Dropped the ball on this weekly-not-so-weekly-but-at-least-kinda-regular newsletter thing, BUT in my defense, I was very busy writing things for places that actually pay me (more about that below) and practically brain dead when it came to writing anything else.
Anyway, happy SAD season! Might fuck around and actually buy a light therapy lamp this year because, honestly, it’s only November and this month has been more grey and dreary and unbearably windy (every time a huge gust blows lately, I want to yell “okay, we GET IT, stop showing off!”) than not. Four to five more months of this? I think the fuck not. Please hit me up if you have any recommendations.
Also, happy Listen To River By Joni Mitchell On Repeat season! I’m so glad Ryan Murphy’s “The Politician” brought the classic to the forefront of pop culture discussion to remind us that it’s that time of year again. (Also grateful that it’s responsible for this spectacularly/depressingly/horrifically stupid Cosmopolitan headline’s existence.) You have five more weeks to listen to the world’s saddest unintentional Christmas song as much as you want before your friends, family members, and coworkers are like “um, are you okay?” Go forth.
Anyway. Content is below. A lot of it was obviously started a few weeks ago (see: mention of the first really cold weekend of fall) but I do not care enough to change it because I am TIRED!
okay thanks sorry love u bye,
SOME THOUGHTS I HAVE BEEN THINKING
nora ephron invented fall, change my mind
Every year when the air starts to turn crisp and clothing store windows begin to fill with long sleeves and full-length pants in varying shades of rich reds and oranges and browns and baby pumpkins decorate stoops, I swear that this will be the year I buy my Sally Albright Outfit. Every year I fail. Suddenly, it’s November and there are no loose-but-sharp slacks (I love the word “slacks” and how charmingly dated it sounds) hanging in my closet, no quirky printed turtlenecks, and it’s become too cold to stroll through Central Park in nothing heavier than a tweed blazer.
Nora Ephron invented fall, or, at least, invented fall in New York, and I am always spending the season searching the city for her. It’s fitting that the season seemingly belongs to Nora; it’s one of the few times of year New York still feels aspirational. It shows its old bones to you; the egg yolk yellow light glowing from the windows of old brownstone apartments once night starts to come early encourages a nostalgia and longing for another time, yes, but also an acceptance of the now. It is possible to be reconcile your inner Frank Navasky who rails against the ever-corporatization of New York with your inner aspiring Kathleen Kelly who, despite all evidence to the contrary, sees New York as still good. I walk through the Upper West Side and play “Dreams” by the Cranberries with the volume as high as it will go (I often joke that it is illegal not to), my strides purposeful and confident, my body suddenly filled with inexplicable euphoria and hopefulness. Life seems a little more romantic when viewed through Nora Ephron’s lens. For four minutes and 32 seconds, I can forget how much this world, and this city, feels — quite literally — like a burning building. Instead, for four minutes and 32 seconds, New York feels like a movie in which I am the protagonist, and nothing really bad could happen to me there.
Because nothing truly bad, nothing truly awful happens to a Nora Ephron protagonist. That’s not to say nothing bad happens — things do indeed get rotten. She might have a crisis of confidence over whether or not she’s in love with her best friend, or a stranger who lives across the country, or a rival bookseller — but it’s all survivable. Even the worst of crises, like when Kathleen Kelly’s bookstore — the bookstore that had been her mother’s before her — goes under, come with silver linings. She will be sad for the appropriate amount of time, and then she will become a children’s book author, and the audience will think it’s all for the best, that it was meant to be; there was more in life for Kathleen Kelly than simply running a book shop day in and day out. Nora Ephron’s women are never victims; they are heroines, and we know that our heroine will be alright in the end, know that our brief glimpse into her life will fade out happily, more often than not on a kiss.
I miss Nora Ephron. I know it’s such a silly thing to say about someone I never even met, much less knew personally, and I know I’ve said this often since her death in 2012, but it’s true and I feel it more acutely as the years go by and the world seems to grow increasingly crueler. As the years pass, I miss Nora Ephron even more, and I find myself craving the safety and warmth that mixes with the occasional bite of her universe. In Nora’s version of the world, the trains run on time and our leaders aren’t corrupt predators and media companies thrive. There are no empty storefronts and the corporate brick and mortar banks are not yet ubiquitous and no one, not one single person, is terrified about climate change.
It’s the first truly cold weekend of fall, the temperatures free-falling from one unseasonable extreme to the other, 70° on Monday, 30° by Saturday. The first cold days of fall always comes as a shock, a brutal slap of freezing air across the face. Residents of the Upper West Side are reacting appropriately: peacoats and topcoats in somber blacks and camels are out in full buttoned-up force; nearly every other woman you pass on the sidewalk sports a tasteful beret. One of them got on the 1 train with me last night at 72nd Street, an unusual bright spot of energy at 11 p.m. in a car full of overtired people packed in tight and grudgingly defrosting together.
“Ladies and gentlemen,” the old woman called out, clearing her throat and waiting for a response. People groaned, expecting maybe a performance or perhaps, despite her poise and polished outward appearance, an overlong story about her plight before she’d ask for our spare change.
“Tomorrow,” she continued, letting the word hang with anticipation in the air for a moment, “Lincoln Center is giving away free tickets to the Jessye Norman memorial at the Metropolitan Opera on Sunday!” A few cheered. Most were silent. She added, not without some spice, “It seems some of you are too young to know.”
She continued on like this, gleefully yelling, in that sort of indiscernibly coastal-with-an-aftertaste-of-vaguely-European accent that only rich, white women of a certain age still have, all the details of the giveaway and her love for the Met through the car of tired people who had lost interest and I couldn’t help but laugh. It felt like a scene in a comedy, maybe not exactly like one Nora would pen, but certainly one I would. I guess that has to be enough for now.
At Weddings - Tomberlin
Look, I know all the ways Spotify is bad and screws over artists and is making music even more scarily corporatized, but all that excessive personal data they’ve probably got stored on me does do the trick in that my Discover Weekly recommends rarely fail to be on point. Recently, it led me to this haunting, pared down acoustic album from last year that I would have missed otherwise. Its cozy fall vibes are like a choose your own adventure: listen to just the lyrics, which often reach into the gut punch territory (“To be a woman is to be in pain” is a killer), or just the stunning guitar work, which is an entire mood and ambience itself, or pair the two together. It’s an album that’s easy to get lost in, to look at the clock and realize you’d been playing it on repeat for the past three hours and not once was it grating — not many albums are capable of that.
Can a Woman Who Is an Artist Ever Just Be an Artist? - Rachel Cusk
Through the stories of two painters, Celia Paul and Cecily Brown, Rachel Cusk paints two starkly different portraits (pun not intended, sorry) about how women thrive in mediums historically dominated by men. It took me awhile to read the first time, and I had to read it at least two more to fully process, and each pass gutted me more than the last.
It… messed me up, and I say that with love. See below!
THINGS I WROTE OR DID
When it rains it POURS my friends! Here are some reasons why I have been slacking on this part of my writing game, in case you missed anything. (Or want to reread? I don’t know your life.)
Decades Later, the World is Catching Up to Elaine May
Glamour let me spend the summer reporting out this profile of Elaine May, which included going to the Tonys, personally reaching out to (and getting radio silence, of course) Elaine for a comment, and talking to Natasha goddamn Lyonne and Joan Allen (among others) for a solid half hour each about how much we love our fave. Might fuck around and share the full version (which at one edit stage ballooned up to 4K words, oops) with those here who want it sometime.
Jessica Lange’s Highway 61 Explores America the Beautiful, Lonely, and Fading
Flood Magazine let me write about Jessica Lange’s newest book of photography (yes, that Jessica Lange), America, and loneliness.
Kim Gordon’s Ready to See You Now
I went to lunch with Kim Gordon (!!!) and I got carded when we ordered wine and wanted to crawl out of my skin but then we talked for an hour and a half about New York and LA, the way media mythologizes people, her new (first) solo album, and more. Also might fuck around and share the whole transcript here at some point, because it was — and this is more to toot her horn and not my own — a really great interview that obviously had to be cut down for space.
Director Alma Har’el on the Therapeutic Nature of Honey Boy
Flood Magazine had me talk to Alma Har’el about trauma and gender equality in film-making and this absolutely stunning narrative feature debut.
Liz Phair the Poptimist
I wrote about Liz Phair’s much-maligned 2003 pop album (which was my — and many other millennials' — entrypoint to her canon) and all the gross, misogynistic ways music bros at the time reacted to it. And, like, okay, this one is one you’ll have to buy a whole book for but, folks, ya girl got an essay in a book! Hello, let’s celebrate that!
friendly reminder that if you missed any previous emails, you can read the archive here.
okay that's it that's the end thanks bye