In my Insurance Law class this evening the professor began the class with an exercise wherein we all recalled current events and then searched for ways the events related to insurance. So many celebrities died this summer! Perhaps they just hit the ejection seat before the swine flu fear pandemic drives the rest of us crazy.
Dominick Dunne passed today. I grew up intimately familiar with Dunne’s writing because I read Vanity Fair compulsively after a breathtaking 1996 article called The Last Opium Den (now a book!) captured my attention and kept me loyal to the magazine.
Dunne wrote primarily about lifestyle. He joined F. Scott Fitzgerald’s genre, inspiring voyeurs’ fantasies of a quintessentially American aristocratic style.
More personally, Dunne wrote one of the most memorable pieces tattooed on my brain from those formative years. I’ve blogged about it before — Dunne’s account of his brother’s marriage to Joan Didion. I’m sure this is far from Dominick’s own favorite pieces of his portfolio. But this article has stuck with me for years, and has informed my search for how love is supposed to feel.
From National Review:
She was not perfect, in matters big or little. Her three marriages (each to a younger man) all seemed to end before they started; she lied constantly about her age; she committed one act of plagiarism (not discovered until after her death); she smoked unfiltered cigarettes, and eventually weighed over 200 pounds.
Her most remarkable quirk was that she was not just interested in voodoo — she was, after all, an anthropologist and folklorist — but apparently actually believed in it. An intelligent, stable, generally level-headed woman who actually took this stuff seriously: baffling. Ayn Rand, when she first met William F. Buckley Jr., declared, “You are too intelligent to believe in God”; a silly statement, but wasn’t Zora Neale Hurston too intelligent to believe in voodoo? Go figure.
So why am I smitten with her? She was, for starters, a serious writer: She would leave Manhattan, rent a small house somewhere in Florida, or somewhere in the out-of-the-way south, sometimes literally in the woods, and for months would do nothing but write. For someone of her station at that time, this was beyond unusual. As Boyd observes, she “had been making her living solely as a writer for two decades by the autumn of 1933. But Hurston, it seemed, was the only black woman in the country still trying to do so ….”
. . .
Hurston had the right attitude, and even if one thinks it was not the right attitude then, it is most definitely the right attitude now. She was not afraid to denounce white prejudice, did so in no uncertain terms, and demanded to know why, if whites were superior, they were afraid to compete with blacks. “She would not allow white oppression to define or distort her life,” however, and she “resolved to stay the course and focus on the positive, as was her way.” Now more than ever, while it is fine to look at the injustices of the past, one should not — as John McWhorter recently warned — stare. If Hurston, who lived in the Jim Crow South, concluded that one should not let bigotry define one’s existence, how much truer is that now? Hurston was even skeptical of whether the integration mandated by Brown v. Board of Education was necessary for black advancement — a position that was controversial then and appears bizarre today — so it is hard to imagine that she would have much patience with the current institutionalization of lowered standards for African Americans in order to achieve “diversity.”
NPR challenges you to write worse than this guy! Yesterday the Bulwer-Lytton Fiction Contest announced the worst writer in America:
Folks say that if you listen real close at the height of the full moon, when the wind is blowin’ off Nantucket Sound from the nor’ east and the dogs are howlin’ for no earthly reason, you can hear the awful screams of the crew of the Ellie May, a sturdy whaler Captained by John McTavish; for it was on just such a night when the rum was flowin’ and, Davey Jones be damned, big John brought his men on deck for the first of several screaming contests.
NOT his sonnets, apparently.
First published 400 years ago, Shakespeare’s sonnets might never have been put to press had it been left to the author to decide things. As Clinton Heylin, the author of the new book So Long as Men Can Breathe: The Untold Story of Shakespeare’s Sonnets, explains, just as Bob Dylan’s basement tapes were never intended for a wide audience, such was the case with Shakespeare’s sonnets.
I’m on the verge of finishing my long project after my last final today. I have to be honest: I’m a little glad I have one more paper to write this week. I’m excited to regain control over discretionary time, but oddly I’m a little melancholy now that summer is finally–imminently!–here.
Even now at the end of the semester when I am o-so tired of long nights, there is something just so satisfying and familiar about a boundariless relationship with work.