maybe this newsletter has become a book club? or a leaf falling in your plate of hummus
It’s impossible to ignore the signs of a new season in New York. I blinked and every brownstone had a skeleton laying on it, and the second it was over- leaves were falling in my plate of romesco. Maybe this newsletter has become a book club? Or a leaf falling in your plate of hummus? Or love letters to my favourite writers? A way to get me to meditate on the stuff I’m consuming at a violent rate and slow down? Email me back with what you hate! Or little kisses? Both work.
I’ve been thinking a lot about what it means to write about art, sounds and words you love. I finished reading Olivia Laing’s Funny Weather: Art in an Emergency, a collection of essays and profiles mostly from her time at Frieze. These profiles stand out to me not because they teach the reader about the historical context of a piece, or artist which they do, with ease, but because they’re unbound to politics and tethered to personal context.
Laing has the ability to perceive someone and critique art with an autobiographic tone, punctuating every analysis with personal details. People can research and put together a story based on facts but not everyone can go into a deep description of their fantasy of Freddie Mercury dressing Princess Di as a Twink. Such vivid fan fiction can only be a product of sincere fandom. Laing is a fan of everyone, but not in way that panders.
Here are my favourite out of context lines:
Laing’s infusion of personal anecdotes into profiles reminded me a lot of one my favourite writers, Carina del Valle Schorske's and her piece, It’s Not Too Late.
In It’s Not Too Late, Carina juggles with the story of her long term break up and reconciling memories with facts, alongside the admiration for this mysterious one-off youtube clip of old friends, Aretha Franklin and Smokey Robinson singing on Soul Train. Carina dives into a close reading of their interactions on stage suggesting it reveals a long, nuanced history of their relationship. Something only a fan could do. The essay is a severe and moving example of pairing personal storytelling while discussing art.
Carina’s writing is so, so good at pairing the personal with the critical. My favourite writings of her include a profile of Bad Bunny for the New York Times with descriptions coloured by her experiences growing up in Puerto Rico and her essay, Gold, History, and My Body where she blends personal storytelling with vivid descriptions and poetic anecdotes to tell a story largely about the colonial role gold has had in Puerto Rican identity.
The natural progression of my own fandom for her led me to her instagram. A reservoir of sincerity and love for her favourite music, art, food and people. Carina dancing to her favourite Bad Bunny song in a monochromatic royal blue ensemble, assembling seasonal pozole verde, sharing a video of her mom singing Van Morrison. How could you not fall in love with this woman?
If I were to write a profile on Carina’s work, I could only hope I’d have enough rationed in my own emotional well to dig up and include alongside it.
Out of all of the words I’ve read from texts, dms, tweets, online menus, captions, articles, signs telling me to wear a mask, books, and recipes I’ve looked at in recent history- Carina’s are the best.