In 1987, a young Nikki Finke profiled the “Literary Brat Pack” (choice Brat Pack members included Bret Easton Ellis and Jay McInerney, of Less Than Zero and Bright Lights, Big City fame, respectively) for The Los Angeles Times.
Fifty years later, he awoke one fine morning like Rip Van Winkle, and found himself again with his sea bag on his shoulder looking for anywhere he could live and work. The new owner of his old flat now wanted $4,500 a month, and many of his friends were also evicted, for it seemed their buildings weren’t owned by San Franciscans anymore, but by faceless investors with venture capital. Corporate monoculture had wiped out any unique sense of place, turning the “island city” into an artistic theme park without artists. And he was on the street.
The waiter arrives. When he asks about food allergies, Kafka hands him a written list. Then he excuses himself to go to the bathroom. As soon as he’s gone, Kundera says, “The problem with Kafka is that he never got enough tail.” We all snicker. Joyce orders another bottle of wine. Finally, he turns and looks at me through his dark glasses. “I’m reading your new book,” he says. “Oh?” I say. “Yes,” says Joyce.
What gave the Black and White Ball “its intoxicating piquancy,” according to Amy Fine Collins, was the fact that Capote’s guest list had “flung together, in a gilt-edged melting pot, the most alluring power brokers in the worlds of high society, politics, the arts, and Hollywood—disconnected universes that collided, if not for the first time that evening, then at least with unprecedented force.”
The Ball also found an unlikely chronicler in Gloria Steinem, an invited guest who had made Capote’s acquaintance after she interviewed him for Glamour the year before. Steinem wrote a feature on the party for Vogue in January 1967 in which she described the luminaries, feathers, masks, ball gowns, and jewels all whirling around the room: “The effect was like some blend of Hollywood, the Court of Louis XIV, a medieval durbar, and pure Manhattan.”
Guernica: Is there ever a situation where you’d advise an author not to take a big advance that’s being offered? Chris Parris-Lamb: No, not really. Which is not the same as saying they should always take the biggest advance that’s being offered. But I’d never advise an author to turn down an advance because it’s […]
During World War II Hemingway organized a private spy network, which he jokingly called the Crook Factory, and gathered information about Nazi sympathizers on the island. But in a secret, 124-page report on Hemingway, the FBI—which feared his personal prestige and political power—expressed resentment at his amateur but alarming intrusion into their territory, and unsuccessfully […]
“The first shock was the sheer discovery of a book about my mother and my family, which had information about me and my identity that had been kept hidden from me,” Teege says. “I knew almost nothing about the life of my biological mother, nor did my adoptive family. I hoped to find answers to questions that had disturbed me and to the depression I had suffered from. The second shock was the information about my grandfather’s deeds.”
Sex is difficult to write about because it’s just not sexy enough. The only way to write about it is not to write much. Let the reader bring his own sexuality into the text. A writer I usually admire has written about sex in the most off-putting way. There is just too much information. If you start saying “the curve of . . .” you soon sound like a gynecologist.
“For five generations, the marquis’ name was taboo in our family,” Hugues marveled. “It was as if there was an omertà (conspiracy of silence) against him! The family no longer even used the title marquis.”
[Rosemary] Tonks’s first poetry collection, Notes on Cafés and Bedrooms, was published in 1963; her second and final one, Iliad of Broken Sentences, in 1967. She interweaves images of her years in Asia and Africa with snapshots of bohemian London: desert oases and mirages, jazz and cocktails. True to the first collection’s title, the poems carry a […]
LE GUIN: My mother had always wanted to write. She told me this only after she’d started writing. She waited until she got the kids out of the house, until she was free of responsibility for anybody except her husband. Very typical of her generation. She was in her fifties when she started writing—for kids, […]
I’m reasonably certain that John Ashcroft didn’t recognize himself disguised as the evil high school guidance counselor in one of my novels. But like so much else, this thorny matter requires consideration on a case-by-case basis. In Mary McCarthy’s story “The Cicerone,” Peggy Guggenheim, the important collector of modern art, appears as Polly Grabbe, an […]
The best interviews with authors make you want to read—not just their work, but read in general, and read all the time, and read with a new fervor. * * * 1. “The Art of Not Belonging: Dwyer Murphy Interviews Edwidge Danticat.” (Guernica, September 2013) Danticat gives a beautiful interview, discussing her book Claire of […]
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The story of Dan Marlowe, a pulp writer who suffered from amnesia, befriended an ex-con, and later inspired writers like Stephen King: Physicians thought the amnesia was psychosomatic, brought on by stress and money troubles, but there were hints of physical problems too. Before his brain emptied out, Marlowe had been laid low by crushing […]