Sunday, September 24, 2006
In the penny press!
The only noteworthy thing about this week's extra-big 'fashion' issue of the New Yorker (well, aside from a really offensive Muslim-baiting cartoon about which I've already written them) is a little piece up at the front of the issue called 'Air Kiss.'
The incident recounted took place on an American Airlines flight. Four male friends were reprimanded for kissing each other and resting their heads on each others shoulders. The friends become understandably irate and ask to see the plane's purser (we won't digress on what an exceedingly GAY request that is).
When the purser shows up and asks them to identify which stewardess (sorry ... flight attendant) did the tsk-tsking, and when the guys point out a beehive-hairdo'd fiftysomething woman, the purser rolls her eyes and sympathizes with them.
Then the men asked 'if the stewardess would have made the request if the kissers had been a man and a woman,' at which point the purser stiffened visibly and started toting a no-kissing party line.
I think even at this point we're still supposed to be sympathizing with the guys, but it was at that point I started sympathizing with the entirely helpful purser, who naturally took offense at the thinly-hidden accusation of bigotry.
SOMETHING happened on that American Airlines flight, but after reading this little account, I'm fairly convinced it was ugly on both sides of the aisle.
(The issue also featured a tribute by Alex Ross to Lorraine Hunt Lieberson, and it's Ross at his least pompous, because this was a loss that hurt. Most professional singers develop a repertoire and a manner, and more often than not it then becomes them. Pavarotti has been more or less unconscious on stage for the past twenty years. The divine Beverly Sills once, after an evening of sumptuous vocal beauty, was asked by an adoring fan what sublime mindframes she was in during her performance. She chuckled and said, 'I was going over my taxes.' Lorraine was different. Her music was endlessly, renewably personal to her. What's so often said of so many sawhorse hacks was literally true of her: no two performances were ever the same. And that applied to all performances, including the impromptu ones. Like the one more than twenty years ago very close to Christmas, when she and two newly-acquired friends stumbled, a little drunk, down into Boston's Park Street T-stop around 10 o'clock one snowy night. A raggedy man in fingerless gloves was playing a very clearly-realized version of Handel's 'Hallelujah' chorus, and Lorraine went over to him and listened enraptured exactly as if she'd never heard it before in her life. When he was finished, she shimmied up to him and asked if he knew any OTHER arias from what she called 'the sacred text' - he said he knew them all, and she asked for 'O Thou That Tellest' ... the man's grimey face brightened a little and he started playing, and a few seconds later she started singing. She started singing, and by the time she was done, the man had stopped playing, the crowds on both platforms had stopped moving, and the train conductors were hanging out of their windows, mesmerized. That voice is gone from the world now, but Ross does a good job of capturing what it was like)
Over in New York magazine, there's a very nice, openly nostalgic piece by James Atlas on the New York Review of Books, concentrating on the state of that mighty organ in the wake of Barbara Epstein's death. The piece takes you through all the usual highlights of the Review's history - a story's no less good for being often told - and ends on a somewhat troubling note, wondering if there's a place in the modern world for something like the New York Review. I read the piece with fond remembrances - how many train trips, how many boring lectures, how many long solitary lunches have been saved, just outright saved, by having a big fat New York Review in my bag? - but also with a little anxiety.
Atlas can't be right, can he? Surely the world will always need the New York Review of Books? I guess the only way that might change is if the Review itself changed, presumably after Robert Silvers steps down.
If only this blog were frequented by someone with INSIDER KNOWLEDGE of the New York Review!
Plus, the magazine's Approval Matrix had two items of note, both in the 'Lowbrow Despicable' quadrant: first, 'the Gothification of Jared Leto' featuring a funny picture of the actor (he DOES still act, right?) in heavy eye-liner. And second, the simple, direct assertion: "Brett Favre should be considering retirement." Sad, but true. There's really no POINT to being a quarterback if you're not Tom Brady.
And in this month's GQ (the one with roasting tobacco addict Josh Hartnett's vapid, utterly clueless face on the cover), there's a wonderful, subtly nasty piece by Jeanne Marie Laskas on self-outed former New Jersey governor Jim McGreevey.
Laskas crucifies McGreevey mainly by letting HIM provide the cross and nail himself to it. She asks him frank, simple questions - how did his decision to come out affect his wife, his parents? And then she steps back, turns on the tape recorder, and faithfully recounts how McGreevey - lost in his contemplation of himself - doesn't actually ANSWER anything.
The picture of McGreevey that emerges from the article is that of a narcissistic creep - gay, straight, or otherwise. Which is a little ironic, given how well his book is selling in the bookstores.