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Caftan Summer

I’ve been reading Eve Babitz yet again. I first read her at age 10, when I found a copy of Slow Days Fast Company at a yard sale and devoured it though I understood a quarter of the references. (Poppers? ménage à trois? It all made me so very hungry.) Sometimes it seems as if I’ve been reading Babitz’s books nonstop ever since. Her well-read, half-bred, doggedly unwed sensuality seeps into my pores, or maybe just finds its natural home in me. Anyway, today I finished an assignment early, so I poured a glass of wine and sat down with Slow Days,  which has been on my brain ever since I got back from the desert. The book fell open to this passage, which resonates on a level it never did when I was a willowy (anorectic) younger lady. Do know this is my Caftan Summer, in which I’ll only wear what flows and flows. So here’s Eve:

The truth is that when you’re as voluptuous and un-hair-sprayed as I am, you have to cover yourself in un-ironed muumuus to walk to the corner and mail a letter. Men take one look and start to calculate where the closest bed would be. This all happens in spite of my many serious flaws and imperfections, in spite of my being much too fat and everyone else being just right. The reason for this is because my skin is so healthy it radiates is own kind of moral laws; people simply cannot resist being attracted to what looks like pure health. Whoever is in charge of everything doesn’t want the survival of the fittest to come about just from wars and famine; whoever’s in charge also fixed it so people just naturally opt for health.

The Happy Unhappy Ending

I adore this Emily Nussbaum take on Sex and the City, which, for all its micro-aggressive flaws, offered a realpolitik, pagan-spangled take on turn-of-the-millennium Manhattan and heterosexual, (white)lady congress. The final paragraph had me nodding like a banshee while also recommencing my book: “What would the show look like without that finale? What if it were the story of a woman who lost herself in her thirties, who was changed by a poisonous, powerful love affair, and who emerged, finally, surrounded by her friends?” Note to self: Living out most women’s worst fears brought out your best self. Tell your story, ladybird.

Georgia O’Keeffe on Our Mind

Though the painter Georgia O’Keeffe has been dead for thirty years, she is remembered best as an old woman clad in billowing robes and squinting against a Southwestern sky. This is more unusual than you might think, for once most people die, their oldest self is not what lingers in our memory. Instead, a younger iteration is restored to our consciousness, a la Audrey Hepburn in “Breakfast at Tiffany’s” or “Thriller”-era Michael Jackson. Just the fact that it’s not preposterous to compare O’Keeffe to these two pop touchstones says a lot about the iconic status she actively cultivated in her later years. This spring, a Brooklyn Museum of Art exhibit, Georgia O’Keeffe: Living Modern examines how she subverted conventional tropes of gender, age, and beauty with a dry eye still very much admired today – and how she served as both art and artist long before such a conflation of roles was common.

Curated by Stanford art historian Wanda M. Corn, the show (which later will travel to the Reynolda House Museum of American Art in Winston-Salem, North Carolina, and the Peabody Essex Museum in Salem, Massachusetts) includes dozens of O’Keeffe paintings and a few of her sculptures, as well as key elements of the artist’s wardrobe, much of which she made herself. (Her boast of being a “wonderful seamstress” in her autobiography is not wrong, if characteristically immodest.) The show also includes nearly a hundred photographs of O’Keeffe by such twentieth-century heavy-hitters as husband Alfred Stieglitz, and Ansel Adams, Cecil Beaton, Andy Warhol, Bruce Weber, and Irving Penn. Continue Reading →

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