The Breakfast Table

In Praise of Shallowness

I like to think I’m more than a bit shallow; in fact, I’m willing to throw down the glove in a superficiality challenge. Let that be our theme. However, my copy of the Times was absent the new fashion section. By getting me to lavish $2.50 on the paper anyway, I feel that my newsstand was thus also doing its best to extend a process that Richard Artschwarger and other artists began in the sixties, forcing sophisticates to ante up ever greater amounts for less and less ornamentation. This in turn forced me to abandon print for television, further proving my lack of depth. There was a Nature program about extraordinary cats. My critical assessment: Kitties! To make up for any of the incipient profundity implicit in having chosen a public broadcasting selection, even one that turned out to feature an interview with Tippi Hedren, tonight I plan to watch the Sonny and Cher biopic. You know, it could be argued that Bob Mackie’s outfits for Cher were also an extension of the process that Richard Artschwarger and other artists began in the sixties, except that there was less and less of the thing ornamented (meaning the garment, not Cher) and more and more ornamentation, and that sophisticates don’t enter into it one way or the other. Quibbles. I don’t think I agree with you at all about Prada and its mastery of post-Marxist utilitarian anti-chic, unless you mean “post-Marxist” in the sense of “extremely capitalist,” “anti-chic” in the sense of “chic,” “utilitarian” in the sense of “dry-clean only,” and “masterful” in the sense of “easily outdone by the Department of Corrections and the Heaven’s Gate cult.” Again, quibbles.

I did get the Times Magazine section with the new front-of-book, but I didn’t get farther than the editor’s note explaining that they were aiming for something that at its best would describe the common ground we all share when our private lives intersect with the public sphere owing to the sour milk in the fridge. This is an eerily perceptive comment on my own life, since sour milk in the fridge is one thing that almost inevitably causes me to abandon private life for the public sphere, in order to go to the corner to buy a quart of milk. But you probably get invited lots more places than I do because you know who Richard Artschwarger is. I don’t. Too shallow. However, I can name all of Gary Puckett and the Union Gap’s top ten hits, plus at least five songs that use the word “sidewalk” in the lyric. I’m also vaguely informed on the history of the Tudor and Stuart kings and queens of England, and now know some anecdotes about extraordinary cats. You can imagine how people fight to sit next to me at dinner parties.