1. “Introducing Caitlyn Jenner.” Vanity Fair’s 22-page cover story features stunning Annie Leibovitz photos of Caitlyn Jenner, formerly known as Bruce, along with revealing new details. Here’s a preview of the story.
“Speaking publicly for the first time since completing gender transition, Caitlyn Jenner compares her emotional two-day photo shoot with Annie Leibovitz for the July cover of Vanity Fair to winning the gold medal for the decathlon at the 1976 Olympics. She tells Pulitzer Prize–winning V.F. contributing editor and author of Friday Night Lights Buzz Bissinger, ’That was a good day, but the last couple of days were better….This shoot was about my life and who I am as a person. It’s not about the fanfare, it’s not about people cheering in the stadium, it’s not about going down the street and everybody giving you ’that a boy, Bruce,’ pat on the back, O.K. This is about your life.’ Jenner tells Bissinger about how she suffered a panic attack the day after undergoing 10-hour facial-feminization surgery on March 15—a procedure she believed would take 5 hours. (Bissinger reveals that Jenner has not had genital surgery.) She recalls thinking, ’What did I just do? What did I just do to myself?’ A counselor from the Los Angeles Gender Center came to the house so Jenner could talk to a professional, and assured her that such reactions were often induced by pain medication, and that second-guessing was human and temporary.”
2. “The Photographs that Helped Breathless Start a Revolution.” Richard Brody on Raymond Cauchetier’s photography and its influence on the Godard film.
“In the movie, the scene is one of stillness and silence; the shoot itself, as Cauchetier documents it, involved the cinematographer, Raoul Coutard, holding the camera and Godard standing nearby—amid a throng of about thirty onlookers, adults and children, who pressed close to the action, unrestrained by barriers or crew members. Breathless was made without crowd control or filming permits (in another image, a policeman approaches the fallen Belmondo unawares). The action was integrated into the texture of city life, which itself is a central element of the movie’s freewheeling romanticism. Another series of images reveals the making of the famous scene in which Seberg and Belmondo reunite and stroll along the Champs-Élysées. For that scene, Godard concealed Coutard in a closed pushcart in order to film the actors on location with no crowd control. (Cauchetier reports that pedestrians caught on quickly—Godard was calling out lines to the actors as he pushed the cart—and the sequence had to be wrapped in a hurry.)”
3. ”A Little Life: The Great Gay Novel Might Be Here.” Hanya Yanagihara’s novel is an astonishing and ambitious chronicle of queer life in America.
“To understand the novel’s exaggeration and its intense, claustrophobic focus on its characters’ inner lives requires recognizing how it engages with aesthetic modes long coded as queer: melodrama, sentimental fiction, grand opera. The book is scaled to the intensity of Jude’s inner life, and for long passages it forces the reader to experience a world that’s brutally warped by suffering. Again and again A Little Life conveys Jude’s sense of himself through elaborate metaphor: he is ’a scrap of bloodied, muddied cloth,’ ’a blank, faceless prairie under whose yellow surface earthworms and beetles wriggled,’ ’a scooped out husk.’ His memories are ’hyenas,’ his fear ’a flock of flapping bats,’ his self-hatred a ’beast.’ This language infects those closest to him, so that for Willem, learning about his childhood is ’plunging an arm into the snake- and centipede-squirming muck of Jude’s past.’ In its sometimes grueling descriptions of Jude’s self-harm and his perceptions of his own body, the book reminds readers of the long filiation between gay art and the freakish, the abnormal, the extreme—those aspects of queer culture we’ve been encouraged to forget in an era that’s increasingly embracing gay marriage and homonormativity.”
4. “Ken Russell’s Lisztomania.” Some words on the film by Glenn Kenny, as a contribution to the 2015 White Elephant Blogathon.
“Then you what? Russell seems to have not put a lot of really coherent thought into his screenplay, and the film plays out like a series of Russell-lized sketches from Liszt’s life, with half-hearted but ticcy pastiche largely ruling the day, as in a depiction of Liszt’s child-producing years that see Daltrey donning a Little Tramp uniform, complete with Chaplin mustache. While his sense of story construction, such as it is, abandons him, Russell’s musicological chops stay somewhat keen albeit increasingly deranged. Russell really, really, really doesn’t like Wagner. The fellow first turns up in a sailor’s cap with Nietzsche’s name circling its brim, arrogant but nevertheless flattered by Liszt’s attention and compliments. But he walks out of a Liszt recital after seeing Franz scatter some Wagner themes into his musical extrapolations only to constantly fall back on the teeny-bopper-fan-pleasing ’Chopsticks,’ Liszt’s big hit single. Wagner: The First Rockist, apparently.”
5. “Painting Saul Bellow.” Painter Sarah Yuster recalls the time the great author sat for her.
“Bellow led me through the house to where I assumed would be a favorite location. Each room had a desk, bookshelves, comfortable chairs and excellent natural lighting. He then asked me where I wanted to take the photographs. This wasn’t going to be simple. I rely on chance and intuition for reference. A sitter’s choices in self presentation are the cues in determining how they would like to be perceived. I then navigate the space between superficial likeness and essence, which lies primarily in their countenance and posture. Generally I’m commissioned because the client has faith in my technical skills and aesthetics. When doing my own work, be it a landscape, figures or a portrait, I have infinite elbow room and only myself to please. Painting Bellow was different. This wasn’t a commission. I didn’t need to figure out who he was. I was enormously privileged to have this opportunity and I couldn’t flatter or misrepresent him. I wanted his input.”
Video of the Day: Tony Zhou in praise of chairs:
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