30 March 2011

Attending the Narrative Convention

Filed under: Culture, Fiction — ktismatics @ 8:14 am

1975: The 8:45 a.m. Pan American to Honolulu this morning was delayed half an hour before takeoff from Los Angeles. During this delay the stewardesses served orange juice and coffee and two children played tag in the aisles and, somewhere behind me, a man began screaming at a woman who seemed to be his wife. I say that the woman seemed to be his wife only because the tone of his invective sounded practiced, although the only words I heard clearly were these: ‘You are driving me to murder.’ After a moment I was aware of the door to the plane being opened a few rows behind me, and of the man rushing off. There were many Pan American employees rushing on and off then, and considerable confusion. I do not know whether the man reboarded the plane before takeoff or whether the woman came on to Honolulu alone, but I thought about it all the way across the Pacific. I thought about it while I was drinking a sherry-on-the-rocks and I thought about it during lunch and I was still thinking about it when the first of the Hawaiian Islands appeared off the left wing tip. It was not until we had passed Diamond Head and were coming in low over the reef for landing at Honolulu, however, that I realized what I most disliked about this incident: I disliked it because it had the aspect of a short story, one of those ‘little epiphany’ stories in which the main character glimpses a crisis in a stranger’s life—a woman weeping in a tearoom, often, or an accident seen from the window of a train, ‘tearooms’ and ‘trains’ still being fixtures of short stories although not of real life—and is moved to see his or her own life in a new light. I was not going to Honolulu because I wanted to see life reduced to a short story. I was going to Honolulu because I wanted to see life expanded to a novel, and I still do. I wanted room for flowers, and reef fish, and people who may or may not be driving one another to murder but in any case are not impelled, by the demands of narrative convention, to say so out loud on the 8:45 a.m. Pan American to Honolulu.

– from Joan Didion’s “In the Islands,” included in her 1979 edited compilation The White Album



  1. I saw this at once, of course, and was thinking about her matter of the short story vs. the novel expressed here. Don’t you think she’s funny? This tiny little lady, about 5 feet tall, and all bones with a marvelous face, and gets stuck in these places. There’s another one from the earlier collection ‘Slouching Toward Bethlehem’, in which she’s stuck in a desert motel where she’s freaking out from Holy Rollers screaming. At that time, she wrote a lot for Sat. Evening Post. But regarding the short story matter, she wrote 4, I think, and they are among the few things I’ve never read, along with whatever ‘features’ she wrote from Vogue Magazine, where she started out–just never have searched them out. Somebody wanted her to sign their copy of the stories once, and she wrote inside it “These are NOT good stories, which is why I never wrote any more of them.” Also, the mention of ‘reef fish’ reminds me of a sentence the NYorkerMag critic in 1996, John Lahr, singles out in ‘The Last Thing He Wanted’, when the unreliable narrator says, at one point ‘The best story I ever wrote was a reef dream’. I think I know what that means now, but didn’t for a long time, even after he pointed it out. Probably isn’t literal, but just that she was an affinity for reefs, and indeed coral reefs are among the most sublime things of the world–those Pacific island lagoons are oases of tranquility which are so much like huge swimming pools that there are very few man-made pools in the resorts. But they are surrounded by the reef, beyond which you see the starkly contrasting wild breakers of the ocean itself, which looks even more violent than usual when you’re looking at the lagoon and the breakers in the same view, juxtaposed, as it were. There were freak 15-foot waves in Malibu in 2005, but those weren’t nearly so ‘wild merciless ocean’ becaus they’re not contrasted with the gentleness of these pool-like lagoons, which go out anything from 3/4-mile to almost two in the case of Bora Bora. This sense of the ‘primeval sea’, though, I saw in Moorea on the first of those trips; that was one thing which seemed not to have changed at all from originally discovering these places in the 1944 Pacific Islands Year Book my father brought back from the war, and later the early 60s Nat’l Geographic photos of Tahiti, which were taken when Papeete had about 20,000 people, instead of the dirty, bustling city of 130,000 plus (big for there, because all along a narrow coastal strip.)


    Comment by illegal dances of new york city — 30 March 2011 @ 11:00 am

  2. The big omnibus anthology is entitled We Tell Ourselves Stories in Order to Live, which is the first sentence of the “White Album” essay. This would be a rather cornball observation except that the second paragraph of the essay begins with this sentence: “Or at least we do for a while.” In one of her first vignettes she’s in attendance at a recording session of The Doors, an LA band which was my favorite and which provided a kind of “story to live by” for would-be rebellious Midwest suburban boys. Many of her essays revolve around storied figures and places — Hawaii, Hollywood, Malibu, the Reagans, Huey Newton — that collectively comprised much of the American self-referential dreamscape. So here she’s the chronicler of pop fame and bad taste, looking at it all from a jaded, elitist, neurotic perspective, and it comes out funny for sure but with more than a tinge of the bittersweet anxiety of someone who has snipped the narrative thread tying all this together, not just for her readers but for herself. But she’s a tough bird, not looking for anyone to blame, not drawn to nostalgia, moving through the world with stately if ironic grace as a success, a celebrity narrativist of this same world where the celebrity narrative conventions no longer hold. The photo of her on the back cover looks a bit like Catharine Hepburn with an eating disorder, or Geraldine Chaplin.


    Comment by ktismatics — 30 March 2011 @ 12:29 pm

    • http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Joan_Didion

      This one from 2008 is marvelous, she gets more Oriental-looking all the time; and this one is 3 years after ‘Magical Thinking’ came out, that was the last time I heard her read, late 2005.

      That’s the volume I have out now. I’ll find the Holy Roller one from STB tonight and tell you which it is. I’ve recently re-read some of the New York ones she writes in ‘After Henry’, and she somehow keeps bringing up the contradictions in her own thinking, despite the intense research, rather than proving points quite as well as she seems to do with political writing or when she’s writing about Los Angeles. Because her talk of New York’s ‘lazy criminality’ is misleading, insofar as there’s plenty of ‘con artist’ of all stripes in Los Angeles and Las Vegas, and really a certain sort everywhere, and particular similar types in all cities–underworld types. So that when she talks about the Gambinos, Genoveses, and Lucheses, it’s territory she’s not stupid in or that is underresearched, but she sounds more of an outsider. When it comes to Washington, she does talk a lot about D.C. insiders, but Washington is still not held away from its citizens in the same way New York is (and which she points out critically, while living in the circles now that made her leave New York in the 60s, and is chronicled in ‘Goodbye to all That’ in STB. In other words, she skipped a step because it became something even a ‘tough bird’ wasn’t always able to take; she made the money in LA that would allow her not to have to do some of the grueling horrors that may be unique to NY at a certain point in one’s life, and seem easier in LA. There are any number of Angelenos in businesses that are dense only in NYC and LA who ‘can’t stand it here anymore’. Harlan Ellison, the sci-fi writer, is good, but to some degree a hack, and was told ‘you’ll never be able to live here like you want to’. But even when he did make a lot of money, he would write about how LA have ‘more verve than New York’. I would tend to agree, it does, and NYC by now seems almost staid by comparison, while remaining harsh and un-mellow a lot of the time. But that’s something I do think I know more about than she does, because I’ve lived here with only an early year off in Paris, and one 4-month absence in 1989, and there really is no substitute for ‘doing it the hard way’ in any of this. Not that she didn’t do the hard way elsewhere, in fact you see how neurotic she is, almost to a pretentious degree, in one of those White Album essays, in which she starts thinking of Ezra Pound and closing her eyes to drive across a bridge; the stuff about having to call a motel desk is probably, though, the most unconvincing thing she talks about vis-a-vis her neurosis. It’s hard to see why that could last long enough to deserve writing about, since so easily remedied. Also, in the interview with Eldridge Cleaver, when she was asked to stand in full view, and calls this ‘visual frisking’, but that one I buy, it’s good, heavy, drama-queen, but not inaccurate either.

      But the New York ones, which I’ve had to reread more than the others because in some ways they are Noble Failures with brilliant passages, I was saying above that she’ll do some sharp journalism about the Central Park Jogger case (and this is esp. impressive because it’s long before the accused were found not guilty, someone else confessed), but she’s not going to make up stuff for Al Sharpton in the same piece, i.e., she tries to draw conclusions, but mainly gets stuck with having to state that the race problems work both ways, and journalistic ethics allow her to say the true things that some of the ‘spectacle-oriented bleugers’ say, as when she also talks about Laurie Rosenthal, whose body was thrown in the trash by her adulterous lover Peter Franconeri, and he got off with a little community service. So here she’s doing ‘what story is part of the New York narrative’, and that’s good, but ‘rush to judgment’ in court cases is certainly not limited to New York, and all the Rodney King-related matters are part of that. I don’t know when ‘payback time’ was admitted. So she will point out that the CP Jogger case had appeal in the city because of the class dichotomy between the victim and the accused, but that the Rosenthal case died, and this ‘dying’ in the daily narrative even affects the outcome of evidence and trial proceedings. But the obvious ‘spectacle-talking bleugers’, who would see the racial and class connotations in the CP Jogger Case, would not then, in the same piece, start talking about the preposterous claims of Tawana Brawley as Didion does–and that’s because she doesn’t happen to think that Marxism is the way to discover all truth and whatever else, as do some of these who make up ‘facts’ and try to pass them off on the ignorant (succeeding often enough, but probably not on a big scale).


      Comment by illegal dances of new york city — 30 March 2011 @ 2:26 pm

      • The ‘motel one’ where she kept calling the front desk or her husband in LA, was to ask what time it was. I didn’t really get this one, because she doesn’t seem capable of that kind of malfunctioning. In any case, I didn’t think that particular one was worth writing about, which the ‘In Bed’ about the migraines was different, and that interview with the Dallas Beardsley girl who must become a movie star is quite eerie. I like very much that she got into these same biker movies of the 70s, and understands their feeling for the West–curious that a low-budget film is often in some ways very artful. I watch ‘Angels Die Hard’ all the time, it’s almost like a piece of my apt.’s decor.

        ‘payback time was admitted’

        I meant ‘was invented’. They started using ‘Rodney King payback time’ when the O.J. verdict came in.


        Comment by illegal dances of new york city — 30 March 2011 @ 2:34 pm

  3. I googled Dallas Beardsley. She’s credited in one movie: 1972’s Blood Orgy of the She Devils. Here’s the synopsis from Rotten Tomatoes:

    Ted Mikels (THE ASTRO-ZOMBIES) directed this campy, low budget horror movie that stars the fetching Lila Zaborin as Mara, Queen of the Black Witches. Situated in a rather ominous (and fake) looking castle, Mara, with the aid of a gaggle of maiden disciples, lures men into her lair and sacrifices them to punish those who have persecuted witches. As she becomes more brazen, Mara attracts the attention of Dr. Helsford, a parapsychology professor whose familiarity with dark magic sends him on a quest to destroy the Queen of the Black Witches.

    There’s a Dallas Beardsley Insurance Agency in Burbank, which could be her. She told Joan that the big talent agents were “nice” and return phone calls even from nobodies: maybe she adopted that policy toward the insurance biz. Burbank people want to be known — a yearning someone like Dallas would understand. She would make sure that she knows her clients, and she would make even more sure that they know that she knows them.


    Comment by ktismatics — 30 March 2011 @ 4:16 pm

    • “Burbank people want to be known — a yearning someone like Dallas would understand. She would make sure that she knows her clients, and she would make even more sure that they know that she knows them.”

      That’s great. I see you immediately took to her like a duck to water in almost exactly the same way you took to my book like a duck to water–some obvious similarities, not exactly of rhythm, but of things concerned with. Christian sent me the cover design about 2 weeks ago, and chose an early introductory paragraph about “opposing placelessness”, which is something I have in common with Didion overwhelmingly. That’s why we’re freaked by seemingly too-quick-changing landscapes (both Christian and Jack are like this too, I suppose we really could be said to be ‘paleo curios’), and nevertheless try to behave as though we’re not short of oxygen. The older you get the less the sense of loss is quite so acute, even death becomes not just inevitable but even something one can reconcile with without too much fury; in short, you often think about it so as to make sure you have thought about it, instead of letting it slip up on you too unawares, IF possible. I sometimes write like her somewhat, but am a lot more shameless with the solipsism and much more arty. That paragraph that begins “Someone once brought Janis Joplin to a party at the big house on Franklin Avenue. She had just done a concert and she wanted brandy-and-benedictine in a water tumbler. Music people never wanted ordinary drinks” is one of my favourites, but I’m sort of halfway between her own sense of bourgeois time, and the orgiastic splits of the long evening into vegetables vindaloo, the Montecito, “in any case we must have many rum drinks with gardenias for our hair” that the musicians themselves do.

      The STB essay is called ‘On Morality’, and it’s even funnier to look at after some ten years. She’s at the Enterprise Motel and Trailer Park, and it’s the Faith Community Church that is holding the ‘prayer sing’. When she finally says ‘Every now and then I think I hear a rattlesnake’, I can tell how many pills she ought to have brought–or just stay awake all night. But I’d forgotten ‘I can’t hear them and I don’t want to hear them’, that if she did she’d lose her reason.


      Comment by illegal dances of new york city — 30 March 2011 @ 6:17 pm

  4. Driving across the bridge trying to forget the Ezra Pound line by listening to the radio… the whole poem, entitled “In a Station of the Metro,” goes like this:

    The apparition of these faces in a crowd:
    Faces on a wet, black bough.

    So I guess we infer that Didion is experiencing a dehumanizing dissociation, even though she claims that the words “had no significance for me” — maybe it’s symptomatic that she doesn’t realize the significance of the words for her. I was surprised that she made two errors in citing the two songs she heard on the radio, one on the title, the other on a line of lyrics. Obviously she could have fact-checked these references, and she did get the Pound citation right. Maybe she’s distancing herself from the pop culture that she chronicles, even as she can’t make herself forget the classical culture that’s deeply embedded in her memory. Curiously, one of the two songs — “Wichita Lineman” — I played on Youtube half a dozen times about two months ago. I can’t recall now the train of associations leading me to it after decades of not giving the song a thought, but it’s an evocative song with a plaintive rendering by Glen Campbell that probably enhanced the mood she was already in going over that bridge. I think it’s a great record: even though the instrumentation style dates it, there’s nostalgic longing at the heart of the song so it’s okay. Pop radio bridged genres more then I think: now there are so many microgenres. It seems that Didion dissociates emotionally from the experiences she recounts, and this dissociation, this (f)rigid detachment of reportage juxtaposed with neurosis, must be consciously crafted as part of her art. Or else she’s a natural.


    Comment by ktismatics — 30 March 2011 @ 7:15 pm

    • “It seems that Didion dissociates emotionally from the experiences she recounts, and this dissociation, this (f)rigid detachment of reportage juxtaposed with neurosis, must be consciously crafted as part of her art. Or else she’s a natural.”

      She dissociates from some of them, I’d say, not nearly all. I’d say yes to ‘a natural’, but the ‘consciously crafting of reportage juxtaposed with neurosis’ would come afterward, as a part of all the crafting, but not all of it. There’s an essay in the White Album about staying in the sorority house, or whatever it was, during a football game at Berkeley, and seeing something about the way sentences work in Conrad. More frequently cited are Hemingway, and Henry James, although the latter is mostly in the elegance, and in some ways isn’t like James at all, especially in that she seems to mistrust enthusiasm as dangerous or false or something, unless it’s unarguable inevitably deadly. In that first eponymous essay, she talks about the babysitter who says she has ‘a death aura’. In her bitchiness (that I think she doesn’t think will be recognized as such), Didiion says something about how \”we chatted about reasons why this might be so”. But over time, she digs out much of the personal neurosis and makes form and content more streamlined, as in most of the political writing for the NYReview, which is in Political Fictions. It comes back in ‘Magical Thinking’, which is like a huge explosion of the same kind of warped thought-sensation. But you can see the difference in the early and late writing by comparing her first New York piece ‘Goodbye to All That’, which is mostly about her, and in all the ‘After Henry’
      journalism that came in the late 80s and early 90s, in which she is distanced from the ‘sentimental narrative’. In ‘Goodbye to All That’, the way I see it is that she’s upset that she’s not rich enough to afford the narrative, but she waxes very lyrical with ‘New York was no mere city. It was instead an infinitely romantic notion, the mysterious nexus of all love and money and power, the the shining and perishable dream itself.’ That’s the way she describes the New York seems to many who come from places indirectly connected to NYC at best, as opposed to ‘children of the East’. But upon moving back in 1986, she’s no longer romanticizing (this is not necessarily laudable, I’d add, just because, in the end, you’ve got to face some realities here quite as acutely as you do anywhere else). Those two, the early piece and the late 80s pieces on New York, are good bookends, and are especially clear on how she, too, had bought into the ‘sentimental narrative of New York’. I just noticed it was in that same early essay that she said she had more in common with Southerners than others she met her, that nearly-unbreakable bond with tradition, or the belief in it.

      “(f)rigid. ”

      I think not frigid, which will be borne out by the WA essay on the Women’s Movement, in which she seems disgusted when she says ‘and it was Marxist’, and goes on to talk about adult sexuality, and what she thinks is the silliness of women talking about the greater sensitivity of Lesbian relationships to heterosexual ones, that some of these women are so delicate and fragile, and uses that term ‘Ms. Scarlett overtones’, I believe. You can tell in the Georgia O’Keeffe essay the kind of woman she sees herself as having some kinship with. Not that she’s that kind to faggots, either, but that’s always funny too. In ‘Play Is As It Lays’, when the gay man commits suicide with pills, she calls it ‘a queen’s way’, or rather, has a character say it; and in 1996 ‘The Last Thing He Wanted’, she does a scary, but funny long section on a gay man who is keeping the fugitive woman Elena, full of details about ‘homosexual hysteria’, and all the names of ‘show-tune fairy songs’ he sings in the place, very campy because some of them, as I remember (but don’t have that one here), are from ‘Carousel’, that corny R & H show with the things like ‘You’ll Never Walk Alone’, and ‘If I Loved You’. That was Rodgers’s favourite of all his shows, btw, and I’ve always disliked it intensely. Not as bad as ‘The Sound of Music’, though, by a long shot.


      Comment by idnyc — 31 March 2011 @ 11:14 am

      • “It comes back in ‘Magical Thinking’, which is like a huge explosion of the same kind of warped thought-sensation.”

        But probably even that’s different after all that political writing, it’s as though she’s documenting her psychology, but even though it’s idiosyncratic, it doesn’t seem the same sort of narcissistic neurosis that she always included in the 60s and 70s things, probably because that was the only way she could write at all and it make sense to her. The sense of dread is omnipresent, the first time I heard her read was from some piece I’ve still never gotten hold of, she’s with somebody political in Guatemala, I think, and he’s very intense, and then in the text her voice comes in ‘All I wanted was dinner to end’. The volume doesn’t include the NYReview piece on the Republican convention here in 2004, which she wrote during the ‘magical thinking year’, and which she describes in the book a year later. I remember reading it when it was current, and that that had been the reason I’d chosen to make my second Polynesian trip right then–I really was affected by that 2004 election, I think, and the results were very hysteria-inducing.


        Comment by idnyc — 31 March 2011 @ 11:30 am

  5. I was just trying to remember a quote from that Reality Hunger book I returned to the library recently. I tracked it down on the internet: it’s number 424, by Montaigne: “If I had the slightest grasp on my own faculties, I would not make essays. I would make decisions.” Then there’s 426: “How can I tell what I think until I see what I say?” – E.M. Forster. Then 427: “I write entirely to find out what I’m thinking, what I’m looking at, what I see, and what it means.” – Joan Didion.


    Comment by ktismatics — 30 March 2011 @ 7:45 pm

  6. I have the Political Fictions also, but I very much enjoyed the feel of those seventies reports in White Album, related only loosely to one another but all seen from Didion’s sharp POV. I’m also going to be reading Jesus’ Son, a set of interrelated short stories by Denis Johnson.


    Comment by ktismatics — 31 March 2011 @ 2:36 pm

    • The White Album is in some ways the Didion book I most love, although I also am crazy about ‘The Last Thing He Wanted’, which seems positively prophetic about her own novel-writing. But I think it’s quite a bit better than all of her other novels.

      I first saw her read in 1998, at the 35th Anniversay of NYReview of Books. The other times she was reading along, and always read in a monotone, clearly hadn’t practised, not thinking readings are all that important. She was incredibly sexy still at that time, even though about 65, and was one of those few ladies who can continue to wear skirts above the knees as they get on in years, and she had great legs (this was not something Madeleine Allbright ought have done). She had a very easy, casual demeanour, which was odd to compare to Sontag, also there that night and a head taller, but who had clearly been practising as if for a performance, and read in high-priestess tones, in some weird costume that looked like out of the commedia dell-arte (I later read she’d gotten a wig made with the trademark streak in it for that night, as she’d been undergoing chemo at the time. The ponderous intoning about Walter Benjamin was impressive in its way.) Also there were Jonathan Miller and some 6 other lit celebs.

      I think it’s that opening long essay that I like so much, it’s so twilit and almost like a dark, haunted castle. I’ve always been so glad that later, in 2001, I was so fascinated by this house on Franklin Avenue, that I asked her about it, and she gave me the exact address after the reading. If you remember, just having read it, she says the house was to be demolished for a high-rise building. But it hadn’t been, she said, circumstances that changed after publication. So I went there, and there were indeed parked panel trucks by the driveway of the same sort she’d been fearful of, and that mad writing down of license plate numbers, and hiding them in a drawer.

      Btw, you mentioned her ‘classical background’, but she almost never mentions classical music, dance, opera. Her sensibility is well-to-do California, and you even read that she played the out-of-tune piano at Alcatraz when she visited it in the 60s, but I wouldn’t say she was anti-pop-culture especially, and she and her husband wrote quite a number of screenplays, including the adaptation of her ‘Play It As It Lays’ (with Tuesday Weld), and his ‘True Confessions’ with DeNiro and Duvall. They worked on Streisand’s A Star is Born till they couldn’t stand it, and settled for a sum upon pulling out. I’m sure she knows the basics of all of the classical canon(s), although the only thing I’ve read is an essay for the NYCBallet’s 50th anniversary Album, which I didn’t think a lot of. She says that she could see that Balanchine went about choreographing in the same way that a writer goes about writing (meaning the way she goes about it, I guess.) But I think all choreographers do, and I don’t believe she could see anything boldly different by seeing NYCB for the first time from anything you’d see by the other great companies; and it was just at that time NYCBallet was so fashionable. Once in awhile she’s let that sort of thing sway her, as when writing about Robert Mapplethorpe’s photography, which didn’t convince me either, and her half-hearted defense of Sontag’s 9/11 piece (I never believed a word of it, and wrote her so. Jack explained she was most likely just finessing the uncomfortable matter of ‘workplace diplomacy’, what with the same employer, in that case it was pretty clever and obvious that she didn’t give much of a shit. Sontag also wrote a vulgar contribution to that same NYCB book, but hers was more the social-climbing prestige-oriented sort, claiming that ‘Balanchine was the greatest choreographer in history’ (which she definitely would not know how to judge): This is dumb enough when NYTimes critics try to pull these ‘greatest of’ numbers, but Sontag would say anything. She did even more sillily bumptious quotes about Balanchine, at one point gracious admitting ‘I realize I’m Suzanne Farrell, not Balanchine’. Fortunately, these ballerinas do not usually sue when idiots say things like that.

      I thought again about the Henry James influence, which I hadn’t heard about till recently. I think you find a great deal of this elegant sentence construction in the later works, and that the early ones show more of the Hemingway influence, but it’s still a different kind of terseness and hers doesn’t really sound like Hemingway to me. So I guess her ‘classical background’ would mean that she’d read everything in literature, and that would be true, and although she doesn’t talk about England or France much, every now and then she’ll have reason to mention Waugh or Flaubert or even Nietzsche.

      I’ve decided to give ‘Disocvery of Heaven’ a try. I’ve gotten some ‘irksome tasks’ out of the way enough not to be so daunted by the length. I did read Mailer’s ‘Harlot’s Ghost’ a few years ago, I think that’s over a thousand. I’m a big Mailer fan too, but got to him late.

      She was have a sort of ‘natural aristocrat’ bearing about her, even though it’s very American. That’s from family living in the same place for 5 generations, and making money there. But she never talks about Europeans as much as a lot of American writers, and points out that in CA, a lot of the travel agencies have long emphasized the Pacific or even Asia more than they have the usual American ideas of ‘going to Europe’. That may have been in reference to agencies in Hawaii, though, where she mentioned that there was almost no draw for going to London or Paris. I think Angelenos, at least, are about equally euro-centric and asia-centric (invented that word), which is to say, much more than NY is, which is very euro-centric.


      Comment by idnyc — 31 March 2011 @ 5:45 pm

  7. Eloise I know this is breaking the Civility Code BIG TIME, but did you notice that dr. Sinthome, whose best friend just died suddenly, waited around half an hour before publishing another scientific rant. (The explanation is probably that this is how the cat deals with anxiety – by publishing) Or maybe it’s a case of accelerationism?

    I wish I could join the Didionism, but I haven’t read anything by her. Sounds like a poison pen lesb’an spinster journalist, they have a lot of those in England.


    Comment by parody center — 31 March 2011 @ 2:44 pm

  8. Well, presumably not lesbian, and definitely not spinster, but she does dip her pen into the hemlock. I read an essay online by a young journalist who regarded Didion not just as spokeswoman but as the actual voice of the 60s and 70s, as if Didion’s prosody was the way her own parents used to talk back then. It does feel like a familiar voice, even though I don’t recall having read any of her pieces, or at least I never attributed them to any particular author. Part of it is the shared context of cultural references, but it might also be the attitude, the way of looking at things. I frankly don’t understand the emphasis on generational differences: if someone has a sharp eye and a sharp pen I don’t care if she’s 20 or 80.


    Comment by ktismatics — 31 March 2011 @ 3:27 pm

  9. Well looking at the Wikipedia article I am certainly attracted to this ”new journalism” (blogging?) although red signals are firing up all over the place when I read about her ”concern for the breakdown of traditional moral values in American society” and the fact that she scripted UP CLOSE & PERSONAL, which is embarrassingly sappy on top of being idiotic – but I gather Madeleine probably likes it because of Pfeiffer’s role in it (which admittedly is charming, as always).

    The lamps burn even brighter red when I read Madeleine’s comment:

    In ‘Play Is As It Lays’, when the gay man commits suicide with pills, she calls it ‘a queen’s way’, or rather, has a character say it; and in 1996 ‘The Last Thing He Wanted’, she does a scary, but funny long section on a gay man who is keeping the fugitive woman Elena, full of details about ‘homosexual hysteria’

    I’m not sure if this means that she was a closet homophobe, but it may very well be, spinster usually despise gay men because they’re more successful in bed.


    Comment by parody center — 1 April 2011 @ 4:23 am

  10. “Perhaps Evelyn Waugh could have gotten it down exactly right. Waugh was good at scenes of industrious self-delusion, scenes of people absorbed in odd games.”

    This, from the “White Album” essay, captures much of what Didion strives for and achieves. You say she wasn’t anti-pop culture, and clearly she’s fond enough of it to find those little scenes and games that expose something true about the figures she writes about. But I’m hard-pressed to find anything she likes or admires about her subjects. She likes the old governor’s mansion, where she used to play as a child but which has subsequently been retired as a museum, and she only alludes to this old mansion in passing while giving us her delightfully disdainful tour of the tastelessly expensive new one designed by the Reagans that Jerry Brown won’t live in because it’s “not his style.” She likes the water works, and especially the sense of power over vast swathes of land and humanity its controllers exert. “I remember that no one was surprised,” she says of the Manson family murders, and though she wishes she didn’t remember she too seems unsurprised. She likes the old greenhouses that were destroyed in a fire, the long-term commitment and hard work required to cultivate exquisite beauty. She likes the Getty and the “doctrinaire and elitist” aesthetic it shares with its vastly wealthy founder. She seems touched by the parents whose son, killed in Vietnam, is being buried at a brief and formulaic military funeral in Hawaii. But what I like most about her writing is precisely the way she dislikes things: the little details, the seemingly offhand and trivial observations that illuminate the industrious self-delusion. She’s plenty industrious to spend the time, and she probably sifts through a lot of material she’s compiled in order to present just the right little vignettes and snatches of conversation. She presents herself as unaffected by these pop-cultural delusions, but her neuroses seem to swell from this lost sense of no longer having the stories to tell herself. This is rather a Southern outlook. She even chooses to live in a dilapidated old mansion in LA, even though it’s not her old family home and she rents it unfurnished by the month. I too would like to see this place now.


    Comment by ktismatics — 1 April 2011 @ 4:39 am

    • She wrote Play It As It Lays in that house, and it was a huge seller. She mentions at the end of the opening essay that she moved to a house ‘by the sea’. That’s not up to her usual standards, the ‘by the sea’, which is a little on the ‘we chatted why this might be so’ near-tweeness which she usually doesn’t do, but in the orchid greenhouse one, you find that she’s talking about fires at Malibu, where they lived some 5 or 6 years, and ‘in any case, it was no longer our house.’ What she calls ‘the big house in Hollywood’ may be something she calls big because she’s so tiny, because it’s neither a mansion nor especially big, certainly not by LA standards. The Talmadge pile is still across the street. But even after that, they moved from Malibu, which was probably very nice place, to Brentwood, where a really spacious house was available. So that the Franklin Avenue house was mainly interesting because of the semi-Gothic that was written in it, the Chicken Delite guy just walking in the door. She didn’t live there out of choice for ‘decaying mansion’, but rather they hadn’t made much money yet, and the minute they did, they left that sort of dark neighborhood (it’s nicer now, and the house has been well-renovated.)

      Yes, I like the way she dislikes things too, because they slip out from time to time, and always sound so bored to death. The Governor’s Mansion is the funniest, because she actually goes out of control in her horror of how tacky it is. You may be using ‘pop culture’in a more general sense. It seemed as though she liked some of the songs well enough, and I liked that image of her ‘remembering walking barefoot in the house and hearing ‘Do you Wanna Dance’.


      Comment by illegal dances of new york city — 1 April 2011 @ 10:43 am

  11. Ezra Pound, Hemingway, Henry James — all of them American expatriates. Evelyn Waugh too traveled widely, though his best books satirized the upper-class England he knew first-hand. Didion offers the cultivated outsider’s perspective on her home culture, even though she’s clearly an insider and, as far as I can tell from White Album, not particularly worldly.


    Comment by ktismatics — 1 April 2011 @ 5:51 am

    • She becomes quite worldly by the 90s and 00s, though. Once well-known and moved back to New York, she lives in one of the wealthiest neighborhoods of the East Side, and is one of the most prestigious contributors to NYReview. Also, when they did the play version of ‘Magical Thinking’, they, on their own, got all the biggest names to work on it, from producer, director, to star, the latter being V. Redgrave, whom she knew well. As to ‘worldly’ in the sense of ‘loose’, no, she’s always been involved with the work mostly. But she’s not a homophobe, which even the praise for mapplethorpe proves, she’s just able to write fictional material about homos and Lesbians just as she would about blacks, which proves she’s not interested in pleasing Marxists, who will falsify all ‘artistic decisions’ (read what she says about Flaubert in the women’s movement essay), and there is a specific ‘homosexual hysteria’, although now that Dominic has put up a hysteria post, it seems to me that everybody is somewhat hysterical.


      Comment by illegal dances of new york city — 1 April 2011 @ 10:48 am

  12. Madeleine, over the years I have come to realize that you’ve been brought up by the South’n bitches (in whatever capacity – mother, sister, neighbour, or maybe all of em, together), and this is why you seem attracted to these primrose, prim’n’proper, morally concerned wermin instead of the more flamboyant, liberal or socialist divas. The Assassin exploits this, and even though her moralism is on the other side of the spectrum from Republican, it’s basically the same quality of attractiveness. I recently saw a wonderful rendition of this type of bitchness in the excellent horror comedy from Britain, ”Skeleton Key”, where Geena Rowlands plays the comandeering primrose – basically draining the life of the young protagonists ”for their own good”.The whole time, you’re appalled by her evil, but you can’t help but be attracted to it.

    The word ”Hemingway” comes up naturally in this discussion because this Didion has a sailor’s quality, she seems like the type of a lesb’an who would take up the life of the more independent-minded and adventurous men, instead of exercising her male hormones on some domesticated type like Eloise.

    Eloise I’m sure you can catch a moment to take Kenzie to the movies, or at least syphon your neighbour’s internet for a Netflix download or something. Rango is inspiring me more and more, because again, it raises the issue of the blind spot (the one from the Peretz discussion).


    Comment by parody center — 1 April 2011 @ 11:22 am

    • “The word ”Hemingway” comes up naturally in this discussion because this Didion has a sailor’s quality”

      That’s very good, especially knowing as little as you do about her, but it’s good because one wouldn’t automatically see this when one does. The rest is all wrong, of course, because she’s not ‘prim and proper’, did once vote Republican (Goldwater, 60s), since has turned leftward, but not in the Kleinist sense. She actually talks about Democrats and Republicans as though they do exist, and does not use talk of Marxist ‘systemic evil’ talk as the default for every single fucking thing they ever even talk about. It’s boring that you keep calling her a lesb’an just to annoy me, because it’s so obvious she’s not. There was even a story once in which she told a lawyer in front of her husband that she had not not had affairs with other men, but Dunne thought it was so funny he didn’t even get pissed. She does have that masculine type hard, cold brain, but when you see her and meet her, she’s always dressed very femininely, is very petite and has a high, light voice except when reading. Then she does get this low, weird, bored monotone that has no expression at all, which is sort of like ‘christ, I gotta get up here and read my own fucking book to people on top of everything else’. Ms. Sontag was the one always wearin’ da pants so you could see her big ass. In fact, at that first 1998 reading, all 10 participants gathered onstage almost as at the close of play, and tiny Joan was standing next to Sontag, this Amazon, and got this look of total terror which was very funny; she’d glance at her sidewise as though she thought she was going to get beaten up. Talk about a LESB’AN, Ms. Sontag so ridiculous she made a point of having fluff lovers all over the place, but refusing to ‘come out officially’ as ordered by the other important Lesb’ans of the time, like Ms. Paglia. Really just insufferable, but Arpege is not at all like Didion, who is nervous and neurotic, but seems to have no ability to get hysterical. In ‘Salvador’, she’s in El Salvador and a rifle is pointing directly at her for a moment, and she doesn’t move, just sits there, but later tells someone that ‘it was the most frightening thing that ever happened to me’. In ‘Magical Thinking’, the hospital calls her a ‘tough customer’, and she says “What was I supposed to do, start screaming?” My Lesb’an upstairs, otoh, freaks out if some macho type comes in to spray for the bugs, as two years ago, and does this with all macho workmen, screaming at a painter once about how she was Danish and Dutch and ‘we value our wood floors.’


      Comment by idnyc — 1 April 2011 @ 5:48 pm

      • She does have that masculine type hard, cold brain, but when you see her and meet her, she’s always dressed very femininely, is very petite and has a high, light voice except when reading.

        Yeah you might as well have gone out and said that she was a dick with a chick, because that just meanz the same. Whatever combination, all the primrose lesb’an elements are there – the hard, masculine brain, the concern for the morals of society, even the cocky-eccentric-avant garde edge, the ”queerness”. She doesn’t have to SLEEP WITH WOMEN for fuck’s sakes, to be a lesb’an. Just as you don’t need to be anti-racist in order to suck niggah dick: a lesson the Assassin will NEVER learn, even though the Parisian supply is more than adequate.

        But it would help if you pasted some quotations as well, instead of expecting me to react just on the basis of a second-hand portrait, or rush out to the library looking for books, something that would show me the relevance of her intellectual work. Eloise is much better than you in organizing brunches, she serves all the dishes neatly with quotations and links.


        Comment by parody center — 1 April 2011 @ 6:31 pm

  13. I don’t know if it’s still permitted, but it used to be possible to drive on the beach in Malibu. We did this maybe 25 years ago, driving down the spectacular Route 1 from SF to LA. We parked near a huge grey whale that had beached itself and died in shallow water. We waded in to have a closer look, got back in the car, and drove on. The day before we took a self-guided tour of a house for sale in Santa Barbara, an ultramodern beauty with lots of glass and a pool, perched on a cliff overlooking the ocean. I suppose technically it was B&E, but the door was unlocked so we figured what the hell.


    Comment by ktismatics — 1 April 2011 @ 12:02 pm

    • Not right on the beach itself, but just in front of the houses that are very close to the ocean. Tourists who find out about the Malibu Colony, where a lot of the movie stars live, are tolerated but always made to feel unwelcome, since the water is no more than a hundred feet from the houses, lavish glass things elevated of course. I’ve been there and seen it, but didn’t walk out in front of it, as it’s been pretty well publicized to be a stupid thing to do. Didion/Dunne lived, I believe, further up, at Trancas Canyon, which is still part of Malibu, but not part of the little town area where tourists also go to see the stars shop at grocery stores, and such rot. There’s a good seafood restaurant called Geoffrey’s where you can do that if you want to, but I’d want to be accompanied for that. In 2008, on a plane, I met this nice preservationist person, who told me how to go to Geoffrey’s and be nonchalant about ordering the best table, but I wasn’t convinced it would be as easy as all that, and it’s very expensive anyway, but has great food and views. I’d still like to go if it’s ever possible. Trancas is where I saw the 15-20 ft. waves in 2005, and that is wilder and quite spectacular. I’ve never ventured up the Coast, although that’s famous and is, I’m sure, as spectacular as everybody says. Interestingly, I walked into a house under construction in the Malibu Colony area from the street side that I thought was a restaurant, this was on the return side of that first trip to Tahiti, and I mentioned that in the book. Strange things happened when I’d come back from Tahiti both times: None of the primitive snobbishness of places like Malibu and Bev. Hills had any effect when you’d just been to Tahiti, and I believe I mentioned this with the queen who had that Oriental look, and who told me it was a house. But Malibu gets a lot of middle-level tourist traffic, of the sort that knows you don’t see the stars on H’wood Blvd., but that aren’t yet ready to stop prying. I think the Beverly Hills Hotel Polo Lounge is the one where you can always see the deal-makers of the Industry, but I’ve been up to the hotel, but not to the lounge. I think there were lots of movie people at La Scala in 2009, Xmas, when I went there, but they weren’t stars, and none were dressed up. I would have taken that famous drive up to San Francisco had I had the kind of budget that would let me travel without any worry at all. Since I haven’t, I’ve explored LA and been to Tahiti, but never to San Francisco or Hawaii, either of which has plenty of appeal, I’m sure. But then I haven’t gotten to Rome or Athens either. Never even been up to Santa Barbara, for that matter, and people do rave about it, it must be spectacular.


      Comment by illegal dances of new york city — 1 April 2011 @ 2:15 pm

  14. Madeleine I showed your comments on Caro Emerald to a Dutch fan and she thought they were hilarious, despite finding herself completely stupefied by the fact that I am keeping such a blawg on the internets.


    Comment by parody center — 1 April 2011 @ 6:44 pm

  15. “But it would help if you pasted some quotations as well, instead of expecting me to react just on the basis of a second-hand portrait, or rush out to the library looking for books, something that would show me the relevance of her intellectual work. Eloise is much better than you in organizing brunches, she serves all the dishes neatly with quotations and links.”

    I don’t expect you to do a fucking thing, and what I did give was much more than you deserved. You would not be interested in Joan Didion, and I can assure you that she would not be interested in you. She likes gay men, but not in particular and only in particular, this is an attitude I like in any person bright enough to know how to do it. But you go out to the library or do without. You’ve got your wetnurse troll, and that will have to do–let her look up some quotations. If you want to think Joan Didion is a chick with a dick, it doesn’t bother me any more than it does her. That was primarily to clarify for John or anyone else, although everyone else knows it anyway.


    Comment by illegal dances of new york city — 1 April 2011 @ 6:48 pm

  16. “She doesn’t have to SLEEP WITH WOMEN for fuck’s sakes, to be a lesb’an.”

    But you have to have some sexual desire for women, it’s very clear she doesn’t. The definition you’re using is not the one most people use, just as Hollywood is not spelled ‘Halliwud’, and this trait is a kind of extreme trannyism. I can’t even stand Madonna, but I’m not going to spell it ‘Madanna’. That’s so super-femme. But I wouldn’t call it Lesb’an.


    Comment by illegal dances of new york city — 1 April 2011 @ 6:52 pm

  17. No I don’t think that being a lesb’an or a faggit depends on your sexual desire; it’s a personality type. Also, someone heterosexual can have a gay personality.

    I found this quote, agreeing with it immediately; other quotes are not so representative

    “I suppose I am talking about just that: the ambiguity of belonging to a generation distrustful of political highs, the historical irrelevancy of growing up convinced that the heart of darkness lay not in some error of social organization but in man’s own blood. If man was bound to err, then any social organization was bound to be in error. It was a premise which still seems to me accurate enough, but one which robbed us early of a certain capacity for surprise. ”
    — Joan Didion


    Comment by parody center — 1 April 2011 @ 7:13 pm

    • “No I don’t think that being a lesb’an or a faggit depends on your sexual desire; it’s a personality type. Also, someone heterosexual can have a gay personality.”

      There’s the problem. You want to define terms in ways they are never generally accepted. A heterosexual can have a ‘gayish personality’, or ‘seem gay-acting’, something like that, but he’s still a heterosexual. Unless you want to, as Gore Vidal and leninino and many others, say that everybody is bisexual, and not all desires are acted on. An intelligent person who is living in the cosmopolitan world is not usually going to totally deny their various sexualities if there’s no punishment involved. You could say that John has a ‘gay personality’ by letting you call him ‘Eloise’, but I consider him to be heterosexual, me to be primarily homosexual, and YOU to be a crazed tranny.


      Comment by idnyc — 1 April 2011 @ 7:35 pm

      • There’s the problem. You want to define terms in ways they are never generally accepted.

        Yes, I know, like any other Republican you want

        (a) terms that are generally accepted
        (b) stable traditional values
        (c) a way to deny your own ”perversions”

        The thought about sexuality functioning outside of gender and identity conventions is about as old as Freud, and I don’t see how exactly you’ve disputed it. Furthermore, I never dress up in female clothes even as I do have a tranny’s desires – how do you explain that with your conservative theory?


        Comment by parody center — 1 April 2011 @ 7:39 pm

      • A heterosexual can have a ‘gayish personality’, or ‘seem gay-acting’, something like that, but he’s still a heterosexual.

        A man who plays a female role in his relationship to a masculine woman, is to all intents and purposes, gay, because he goes to bed with a man, not a woman, psychologically. What does that have to do with their biological bodies and the like?


        Comment by parody center — 1 April 2011 @ 7:45 pm

  18. Very good, pc. This is I believe where she’s talking about how she had been old-school Republican, reliant on individual initiative both to succeed and to give liberally to those in need (hence old-school conservatives calling themselves “liberal”) — Republican, that is, until Ronald Reagan came along, whereupon she became a Democrat. But it’s clear that she’d never be a Communist.


    Comment by ktismatics — 1 April 2011 @ 7:19 pm

  19. “the primrose lesb’an elements…the hard, masculine brain, ”

    That’s definitely fallacious: Lesb’ans are never ‘primrose’, for one thing, even though they’re often ‘prim’ about dirty talk, as some in the Kleinist School. But they rarely have ‘the hard, masculine brain’, and that’s something you ought to have known by now. Lesb’ans are often on trust funds, freak out in hysterical fits at the slightest inconvenience, have especially terrifyingly emotional lovers’ fits that are so unmistakable a cliche that Bochco did a fantastic one on either ‘LA Law’ or ‘NYPD Blue’ episode once. Gay men fight like that sometimes too, of course. As for the ‘concern for morality’, everybody does it as time permits, even you when you’re not trying to do your tiresome come-hither numbers. All that shit about the Bible and the ‘rich man’ and ‘the eye of the needle’ is total bullshit. The difference is that you are now trying to compound repulsivenesses in a way that is very convenient for me, and for that I am grateful, as it saves me a lot of time.


    Comment by idnyc — 1 April 2011 @ 7:22 pm

  20. “Republican, that is, until Ronald Reagan came along, whereupon she became a Democrat. But it’s clear that she’d never be a Communist.”

    Exactement. That’s like me as well. And part of the hypnosis of the Marxist bleugers is that they try to precede one by disallowing these nomenclatures from the very beginning; this is why Marxism in its hard versions is so like the Christian maniacs–the zeal. I used to think it worthwhile to argue with them, till I realized that the whole point was to distract me by making up tales about how everybody who wrote in the NYTimes, for example, was lying or working for the government. To them, if you do not become a Communist, you must be made to feel lesser. For this reason, I have seen that I started reading lenin’s tomb for the first time in years recently, and cannot imagine that I ever put a comment there, and I was very actively engaged there in a part of 2006, although this was primarily because warszawa was making a huge show of 9/11 trooferism, and I wasn’t over the trauma of 9/11 myself enough at that point to be able to ignore it. Now I don’t care what he says.


    Comment by idnyc — 1 April 2011 @ 7:28 pm

  21. This is I believe where she’s talking about how she had been old-school Republican, reliant on individual initiative both to succeed and to give liberally to those in need (hence old-school conservatives calling themselves “liberal”)…

    Now Eloise of course you realize that Didion’s emphasizing that evil doesn’t depend on SOCIAL ORGANIZATION also means that even while she may not be voting Republican anymore, Republican is written all over her sullen concerned expression, and especially visible in those moments she regrets the passing of ”values” in our society.

    But to go back to the author versus reader thing, I read what I (not the author) wants in a text, and I read myself into this figure who is disillusioned about human evil being either socialist or capitalist – I saw both worlds, and they are pretty much equally fucked-up.


    Comment by parody center — 1 April 2011 @ 7:33 pm

    • “But to go back to the author versus reader thing, I read what I (not the author) wants in a text, and I read myself into this figure who is disillusioned about human evil being either socialist or capitalist – I saw both worlds, and they are pretty much equally fucked-up.”

      No, we didn’t want to go back to the author vs. reader thing, but in your comprehensiveness of all political experiences, we do see an explanation of why you are by now world-famous, a household word.


      Comment by idnyc — 1 April 2011 @ 7:37 pm

  22. “how do you explain that with your conservative theory?”

    That’s just it. I don’t care to explain anything to you, because you have always already (never thought that little term would come naturally and seem unforced) made up. For instance, you enumerated 3 Republican things, but ‘accepted definitions’ is not anything to do with Republican, it is so that a reasonable number of people can communicate. If one wants a dialect, whether White Trash, Ghetto trash, or Tranny Trash, that’s all cool, but at some point you have to speak about something in a way that enough people understand it. It is not interesting to talk about Joan Didion as a ‘lesbian’, because even if she’s had a titillating thought here and there about a woman, that’s not even interesting as lesbianism, whereas Ms. Sontag’s overblown affair with Annie Liebovitz is some Lesb’anism you can sink your teeth into. In other words, if Joan Didion is a Lesbian (she’s not even a fucking feminist, for chrissake), then everybody is a lesb’an, and that’s what you want, I guess.


    Comment by idnyc — 1 April 2011 @ 7:46 pm

  23. A man who plays a female role in his relationship to a masculine woman, is to all intents and purposes, gay, because he goes to bed with a man, not a woman, psychologically.

    That’s YOUR business if you want to think about such things, and mine if I’m not interested. Didion’s husband was very macho, and wanted to kill me after I really over-questioned her at Barnard that time. I didn’t know he was even there till afterward, and he got all Irish-red-faced and murderous-looking when I went back and talked to her even some more. His own books are very good, especially Dutch Shea, Jr. and Playland. The prose is not so beautiful, but there’s some good writing about Los Angeles, Las Vegas, and a few other places. I think I ought to get his ‘Vegas: A Memoir of a Dark Season’, which is where he ‘found himself’. Yes, she was the bigger star-writer, but he was also very successful. There aren’t that many writer-couples, but John Dunne was definitely not at all gay, and he was well-known for being quite rude. I can’t think of anybody else offhand right now except Lillian Hellman and Dashiell Hammett. I guess Sartre and de Beauvoir, or were they married?


    Comment by idnyc — 1 April 2011 @ 7:54 pm

    • Didion’s husband was very macho, and wanted to kill me after I really over-questioned her at Barnard that time.

      I wasn’t talking about Didion per se, just about the fact that there are man who function inside a heterosexual relation, as gay men.


      Comment by parody center — 1 April 2011 @ 8:02 pm

  24. You insist on well-defined terms but in between all your denials of the Republicanism, AGAIN I hear that Didion was close to Vanessa’s cunt mentioned somewhere on the thread as if that ”little detail” isn’t symptomatic of Didion’s (latent or manifest) conservativism and Republicanism, and as if those choices have NOTHING to do with her love of ”places” and her insistence on traditions and values.

    Which is doubly ironic since I’m the last one who’d be calling you to the stand for being Republican, simply because I don’t think either position on the political spectrum is per definition bad.

    That said, reading the other quotes, I only have the impression of a tedious Reader’s Digest collection of generalizations, but I admit that reading quotes can never replace reading the whole text, so I won’t make any judgments on that basis.


    Comment by parody center — 1 April 2011 @ 8:00 pm

    • It’s very Kleinist to call Vanessa a conservative, even if one refers to Didion as one. An early supporter of the PLO is not exactly what anyone but the Kleinists would be able to call ‘conservative’. They weren’t bosom buddies, I think that when the play was first announced, the two couples went out to a movie in the early 90s, I think T. Richardson may have still been alive then. I suppose afterwards they’ve been close friends, although V. married her old lover from the early 60s, Franco Nero, a few years ago; now THAT is a real twist on the usual teen romance fornications.


      Comment by illegal dances of new york city — 1 April 2011 @ 8:17 pm

      • This is off-topic, but I just got hold of a copy of the 1975 ‘The Maids’ of Genet, I think it was a TV version. I’d seen it once and never forgotten how amazing it is–all the actresses in “Huit Femmes” must have studied it, but they are nowhere compared to this. The maids are Glenda Jackson and Susannah York, and the latter is definitely able to hold her own, was a sensational talent. The ‘madame’ is so outrageously played by Vivien Merchant it’s not possible to describe. Jack told me today Genet had wanted them to be played by men, so you’d have a more acceptable example there. I DO recommend this, although I was surprised I was able to find it at the library. The Thespian chops are on Full Diva Display in this one.


        Comment by illegal dances of new york city — 1 April 2011 @ 8:24 pm

  25. (c) a way to deny your own ”perversions”

    good case in point, just caught that one. One does not deny one’s perversions by simply not advertising them at all times. It is also true that one does not have all the perversions, and you make the grave mistake of ascribing perversions with little or no evidence that they may be there. I’m thinking of someone besides myself here, though, but I’m not going to go into it. There are just times, I’ll say, when your ‘brilliant analysis’ ought to put a sock in it.


    Comment by illegal dances of new york city — 1 April 2011 @ 8:33 pm

  26. It’s very Kleinist to call Vanessa a conservative, …

    Yes I think I exaggerated there, because I don’t see Vanessa’s political engagements as terribly serious. I think she gets engaged because in this way she is constantly acting, with bathos, and has a chance to appear at various dinners looking all dramatic and concerned.

    As for ”conservative”, as I said I don’t want to stand on either side of this ”political spectrum”. I just think it’s a bit of a cop-out, in this day and age, to shield oneself from the world, lamenting the passing of its values and shrieking that Lady Gaga shallt corrupt the youth. THAT is equivalent to Klein’s position, living on this secluded Greek island, drikinking vodka from coconut shells with Steppling and drawing your dinner money from a Swiss account. So all these writers who are ”concerned” about ”corruption”, make me suspicious about their motives.


    Comment by parody center — 2 April 2011 @ 3:58 am

  27. About the Left, I just found this excellent article on Exiled Online

    (Mark Ames being one of the few lefty journalists I respect)



    Comment by parody center — 2 April 2011 @ 7:15 am

  28. So have you read some of Political Fictions by now?

    I just finally started ‘Discovery of Heaven’ and read 1 1/2 pages of it. That, however, always means I’ll read all of it. I’ve also faced the fact that my must-read has now got to include Thomas Mann, and so I’ll start with ‘The Magic Mountain’. I may finally read ‘Death in Venice’ if I have time.


    Comment by illegal dances of new york city — 21 April 2011 @ 3:06 pm

  29. I’ve read about a third of Political Fictions. Odd how the specific situations and characters seem so dated, although a few have come back (Jerry Brown, Newt). At the same time, while the specifics vary the overall situation persists as Didion describes it: cynical politicians angling for votes and the good graces of the rich, choreographed spectacle posing as substitute for rational decision-making, crises staged to justify anti-democratic political maneuvers (she anticipates Shock Doctrine in this regard), cover-ups of corrupt and illegal adventures on a global scale. Though she’s quite bipartisan in her abjurations, the Republicans seem to exemplify corruption in a more unalloyed form in her book. I found her prose more tortuous here than in White Album. It’s not convoluted syntax, but rather the tendency to string together parenthetical phrases and short unattributed quotes in the same long sentence. The quotes are odd: some combination of irony quotes and phrases that may have been bandied about in the popular press at the time but that now seem incongruous or arcane.

    The first part of Discovery of Heaven recalls Magic Mountain, although Mann’s book has no demiurges commenting on the action.


    Comment by ktismatics — 21 April 2011 @ 7:25 pm

  30. http://www.naomiklein.org/meet-naomi/interviews/katrina-disaster-capitalism

    That’s Naomi Klein’s website. Contrary to Arpege Klein, she does not argue that certain disasters were deliberately created to make profit, but that rather they were capitalized on after the fact, which is shown here with the public housing = condos, but not blowing up levees because some old man in the neighborhood said so. Nor is she a 9/11 truther. Reviews of her book Shock Doctrine are still considered by many to be ‘stories’ and visceral-feel conspiracies, but some of it is bound to be close to the way things are operated and some of it, given that she’s not going to be given access to lots of secrets, is bound to be off. But what truthers don’t seem to get it is that we all know that Iraq was an example of using 9/11 as shock doctrine, but that there is a fundamental difference in that cynical move which is the messiest and most seemingly ill-conceived war in modern times. It’s not even worth discussing, because arguing with 9/11 truthers is not about reason, but about wasting one’s time in quagmires while ‘the other side’ tries to mobilize (somehow–while usually admiring the abilities of the elites to ‘control so well’. In fact, the CIA’s failures, just to take one example, are well-known and documented. I’m glad I caught up on their messes, because I used to think they could ‘catch anybody’, and very easily. Both the CIA and the FBI seem to have always fought each other so much on matters of turf, that it even resembles my own arguments with truthers, so I just don’t bother anymore, except it’s not true that ‘more people believe it’. They don’t believe it, it’s always wishful. Well, why don’t they just wish for Muslims to take over the world? That’s at least substantial, if ill-advised.) They are not worth arguing with, because just last week one was saying “why does brave, courageous Naomi Klein not go ahead with what so ‘obviously’ [without a shred of physical evidence, mind you] happened when I turned on TV on 9/11”? The answer was that “she has often said that she thinks the Bush Regime was behind it”, but in Marxist rhetoric, that just means that the Americans in a general sense ‘led to its inevitability’, the fact the Al Qaida actually did the planes is of no interest to them. And that New Orleans would be rebuilt for profit comes as no surprise to anyone, just because they don’t believe Bush blew up the levees, when he could barely even pay attention to the fact that a major hurricane was coming. And people did not even want the Iraq War unless it was a direct response to 9/11, which has been carried out low-key somewhat during the Bush Era, and now the Predator Drones of the CIA in Pakistan, currently under fire by Pakistan (but not effectively so, they’ll obviously just keep doing them, and Obama wants them), are more public, having waited 8 years to aggressively go after the areas where the actual terrorists have their center. Probably Klein and her supporters are not going to support this any more than the Iraq War, although this is likely one of her grey areas, and she doesn’t say anything. Most are going to think that at least that makes some sense, whereas shock doctrine by scaring about the false WMD’s did not make sense, once it was known.

    So yes, there are some c. 2000, late 90s examples in ‘Political Fictions’ that do anticipate Shock Doctrine, and again here, Didion never pays any attention to the 9/11 truthers (although this particular book was written before 9/11, she does write about it briefly in ‘Magical Thinking’, and then I heard her talk about it in Oct., 2001, in which she praised Giuliani’s almost-forgotten ‘good moment’, and a year later followed with ‘Fixed Ideas after Sept. 11’, which was not that impressive, I thought.

    You’re on to something about ‘curiously dated’, but I don’t find them so. I think it’s rather that the time has a new sensation of slipping by, although I can’t tell how personal and subjective that is. At some point, I remember exactly when, in summer, 1986, everything took on a new ‘presence-ing’ character for me, and many things beginning then seem ‘just like yesterday’ when I recall them, in a way things in the culturally much richer 70s don’t. A lot of people agree with me that the 80s were the beginning of a real cultural change, and that’s when the computers began to really start selling, even though most weren’t on the net by the early commercials about Apple. But this ‘just like yesterday’ intensifies in the 90s, and much more so, even exponentially by the 00s, especially because 9/11 is an event of such hugeness that people’s argument that that is not the case is always ideologically based: they’re basically saying “it shouldn’t be ‘more important’, and ‘is just another event like the other disasters’ and ‘more people were killed in the Indonesian tsunami than 9/11’, but the fact that it’s always mentioned is telling. These aren’t worth arguing with either. Policy is based on 9/11, and 9/11 was the most central event of the 00s, in terms of the way it changed perception of the world. That it wasn’t different in human terms, or that it was ‘lesser’ in quantitative casualties is beside the point. This is, again, wishful on the part of those who don’t see that, even if they think ‘imperialist centers’ are the ones that deserve attack for their theft, injustice, whatever, that doesn’t mean they, like everybody else, aren’t paying the most attention to it.

    The ‘sentence style change’ in Didion’s later works have to do with age and place and subject. She’s living in LA in the White Album years, and it’s got her trademark one-sentence or even one-word paragraphs sometimes, although that’s much more the case in the novels. She may be depressed, but it’s laid-back when she writes “we put ‘Lay Lady Lay’ on the record player. We went to see the Flying Burritos…” compared to what she then writes, somewhat furiously, when reporting political matters in Washington. These events are way outside her own subjectivity, and it’s necessary to get fierce and high-energy if you’re going to say anything at all that somebody else hasn’t already said. It’s still sort of relaxed, even if ‘tortuous’, in that it doesn’t sound hysterical. Yes, she uses those arcane phrases that were being used, in that since it’s even necessarily dated, and I agree those parts do seem–but that’s a matter of getting history on record too. At first, I was thinking about some old more jargon-type things she used in White Album, the phrases like ‘growing up absurd’ and ‘marrying absurd’ were actually things I never heard in the 70s, and I didn’t read the White Album till about 1985. I do remember the term ‘Mom-ism’ being used mid-70s all the time, but I’ve never heard it again, and I’m not sure I ever knew what the trendies who used it were talking about.


    Comment by illegal dances of new york city — 23 April 2011 @ 11:09 am

    • Forgot to mention the matter of place here maybe having some effect on the style. Didion/Dunne moved back to New York in 1986, although she’s always primarily thought of by the general public as the most-quoted person on SoCal/Los Angeles. Sometime in the 90s, the tempo picks up as she writes more and more pieces for NYReview of Books. Whether that has to do with Washington or New York, I don’t know, but I just figured that by now, she even has lived in New York longer than the 20 or so years she lived in Los Angeles, and which all, including novels and non-fiction, were somewhat less rigorous in tone in that they are more personal (including novels like ‘Democracy’). In 2003, after Political Fictions, she wrote ‘Where I Was From’, which is her book about California that has a lot more hardness than any of her early essays (including the famous early 60s one on New York.) She starts doing things like writing three sentences which start ‘This is what people were talking about…’ I remember that from the McDonnell Douglas Lakewood essays in ‘Where I Was From’, which I think were a series in the The New Yorker, and I think that there was one almost exactly like that in Political Fictions, where she’s talking about ‘he knew how the process worked’, Jerry Brown among those listed. That was a newer stylistic technique. Paragraphs like ‘Souvenir of Johnston Island’ in the novel ‘Democracy’ weren’t so prevalent by the 1996 novel ‘The Last Thing He Wanted’, but those short stubby one- or two-word things were widely imitated.


      Comment by illegal dances of new york city — 23 April 2011 @ 11:25 am

      • Here’s the Klein quote from Salon interview in 2007: What I argue is that this attempt to take advantage of the window of opportunity opened up by crisis has some uncomfortable similarities to the techniques for psychological torture laid out in declassified CIA interrogation manuals, which I quote in the book. For instance, the infamous 1963 Kubark manual talks about how to put a prisoner in a state of shock, using various regression techniques like sensory deprivation and sensory overload. Then it states that “there is an interval — which may be extremely brief — of suspended animation, a kind of psychological shock or paralysis. It is caused by a traumatic or sub-traumatic experience which explodes, as it were, the world that is familiar to the subject as well as his image of himself within that world. Experienced interrogators recognize this effect when it appears and know that at this moment the source is far more open to suggestion, far likelier to comply, than he was just before he experienced the shock.”

        The first time I read that, it reminded me of the shock of Sept. 11, which, for millions of people, exploded “the world that is familiar” and opened up a period of deep disorientation and regression that the Bush administration expertly exploited. I want to stress that I am not in any way suggesting that a crisis like that was deliberately created in order to induce the state of shock, but I do argue that once the shock occurred it was deliberately deepened. And more to the point, the impulse to exploit a moment of disorientation opened up by mass trauma is, I believe, deeply immoral, in the same way that torture is immoral, because it is about exploiting an extreme power imbalance.”

        That ‘expert exploitation byt the Bush Administration’ of the shock and trauma is light-years different from what the 9/11 truthers are saying and want some BIG spokesman like Naomi Klein or Chomsky to say for them, and they are just not going to get it. I had a friend who said they would be ‘exploiting it within 5 minutes’, and Paul Krugman wrote within a day or two after 9/11 that this would be the case. On a lower level, there was price-gouging in hotels in Queens by grounded air travellers, so it happened on a local level as well.


        The critical receptions of ‘Shock Doctrine’ are of interest in this wiki entry.


        Comment by illegal dances of new york city — 23 April 2011 @ 11:35 am

  31. Yes it’s clear that Shock Doctrine is about exploiting crises more than about precipitating them, and that Klein isn’t a Truther. I had to return the book to the library before I got to the part on Iraq, but it would be in keeping with her preceding investigations that the neocons and the extreme capitalists wouldn’t need to bring down the towers in order to use the tragedy for their advantage. Pinochet in Chile almost surely did entail US complicity, but that sort of covert meddling in foreign affairs is nothing new. Bailing out the banks after they precipitated the real estate meltdown is a pretty flagrant example of the bankers having their cake and eating it too: precipitating the crash through their own reckless greed, then using shock doctrine techniques to ram through their own bailout at the end of GW’s administration. Even so, I don’t believe that the lenders purposely caused the real estate crash in order to consolidate their control over the financial sector; they just turned their own sow’s ear into a silk purse. While Shock Doctrine includes a lot of footnoted research, it’s clear that she’s got an agenda. Comparing the exploitation of public shock and distress to the torture of prisoners is clearly exaggeration for effect, a usefully strong metaphor for making a strong political-economic statement. And while she demonstrates the global reach of radically Friedmanesque economic overhauls of foreign countries, she doesn’t make a strong case that the systems being replaced were necessarily more democratic or successful. She clearly didn’t think highly of the Soviet economy, but she thought there were other popular forces on the ground that would have generated better results than the wholesale selling-off of government-owned businesses to rich and well-connected tycoons who now dominate Russia and many of the other former soviet republics.

    I agree that both 9/11 and the 80s were the big transforming eras of our times. Reagan and his handlers dramatically shifted politics toward spectacle and economics toward the very rich, and Didion documents this shift well. So, e.g., in 1978 the highest marginal tax rate for single-filer earnings was 70% on income above $105K; now the highest bracket is 35% for earnings over $375K. And in 1978 capital gains were taxed as ordinary income; now the maximum is set at 15%. So since Reagan high-earner incomes have skyrocketed while their taxes have been drastically cut. And Reagan was the first president who failed to balance the budget, largely because of these drastic cuts in tax rates. Didion is right too about how the Reagan shift has affected both major parties.


    Comment by ktismatics — 23 April 2011 @ 8:53 pm

  32. Croatian conviction casts light on US responsibility for war crimes

    I was reminded me of Chomsky’s writing in one of his books that the Western media deploy a ”soft censorship” – the truth is never really edited out, but published in tiny footnotes that nobody with clout is going to read because the lettertype is too small. Or the truth ”leaks out” way too late for anyone to care, as in the example above.Mind you, not that this ”leak” addresses structural issues – such as that the real reason the situation with Serbia was hushed up, is that Serbia wasn’t compliant enough when allowing the spread of the EU-US market Eastwards, while other republics followed more ardently, and were therefore pardoned for the same offenses that Serbs got trashed for.

    she doesn’t make a strong case that the systems being replaced were necessarily more democratic or successful. She clearly didn’t think highly of the Soviet economy, but she thought there were other popular forces on the ground that would have generated better results than the wholesale selling-off of government-owned businesses to rich and well-connected tycoons who now dominate Russia and many of the other former soviet republics.

    Oh yeah and what are those ”other popular forces”? I doubt there were any in Russia, or in Yugoslavia. That’s the problem with Commies, they never want to admit THEIR OWN RESPONSIBILITY – like, would the selling-off ever have worked if the local corrupt Russian Commie elites, and Serbian, didn’t buy in, only too gladly, for the chance of having their Swiss bank accounts protected, and their Commie privileges continued in the new capitalism. This whole 1970s generation is repulsive – they sold off their own kind under the banner of equality for all. And because they didn’t pay for it as much as they should have, I doubt they have reformed their ways.


    Comment by center of parody — 24 April 2011 @ 7:02 am

  33. Naomi Klein makes it clear that Yeltsin and other party bosses were the main beneficiaries of the wholesale privatization of the Russian economy. Meet the new boss, same as the old boss, The Who sang 40 years ago. Won’t get fooled again? Evidently not. These belated revelations of covert corrupt operations are still worthwhile even if they reinforce the sense of futility about anything ever changing. Or I suppose I should speak for myself. It’s symptomatic that I glaze over when reading about political and military events from as recently as ten years ago, as if politics is a form of pop entertainment in which only the new plot developments grab my attention.


    Comment by ktismatics — 24 April 2011 @ 10:40 am

  34. they reinforce the sense of futility about anything ever changing.

    I don’t get a sense of futility, because ultimately there is always change – the question is, at what price. I think even as I don’t subscribe to apocalyptic narratives (precisely because they unrealistically deny change), we’ve reached the extreme end of the game in that the last sixty years were spent mounting the Empire for that last confrontation with Russia. Whatever happens, the stakes will be very high. But then the stakes were high in the Second World War too, and yet humanity prevailed.


    Comment by center of parody — 24 April 2011 @ 10:55 am

  35. …in which only the new plot developments grab my attention.

    No I don’t think you or any Americans should especially berate themselves for falling prey to media manipulations, we’re all forced to eat that system because we wouldn’t be able to live in it otherwise. I mean when they told me some weeks ago that I should be ”gravely concerned” about Japan I told them to fuck off me, so why should Serbian history have priority treatment? I also have no illusions that even if more Americans were aware of what was going on, that would seriously threaten the order of the universe. I am aiming my anger more at the Left elites, of which we see pathetic remnanets in the ”Lenosphere”, who have not only participated in, but often actively condoned NATO’s performances in the last 20 years, even while, right in front of our eyes, telling the world how much they’re, you know, opposed. With opposition that you can scrape offa your asshole’s rim, WHO THE FUCK COULD BLAME NATO for being what it is???


    Comment by center of parody — 24 April 2011 @ 2:52 pm

  36. Didion describes an event in El Salvador that occurred in the early eighties, a massacre of hundreds of civilians evidently perpetrated by an army supported by the CIA and covered up by the Reagan Administration. Now I didn’t even remember anything about El Salvador’s political situation, let alone US covert ops there. I have a hard enough time remembering details of the “arms for hostages” scheme: Americans were being held hostage but by whom? Reagan was secretly selling arms to Iran because they were supposedly going to get the hostages released. And the proceeds of the sales were being secretly diverted to CIA operations where? Nicaragua, I think, and Congress had explicitly prohibited sending US support to the contras there. Was El Salvador related to this project? No idea. Anyhow, Didion calls attention to the “political fictions” constructed around this massacre in order to prevent it from ever being known by the American people. She talks about the arms for hostages fiction as a two-act play: act one, Reagan denies all knowledge; act two, Reagan initiated it because he supports all freedom fighters, to hell with Congress and its pussyfooters.

    The Balkans? I had no real idea what was happening there, paid little attention. I couldn’t even tell you when Bosnia happened — Clinton administration I think, so it must have been the nineties, right? So now I pay closer attention than I used to, and I read this story you linked about how the US was supporting Croatia in pulling away from Yugoslavia. Did I have any recollection of these events? I did not. Did I pay attention while they were happening? Not really. Do I understand even now what happened, given that both Serbs and Croats are being convicted of war crimes by the World Court? Not really. And then I read that Serbia is trying to join the EU, but that there are nationalist rallies protesting the government — what’s that all about? It all seems so remote, the churn co continual, that it’s hard for me to follow. I understand that I probably could figure it out, but I just don’t make the effort. And it seems that even after I’ve figured something out I forget it fairly quickly. No self-justification, no self-blame; it’s just how it is for me. I can say that I’m more attuned to these things now than at any time since I finished college, and mostly I find myself understanding both Didion’s and Naomi Klein’s POVs about how facts are so often covered over by compelling narratives about good guys versus bad guys.


    Comment by ktismatics — 24 April 2011 @ 5:27 pm

    • Glad you mentioned that particular group of three essays, I’ve still got the volume out and will read the first two, which I hadn’t. The 3rd one I had searched for earlier, but only found now after you started talking about El Salvador and Nicaragua. Focussed on Reagan’s habits, and I remembered that I’d thought it funny that she wanted to make sure that people knew that Reagan had never been a ‘major star’, which also contains that sentence, very uncharacteristic of her journalism, [I’ll leave out the first quotes so I can show the way she’s used, and not used, hers]: D’Souza, who had been editor of The Dartmouth Review at the time of “Dis Sho’ Ain’t No Jive, Bro” was published, later wrote of those years in Washington when to be young and movement was very heaven.

      She didn’t use any quotes for ‘very heaven’, which I remember being struck by when I first read it. I also recall in ‘The Last Thing She Wnated’, she used a sentence by the unreliable narrator, that began “I mean she really thought…: which was also more on the informal side. I’ve noticed in the blogs people are rushing often, so that’s why they often say ‘I mean it’s not like…’ etc., and I did it myself for a long time, and have now not done it but once in about 6 months. Arpege uses it in nearly every post.

      I once had all the basics of the Sandinistas and Contras and Iran diversions down relatively well, but I haven’t got to them in some years. That’s one thing that is good about these essays, is that they show how we just skip from disaster or even non-disaster news item to another without much attention to line and sustaining anything. No wonder anything can be diverted anywhere and by any means, the media encourages that, but they themselves are like that too. It’s the contemporary mode. I wrote a more local one up in the 4th chapter of IDNYC, which is based on an event that happened a few weeks after 9/11: A plane crashed in Rockaway Beach, Queens (I’ve got the dates elsewhere, but can’t remember it right now), and this was the Irish, and more prosperous part, of the Rockaways, which have a fine beach when it’s not too overpopulated (unlike Coney Island, which is nearby, but has peninsulas and other spits of land (whether islands or just Staten Island I’d also have to check) which prevent it from having really nicely sizable waves for bodysurfing, and sometimes even real surfing. But, as a public relations blitz, Giuiliani went out there and announced a huge new real estate development to ‘bring jobs’, ‘upgrade the neighborhood’, etc., after this ‘horrible tragedy’. It was by then known not to be a terrorist catastrophe, but what then happened was this: A piece of superb beach about a mile long with the most magnificent, long-abandoned and unique beach anywhere in the city (and due to these conditions of going wild, even better than more affluent beaches further out on Long Island proper) was slated for this ‘healing renewal.’ This might seem unlikely to renew much of anything, but this superb piece of beach was in a totally different part of Rockaway Beach, at Far Rockaway, was mostly black and poor. It was about two miles away, and had no relation whatever to the neighborhood where the accident killed people and destroyed property. I and other inner-city types had discovered this strip of beach for some time, and I’d been going there for decades–it was unique, has a plover nesting ground, and was a second-nature sort of environment where ancient resort hotels of the 1910’s had once been, and cottages were still there, but the place was mostly slum. There were every kind of naturalized flowers, roses, and pheasants and rabbits lived there. One could still say, objectively, that it improved the place, what with ugly new housing projects on it, but most people who lived there and went there thought they just destroyed the beach. But as a story, it was about how ‘Rockaway Beach’ would see a resurgence with this development. If I didn’t know the area so well, I would have never even known how the story progressed. Nothing at all happened for a few years, then perimeter fencing started appearing, but nothing else changed. During this period, I even met a sculptor from Guyana out there, who carved a salad bowl for me, which I paid him well for–from wood of the scrub pines on that beach. I picked this up from him in late 2004, he had seen a postcard of Tahiti’s volcanic needle mountains and been able (although he didn’t think he could) to make the sides of the bowl much like the shapes of the mountains. He was one of the ones that said that they were ‘going to destroy the beach’. I went out there in about 7 months and what had taken a hundred years to turn into this strangely twisted paradise now just had ordinary low-rise houses as in most new suburbs.

      But the ‘story’ had been about the ‘plane crash’. What actually happened was just that they used it as an opportunity to do some business which they might have been planning to do anyway at some point, and just decided ‘this will sound good right now’. But the ‘devastated neighborhood’, despite being the more prosperous one, got nothing but a speech from Giuliani promising them this ‘booming community development’ with new housing and commerce. Whether the new development was beneficial or not I’ve even lost touch with, because I couldn’t bear to see it again, and somehow found a beach that is protected as a state park on that same stretch of the Rockaways.

      This is only interesting here, though, because the development that promised a boost to a saddened community took place in one that isn’t far away, but has almost no contact with the one where the crash occurred. So it’s a matter of whether the story has some reason for you to follow it, then you see that these diversions with an immediate political ‘buzz’ happen all the time. After the speech out there Giuliani, who was still enjoying his 9/11 glory, surely forgot about the whole thing, maybe some friends were involved– his hands had before been shown to be not wholly clean, there are construction companies out there that are reeking of mob, and it’s not going to be that serious for most people. It may have boosted the neighboring, barely related, and more depressed neighborhood, but none of it makes much sense, and was mainly just a garden-variety real estate matter that probably was finalized at the time of the political posturing.


      Comment by illegal dances of new york city — 24 April 2011 @ 6:53 pm

  37. Interesting and sad — it’s a story that only someone with enduring and nuanced relationship with a place would notice. Anne’s cousin lives in Long Beach, which isn’t far from Rockaway. We stayed two nights with her and her partner when we first returned from France, spent some time exploring the City, but enjoyed that surprising little beach community as well.


    Comment by ktismatics — 25 April 2011 @ 10:13 pm

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