Category Archive 'Books'
21 May 2020

Reviewing With Good Taste

, ,


The late David Foster Wallace.

I’m going to have to start reading Dale Peck‘s novels. He has the good taste to recognize that Pynchon, DeLillo, and especially David Foster Wallace are not any good.

The US literary world can be divided into two camps: those who think Thomas Pynchon is a very clever guy, and those who also think he’s a great writer. As it happens, I’m of the former camp. While I admit that Pynchon’s writing is packed with all sorts of ideas, ultimately the novels strike me as more crudités than smorgasbord: the appetisers keep coming (and coming, and coming), but the main course never arrives. Pynchon’s hallmarks are his tentacular – I might almost say his amorphous – prose, which can and does snare just about any philosophical concept or pop cultural phenomenon in its grasp; and his sense of satire, which can be awfully funny if your taste runs to broad humour. Neither of these traits is necessarily ruinous, but it’s Pynchon’s particular conflation of them that can limit his appeal. Given a choice between pathos and bathos, Pynchon errs on the side of farcical melodrama again and again (and again), and while I admire him for his efforts to undermine traditional narrative tyranny with humour rather than resorting to a Barth-style hatchet job, all four of his novels offer the same one-dimensional commentary on contemporary US society, and, in the end, a thirty-year writing career hasn’t produced a single memorable or even recognisably human character.

Pynchon does have his admirers, and he also has his followers, or people who are labelled his followers, and they do keep cropping up. I think there’s more than a little Pynchon floating around John Kennedy Toole, whose A Confederacy of Dunces is a book nearly as bloated as its protagonist; Don DeLillo’s social, um, satires owe more than a little to Pynchon’s work; and in a recent essay in Harper’s magazine the young novelist Jonathan Franzen declares Pynchon a personal hero. David Foster Wallace moves beyond admiration to adulation – if not, to put it more plainly, outright imitation. It is, in fact, a virtuoso performance that has eclipsed its progenitor: Wallace out-Pynchons Pynchon, and his third book, Infinite Jest, may well be the first novel to out-Gravity’s Rainbow Gravity’s Rainbow.

If nothing else, the success of Infinite Jest is proof that the Great American Hype Machine can still work wonders, in terms of sales. The novel has moved some 60,000 copies and racked up a stack of glowing reviews as thick as it is. What makes the book’s success even more noteworthy is that it is, in a word, terrible. Other words I might use include bloated, boring, gratuitous, and – perhaps especially – uncontrolled. I would, in fact, go so far as to say that Infinite Jest is one of the very few novels for which the phrase ‘not worth the paper it’s written on’ has real meaning in at least an ecological sense; but to resort to such hyperbole would be to fall into the rut that characterises many reviews of this novel.

As the preceding paragraph should make clear, I found Infinite Jest immensely unsatisfactory. I resent the five weeks of my life I gave over to it; I resent every endlessly over-elaborated gag in the book, like the ten-page riff on why video telephones are unviable, or the dozen pages on the teenager who won all his tennis games by playing with a pistol held to his head, or the thousands and thousands and thousands of words devoted to pharmaceutical trivia on all sorts of mind-altering drugs; and I resent especially the 96 pages of tinily typed and deliberately pointless endnotes and ‘errata’, 388 in total, which make the novel a two-bookmark experience. In a hoped-for effort at balance, I also slogged my way through Wallace’s freshman effort, a novel called The Broom of the System, which, at 450 pages, is a relative lightweight next to Infinite Jest; nevertheless, what the novel saves in brevity is more than made up for in banality. The only thing even remotely interesting about Wallace’s first novel is that it reads like a study for his second. Both novels are set in an imagined United States; both revolve around an emotionally disturbed family full of geniuses, cripples and money; both feature a manmade wasteland which becomes central to the national imagination (in The Broom of the System it’s called the Great Ohio Desert, which is why the book is set in Ohio of all places; in Infinite Jest it’s called the Great Concavity); both, most importantly, work up an elaborate – and elaborately digressive – plot which deliberately ends as unsatisfactorily as possible.

RTWT

06 May 2020

British Lefties Policing Bookshelves

, , , , , ,

Britain always leads the way, even preceding California, in reaching new levels of left-wing tyranny.

Nobody in America knows who Michael Gove is. But, it should be suficient to explain that he is high-ranking Tory politician and cabinet member.

Gove is in the news currently because his wife, Sarah Vine, a prominent newspaper columnist, indiscreetly published a photo of one of their bookshelves on Twitter, and some of its contents provoked leftist accusation of thought-crime.

The Spectator commented:

People want to know why Michael Gove owns “racist” and “anti-Semitic” books’, reports the Independent’s website. By ‘people’ it actually means the time-rich Twitterati, who have discovered a new hobby: bookshelf policing. And the latest bookshelf to fail their purity test, to commit the sin of containing books these people disapprove of, is Gove’s.

Yes, not content with policing speech, tweets, jokes and even hairstyles (witness the screams of ‘cultural appropriation’ that greet any celeb who wears her hair in a way her race isn’t meant to), now the offence-taking mob is policing bookshelves. The Shelf Stasi, we might call them, peruse the tomes in people’s private book collections and bark ‘Verboten!’ if they spy something unacceptable.

Sarah Vine the Daily Mail columnist and Gove’s wife, posted a photo of one of their bookshelves on Twitter and almost instantly the literature cops were out in force. As the Independent puts it, people spotted ‘something sinister’. They always do. Everything’s sinister to people who live to take offence.

The sinister thing in this case was a book by David Irving, the historian and Holocaust denier. And a copy of The Bell Curve by Charles Murray and Richard J Herrnstein, which argues that intelligence is shaped by environmental factors and genetic inheritance. Oh, and Atlas Shrugged, by Ayn Rand, which, as the Independent balefully informs us, ‘praises individualism and defends capitalism’. Lock up Vine and Gove instantly!

The meltdown was epic. Owen Jones, who can never resist the thrill of censorious rage, pointed a judgemental finger. It is very iffy, he said, that a Cabinet member owns a book by ‘one of the most notorious Holocaust deniers on earth’. Hicham Yezza, a writer for the Guardian, went further. If this bookshelf had been on Through the Keyhole, he said, ‘I’d have guessed Anders Breivik’.

Right, so Michael Gove is being spoken about in the same breath as one of the worst mass murderers on the basis of his bookshelf. That is deranged. It isn’t Gove and Vine who have behaved badly (by merely owning books!) – it’s the frothing Twitterati with their borderline medieval insistence that certain books should be banned. Why don’t they draw up an Index Librorum Prohibitorum decreeing which books are ‘contrary to morality’ and should never be read, as the Vatican did in the 1500s?

RTWT

29 Apr 2020

A Fine Argument For Home Schooling

, , , ,

How can a remote place like Matanuska-Susitna, Alaska gain the attention of the rest of the world? Why, it need merely elect a school board and turn the bozos loose to make micromanaging curriculum decisions. NBC News.

An Alaska school board removed five famous — but allegedly “controversial” — books from district classrooms, inadvertently spurring renewed local interest in the excluded works.

“I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings” by Maya Angelou, “Catch-22” by Joseph Heller, “The Things They Carried” by Tim O’Brien, “The Great Gatsby” by F. Scott Fitzgerald, and “Invisible Man” by Ralph Ellison were all taken off an approved list of works that teachers in the Mat-Su Borough School District may use for instruction.

The school board voted 5-2 on Wednesday to yank those works out of teachers’ hands starting this fall. The removed books contained content that could potentially harm students, school board vice president Jim Hart told NBC News on Tuesday.

“If I were to read these in a corporate environment, in an office environment, I would be dragged into EO,” an equal opportunity complaint proceeding, Hart said. “The question is why this is acceptable in one environment and not another.”

“Caged Bird” was derided for “‘anti-white’ messaging,” “Gatsby” and “Things” are loaded with “sexual references,” “Invisible” has bad language and “Catch” contains violence, according to the school district.

Dianne K. Shibe, president of the Mat-Su Education Association teachers union, said parents and her members were stunned by the board action.

Even though the school board had listed an agenda item to discuss “controversial book descriptions,” Shibe said no one believed those works were under serious threat.

RTWT

29 Mar 2020

Used Books

,

“Second hand books are wild books, homeless books; they have come together in vast flocks of variegated feather, and have a charm which the domesticated volumes of the library lack.”

— Virginia Woolf

11 Dec 2019

Meeting Norman Maclean

, ,

Rebecca McCarthy, as teen-age girl, got to meet and talk with the great Norman Maclean, author of A River Runs Through It.

John and I were riding around Seeley Lake when we turned down the narrow driveway to Norman’s cabin. John made a habit of checking on the older summer people, and today was Norman’s day.

The cabin was on a knoll overlooking the water. There were tamaracks all around it. As we approached the door, I could hear someone inside humming. Before John could knock, Norman opened the door, smiling, inviting us in. He stepped into the kitchen, took the lid off a Crock-Pot, and stirred whatever he was cooking, releasing a delicious, meaty aroma. He herded us onto the screened porch, then disappeared, humming as he walked. A few minutes later, he returned with two tumblers half full of something brown, handed one to John and one to me, then went back inside for his glass. He sat down in a chair near me and began to talk.

“Rebecca, this is Scotch on the rocks. Before dinner, you can drink Scotch or bourbon, with ice or water or club soda. With a twist of lemon in the Scotch if you like. Or you can have a glass of sherry.
“A Tom Collins, a gin and tonic, those are drinks for you and your boyfriend after a game of tennis. Not before a meal. With food, you can have wine. And after a meal, you can have another glass of Scotch or bourbon. Or a sherry. Or a cordial, maybe brandy. That’s it, darling, those are your choices.”

I looked at the Scotch in my glass. I was 16, and I had never had a real drink. The Scotch smelled and tasted like lighter fluid, but I managed to swallow a little without choking. It went straight up my nose, setting my nasal passages on fire. Norman was complaining to John about some clear-cutting bastard who needed his testicles removed. From my brother’s response, I realized that the bastard was the ranger who lived next door to us, who I had thought was a nice man. I looked around the porch. There were two beds against one wall and a few chairs and tables. I drank some more Scotch and closed my eyes, then opened them and gulped down the rest of the drink.

“Rebecca, darling, I’ll get that,” Norman said as he took my glass away. He soon returned with more Scotch. I made it about halfway through the second drink before getting up and lying down on one of the beds.

RTWT

11 Dec 2019

A Different California

, , , , ,

Aris Janigian admiringly reviews a new book profiling two iconic figures from his own part of the Golden State.

DECEMBER 2, 2019

I WAS BORN AND RAISED a farmer’s son in Fresno and currently live here, working seasonally in the wine industry. But Los Angeles was home for most of my life, and whenever I learned that friends were heading to San Francisco, I’d suggest they take Highway 99 through the San Joaquin Valley instead of Interstate 5, which skirts the valley to the west. The 99 is a little longer route but so much more colorful (which isn’t necessarily to say “scenic”).

No one ever took me up on my suggestion, and they didn’t have to explain why not. After all, their impression of the middle of the state, de rigueur for Angelenos, is that gun-owning, pro-Trump types live there in dusty, beat-up towns with ugly names — Arvin, Alpaugh, Delano — that reek of cow dung. The valley’s fields are green but also monotonously endless, and none of its vineyards are rolling and soft on the eyes. Sure, it’s part of California, but not really “of it.” These scoffers know, in the abstract, that this is where the huge majority of Californians, and a good portion of the entire country, gets its food, but aren’t all those mega-farmers in the middle of the state also stealing precious water from salmon and smelts? The scoffers would much rather chat about their local farmers’ market, urban garden, or at least Whole Foods.

In fact, those mega-farmers are, for the most part, simply proprietors of small farms that, over a generation or two, have grown big. And, true, we’re talking about thousands of tons of tomatoes or almonds, and wells several hundred feet deep, and chemicals siphoned out of 250-gallon totes to keep mold and an array of devastating and exceedingly perseverant insects down; but if it weren’t for the sheer scale and efficiency of farming in the San Joaquin Valley, only the rich in this state could afford a melon or a peach.

Neither, for an office party, would we have the option of picking up a case of Charles Shaw wine — which is precisely where Frank Bergon’s storytelling begins in his new book, Two-Buck Chuck & The Marlboro Man. As it turns out, Fred Franzia, founder of said winery (a.k.a. “Two-Buck Chuck,”), went to school with Bergon in Madera, a city about 20 miles north of Fresno. Now, decades later, they’re at a coffee shop, it’s midmorning, and the writer is trying to tease out of the winemaker the explanation for his mind-boggling success.
Read the rest of this entry »

26 Oct 2019

Robert Johnson’s Grave

, , ,


Mt. Zion MB could make as fair a case as any. Conveniently, the church is located just off of Highway 7, so its memorial can winkingly quote Johnson’s “Me and the Devil Blues,” in which he sang, “You may bury my body / Down by the highway side.”

Atlas Obscura argues that the new biographer of Robert Johnson has solved the long-argued mystery of the Blues giant’s burial place.

For blues fans around the world, the name Robert Johnson has grown synonymous with mystery, even sorcery. Throughout his short life, he moved around between Mississippi, Arkansas, and Tennessee, and didn’t leave much of a trail. His entire body of recorded work consists of just 29 songs (plus 13 alternate takes), recorded during two sessions in Texas. Those songs, however, include some of the most canonical in all the blues—such as “Sweet Home Chicago,” “I Believe I’ll Dust My Broom,” and, of course, “Cross Road Blues.”

For more than half a century, fans and researchers have rhapsodized and hypothesized about Johnson’s itinerant lifestyle, untimely death, and iconic songbook. The mythology that swirls around this one man from Hazlehurst, Mississippi, has created its own “cottage industry” of publishing and tourism, says Bruce Conforth, coauthor with Gayle Dean Wardlow of the new biography Up Jumped the Devil: The Real Life of Robert Johnson. As Johnson’s life story seems more elusive, his place in blues history seems more secure.

The most famous myth surrounding Johnson concerns his alleged “deal with the Devil” at a Mississippi crossroads, where it’s said he traded his soul for guitar virtuosity. The Devil legend entered popular consciousness in the 1960s (long after Johnson died, in 1938), and is in many ways the wellspring of rock ‘n’ roll’s satanic motifs—from the Rolling Stones through Iron Maiden and beyond. The story’s obviously not true, but that’s hardly the point. The point is that the Devil is in rock music’s DNA, and the stories around Johnson helped put it there.

Steven Johnson, Robert’s grandson and vice president of the Robert Johnson Blues Foundation, says he first became aware of some of his grandfather’s mythology when he was a teenager. He found the stories neither scary nor particularly alluring, but he always felt, he says, that they were concealing or misleading, “that there was truth that hadn’t been told.”

Some decades later, a new yarn was spun—not about Johnson’s life, but his afterlife. No one seemed to know exactly where his mortal remains were buried, and the idea took hold that there were at least three possible gravesites. Though the actual mystery has been cleared up over the years, the myth rolls on. The New York Times boosted it in September 2019, the National Park Service still provides an outdated account, and the rumor continues to travel easily among tourists and blues pilgrims. It just seems to fit: Robert Johnson, that perfectly unknowable spirit of the blues, can’t find eternal rest.

Whatever Robert Johnson’s life lacked in actual magic, it certainly made up for in pure human drama. According to Up Jumped the Devil, Johnson died from poisoning. He was having an affair with Beatrice Davis, a married woman whose jealous husband, Ralph, dosed Johnson’s whiskey with naphthalin—likely without the intention to kill. (The drug was commonly used to subdue rowdy patrons at bars.) What Ralph didn’t know was that Johnson had recently been diagnosed with an ulcer, and the spiked drink proved too much for him in his weakened state. As with all things Johnson, it’s not so simple, since his death certificate names syphilis as the cause of death. Conforth and Wardlow think it’s likelier that the disease was listed to obscure the foul play.

That death certificate—discovered by Wardlow in 1968—states that Johnson was buried at “Zion Church” in Leflore County, Mississippi. But it provides no more information than that, and actually just raises more questions. Was it Mt. Zion Missionary Baptist Church in Morgan City, Mississippi? Little Zion Church in Greenwood? The other Mt. Zion Church, which is also in Greenwood? Leflore County is small, but there was a world of possibilities within it—any one of those places, or somewhere else entirely. For decades, the true gravesite was an open question, with scattered anecdotes in place of answers. All that anyone knew for sure was that Johnson was buried in an unmarked grave—just like most African Americans from his region and era.

RTWT

18 Oct 2019

Interview with Lee Child

, , ,

Crime Reads interviews Lee Child on sequels and ghost writer successors.

I knew it was serious when he offered to pour me a mug of black coffee. We wandered into the kitchen and he refilled the coffee machine.

‘For the first time, I’m actually worried.’

‘About?’

‘Sales, obviously. We’ve got the new Stieg and the new Franzen coming out at the same time. It’s going to be tough.’

Lee had written a very fair and balanced review of The Girl in the Spider’s Web (by David Lagercrantz)—the Stieg Larsson sequel—for the New York Times (and kindly sent me a preview). Thoughtful. Shrewd. Pros and cons. ‘I thought your review was very fair and balanced,’ I said.

‘What I really wanted to do was to kill it. Stomp on it. Like a cockroach. It’s competition. I had to grit my teeth not to trash it totally.’

I sort of wondered what he thought of Jonathan Franzen. His name came up from time to time but I realized I didn’t know what he thought of his writing as opposed to the myth and the hype. And I wasn’t about to find out either.

RTWT

I suspect Lee Child does not read Jonathan Franzen.

Blue Moon, the next Reacher novel comes out October 29th.

I read the Reacher books. They’re obviously not great art. I’d say they are not even really great thrillers. The plotting is often creaky. The conspiracies are not terribly plausible. And Reacher’s “I-want-to-wander-the-land-owning-nothing” shtick is absurd. But the fights are good, Reacher is a satisfying action hero, and they mostly satisfactorily entertain. I’m the kind of person who will read just about everything, and I find Lee Child’s books worth picking up.

Better Lee Child than that pretentious ass Franzen.

09 Sep 2019

Remembering Françoise Sagan, 1935-2004, I

, ,

Today is Françoise Sagan Day at Never Yet Melted.

In the New Yorker recently, on the basis of no particular occasion, Rachel Cusk remembered Françoise Sagan, the French teenage gamin who produced a short novel that meteorically became an international best-seller in the late 1950s.

The obituaries that followed Françoise Sagan’s death, in 2004, were full of the sense of… failure. She had become, we were told, a tragic figure: destitute, isolated, tainted by scandal and alcoholism. She had, of course, produced many books, but none as successful and hence as troubling to history as her first, which was published when she was just nineteen. In that book, “Bonjour Tristesse,” she described the hedonism and amorality of youth, the hedonism and amorality of well-heeled French intellectuals, the hedonism and amorality of postwar Europe on the cusp of the sixties. Not surprisingly, it was the hedonism and amorality of her life that interested the obituary writers. For there it was, her fetter, her fate: from this slender, misunderstood novel, and from its young heroine, Cécile, Françoise Sagan never escaped. “Bonjour Tristesse” concludes with a fatal car accident, and three years after its publication Sagan, whose love of dangerous driving forms part of the legend of her life, sustained severe head injuries when her Aston Martin crashed at high speed. The disappointment among the obituary writers that the author did not submit then and there to her fictional destiny was palpable.

The hedonism and amorality of “Bonjour Tristesse” is of a most artistically proper kind. Morality, and its absence, is the novel’s defining theme: in this sense, Sagan is far more of a classicist than others of her existentialist brethren, such as Sartre and Camus. Certainly, she concerns herself with the twentieth-century problem of personal reality, of the self and its interaction with behavioral norms, but in “Bonjour Tristesse” those norms are as much psychic as they are societal. Cécile, a motherless seventeen-year-old whose permissive, feckless father has provided the only yardstick for her personal conduct, offers Sagan a particularly naked example of the human sensibility taking shape. Cécile’s encounters with questions of right and wrong, and with the way those questions cut across her physical and emotional desires, constitute an interrogation of morality that is difficult to credit as the work of an eighteen-year-old author. What is the moral sense? Where does it come from? Is it intrinsic? If not, does that discredit morality itself? These are the questions that lie at the heart of Sagan’s brief and disturbing novel.

RTWT

I read “Bonjour Tristesse” when I was young and remember it with affection for delivering a glimpse, startling and alarming to straight-laced, petite bourgeois, provincial Americans like myself, into a far more glamorous and sophisticated upper class French world of hyper-refined sensibilities and sin.

The New Yorker’s unexpected blast from the past brought back such memories that I had to blog it, and when I went looking for a suitable image, I found both a long article (in French) on Sagan’s passion for automotive speed and her delightfully colorful Telegraph obituary, both of which demanded quotation. So the irresistible Françoise Sagan is getting three blog postings, not one.

What can I say? She was indubitably the sort of girl that Conrad’s Marlow would describe as “one of us.”

31 Aug 2019

“Books Do Furnish a Room”

, ,


Gwyneth Paltrow’s home library in Los Angeles curated by Thatcher Wine.

Ben Sixsmith, at the Spectator, is bemused by Town and Country reporting that Gwyneth Paltrow had her home library “curated” by a fellow named “Thatcher Wine.”

‘Books do furnish a room’ is the thesis Thatcher Wine has built his career around (yes, that is his name, not the special vintage of some kind of hideous Young Tory club.) Wine is Gwyneth Paltrow’s ‘book curator’, as an interview in Town & Country Magazine describes. …

    ‘…there was a delightful, if unexpected, realization. Book lovers remembered that books aren’t just for reading, they can also be beautiful objects in and of themselves.’

Well, sure. You don’t have to tell me about the romance of the musty old doorstopper and the well-thumbed paperback. But where does the curiously named Mr Wine come in? His ‘philosophy’, he claims:

    ‘…is that the books we keep on our shelves reflect who we are.’

What a weltanschauung. But what does this mean in practice? Well, for example, Mr Wine creates custom book jackets to ensure that books fit the décor of a room:

    ‘People have invested in how their home looks: They chose the cabinets, the carpets, the paint, and the window coverings. Why settle for books that a publisher designed?’

You know, I’ve been thinking that my dog might not suit my living room’s color scheme. Could I spray paint her a darker brown? Why settle for the dogs that nature designed.

Mr Wine is asked what books are fashionable currently. ‘The Stoic philosophers are having a moment now,’ he says. Great to hear that stoicism is having a moment. This year’s top trends: velvet capes, Billie Eilish and Zeno of Citium.

Wine is fascinating on the subject of the curation he has done for Ms Paltrow:

    ‘In the family room we integrated the books into her existing collection so that it felt very light, inviting, and easy to grab off the shelves. In the dining room, we stuck to a more rigid color palette of black, white, and gray since it was less of a space where one might hang out and read.’

———-

More:

Ok, give us the details: What is on Gwyneth’s bookshelf?

Gwyneth remodeled her L.A. home a few years ago and when she moved in she realized she needed about five or six hundred more books to complete the shelves. I looked at books she already owned, which focused on fashion, art, culture, photography, and architecture, as well as books that her kids liked. We expanded on those topics, and for the kids, we included a selection of classics that we thought they might like as they got older.

In the family room we integrated the books into her existing collection so that it felt very light, inviting, and easy to grab off the shelves. In the dining room, we stuck to a more rigid color palette of black, white, and gray since it was less of a space where one might hang out and read.

What are three things a person can do to curate their own home library?

First, think about what you are trying to accomplish. Is there a story you are trying to tell? A color palette you want to achieve? Then think about how that might work within the context of your home and available space. Second, acquire the books. Depending on how important the style and binding of the cover is to you, buy them intentionally either at your local bookstore or through online listings. Third, arrange your books in a way that makes you feel comfortable and looks inviting. It may take a few hours to get it just right.

Or you could just sort them by category and author, or leave them in large, disorderly piles everywhere the way I do.

29 Aug 2019

New Book on the Crisis at the Universities by Former Dean of Yale Law School

, , , ,

Power-line’s Steve Hayward has an important new book recommendation.

This week’s mail brought me Anthony Kronman’s new book, The Assault on American Excellence, which begins with a chronicle of the follies of Yale University, where Kronman teaches and once served as dean of Yale Law. … I got to meet Prof. Kronman at a terrific colloquium about Max Weber last year at UCLA, where he told me some about his new book, which arose out of his rising disgust with identity politics and what it is doing to higher education. In one sentence, it is bringing “higher education” quite low.

Kronman is significant because, like Columbia’s Mark Lilla, he considers himself to be a liberal/progressive in his general political views. As such, he represents perhaps a last gasp of an older liberalism what was generally liberal. And sure enough, like Mark Lilla, Kronman has drawn some early attacks for the book, such as this disgraceful review in the Washington Post by Wesleyan University president Michael Roth, who I thought might be part of the resistance to the nihilism of identity politics, but turns out instead now to be a fraud.

I suspect Kronman is going to get a frosty reception in the Yale faculty lounges and faculty meetings. But all hope is not lost. Last summer we reported on the campaign of journalist Jamie Kirchick to be elected as the Alumni Fellow to the board of the Yale Corporation, with the intentions of trying to argue at the board level about Yale’s moral and intellectual dereliction. To be a candidate in the board election requires a lot of Yale alumni signatures within a short window of time, and Kirchick’s drive fell short.

This year Nicholas Quinn Rosencranz, a Yale Law grad and currently professor of law at Georgetown, is running an insurgent campaign. (The Rosencranz family has been very generous to Yale over the years; there’s a building named for them.) See this statement of the Alumni for Excellence at Yale about the myriad reasons for his candidacy, but most important, if you are a Yale alum (undergraduate or graduate school), scroll to the bottom and click on the button to sign Nick’s petition to be put on the board ballot. He needs to get 4,266 alumni signatures by October 1, at which point a full-fledged campaign can begin to win the alumni vote.

27 Jul 2019

“Anna Delvey” Conned Members of the NY Community of Fashion Out of $275,000

, , , ,


Left: Rachel DeLoache Williams; right: “Anna Delvey,” really Anna Sorokin in Marrakech.

She posed as a German heiress planning to lease for her own foundation a Manhattan building for a visual-arts center dedicated to contemporary art, which would also house a lounge, bar, art galleries, studio space, restaurants, and a members-only club.

She met fashionable young New York professionals at chic restaurants and bars where, Ooops! her phone failed to work when trying to charge the check, and she hadn’t bothered carrying a credit card. So her new friends obliging picked up the tab this time.

She took the dazzled Rachel DeLoache Williams, who worked at Vanity Fair, on a little outing to a [£5,485 a night] villa she’d booked at Marrakech. But it did not work quite the way Rachel was expecting.

Stylist:

On the morning we were supposed to leave, she asked for my help booking the flights because there was a problem with her card. I didn’t think too much of it; this was just the way she was: disorganised. I’d seen her book things last minute so many times and I knew she would reimburse me.

From there, it was a trickle effect. At the airport, Anna ‘accidentally’ checked her wallet, which meant I had to pay for everyone’s dinner (she brought a photographer and her personal trainer, too). Her card still wasn’t working for the rest of the trip, so I began adding things to a tab (dinners, kaftans). I had presumed our villa was pre-paid, but at some point the hotel manager began asking to speak with Anna.
The penny drops

On the third day of the trip, I walked into our villa and the hotel managers were standing in the doorway. Anna was sitting with her phone on the table in front of her, like she was waiting for something. A call, apparently. One of the managers turned to me and asked if I had a credit card. They were firm. I looked to Anna and she said ‘use it for now’. My stomach sank. It would have felt weirdly ungrateful to show my annoyance, so I gave it to them. I was told the charge was only temporary – it wasn’t – and I left the next morning, a day before she did.

This is when everything started to unravel. Every day I asked her for the money back and every day she promised it would arrive. I thought she was just doing a characteristically bad job of following through with logistical things. It was $62,000 [about £48,800] in total.

This went on for an excruciatingly long time – two months – and my life started falling apart. I was having panic attacks constantly, not sleeping. It took me a strikingly long time to even ask myself the question: what if she never pays you back? Because that would mean I’d have to look at how that would impact my life, and I knew if I did that, I would’ve lost it. I already wasn’t saving any money – New York is expensive, and I was barely breaking even – so to be set back 60-something thousand dollars? It felt like, ‘I am never going to get out of this hole. This is where it ends for me. I’m not going to get to buy a house, I’m not going to get to be a real adult, I’m never going to have kids.’

——————-

More book excerpts at Crime Reads.

But, cheer up, Rachel wrote up the story of her misfortunes as a book, My Friend Anna: The True Story of a Fake Heiress, and she will probably come out ahead in the end.

Your are browsing
the Archives of Never Yet Melted in the 'Books' Category.








Feeds
Entries (RSS)
Comments (RSS)
Feed Shark