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Showing posts from February 21, 2016

puzzling as an art form

There’s a story Dorothy Parker told about herself in an interview in the Paris Review. It concerns one of her first jobs, working as a theater critic at Vanity Fair, with Robert Benchley: “Both Mr. Benchley and I subscribed to two undertaking magazines: The Casket and Sunnyside. Steel yourself: Sunnyside had a joke column called “From Grave to Gay.” I cut a picture out of one of them, in color, of how and where to inject embalming fluid, and had it hung over my desk until Mr. Crowninshield asked me if I could possibly take it down. Mr. Crowninshield was a lovely man, but puzzled.” The two parts of this anecdote are perfect. The first part, of course, comes from the undertaking magazine. The picture of the corpse showing how and where to take embalming fluid could be the icon of modernism – it was the patient etherized upon a table taken to the next degree. It replaced piety with a cold and probing curiosity; it looked at our ends, and subtracted the transcendental purpose. The s