Friday, August 27, 2010
In the early 80s during beach weeks at Virginia Beach--second week of June, as I remember, the first week Richmond private schools were out for the summer--we'd rent hovels a block or two off the beach and ask a young, "cool" teacher to be our chaperones, thereby convincing our parents that all activities that took place while we high schoolers were away would be those approved by these erstwhile adults. It never worked out that way, of course. Impossible for me to imagine anyone allowing their kids to do that today, thought I suppose it still happens.
I was reminded of the beach weeks of my youth when I was digging out a butt-pit for my towel, something that is evocative of those distant, clueless times. After sleepless nights we'd trundle out to the beach, dive in, ride a few waves, and spend the next hours sleeping. Someone figured out it was a lot more comfortable to dig a body-shaped hole into the beach. They were right. Thank you, whoever that might have been.
If the below photo was instead a video you would see young MRC twitching, deep in rem.
TMC, also asleep.
Monday, August 23, 2010
While browsing in Bookhampton in Southampton last week I noted that an elderly gentleman standing to my right wore a tailored sportcoat made of what appeared to be a gossamer-thin white linen half-lined in seersucker. The buttons on his sleeve, four of them, were functional and not decorative. A great swoop of white hair rose up from a high-forehead; he wore white trousers, white canvas deck shoes (they looked more like Keds than Sperrys) and, incongruously, a cummerbund. The latter was the tipoff: Of course this was none other than my fellow Richmonder Tom Wolfe.
I admit to freezing up and not approaching the man even though we'd have had plenty to talk about. My father, as a youngish lawyer in Richmond, wrote up the elder Mrs Wolfe's will, with young Tom's assistance; later in high school I painted a family friend's house and one day a large envelope tumbled in through the slot bearing a calligraphic pen and ink greeting done up in rococo flourishes that I recognized immediately from our family's copy of Wolfe's In Our Time, a book I loved as a youth and still love now. I knew the family still kept up with Wolfe--I think the mister was a classmate of Wolfe's in high school--and I admit now to being fascinated then by my sudden proximity to greatness, to fame.
I waited excitedly for the installments of Bonfire in Rolling Stone and the first book on tape I ever heard was John Lithgow reading the rather different version of the novel that appeared later in the 80s.
In fact I've always been fascinated by Wolfe's position in the literary cosmos even as I don't always agree with him. I took his side in the great Three Stooges debate less because I disliked Mailer, Irving or Updike and more because I liked the theater; I liked believing that the opinions of writers, even if they were beating one another up, could still garner attention in the broader forum. Who would those writers be today? Franzen vs. Lethem vs....Whom? Eggers?
Katie Roiphe tried but this one didn't last long.
There's an impish quality to Wolfe that mostly goes unnoticed, a mischievous subversiveness that poked holes in Irving's and Updike's pretentious broadsides, and I believed that Wolfe was in on the joke while the others were taking their roles as literary lions too seriously. He knew it was theater. He was trying to reconnect the act of writing fiction with a broader populace that exists somewhere north of WWF and Snooki and well south of the wealthy, neurotic and solipsistic characters that inhabit much of Irving's fiction.
Here is an interesting interview with Charlie Rose.
I regret not saying something to him now and maybe being invited over for a drink. I regret not saying something to Jennet Conant on the street the following day even though I was enjoying her book The Irregulars. I regret that we're not still there, on vacation, able to watch James Salter read in East Hampton this weekend.
Saturday, August 21, 2010
A quickie. Been a long time, so long I'd assume anyone who had any interest in reading this so many years ago have moved on.
Last Spring I took a deep breath and bought not one but two pair of Quoddy shoes from O'Connells in Buffalo. I bought the 3 eyelet boat moc and the boat loafer. For those not in the know, these are handmade in Maine and far pricier than your average Topsider.
Both have been returned and exchanged due to workmanship issues. Above is a photo of the loafer. See where the stitching is separating between the strap and the upper?
Bummed, I am.
Worse, this will be the second pair of Quoddys I've exchanged this summer: my first pair, the 3 eyelet boat moc, were sent back due to the extreme pull-up of the Horween chromexcel. One shoe looked brand new, the other five years old. This was less a problem with Quoddy's workmanship and more an issue of sourcing from Horween, and I didn't really hold it against Quoddy. They are, by all accounts, a standup firm, and who among us doesn't love Made in USA? Who among us won't pay a few frogskins extra for quality?
Who among us doesn't have a ten year old pair of LLBean mocs made in El Salvador that we paid 40 bucks for that are still in perfect condition? Well, I do anyway...
Ethan at O'Connells exchanged the first pair without questions. I'm fully expecting him to do the same with the loafers.