A Capital anticipations list: Capote, Crispo, Austin, Ackerman and the Bush Tetras
Each week, Capital's editors and writers will offer a list of the events, activities, releases and personal obsessions that we are looking forward to during the next week. Here is a list of our anticipations.
Capote stories, and stories about Capote
Azi: I recently got into a debate with someone over how much credit Truman Capote deserves for Harper Lee's novel To Kill a Mockingbird.
Capote was a literary sensation by the time his childhood friend had her manuscript rejected and sent it to him for help. Afterward, it was not only finally published, but became a must-read for a generation (and counting).
Now, let me just say that to most of the English-speaking world, this may very well be a dispute on par with "who really shot J.F.K.": Really, it's been resolved without much debate, except among conspiracy theorists in dingy coffee shops.
To be honest, I'm pretty ignorant of the whole matter. My sophomore English teacher at Archbishop Molloy H.S. muttered something about and that's the extent of my investigation.
I've got 20 more pages to go before I finish reading the novel that launched Capote to stardom, Other Voices, Other Rooms. Up next, I'm going to read a collection of his short stories, plus Gerald Clarke's biography about him. I also picked up To Kill a Mockingbird and a biography of Harper Lee by Charles Shields.
Maybe reading these will show me Capote's influence over Lee's work. Maybe it'll show me how two writers and friends working with overlapping themes at the same time can converge and differ. Maybe I'll just pick up a few S.A.T. words.
Dana: On Friday, my brother and I are eating at Crispo, an exceedingly good restaurant on an exceedingly dire-looking strip of 14th street, just east of 8th avenue. Inside the restaurant, it's a different story: beautiful and big, equipped with people who take reservations. One of the main reasons I so rarely convince my brother to dine in Brooklyn is that so few of the restaurants there reserve tables. His thought process is, basically, why bother to wait 90 minutes to pay through the nose for a meal that will almost never be worth the bother or expense? I'm inclined to agree. Saturday I will jog off the indulgences of the previous night with my friend Mitali, and then reengage in them at the Brooklyn Flea, whose summer season on the Williamsburg waterfront is about to begin.
Bruce Springsteen nostalgia
Gabe: The Boss comes to town, a piece of news that is as inescapable this time as every time, and while I’ve read or been sent links to a number of weird hit pieces on Bruce on the occasion of his latest album (no, I’ll kindly not link to any of that idiocy), I’ve liked most of what I’ve heard from it, and at this point I think it’s no sacrilege to expect each new release to have some weak moments and a few new classics.
But another band playing this weekend has me thinking of a very interesting moment in Bruce’s career, the moment when he briefly connected with New York’s downtown scene in the late '70s and early '80s. His admiration of Suicide is well-known, but I often wonder who else he may have liked or connected with back then; whether, for instance, he might have rubbed shoulders with the likes of the Bush Tetras (playing Le Poisson Rouge tomorrow night). I first heard the band when a friend randomly picked up their debut ROIR tape (tape! ROIR!) at a thrift store and we listened to what was for me my first taste of No Wave, a genre I would come to really adore. The band’s two biggest tunes, “Can’t Be Funky” and “Too Many Creeps,” are a good primer for their stellar work: elastic basslines, budget-disco percussion, gawky; Pat Place’s insistent guitar, and Cynthia Sley’s ability to swing from tuneful to whiny and back in the course of a single verse. The band’s original bassist, Laura Kennedy, died late last year, but her replacement in recent years is great and she’ll certainly be remembered lovingly at the show.
Vacation in Austin
Joe: Now is probably a good time to mention that you will not be seeing my byline on the site for the next 10 days. I will be in Austin for a wedding and some light tourism, which I'm told will include natural springs, a lake, a salt lick, bats, record shopping, barbecue, tacos and various other objects of leisure, like a screening of Sunday's "Mad Men" episode in some historic movie theater. We are staying with a small group of friends-slash-fellow wedding guests in a Victorian farmhouse on a four-property rental complex equipped with a hot tub. Then we fly to Boston mid-week for... another wedding! I guess this is what your 30s are like?
Diane Ackerman at McNally Jackson
Gillian: One of my most beloved writers, Diane Ackerman, author of A Natural History of the Senses and The Zookeeper's Wife, is releasing her memoir, One Hundred Names for Love, today. She chronicled the story of her 74-year-old husband, the novelist Paul West, suffering a stroke, rendering him wordless and unable to talk or write. "Mourning the loss of our duet of decades, I began exploring new ways to communicate, through caring gestures, pantomime, facial expressions, humor, play, empathy and tons of affection — the brain’s epitome of a safe attachment," she wrote recently in The New York Times. "That, plus the admittedly eccentric home-schooling I provided, and his diligent practice, helped rewire his brain to a startling degree, and in time we were able to talk again, he returned to writing books, and even his vision improved." Tonight, Ackerman will speak about these experiences along with science writer Dava Sobel at McNally Jackson Books at 7 p.m. The audience, I'm sure, will listen closely to how this new form of expression of love healed her husband's brain, or, rather changed it. As Ackerman put it in the Times: "The brain changes with experience throughout our lives; it’s in loving relationships of all sorts — partners, children, close friends — that brain and body really thrive."