said it, but I don’t know what you’re talking about.”

I recall the night in question, because it was possibly the only time I have ever had a discussion of any length with N. I was at McGlinchey’s with my friend Matt K. and we started drinking at five o’clock. It was the kind of happy hour that ended up closing the bar down. Somewhere in the middle of it, we’d picked up N and had, I’d thought, a good old time talking about all the exciting things people talk about when they’re drunk, including, I guess, tufts.

“It was some book. I walked in here and sat down and you started telling me all about how I needed to read this book about tufts and boy scouts having sex with each other and it really kind of traumatized me.”

“Guy Davenport!”

“Whatever,” said N. “I think you should apologize.”

“I think you misunderstood me. I really like Guy Davenport. I was not telling you to read this book because I thought that boy scouts having sex with each other was something that you, specifically, would be into,” but I’m laughing as I say it because I am, as usual, absolutely sincere, but ever further breath I expend fixing this is only serving to make me look like an even bigger asshole. “I’m sorry,” I finally say. “I am so, so sorry.”

I am sorry. I’m sorry I ever told N about one of my favorite writers of all time ever, a writer whose expansive utopian ideal of what the world should look like includes boy scouts having sex with each other in a way that really grows on you after you get over the whole, “Oh my god, I’m reading very literate kiddie porn” thing. Having been over it myself for years, I forget that most people don’t want to sit down and have a discussion about anything even resembling the acceptance of pedophilia in polite company. They can’t even play nice on Guy Davenport’s wiki discussion.

I sent this email to my friend Erik Bader about Guy Davenport over a year ago:

I think my favorite thing about him this time around is that he
dictates every tiny detail of his utopian ideal. It’s not just a
Mondrian (only he spells it Mondriaan, and I swear he’s the only author I actually like MORE for being a pretentious fuck), it’s from Mondrian’s most minimal geometric period. They’re not just little boys’ underwear, they are made in Denmark and they are a pellucid blue and they are very small in a way that he implies only Danish underwear are. There are so many pairs of underwear in Davenport‘s books. I wonder how he knows so much about them. Did he do a study on boys’ underwear around the world? He must have. But anyway, it’s not just a
room painted red, it’s a red that is from a specific place and time that means something. You could read the books and easily Davenport your entire life out. Go buy all the stuff he talks about. Go read all the books he namedrops. Go make all the food he talks about. I am strongly attracted to the way he makes it possible to go in whole hog for Brand Davenport. Plus, I like the brand itself. He really makes it seem like there is only one right way to decorate your home.

I am also enjoying, kind of, that while his male characters all seem to be these paragons of running triathlons and then going home to study the scriptures and then making some buckwheat crepes and fucking the shit out of someone nice, the girls are just kind of there to make the guys happy, and they are very cheerful about this. They don’t see it as being sexist on an intellectual level, nor are they frustrated by not having apartments that are as nice as the dudes’. But it’s not
like they’re dumb, either. They all have their own thing going on behind the scenes.

I also like how his characters desire to do everything, and they do not care if it furthers their career or makes them friends. They want to be into not only theology, botany, art, food, music, literature, athletics… but they also seem to have enough time left over for sex and the domestic joys. And they do all of it because they are curious, or because they feel like it, with no ulterior motives. It makes me wonder if they are living in 48 hour days, but ultimately, it’s an ideal that I approve of.

That’s what I have to say about that.

But, you know, fact of the matter is that some people are only going to walk away from this discussion with the word tufts and a sense that something distasteful has taken place. I’m never telling anyone about Guy Davenport again unless I am sure they are cool. And I don’t mean cool in the Man-I-love-children-NAMBLA-chatroom kind of way. By cool I mean what everyone means, which is, ultimately, sympathetic.