Daily Office: Tuesday



¶ Brooks: As sermons go, David Brooks’s column on the evils of encouraging consumer debt is tidily effective: it’s both frightening and obviously correct.

¶ Kakutani: One might well ask why Janet Maslin didn’t review David Sedaris’s new book for “Books of the Times.” Ms Maslin writes very creditably about crowd-pleasers; she knows that prospective readers are looking for a good time. Michiko Kakutani’s idea of a good time, however…


¶ Sex and the Lightbulbs: I still can’t believe it! Yesterday, in view of the extreme heat and a consequent overloading of the power grid, Con Ed called Yorkvillians to ask us to turn off our “energy-intensive” appliances — everything except the refrigerator. Well, this afternoon, they called back! To say that, whatever the problem was, they’d fixed it! This takes us to an entirely new level of civic cooperation — and at least three bunny hops away from Idiocracy. If I’d known about the call sooner, I’d have stayed home and cranked up the a/c — and I wouldn’t have gone to see Sex and the City. But I’m sure glad I did!


¶ Remains: Reading Cara Buckley’s story about the return of Native American remains from the American Museum of Natural History to the appropriate tribal area in British Columbia, it occurred to me (not for the first time) that, if I had to identify one collection from the omnium gatherum at the Metropolitan Museum of Art that does not, to my mind, belong there, it would be the immensely popular Egyptian art — most of which centers on human remains. Oremus…

Morning, cont’d

§ Brooks. What’s interesting is to see how much indebtedness is caused by noise. By noise, of course, I mean the Advertising, which is no long a seductive siren song so much as an incessant assault upon consciousness that numbs the mind into robotry.

Pascal attributed human woe to man’s inability to sit quietly in a room. At least in his day you had to leave the room to get into trouble.

§ Kakutani. How’s this:

The essays about Mr. Sedaris’s own life tend to leave the reader thinking he’s simply got too much spare time on his hands. He talks about doing crossword puzzles, making scarecrows out of record album covers to scare away birds banging into his windows, and finding ways to trap live flies so he can feed them to the spiders in his country house in France. Finding the perfect gift for his boyfriend, Hugh, takes time, and so does quitting smoking, especially since he’s rented an apartment in Tokyo to facilitate the process — or to give him something more to write about.

Happily for the Sedaris fan, there are a few gems in this volume, most notably “Crybaby,” an account of another airplane trip in which Mr. Sedaris encounters a grieving widower, watches a Chris Rock movie and is suddenly reminded of his own childhood 40 years ago; and “Adult Figures Charging Toward a Concrete Toadstool,” which recounts his parents’ efforts to become art collectors. These pieces not only stand out in an incredibly mediocre volume, but they also remind the reader of what Mr. Sedaris can do at his best.

I’ve read a few pieces from Mr Sedaris’s latest collection in The New Yorker, and always found them to be incredibly well-written.

Noon, cont’d

§ Lightbulbs. I went to the movies for the most old-fashioned of reasons: air conditioning. I hadn’t entirely done without at the apartment, but the small window unit in the blue room couldn’t pick up all of the slack from the building’s HVAC system, which was operating at a much higher thermostat setting. I shut everything off and went across the street to see the only half-decent movie that I hadn’t seen already, which was Sex and the City.

I have yet to read a good review of this movie. But last night at dinner, Ms NOLA complained quite bitterly about Anthony Lane’s severe dismissal in The New Yorker, which ends with the suggestion that the movie ought to be called The Lying, the Bitch, and the Wardrobe. Which is very witty but also completely unwarranted. There is no lying and there is precious little bitchery — even among the gay characters.

In fact, Sex and the City turns out to be a lovely fairy tale about the importance of forgiving the truly penitent. And also about not letting preconceived ideas get in the way of important ceremonies.  I’d never have seen it if it hadn’t been for Ms NOLA’s praise — as well as that of Édouard. And I wouldn’t have seen it today if I’d heard from Con Ed sooner.

Night, cont’d

§ Remains. If art of ancient Egyptians doesn’t interest me, it’s not because I don’t like their style. It’s that it’s funereal. 

There are people who say that we “euphemize” death, by hiding it away. Anyone dim enough to require reminding of his mortality, however, will only be titillated by the encounter with that of others’. It isn’t that death is terrible (although it is regrettable). It’s that what happens after death is sublimely meaningless for everyone not conventionally terms a survivor.