Peter Kaplan, the steward of a generation of snappy upstart journalists, has died of cancer. A fixture in New York’s increasingly fluid media world, Kaplan was a rare gem—at the helm of the New York Observer he brought together a cabal of young journalists and editors who went on to do great, weird things all over the field. With the news of his death, the Observer republished Kaplan’s obituary for his mentor, the great Clay Felker, founding editor of New York Magazine, to give us a sense of the man behind the man behind the myth.
As the temperature dips, I find myself thinking mostly about bodies and heat. Something about snow makes me crave spice, and I’m not the only one, not by a long shot. Even here at Hazlitt there’s a renewed interest in getting under the covers—you’ve already listened to the latest (sexiest?) episode of The Arcade podcast, right?
Though I’ll never have the opportunity to feature Mordecai Richler in a Shelf Esteem column, this note on his cottage library—all 5,000 books which were recently acquired by Concordia—comes pretty close. The Richler reading room will not feature a lending library. Fitting, given how the man himself said, “Don’t lend books—you’ll never see them again.”
Perhaps I’m no better than Will Ferrell, because for the past few weeks it seems the first part of this column has been given over to Rob Ford. It’s not because I’m promoting anything, or because I...
I can't bring myself to type Rob Ford’s remarks from this morning, and unlike @HulkMayor, I am only now getting to the stage where I deal with my shame and anger and embarrassment with glib links. No caps lock yet, instead I'll just leave this probably NSFW, unless you have headphones on, song right here. It occurs to me that Mayor Ford himself is pretty NSFW.
After today, the flowers will be gone for another year. At 11 this morning, did you think about Vimy Ridge, or Kandahar? Next year, Canada will be a country at peace, but for now we are remembering everything we’ve broken and all we’ve burned. Doug Saunders makes the eloquent point that you should consider our government’s current track record with new vets, including cutting back their pensions. Today at 11, I thought of the people I know who serve in the armed forces, with a near-anguished sense of complicated gratitude in my heart.
Okay, so, the Mayor of Toronto. So many layers to this story. There’s Robyn Doolittle, author of the forthcoming Crazy Town, recounting the beginning of the crack-scandal in the Toronto Star. There’s this sanctimonious Freddie De Boer piece in Jacobin about Gawker’s addiction to this story. (Gawker isn’t really my cup of tea, and Jacobin’s hardly my jug of cat piss either—but that’s the thing with this story, it’s taking us all to places we’d rather not be.)
Only 35 pages of the original manuscript of Charles Darwin’s seminal philosophical text, The Origin of the Species, are said to exist in the world. The book burst scientific conventions wide open and gave the human race, for the very first time, an inkling of our distant, animal beginnings. But the pages of the manuscript may only have been preserved by Darwin and his cousin/wife Emma Darwin by virtue of the fact that the book’s original illustrations were provided by their children.
Today in animal news worth knowing: a man was caught smuggling 25 parrot eggs in his underpants as he tried to breeze through Swiss customs. Meanwhile, some marsupials are so horny they literally are dying for sex. And Iringa, Thika, and Toka, the elderly elephants formally of the Toronto Zoo, begin their long journey to a pachyderm retirement home in California today. While all involved agree that the trio require a warmer, more peaceful environment than Toronto can give them, the move is not without controversy; the elephants’ former caretakers are worried about how they’ll fare on the drive, and their campaign to have Iringa, Thika, and Toka flown to their new home was rejected by city council as too expensive. Hazlitt contributor Nick Hune-Brown wrote a lovely feature about the elephants before their fate was decided, if you have the inclination to learn more about the creatures as they face this big change.
If you were anywhere on the Internet this morning, you heard that Alice Munro won the Nobel Prize for Literature. She’s technically not the first Canadian to do so: Montreal-born Saul Bellow was in, in 1976, though he spent his entire writing life living in the States. Munro is however, the first person to win the prize with a Canadian home address.
What did the most common language on Earth sound like 5,000 years ago? Proto-Indo-European, PIE as it’s most commonly and deliciously called, is an ancestor of Farsi, Swedish, and English, but it sounds just like full-mouthed gibberish to me. Damn these modern ears.
Autumn is the time when the end begins again, and because I love a good ending, it’s one of my very favourites. Books, fashion and television all come rushing back into the foreground after a season of the simpler pleasure of just being outdoors. We’re back, baby. Decorative gourds, pumpkin spiced bullshit, the whole shebang.
We know about Too Soon, but how much time does it take for an idea, essay, or joke, to be Too Late? I can’t keep track of how tight the cycle is nowadays. Has the buzz been drained, in only a week, from Jonathan Franzen’s longwinded rambling? Either way, I’m urging you to make time for Lydia Kiesling’s short little meditation on Twitter and Franzen, because it is, one, excellent, and two, the most thoughtful piece I’ve read about the experience of using Twitter as a writer in the past year at least, if not ever.
First of all, Russell Brand. In the Guardian, he pokes a certain red carpet full of holes. Brand was asked to leave the British GQ Men of the Year Awards—wait, isn’t that whole magazine already some kind of bound and printed award ceremony?—after reminding everyone that Hugo Boss once supplied the Nazis with their uniforms. It’s hard not to admire the put-upon celebrity who’s got enough cheek and charisma to remind us of how totally naked the emperor is, from time to time.
This headline in the Guardian is technically inaccurate, but not exactly misleading: “I was swallowed by a hippo.”
Some trivia to fit this weekend’s theme: The word “mother” is an ultraconserved one, meaning it is about 15,000 years old. Speaking of Mum’s day, here is a lovely photo gallery of grandmothers around the world, and the meals they’ve made for their grandkids.
So I suppose this is where I should come clean and admit that while I enjoyed reading both The Great Gatsby and The Sun Also Rises, I’ve also long thought that Fitzgerald and Hemingway take up a much bigger space in the canon than the actual literary merit of those two books should permit. I might not go quite so far as to call either of those American modernist novels “a sort of aesthetic Ponzi scheme,” as Jared Bland wrote in the Globe and Mail about The Great Gatsby earlier this week. The movie, however, looks like it will be a spectacular celebration of the empty glamour Bland finds in the novel. I mean, did you see those Tiffany tie-in jewels?
“DON’T: Tweet zero times a day. Because then you’re no better than the animals!”
“I sat in a suite at the Savoy hotel, in privilege, resenting the woeful ratbag I once was who, for all his problems, had drugs.” This one’s from earlier this year, but I only happened on Russell Brand describing the pains and joys of sobrietyafter years of addiction this week. Hat tip to Hazlitt’s own Jowita Bydlowska, who knows a thing or two about all this herself.
At home with Claire Messud and James Wood, and their dachshund Myshkin, who for some reason didn’t make into the lead photo for this intimate profile of the “First Couple of American Fiction.”
Kim Gordon prefers to listen to rap music when she’s feeling traumatized, as she (and possibly all of Generation X) did when her marriage to Thurston Moore broke down. Also, she’s still totally rad. Even eternal rebel girl Kathleen Hanna thinks Gordon is the queen of the neighbourhood: “Fucking Kim Gordon thought I was on the right track, haters be damned. It made the bullshit easier to take, knowing she was in my corner.” Speaking of Bikini Kill, I wonder if anyone’ll be keeping track of all the explicitly feminist ponytails being worn by the audiences for The Punk Singerat Toronto’s Hot Docs festival. (Documentaries, by the way, are very much a thing right now.)
The young people are making new words slash old words do new things, and it’s cool. Language, man!