- A little dab of this and a little dab of that at the eye of the news shitstorm, a little droplet behind your chi — Rachel Monroe on the rise of the Essential Oils: “Oils are touted as something between a perfume and a potion, a substance that can keep you smelling nice while also providing physical and psychological benefits. They are often stocked on the same shelves as herbal remedies such as echinacea and St.-John’s-wort; big-box stores sell aromatherapy diffusers as an alternative to synthetic-smelling products like Febreze. The model Miranda Kerr used oils to help her get over her breakup with Orlando Bloom. The pop star Kesha tweeted that she starts off every day by sniffing essential oils: “They make me feel so peaceful.” Gwyneth Paltrow is a fan, unsurprisingly, but so are RuPaul, Alanis Morissette, and a trainer for the New York Knicks.”
- Snippets from Elizabeth Hardwick’s days at NYRB and at Columbia from Darryl Pinckney: “Elizabeth Hardwick wrote about what engaged her. Over the years, I would hear her say that she’d had to tell an editor she didn’t want to write about a certain book or author because she found she didn’t have anything interesting to say after all. […] it didn’t matter if she was writing for glossy publications with her eye on the word count, for a venerable quarterly with a thick spine, or for a newspaper book-review section not looking for controversy. Every assignment got Hardwick at full sail, all mind and style. Nothing is casual, she said. You are always up against the limits of yourself.”
- I have absolutely no idea whether Kazuo Ishiguro deserves the Nobel, but he is one of my favorite writers — he’s good, and you can find in any number of articles the array of things he’s good at; don’t ask me because I’m of those people who enjoyed Ishiguro’s The Unconsoled. But James Wood, who hated The Unconsoled, and who I also admire, is iffy about the whole business. Which puts me in a rather curious mood: Can it, dear god, be true that Wood is, or even worse, I am, wrong? Wood on the latest Swedish prize giveaway: “I hoped that the Albanian writer Ismail Kadare would win this year’s Nobel Prize in Literature—but, then, I hope that every year. Kazuo Ishiguro’s en-Nobelment is a surprise; I wonder how many readers had thought of him as a likely contender. […] [He has] supremely done [his] own kind of thing, calmly undeterred by literary fashion, the demands of the market, or the intermittent incomprehension of critics.”
- Perhaps the more Twittered author and critic disagreement today is one between Vanessa Grigoriadis and Michelle Goldberg, both of the Times. In the latest episode of the Longform Podcast, Grigoriadis, discusses her latest book, Blurred Lines: Rethinking Sex, Power, and Consent on Campus, Goldberg’s consequential review, the subsequent Twitter warfare. If you don’t want to listen to the whole thing, Jia Tolentino’s analysis of the contention is informative and concise.
- Bet twenty bucks this guy went to the game to leave it and to tweet about the leaving: “Vice President Mike Pence walked out of an N.F.L. game in his home state of Indiana on Sunday after nearly two dozen players on the visiting San Francisco 49ers knelt during the playing of the national anthem.”
- Speaking of gambling, what are the chances the Democratic Party will be properly up and running in time to win elections? The Times on the reformation of the Left: “It started as a scrappy grass-roots protest movement against President Trump, but now the so-called resistance is attracting six- and seven-figure checks from major liberal donors, posing an insurgent challenge to some of the left’s most venerable institutions — and the Democratic Party itself.“
It doesn’t look like it, but it is getting warmer and Spring is on its way. While we’re on this weather-transition that ultimately means mood-transition, it’s good to try to maintain a positive vibe — don’t stay cooped up inside just because there’s still bit of snow outside. And as you slowly fold away winter sweaters and take your coats to the dry cleaners, fold away moldy moods and thoughts that have grown over the winter. Here are a few things you should be up to in Toronto for a minor renaissance within and to herald in the Spring.
Cirque Éloize’s Cirkopolis
Dubbed the ‘sexier, hipper cousin’ of Cirque du Soleil, the Montreal-based contemporary circus troupe, Cirque Éloize, landed in Toronto earlier this month with its latest, Cirkopolis. The set and the mood of the production are reminiscent of the early classic Metropolis by Fritz Lang, and the 80’s cult classic, Terry Gilliam’s Brazil. In it, eleven acrobats and multidisciplinary artists perform with extraordinary finesse and beauty under the continually revolving factory-cityscape. With bursts of humor, Cirkopolis expands circus’s possibilities as a medium for anyone — like myself — whose definition of it is riddled with lion tamers and unicycles.
Spring is publishing season — new days, new books. But before you are swamped by a rush of reading options, take a minute to immerse yourself in the literary outside the pages. Pivot Reading Series is a monthly series featuring both emerging and established poets and prose writers. Join Gwen Benaway (poet, Ceremonies for the Dead), Ashley-Elizabeth Best (poet, Slow States of Collapse), Robert Chafe (playwright, The Colony of Unrequited Dreams), and Shari Kasman (writer, Everything Life Has to Offer) this March 22nd at the Steady Cafe on Bloor West. Can’t save that date? Then consider the Poetry NOW: 9th Annual Battle of the Bards at Harbourfront Centre’s Brigantine Room on the 29th where twenty poets battle for the 1st place. But fine, if you don’t feel like enjoying poetry in a crowd, consider shopping at the Toronto Reference Library’s giant, cheap, and good-for-the-community book sale: with prices that low, you can cozy up inside with print material for days.
Hirokazu Kore-eda’s After the Storm
Hirokazu Kore-eda’s After the Storm premiered at 2016 Canne Film Festival’s Un Certain Regard to critical acclaim. In After the Storm, Ryota (Hiroshi Abe), a divorced and less than self-actualized writer/detective attempts to close the distance with his estranged wife and son. A typhoon strikes and the family, including Ryota’s mother, are forced to spend a night together. With his meditative style, Kore-eda’s film dives deep into the ordinary to uncover undertows of familial relationships. Like the best of them, this family’s drama lies deep in their interactions. After the Storm opens at the TIFF Bell Lightbox this Friday and runs through March 23rd.
Stay in Touch
I know it’s hard enough to stay up to date with the daily goings on on the news. Every minute, it seems like, there’s some form of minor or major disaster looming. One way to keep yourself informed and in perspective is read long-form articles that offer in-depth analysis of whatever is going on in culture and politics. The New Yorker’s Andre Marantz’s ‘Is Trump Trolling the White House Press Corps?’ offers a good glimpse into the details of Trump’s war on the media and the intricacies of how we make, spread, and receive information in the age of social media, fake and “fake” news, and Seany Spciey. Kwame Anthony Appiah discusses what we talk about when we talk about ‘western civilization’ in the Guardian. In ‘Under the Skin of James Baldwin,’ Darryl Pinckney discusses Baldwin with the new documentary, I am Not Your Negro in mind. And lastly, in ‘The New Party of No,’ Charles Homans writes about the changing Democratic Party. Read a little bit at a time on your commute, or during lunch.