April 2009 Archives
...I have entered the brave new world of teenyposting. In two ways, no less. This past week, over at Vanity Fair, we launched a tiny feature on the Web site called Fairbook, an experiment in borscht-belt microposting, featuring rim-shot zingers from Nell Scovell (former Spy colleague, creator of Sabrina, the Teenage Witch), Tim Long (former Spy colleague, now with The Simpsons), Michael Hogan (editor of VF.com), and me.
If you’ve found me via the microposts, you might like the Snob’s Dictionary books.
With my friend and occasional collaborator Lawrence Levi, I have launched a new recession blog called The Breadline. Well, strike that; “recession blog” sounds unbearably grim. The idea is to provide an online space for people to tell their stories and share their gallows humor (and other survival mechanisms) as they struggle through unemployment and reduced circumstances. As I’ve told colleagues, the idea is not dissimilar to what Studs Terkel did in his book Working, had that book been called Not Working.
Anyone in America who is unemployed and inclined to share a little of his or her story is welcome to fill out our simple Breadline Questionnaire. Even in this early phase, we’ve had respondents from Hawaii, Oregon, Georgia, and Minnesota–not just from our home base in solipsistic NYC.
We also intend to put up original artwork, photography, and music that’s reflective of the times. We want the Breadline to function as a sort of online quasi-WPA project, if that ain’t putting it too cute.
Tom Leonard of the U.K.’s Spectator is the latest journalist to have journeyed up to Cornish, New Hampshire, in hopes of getting that pot-o’-gold scoop: an interview with J.D. Salinger. As Leonard recounts, he had no more luck than previous doorsteppers, though he did catch a glimpse through a window of the 90-year-old author “in a blue tanktop.”
I’ll admit to being fascinated by famous recluses–most of whom, I believe, are sincere in their desire to withdraw from public life rather than pranksterishly self-conscious about cultivating a mystique. In 2002, the writer Tim Willis doorstepped Syd Barrett in Cambridge, England. He found the former Pink Floyd leader standing before him in nothing but “a small, tight pair of bright blue Y-fronts” (scant blue undergarments being, evidently, a recluse hallmark) and unwilling to talk, yet settled into a simple life of painting and gardening. It’s my suspicion that the mentally fragile Barrett wouldn’t have made it to 60 (he died three years ago) had he remained an active rock musician; reclusiveness extended his life.
Still, for all my pursuit of interviews with reclusive figures, I could never bring myself to doorstep one; it just seems too violative. (This is one of the reasons I don’t consider myself a real journalist but merely a “writer.”) The one time I’ve actually landed an interview with a serious recluse–he being Sly Stone–it took an agonizing ten-year process to get face-to-face with the man. And, it must be said, my zeal derived more from my adoration of Stone’s music than from the scoopy thrill of bagging big game. (I’ve never had any desire to interview Salinger because his work doesn’t interest me.)
Though, hey, I’ll cop to getting a kick out of the fact that this photo exists.