The Economist‘s E.W. recently visited “Picturing Mary: Woman, Mother, Idea”, a new exhibition at the National Museum of Women in the Arts in Washington, DC. How depictions of Jesus’ mother changed over time:
Pre-Renaissance Mary is represented as queenly: ennobled, enthroned, surrounded by angels and engulfed in celestial light. In the late Middle Ages she becomes more approachable, appearing more often in the garb of an unassuming peasant. The humanist conception of Mary gained further traction in the Renaissance: she is less empress of heaven, more mother—sewing, nursing and playing with the infant Jesus. It is a representation that is crucial to the doctrine of Jesus’s “authentic humanity”:
The Internet recently was filled with reports that Pope Francis said “yes.” Alas, it turns out to have been a misunderstanding:
According to initial reports Francis had been comforting a small boy over the death of his dog, when he declared, “One day we will see our animals again in eternity of Christ. Paradise is open to all God’s creatures.” Even The New York Timesran the story on the front page.
This is the progressive Francis we all know and love: he’s willing to talk about the divorced and remarried receiving communion and he boldly extends “all dogs go to heaven” beyond its customary canine-exclusive borders.
Except Francis didn’t actually say this. As David Gibson revealed this week, it was a different Pope—Pope Paul VI, who died in 1978—who gave the young boy the soothing pep talk. That’s the Francis effect: he gets the credit for every nice thing a Pope has ever said.
Tracing how the story got started, David Gibson notes that Francis did give a talk in November in which he claimed that the Christian belief in the coming of a “new heaven” and a “new earth” would mean “the bringing of all things into the fullness of being.” And then it was off to the races:
Jerry Saltz celebrates John Waters as not only “one of America’s best moviemakers, [but] also an outstandingly original artist”:
No one gets the cross-section of showbiz and fandom like him. In giving us these extraordinarily particular individuals and distinct visages — both psychological and visual — Waters gets you to know in your bones that the more we are part of a vast crowd of people who idolize someone or something, the more alone and special we feel in our idolization. These are the tribal roots of his art — maybe of all art: the mad adoration and the giving-up of self in order to become more of one’s self. In the same way that Hamlet is so deep that each of us has our own understanding of Hamlet, Pink Flamingos is so specific, if demented, that each of us who reveled in it has our own version of Pink Flamingos. Waters also makes great, telling text-pieces, little index cards with “to-do lists” made up of scores of items, all written in and then crossed out in teeny writing in an orderly fashion. This is one busy, smart, anal-retentive, driven, deeply squirrelly artist.
Saltz goes on to say that he particularly loves that “Waters identifies as a dual citizen of Gotham and his home Baltimore”:
Now as at all times I can see in the mind’s eye,
In their stiff, painted clothes, the pale unsatisfied ones
Appear and disappear in the blue depth of the sky
With all their ancient faces like rain-beaten stones,
And all their helms of silver hovering side by side,
And all their eyes still fixed, hoping to find once more,
Being by Calvary’s turbulence unsatisfied,
The uncontrollable mystery on the bestial floor.
Laurence Maslon looks back to musical theater’s lurid past:
Coded references to risqué and sexual matters were catnip to the lyricists Lorenz Hart and Cole Porter. In the case of Pal Joey, Hart found a soulmate (and drinking buddy) in the book’s writer, the equally louche John O’Hara. Within the first 15 lines of the show, during which an aspiring nightclub singer is quizzed by a prospective manager, there are references to cocaine, alcohol, pederasty, and one-night stands. In this show, which Richard Rodgers wrote was the first musical “to deal with the facts of life,” the eponymous nightclub singer becomes the kept man of a wealthy socialite, while cheating on his more innocent girlfriend. The singer and the socialite rhapsodize about their affair in a song called “Den of Iniquity,” where they brag about the power of a radio broadcast of Tschaikovsky’s “1812 Overture” to heighten their sexual activity.
When Porter came to Kiss Me, Kate in 1948, the newer brand of musical, with its stricter narrative form, gave fewer opportunities for the naughty one-off numbers that made his reputation in the late 1920s, but with songs such as “Brush Up Your Shakespeare,” he gets away with murder (or “murther,” if you are Shakespearean purist): “When your baby is pleading for pleasure/Let her sample your Measure for Measure” and “If she says your behavior is heinous/Kick her right in theCoriolanus.” (Shockingly, this last couplet made it into the 1953 film version; someone was napping over at MGM.)
If Dan Savage gets to repeat his claim that women fantasize about rose petals, I’ll allow myself to reiterate my bafflement. From that recent interview:
PLAYBOY: What if someone asks what their partner wants and doesn’t like the answer?
SAVAGE: It happens all the time. Young women write me that they pressed and pressed their boyfriends to share their secret fantasies with them and then were terrified when they found out what those fantasies were—when it’s not “I want to fill the bed with rose petals and light a thousand tea candles in the bedroom.” That’s not a male fantasy. Girls tell me about Mr. Darcy from Pride and Prejudice and romantic comedies and all that bullshit. I always tell my female young-adult readers, “Careful. If you press him about his fantasy, you’re much likelier to hear ‘a three-way with you and your sister’ than ‘a trip to Paris.’ ” Male sexuality is crazy, perverse. Men are testosterone-pickled dick monsters. We just are.
Now, I don’t have access to the skewed but substantial data set that is Dan Savage’s inbox. I do, however, have access to a sum total of one female brain, as well as female friends, as well as the sitcom-tame but getting-somewhere take on female sexuality that is “The Mindy Project.”
I was checking out The Millions’ Year in Reading again this morning and came across the entry of one William Giraldi. Giraldi is a critic I’ve run into a few times before. He once wrote a weirdly angry review of two books by an acquaintance of mine. This got him pilloried all over the internet. It was really more of a reap-what-you-sow moment than an outrage moment. I think if you write something angry, you should probably be prepared for people to respond in kind.
What I am about to describe is not something angry he wrote though. It’s just something that made me stop short, before I’d even looked at the byline in my RSS feeder:
Imagine the irredeemably WASPish, cloistered Connecticut world of John Cheever if rendered by James Thurber, or John Updike’s suburban New England strivers and cheaters delivered by Oscar Wilde, or, better yet, imagine if you could make an alloy of H.L. Mencken’s irreligious perceptions and Dorothy Parker’s cagey sapience, and you might come close to beholding the vibrant abilities of Peter De Vries.
I’ve never read Peter De Vries. Let’s stipulate that he’s probably wonderful in all the ways described. I suspect, though, that this sentence would have benefited from about four fewer names included in it. The adjectives could have left too. I am no stranger to long, looping, complicated sentences, and in fact it annoys me that in my own work I have to use the shorter ones so often. The windup here simply goes on too long.
None of these are what bother me, though. What bothers me is this reference to Dorothy Parker’s “cagey sapience.” It’s so totally wrong it took my breath away. An insane overreaction, I know. This is the problem with writing a book about dead writers: you sometimes find yourself with highly developed opinions about other people’s tossed-off remarks about them.
So, caveat emptor, this is a nitpick. But I’m going to unpack it anyway in the interest of intellectualism and all that.
Photographer Shelley Calton grew up in Houston, Texas and was raised by a father who owned guns for both hunting and self-defense. She and her two sisters all learned to shoot firearms from a young age.
This background is something Calton shares with the subjects of her project “Concealed.” It’s a series of portraits that looks into the lives of women who arm themselves. Calton writes that, in doing this project from 2011 through 2014, she “sought to more deeply understand [the women’s] collective experiences as concealed carriers.”
Most of these women grew up with guns, Calton says, so they didn’t have an aversion to them. Some women had a traumatic incident in their past that lead them to always have a handgun nearby. One was briefly kidnapped. Others were sick of feeling vulnerable and threatened. Some carry now because their significant others wanted them to be able to protect themselves and their children if needed.
“Some carry on their bodies everywhere they go, some in their purses, and some just in their cars and homes,” says Calton. One woman carries her concealed piece in a small Coach purse, with the pistol taking up most of the space.