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What I’m reading now: pretty buildings and feminine meltdowns

Yes, I am actively reading all four. At the same time. If you had ADD, you’d identify.

Actually, even if you didn’t have ADD, it might make sense; it’s like being able to order the shrimp scampi and the veal milanese and the fusilli al ragu and the cheese platter at once, so you can take alternating bites. How else do you want to eat?


Everything Alain de Botton writes molds some part of my heart like two adroit, delicate hands working on a lump of warm clay. His meditations on architecture, like his meditations on most things, are profound and melancholy, yet with an elegantly light touch,  such sexy tension weaving his sentences together. Reading is slow because I’m bad with names, facts and dates and easily get stumped and distracted when I hit those, but very delicious otherwise to contemplate one’s relationship to physical space with de Botton as a guide.

I heart anthologies and compilations like this. It feels like the best kind of party imaginable; a whole bunch of first-rate minds gather to say super-interesting things, and there is zero small talk, I don’t have to put on outside clothes and I get to choose whom I want to listen to, one at a time. This time, I have met E.M. Forster anew to be tenderly earnest; Aldous Huxley is witty and taut while not writing about dystopia; Hemingway is the same old asshole.

One theme that’s occupying my mind a lot recently is women’s ambivalence toward the traditional roles of wife and mother; in that arena, Ferrante is a virtuoso. Her narrative rhythm is swift, precise, brutal, without a single superfluous word. This is a book about a woman who gets left behind by her husband for a 20 year old. However, any woman who has ever loved and lost knows that, really, all romantic tumult is solipsistic theatre leading toward deeper unlayering of self. Ferrante knows, and invites us along the same journey of awareness. Also: the best bad sex scene of all time.

I only recently started to “get” visual art. I truly think it’s a function of getting older, learning how shitty and senseless the world can be — shedding the last of the youthful illusion that life may just be cotton candy and sprightly walks in the park with the right attitude and effort — and coming into humble awareness of how tenderly we can access beauty in the middle of it all. This book is a wealth of little snapshots of the most prominent modern painters; I am picking it up in little pockets of time I can find. I’m using it as a jump-off point for further investigations of artists or paintings on my own because, unfortuntaely, I find that the writingis a bit unfocused and unengaging.



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