In Defense of Misery

How shall we conduct our lives with one another: to marry or not; whether to reproduce; to be monogamous, polygamous, or some combination of both; to act out fantasy with its compelling promise of permanent exhilaration or to sublimate all for stability—neither result guaranteed? We make our beds and lie in them tossing, sometimes exchanging them for others—leaving behind, in most cases, a great pile of dirty linen.

An American Tragedy

For me and for others of my generation born in the early Thirties, the Lindbergh name sounded not heroic notes, but a dark tone. In the years preceding World War II, there were those frightening words which I did not quite understand but which were all of a piece: Lindbergh, …

Kids, Pull Up Your Socks!

Since television his largely superseded books as children’s entertainment, it is reasonable to question what function children’s literature now has—or at least what function is intended. I am speaking of those books for children meant to have a beneficent effect on their readers, apart from the pulp aimed at the …

The You and Me that Used to Be

When you are young, pop music is everywhere—has been everywhere for the young since the advent of the radio and the car. Promising promises to the early adolescent and recalling past frissons to those old enough for nostalgia, such music creates its own calendar, memory bank, and even an identity …

Little Private Lives

Children’s book people are always fussing that they and their product are not taken seriously enough. They should instead recognize their good luck and be still lest the bad fairy hear them and grant their wish. Since the number of good books for children published in any given year would …

Unbuckled

Through most of the Sixties, there had been something in the air about Mr. William Buckley that had the tone of tinkling bells, of games played in a courtyard, of mime shows and chivalric songs. We never quite believed in him; knew that his performances, so artfully arranged for our …

The Boys

Stick with your friends and let something come out of that. —Mike Nichols It is not always easy for us, living among them, to imagine that we walk with legendary men. Still, the legends grow; tales of the new New York wits, the “new journalists” who, following the axiom …

Notes from Above Ground

We are always surprised by the banality of the perverse, by the limitations the body places on sexual activity, by the commonplaces of the erotic imagination. A subject so intensely charged ought, it would seem, to come up with more when it erupts in public view. The paraphernalia of fetishism …

Wild Raspberries

We are not all movie lovers, those of us who as children in the war-time Forties spent our Saturday afternoons in movie houses. We went because there was nothing else to do, because everyone went, and because it was dark, dirty, and liberating inside. We were a wild audience, hardly …

The Curse

“One does not like to be told that one is naturally the inferior of a little man…who breathes hard, wears a ready-made tie, and has not shaved this fortnight.” —Virginia Woolf, A Room of One’s Own It is not good luck to be born a woman. Given the choice …

Notes from a Plague Year

Beginnings are always the best of times. Looking back now at the past eight years one realizes that what sometimes appeared to be apocalyptic vision was, in fact, an extraordinary optimism, an uncommon belief in the possibility of radical enlightened change—if not immediately in our institutions, then certainly in the …

Dr. Pop

Sometime during the early Sixties, trivia caught up with us all. Until then, informed awareness of the trifling or the grossly popular had been the mark of the young, hip anti-academics who, having been nurtured on comic books, soap operas, bad movies, and Orphan Annie code rings as well as …

Dumb Show

There is little point in insisting that each book one examines reflects the Zeitgeist. The temptation, nevertheless, is there—especially in the case of so minimal a subject as Twiggy and Justin, an account of their visit to New York in the spring of 1967. Twiggy, you will recall, is a …

Growing Up Androgynous

Vidal said, “Let them be there!” And they were there. Tens of thousands of copies of Myra Breckinridge on bookstore tables across America. No free reviewer’s copies. No advance publicity. Just Gore Vidal’s underground novel selling and selling and selling. To my mother. To the movies. To me. Selling with …