A TOUCH OF MAGIC

Joan Crawford“Millions of words can be written– and have been–about how to look lovely. But there’s a final element that no amount of exercising, dieting, or mirror watching can give you. Charm.

Charm isn’t something you can turn on like a tap with a pretty little girl simper. It isn’t anything phony that you can pick up at the door on your way out, along with your coat. You know, animals can spot a phony faster than most people. I mistrust people who don’t like animals or understand them: how one dog can be snooty, one cat imperious, one dog beguiling, one cat sitting there quietly checking on you. Any wise little cat or dog knows at a glance whether your charm is real or manufactured for the occasion– and treats you accordingly. ”

Joan Crawford, My Way of Life, Simon and Schuster, New York.

Richard Burton Did Not Love Lucy

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Thursday, May 17th, 1970, Beverly Hills Hotel

“Those who had told us that Lucille Ball was ‘very wearing’ were not exaggerating. She is a monster of staggering charmlessness and monumental lack of humour. She is not ‘wearing’ to us because I suppose we refuse to be worn. I am coldly sarcastic with her to the point of outright contempt but she hears only what she wants to hear… Nineteen solid years of double-takes and pratfalls and desperate up-staging and cutting other people’s laughs if she can, nervously watching ‘the ratings’ as she does so. A machine of enormous energy, which driven by a stupid driver who has forgotten that a machine runs on oil as well as gasoline and who has neglected the former, is creaking badly towards a final convulsive seize-up. I loathed her the first day. I loathed her the second day and the third. I loathe her today but now I also pity her. After tonight I shall make a point of never seeing her again. We work, or have worked until today which is the last thank God, from 10am to somewhere around 5pm, and Milady Balls can thank her lucky stars that I am not drinking. There is a chance that I might have killed her. Jack Benney, the most amiable man in the world and one of the truly great comedians of our time, says that in 4 days she reduced his life expectancy by 10 years. The hitherto impeccably professional Joan Crawford was so inhibited by this behemoth of selfishness that she got herself stupendously crocked for the actual show and virtually had to be helped to her feet and managed, not without some satisfaction I dare say, to bugger up the whole show.”

The Richard Burton Diaries, Edited by Chris Williams, Yale University Press, 2012.

Here’s Lucy with Richard Burton and Elizabeth Taylor: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0RS7i23nBLc

Literary Criticism by Donald Trump

art-of-the-deal“To the Editor:

I can remember when Tina Brown was in charge of The New Yorker and a writer named Mark Singer interviewed me for a profile. He was depressed. I was thinking, O.K., expect the worst. Not only was Tina Brown dragging The New Yorker to a new low, this writer was drowning in his own misery, which could only put me in a skeptical mood regarding the outcome of their combined interest in me. Misery begs misery, and they were a perfect example of this credo.

Jeff MacGregor, the reviewer of Character Studies, a collection of Singer’s New Yorker profiles, including the one about me, writes poorly… Maybe he and Mark Singer belong together. Some people cast shadows, and other people choose to live in those shadows. To each his own. They are entitled to their choices.

Most writers want to be successful. Some writers even want to be good writers. I’ve read John Updike, I’ve read Orhan Pamuk, I’ve read Philip Roth. When Mark Singer enters their league, maybe I’ll read one of his books. But it will be a long time– he was not born with great writing ability… Maybe he should… try to develop himself into a world-class writer, as futile as that may be, instead of having to write about remarkable people who are clearly outside of his realm.

I’ve been a best-selling author for close to 20 years. Whether you like it or not, facts are facts. The highly respected Joe Queenan mentioned in his article ‘Ghosts and the Machine’ (March 20) that I had produced ‘a steady stream of classics’ with ‘stylistic seamlessness’ and that the ‘voice’ of my books remained noticeably constant to the point of being an ‘astonishing achievement.’

This was high praise coming from an accomplished writer. From losers like Jeff MacGregor, whom I have never met, or Mark Singer, I do not do nearly as well. But I’ll gladly take Joe Queenan over Singer and MacGregor any day of the week–it’s simple thing called talent!

I have no doubt that Singer’s and MacGregor’s books will do badly– they just don’t have what it takes. Maybe someday they’ll astonish us by writing something of consequence.
Donald Trump
New York”

September 11, 2005, The New York Times.

David Foster Wallace’s Note to the Copyeditor of “Infinite Jest”

infinite-jest“To Copyeditor:
Hi. F.Y.I., the following non-standard features of the mss. are intentional and will get stetted by the author if color-penciled by you:

-Single quotation marks around dialogue & titles, with double q.m.’s inside–reversal of normal order.

-Such capitalized common nouns and verb phrases as Substance, Disease, Come In, Inner Infant, etc.  

-Neologisms, catachreses, solecisms, and non-standard syntax in sectons concerning the characters Minty, Marathe, Antitoi, Krause, Pemulis, Steeply, Lezn, Orin Incandenza, Mario Incandenza, Fortier, Foltz, J.O. Incandenza Sr., Schtitt, Gompert.

-Multiple conjuctions at the start of independent clauses.

-Commas before prepositions at the end of sentences.

-Hyphens to form compound nouns.

-Sentence-fragments following exceptionally long sentences.

-Inconsistent paragraphing, with some extremely long paragraphs.”

Every Love Story is a Ghost Story: A Life of David Foster Wallace, D.T. Max, Granta Books, 2012.

At La Grenouillère, by Guy de Maupassant

Renoir La Grenouillère (“the frog-pond”) was a popular bathing spot and a floating cafe on the Seine. It was painted by Renoir and Monet, and the setting of “Femme Fatale,” a short story by Guy de Maupassant. 

“The place reeked of vice and corruption and the dregs of Parisian society in all its rottenness gathered there: cheats, conmen and cheap hacks rubbed shoulders with under-age dandies, old roués and rogues, sleazy underworld types once notorious for things best forgotten mingled with other small-time crooks and speculators, dabblers in dubious ventures, frauds, pimps, and racketeers. Cheap sex, both male and female, was on offer in this tawdry meat-market of a place where petty rivalries were exploited, and quarrels picked over nothing in an atmosphere of fake gallantry where swords or pistols at dawn settled matters of highly questionable honour in the first place.

… Despite the proximity of the river and the huge trees shading it, the place was suffocatingly hot. Mingling with the fumes of spilt drinks came the smell of flesh and the cheap perfume with which the skin of those trading in sex was drenched. Underlying all these smells was the slight but persistent aroma of talc, which wafted with varying intensity as if an unseen hand were waving some gigantic powder-puff over the entire scene.”

Femme Fatale, Guy de Maupassant, translated by Siân Miles, Penguin Books.

Painting: La Grenouillère, by Pierre-Auguste Renoir, 1869,

The Source of Philip K. Dick’s Ideas

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“The way out of living in the middle of an under-imaginative figment is to make contact, in your own mind, with other civilizations as yet unborn. You’re doing the same thing when you read sf that I’m doing when I write it; your neighbor probably is as alien a life form to you as mine is to me. The stories in this collection are attempts at reception– at listening to voices from another place, very far off, sounds quite faint but important. They only come late at night, when the background din and gabble of our world have faded out. When the newspapers have been read, the TV sets shut off, the cars parked in their various garages. Then, faintly, I hear voices from another star (I clocked it once, and reception is best between 3:00 A.M. and 4:45 A.M.). Of course, I don’t usually tell people this when they ask, ‘Say, where do you get your ideas?’ I just say I don’t know. It’s safer.”

The Best of Philip K. Dick, “Afterthought by the Author,” Philip K. Dick, Del Rey Books, 1977.

Specialization

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“Specialization is the first of these pressures. The higher one goes in the educational system today, the more one is limited to a relatively narrow area of knowledge. Now no one can have anything against competence as such, but when it involves losing sight of anything outside of one’s immediate field– say, early Victorian love poetry–and the sacrifice of one’s general culture to a set of authorities and canonical ideas, then competence of that sort is not worth the price paid for it.

In the study of literature, for example, which is my particular interest, specialization has meant an increasing technical formalism, and less and less of a historical sense of what real experiences actually went into the making of a work of literature. Specialization means losing sight of the raw effort of constructing either art or knowledge; as a result you cannot view knowledge and art as choices and decisions, commitments and alignments, but only in terms of impersonal theories or methodologies. To be a specialist in literature too often means shutting out history or music, or politics. In the end as a full specialized literary intellectual you become tame and accepting of whatever the so-called leaders in a field will allow. Specialization also kills your sense of excitement and discovery, both of which are irreducibly present in the intellectual’s makeup. In the final analysis, giving up to specialization is, I have always felt, laziness, so you end up doing what others tell you, because that is your specialty after all.”

Representations of the Intellectual, The 1993 Reith Lectures, Edward W. Said, Vintage Books, 1996.