I take the work of finding five things to appreciate seriously. Especially now that I do not have a permanent #5. In order for the exercise to do any good, the items have to be real and bring some actual meaning to me, otherwise, this becomes a shabby chore.
But this week I’m full of hope. I have been looking forward to having my friend Meg Wolitzer on this podcast. The author of about 11 novels for adults, she has evolved over the years as an assured, confident storyteller. In books like The Position, The Wife, The Ten Year Nap, The Uncoupling, The Interestings, and The Female Persuasion, we see the zeitgeist, textures, and conflicts of the America we know right now. The Female Persuasion will be released in paperback in May.
Florist Lewis Miller’s way of sprucing up NYC.
1) Floral Community Service. I have not had the pleasure of seeing one of these en plain air displays in person, but I am totally taken with them. Lewis Miller of Lewis Miller Design takes leftover flowers, and repurposes them to beautify the streets and neglected corners of New York. What a cool and generous thing to do!
2) I saw a play I’ll remember for a long time — “The Lehman Trilogy” (@PAALehman) which is being produced at the Park Avenue Armory for just a month or so. Using the saga of three German brothers who humbly made their way to America in 1844 to start a new family business in a new country of hope as the lens through which to see America from then till the financial crash of 2008 — playwright Stefano Massini and adaptor Ben Power tell a story as familiar as any Horatio Alger tale and as fresh as something original and new. A cast of dozens is performed by three singular actors, Simon Russell Beale, Ben Miles, and Adam Godley. Sam Mendes directed. The music, the scenery, and the script are transformative. And though the play has been performed all over Europe, it has a real power here, being performed in a building that has been standing in place since the Civil War. It’s quite extraordinary.
She’s back; they’re back. Life feels better as a result. I’d rather watch this jaundiced but hilarious take on politics than watch what’s really going on in our White House. In this way, this fantastic comedy is a kind of meta escape; it certainly has taken us behind the curtains of the inner turmoil and chaos in a pretend administration of a pretend president. Julia Louis Dreyfus makes it look easy. It’s on HBO.
4). Exhibit C™ and I went to see the Hilma af Klint exhibit at the Guggenheim Museum this week. I had never heard of this Swedish artist, (1862-1944) until this retrospective was put up. A talented artist who became very involved in a spiritual quest all her life, her work would fit into the category of “abstract art” but was way ahead of its time. As a woman she achieved heights in the art world when being female was a liability, or at least made success difficult. She embraced theosophy, rosicrucianism, and other philosophies and isms that I was Googling from the museum. The best part of her story and work is how af Klint imagined the kind of place in which she would want her paintings to be displayed. She basically described the (as yet unbuilt and probably not yet conceived) Guggenheim.
I grew up around the corner from the Guggenheim, and no matter how many times I’ve been inside, the building never fails to thrill me. Considered widely to be the “greatest American architect,” Frank Lloyd Wright led a fascinating life, some of which I’ve learned by reading, some of which I’ve learned from a fantastic docent at Taliesin West, the Arizona branch of his architecture practice, and where his institute and school are to this day. It is where Wright lived the last 22 years of his life. I have also interviewed people who knew him and one of his biographers. His vision of this building to hold the modern art collected by Solomon R. Guggenheim was beyond modern when he won the commission to build it in 1943; it must have been thoroughly shocking to its neighbors in 1959 when it opened. Unfortunately, Wright died about six months before it opened. It is a magical place in which to look at art.
My guest this week is author Meg Wolitzer. Her Five — no make that Six Things are:
1) Lawrence O’Donnell’s show on MSNBC. They tried to get rid of the show, but the viewers rose up as one, a la Friday Night Lights. And I particularly love the moment of overlap between the end of Rachel Maddow’s show and the start of his, when their separate talking heads, in individual halves of the screen, talk to each other for a transitional moment, kind of like a political version of members of ‘The Brady Bunch’ looking at one another from their different angles during the opening credits.
2) “Say Something Bunny,” a new interactive play at the UNDO Project Space in New York, through July, 2019.
3) The Spelling Bee puzzle in the New York Times Magazine. There is a word to be made up only using the letters in the circle (i.e. HTKIENC = KITCHEN) and then lots of words using fewer of the letters, but definitely including the letter in the center. (The N is in the center of this particular example.). My husband, my mother, and I do it every week. I call my mother after the paper comes, and say, ‘Did you get the word yet?’ Usually, she has gotten it, and often before I do. She’s 89.
4) Black garlic. I order it online, and add it to anything. It’s like some weird fudge for umami enthusiasts.
5) The best British TV show that no one in the US knows… ‘Only Connect’. It’s a British quiz show with unbelievably smart and odd people on it, hosted by the divine Victoria Coren Mitchell, who is married to the comedian David Mitchell (not the novelist), from ‘Peep Show’, et al. You have to find the connection between seemingly random things. Here’s one: Bach, Aria, Mills, Ono. (Answer: they are all the second wives of Beatles.)
6. Headspace.com’s odd sleepcasts, really boring stories designed to put you to sleep. They are called ‘Snowville,’ ‘Rainday Antiques,’ and my personal favorite, ‘Cat Marina.’ about a dock with a series of houseboats that each have a resident cat. Just writing the last part of that sentence bored me so much I want to go to sleep.