David Rakoff,

David Rakoff,

A weeklong electronic journal.
April 29 1998 3:30 AM

David Rakoff,

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       In a Publishers Weekly review for an upcoming reminiscence of Richard Nixon by his last confidante, researcher, and travel companion, Monica Crowley, the review notes Nixon's "wide readings ranging from Aristotle to Machiavelli." Stipulating to the charge that I think Richard Nixon is one of the worst people who ever lived, almost because of his posthumous reconstruction as a statesman, and because I am newly thrilled each day that I wake up to find that he is yet deceased (and so I might be a tad prone to finding lacunas in anything resembling a sympathetic portrait of him), I still must ask the question: SINCE WHEN IS ARISTOTLE TO MACHIAVELLI CONSIDERED "WIDE READING"? At its most charitable, it merely means he had been a college freshman somewhere. I hate him I hate him I hate him!
       I'm reminded of that supremely dopey moment in As Good as It Gets--you know, the movie that clears up the mysteries of obsessive-compulsive behavior as being nothing more than a taste for lots of Evian and a penchant for sorting your M&Ms by color--where Greg Kinnear's character (a less aesthetically-driven-seeming visual artist has almost never been portrayed on the screen since Rosanna Arquette played Nick Nolte's highly adenoidal assistant/muse in New York Stories) looks over at Helen Hunt drawing her bath, her towel falling down her naked back in graceful drapery, and he says, "Hold it!" Any doofus who's been to a museum gift shop can get precisely the same image, on place mats, note cards, ties, trivets, clock faces, and jigsaw puzzles, rendered by Matisse, Degas, Bonnard, Cassat, ad extreme projectile nauseam. This is his big moment of inspiration? This guy shows? In a gallery? A gallery that doesn't also sell flavored coffee and balloon bouquets?
       Talking with colleague, editor Eamon Dolan. The conversation turned to nostalgia and what a complete load of shit it all is. Czarist Chic was all the rage last year, I'm just waiting for Pogrom Elegance to kick in. Unfortunately, both Eamon and I are unhealthily steeped in a certain kind of wistfulness about 1930s through 1950s literary New York. Despite the glaring truth of the matter that in any age but our own, he'd be an excluded poor Irish Catholic boy and I, an excluded Jew desperately trying not to have my faggot ass kicked to death. Although I bemoan the present state of publishing constantly, I am also quick to point out that a "gentleman's business" generally really only works in favor of gentlemen.
       I told him of the fake Abercrombie & Fitch*-oid ad I had always wanted to create: "Return to a simpler time. A time of ice cream suppers and neighborly conduct. A time of unbleached cotton and natural fibers. A time where a woman could die of a botched abortion, blacks didn't have the vote, blah blah, blah." We reminded one another of the fake Gap ads we were going to wheat paste all around town: "Hitler wore khakis." Today's idea was pictures of Charles Manson, Pol Pot, etc., with the Macintosh logo: "Think Different."
       Went to the radio taping of BBC 4's "Talk of New York," a show meant to convey a kind of classic, rarefied New York cocktail party. Think Dick and Dorothy Rodgers' apartment, Cole Porter at the piano, Brooks Atkinson getting sauced, Nazimova holding court. Not quite, really. But Julie Wilson sang two songs magnificently. She is bone thin and sharp-angled like a lightning bolt, in a black turtleneck with a boa, and of course a fake Lady Day gardenia in the LP-slick hair of her huge HUGE head. The setting was strange and authentic--I think someone said it's in Condé Nast's original living room in a brownstone on 45th. The drinks were free. A snootful of gratis Bushmill's is a lovely way to ease into a new week.

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       *Weirdly enough, I came home to a postcard from the A&F catalog sent to me by Sarah. Unbelievably Arcadian homoerotic tableau of a bunch of boys grappling shirtlessly on the beach. All shining teeth, rippling abdominals, and that gay porn, fake-o hearty straight-guy energy. ("Oh, man, now look what you did! You tore my underwear. Well, I guess I better take them off." "Hey, coach. I think I pulled a muscle in my groin." "Well, hop up on the table, and let's see if we can massage it out.")

David Rakoff is a writer and actor living in New York. He works in the publishing industry.