Emily Dickinson Gets Turnt, in Defense of Renoir, and a History of the Hill Country’s Cedar Choppers
Have you seen the trailer for Apple’s new series on Emily Dickinson? If not, and if you have even the slightest interest in her work, don’t bother: “The brief trailer gives a very different perspective on Dickinson, who was traditionally portrayed as a shy recluse . . . Instead, Dickinson will be showing off the poet ‘getting turnt’ in a far more modern fashion, depicting Emily as a rebellious free spirit who disappoints her parents and apparently… joins a circus? . . . [B]ased on the music (‘I Like Tuh’ by Carnage feat. iLoveMakonnen) and the style of the trailer (a rock n roll lute-playing, devil-horn finger poses, and dubstep dance scenes), Smith is apparently adding some anachronistic modernizations in the spirit of recent historical dramadies like TNT’s Will or Yorgos Lanthimos’ The Favourite.” All artists take liberties in revisiting the past, filmmakers especially. What I find irksome about the trailer is that our interests today are apparently so superficial. The only thing we care about is sex.
In other news: Banksy’s Brexit mural has been painted over: “The side of a building that had borne a famous painting of a worker chipping away one of the golden stars from the European Union’s flag — symbolizing Britain’s impending exit from the bloc — was covered in white paint Monday. Scaffolding had been erected over the weekend at the building in the southern British port city of Dover.”
Roger Kimball defends Renoir: “Schjeldahl’s judgments about Renoir are a fastidiously composed congeries of up-to-the-minute elite opinion. There at The New Yorker, everyone will agree with Schjeldahl about Renoir or — the more important point — about subjugating him to the strictures prevalent among the beautiful people circa 2019. What made Schjeldahl’s essay notorious were not his particular judgments about Renoir’s art or character but rather his imperative anachronism. ‘An argument is often made that we shouldn’t judge the past by the values of the present,’ Schjeldahl writes, ‘but that’s a hard sell in a case as primordial as Renoir’s.’ Is it?”
A history of the Hill Country’s cedar choppers: “The clan that would come to be known as the cedar choppers first settled in Appalachia before moving west through the Ozarks, then into Central Texas following the Civil War. Hill Country farmers quickly depleted the region’s thin topsoil, and most of them moved on to greener pastures as shrubby juniper replaced native grasses along the disturbed rocky slopes. But the cedar choppers didn’t have much to begin with, so they hunkered down. For generations, they eked out a meager existence hunting, fishing, distilling moonshine, and cutting cedar, some of which they burned to make and sell as charcoal. As the cedar choppers further withdrew from society, they became ever more clannish. Folklorist Alan Lomax encountered cedar chopper families in the 1930s and recorded them singing traditional English ballads like ‘The Romish Lady’ and ‘Seven Long Years.’ They had their own manner of speaking, distinct from their fellow Texans, and lived by a code that prized freedom and personal honor. ‘There was a lot of murder going on,’ Roberts said during a recent interview, ‘but they wouldn’t steal.’”
Anne Midgette and Patrick Rucker discuss Ivo Pogorelich’s first album in over 20 years: “I can’t say that I was enraptured. But I thought, ‘It’s legitimate.’ One of the painful things about hearing some of these interpretations in general is that the urge to put your own stamp on music that’s been played 5,000 times almost necessarily leads you to be eccentric and excessive, because everything’s been done.”
Essay of the Day:
In Esquire, Stayton Bonner writes about the worldwide hunt for a $7 million car:
“Joe is a detective for hire who specializes in recovering stolen cars. But not your car. Joe doesn’t look for cars stolen from parking garages or shopping malls—everyday transportation whose value lies in the number of miles they carry us. Joe Ford specializes in recovering cars whose value lies in not being driven much at all: rare, collectible, fetishized cars that are worth hundreds of thousands of dollars, sometimes millions or tens of millions of dollars, prized not for their ability to get from here to there but rather for their beauty, the artistry of their design, the care with which they were built, and perhaps most of all, their provenance.
“‘I’m in a niche of a niche of a niche,’ he says. Joe, sixty-two, is more Magnum P.I. than Sam Spade—tall, trim, tan, usually wearing a fitted polo or a Hawaiian shirt. Drinks sweet tea by the gallon and speaks like the New Orleans native he is. (‘I grew up in east New Orleans, near the Ninth Wah-ard.’) Likes to swim and dive for lobsters and drive boats. He recently cruised on a sixty-five-footer down to Utila, ‘this coral-reef island off the coast of Honduras,’ he says. ‘It was incredible—diving with whale sharks and drinking with outlaws. One guy didn’t come back.’
“People end up doing all kinds of jobs in this life. You sometimes wonder if, given a few left turns and different choices, the guy playing center field at Yankee Stadium could have ended up a taxi driver instead. Or vice versa. But Joe . . . Joe Ford is what happens when a particular set of skills, personality traits, and turns of phrase lead a person into the only thing he should be doing. It’s rare. And when you see him at work—when you see him move easily among both the shady creatures of criminality and the millionaires on those yachts—you wonder whether you, like him, have found your place in the world.
“The FBI agent was calling about a new lead in Joe’s current case. It’s a big one, the kind that could set Joe up for a long time. Maybe help him get his own boat, his own rare sports car. Help his daughter be more comfortable as she copes with the disease that’s taking away her eyesight. Help him disappear into the sunset.
He’s been working this case for six years. ‘Everyone loves cars, but this is different,’ Joe says. ‘At this level, it’s about bragging rights for the rarest and the best. That’s what makes the Teardrop so coveted.’
“The Teardrop. Otherwise known as the 1938 Talbot-Lago T150C SS teardrop coupe, chassis number 90108, current value $7.6 million. Built by two men, names of Figoni and Falaschi—Italian immigrants to France who ran the world’s top custom-car shop in Paris from the thirties through the fifties—the T150 is a prime example of a model that the Robb Report once called ‘the most beautiful car in the world.’ One of only two models built with a race-car engine, it’s an art deco masterpiece, a long, sleek body powered by ground-shaking horsepower. The C stands for competition—it gets 140 bhp out of a 3,996cc six-cylinder engine—but the Teardrop was built as rolling art, a metallic blue car with a red leather interior and red wire wheels. It’s shaped like a teardrop, pure aerodynamics.”
Poem: A. F. Moritz, “Silence and Song”
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