Archive | Essays

Full of Beans

After I’d been living in my current apartment for six years, a cute couple moved in across the hall. I was going through a phase in which I detested cute couples, and I’d never been a fan of neighbors. Part of why I’d moved to New York in the first place was to claim the voluptuous anonymity the city promised. My clan had never been big on boundaries and on top of that there’d always been Old Lady MacNamara. Hanging over the fence between our two houses, she’d spent her days passing judgment on my half-Jewish family’s goings-on as she smoked the cigarettes that eventually killed her.

I defined a good neighbor the same way I defined good weather: an entity that never made its presence known.

But T and G were different. The day they moved in, I was scrubbing my apartment with the doors and windows flung wide open, blasting the air with Aretha Franklin’s Soul 69 and hippie cleansers. They grinned at me over the boxes they were toting but made no idle chitchat. A few days later, T came by looking for a needle. While I fetched her one, she eyed the coathook precariously hanging from my wall. “I’m bad at boy things,” I told her. “And my boyfriend and I just broke up.”

She didn’t say anything, but returned a day later with a toolbox and reattached the hook. No processing first or “I’ll do it later, baby.” Just a girl with a drill. I began to grasp the advantage of good neighbors over mediocre boyfriends.

Slowly we all became friends. I dropped off copies of the lurid gossip magazine where I was working and leftovers from my Sunday dinners. They helped me hang all my pictures and brought over leftovers as well. All of us, it turned out, liked to cook, though T didn’t love meat as much as G and I did, and I tended to cook with more butter and salt than both of them put together. As the nights grew colder and longer, we’d sip wine and make meals together. Afterward, we’d watch The Wire, which they’d never seen and at whose altar I worshipped in an annual ritual of strict sequence and even stricter silence. (First rule of The Wire: You are not smarter than The Wire so you do not interrupt The Wire.) One night, as we noiselessly took in back-to-back episodes of Season 2 on their tweedy couch, I realized I’d come to love my neighbors. Continue Reading →

Lars von Trier’s Melancholia Is a Masterpiece

Lars von Trier is not a brother who provokes a neutral response. There are those who feel he can do no wrong, and then there are naysayers like me. Although I consider Dancer in the Dark one of the best movies of the last decade, I swore I’d never sit through another of his films after suffering through the school-play machinations of Dogville. A guy who so unilaterally criticizes America without ever having stepped foot on its soil deserves a similar boycott, I declared.

But now that he’s taken psychological projection to unprecedented proportions, he’s become downright fascinating.

Continue Reading →

Why Bridesmaids Just Ain’t Funny

Question: How many feminist girls does it take to light a lightbulb?
Answer: It’s women—and that’s not funny.

You get the picture. Feminists aren’t funny. Feminist cultural criticism is even less funny. God knows complaining about Bridesmaids, which opened last month to a round of fanfare, really isn’t funny. After all, the movie has made more than $100 million at the box office at this point. Many, many women—including ones whom I adore and admire—have sung its praises to the high heavens. Some have even gone so far as to suggest that attending this film is a political act: Use your box-office dollars to compel Hollywood to put more funny women front and center. So this New Deal Sally has tried to keep mum.

Except that Bridesmaids is a disaster on the women tip. Or, to be more specific: feminist tip.

I know, I know. That’s not funny.

But for long stretches, Bridesmaids isn’t either, despite all the bruja-ha it’s been reaping. In fact, in addition to being the least funny comedy over which producer Judd Apatow ever waved his Magic Wand (vibrator joke intended, always), it’s actually kind of offensive. At the very least, it’s wrongheaded. Continue Reading →

"All, everything I understand, I understand only because I love."
― Leo Tolstoy