The Breakfast Table

Truly, Madly, Shallowly

What? What are you talking about? I just like InStyle. I suppose I think of it as a form of cultural production. I mean I don’t think of it as a form of agricultural production. Although it would be kind of great if there were roadside stands with signs that said “Fresh Jersey Celebrity Décor.” There’s one I’ve often passed in the summer that says, “Beets! Pick Your Own!,” and I always wonder to whom the chance to pick a root vegetable is an attraction worth advertising, and if these people might also enjoy other forms of tedious employment involving stooping in exchange for a shot at some biennial Eurasian plants, and if they might therefore be drawn in if I put out a sign reading “The Baseboards in My Apartment! Clean Them and I’ll Sell You Some Beets!”

If Shallow were up and publishing, I think I would have to go with Time and Newsweek and put Hillary Clinton on the cover, with a line that said “She’s Never Looked Better! Inside, our experts explain why enablers blossom in times of crisis, and how you can turn your mental disorder into a cosmetic advantage and career asset!” I also spotted an excellent angle for a Shallow story in today’s New York Times: According to Elia Kazan’s attorney, apologizing is Stalinist. (Hence Love Story’s famous phrase “Love means never having to engage in a bureaucratic, authoritarian exercise of state power and mechanistic application of Marxist-Leninist principles.”) I can see a Shallow service piece, maybe by Letitia Baldridge: “A specter is haunting Europe. It is the specter of bad manners. … ” Also according to Kazan’s attorney, Kazan should not be expected to apologize for having been an informer because former Stalinists are not expected to apologize for having been Stalinists. By her own logic, apologizing being Stalinist, I don’t see how they can without backsliding politically. But that’s an item for my other new publication, Picayune: The Magazine of Tiny Irrelevant Flaws in Reasoning.

Finally, I recommend the “Science Times” story on gene therapy research with Rhesus monkeys, which includes the lines “However human the monkeys may seem, they are wild animals and require sophisticated handling. Dr. Michael A. Schnell, the supervisor of the monkey center, feeds [the monkey] from a child’s pack of Kellogg’s Fruit Loops while his colleague Ernest Glover scratches her back in the grooming motions that are simian peace gestures.” This sounds so pleasant that I think from now on, I too will require sophisticated handling. Thomas Wyatt wrote a poem about Anne Boleyn called “Whoso List To Hunt” where he represents her as a deer who wears a diamond collar that reads “Nolo me tangere, for Caesar’s I am, and wild for to hold, though I seem tame.” Those were, of course, the days before Fruit Loops came in child’s packs.

Petula Clark’s “Downtown” contains the word sidewalk.