Some Assembly Required: Parlor Games and Their Uses

If all that's solid melted into air under conditions of capitalism, parlor games and similar practices acted as so many bladders to capture this sublimated social stuff that was formerly so reliably substantial.
It often happens that, by accident of consanguinity or some other connection, people who don't get along must spend a few after-dinner hours together. This happens mostly at holidays. Once the jellied cranberry and candied yams have been dispatched, these ill-sorted fellows, having swallowed their antipathies like so many antacids, sit in uneasy silence. Feeling it at once too early and too late to leave, they devise ways to beguile those hours. Most times the choice can be as stark as watching  TV or sitting in silence, nursing drinks. The first option is usually exercised, if only so as to avoid the second. Three hours slathered in surround-sound bombast works its magic; guests and hosts are ready to head home or to bed. The next day, the gathering is judged by all involved to have been a success. Reach far… Read More...

The luncheon was not altogether a success….

"She ate noisily, greedily, a little like a wild beast in a menagerie...."
"She ate noisily, greedily, a little like a wild beast in a menagerie, and after she had finished each course rubbed the plate with pieces of bread till it was white and shining, as if she did not wish to lose a single drop of gravy. They had Camembert cheese, and it disgusted Philip to see that she ate rind and all of the portion that was given her. She could not have eaten more ravenously if she were starving." --W. Somerset Maugham, Of Human Bondage (1915) Read More...

PliéRelevé … Heel!

All the world's a stage, and all the men and women merely critters--at least as far as Mrs. Midnight's Animal Comedians were concerned.
All the world's a stage, and all the men and women merely critters--at least as far as Mrs. Midnight's Animal Comedians were concerned. The rage during the 1753 London season, this troupe plied its trade in a small, elaborately decorated theater named the Castle Tavern. The show starred poet Christopher Smart, who appeared in drag as Mrs. Midnight and orchestrated the splendid entertainments his trained dogs and monkeys performed in period dress and powdered periwigs.  (more…) Read More...

Starting out in the Evening

A newly revised Starting Out is in order. But what would such a thing look like? Under my editorship it would be present- rather than future-oriented, and it would exult an ethic of making do. Entire chapters would be devoted to advice on living, if not stylishly, then passably while servicing debt. It would be
The Betty Crocker company’s book, Starting Out: How to Get the Most Out of Your Home, Furnishings, Food, Money (1975) begins, as so many books of this sort do, by inviting young couples reading it to daydream about their first home. Will they nab hip urban digs complete with picture windows and ficus-ready terrace? Perhaps there awaits a handsome townhouse with private patio for outdoor entertaining. If they heed Aunt Betty’s advice, which covers everything from “taking care of your refrigerator” to the “vital do’s and don’ts of credit,” these young lovebirds will no doubt put themselves in a position to make their dreams a reality. I picked up a copy of Starting Out at a poky little thrift store eking out its catchpenny existence in some postindustrial armpit I found myself in one weekend. I enjoy such books and have… Read More...