Walking Paris in ‘What’s Left of the Night’

I’ve been slacking around these parts lately on account of a new job, but I aim to get back up to full speed ASAP. As I do, please ruminate on this stirring excerpt from What’s Left of the Night, Ersi Sotiropoulos’ soulful  and erotic account of C.P. Cavafy’s 1897 visit to Paris, when the Egyptiot Greek poet was 34,  still unknown, and finding his creative voice.

Exquisitely translated by Karen Emmerich, What’s Left of the Night delves into more than Cavafy’s personal experiences as a man struggling with his same-sex desires in restrictive era. It shines a light on far more universal debates about the nature of art in an ever-changing world. Does art bring people together or form a barrier? How is artistic success defined? And when does artistic desire become obsession?

These enthralling topics aside, I’d like to call out Sotiropoulos’ masterful description, and Emmerich’s resonant translation, of walking through the city.

As someone who spent 12 years in New York, where walking is a way of life, before moving three years ago to Atlanta, where the car is king, this passage sparked pangs of nostalgia for the biped life.

Here, for your enjoyment, is that excerpt. It takes place just as night falls across Paris and a young  Constantine Peter Cavafy takes a solo stroll. While the backdrop’s the City of Lights specifically, the vibe translates to any bustling urban environ:

“He soon began to feel better. The current of the crowd flowed in the direction of the grand boulevards, over wide sidewalks dotted with cafes, beneath awnings and into arcades where strangers’ silhouettes fleetingly took shape, then vanished again.

A blind river pulled him into its current. He inhaled deeply and followed that vibrant ripple in the hum and dust. Crowds overflowed the intersections, lingered at shop windows before indolently setting off again beside stylish coaches and one-horse buggies that clattered away into the lilac night. Newspaper boys on street corners bellowed out the latest news. Where the road met Rue des Pyramides he stopped and stood as if hypnotized. Faces rushed toward him, shattering as they passed. The traffic began an utter crush at Rue di Rivoli, where the arches of the Lourvre loomed like a domed seawall. Groups of friends disappeared down side streets. Their stroll would no doubt take them, later on, to more remote districts, off the beaten path. Secret, ill-famed neighborhoods. Shadowy doorways and basement rooms, he though, feeling a flutter within.

A mob of musicians was just ahead of him, lurching this way and that, laughing and shouting drunkenly. One of them was dragging a monkey by the hand, dressed like a soldier with a little cap. He increased his speed so as to overtake them. Light flooded the paving stones, spread over the facades of the buildings, trailed over the silvery roofs — a fluid, shadowless light. As he walked, the lines of a poem he was writing came to mind. Every so often he would pick it up, poke and prod, then let it be. He had looked back at it recently and had been satisfied. Very satisfied. It didn’t happen often. The musicality was flawless, the rhyme effective:

The city will follow you. The roads you wander will be

The same. And in the same quarters you’ll grow old, and see.”

What’s Left of the Night is out now from New Vessel Press, an independent publishing house devoted to translated literature and narrative nonfiction, and I’m happy to add it to All the LGBT Books Around My House.

Racial Injustice in ‘Heart’ and ‘Ragtime’

Two classic American novels, The Heart is a Lonely Hunter and Ragtime, expose an ongoing American tragedy.

The novels The Heart is a Lonely Hunter and Ragtime appear as different as night and day. Carson McCullers’s Heart takes place in the post-war Georgia circa 1930, E.L. Doctorow’s Ragtime the pre-war New York City of 1902-1912; Heart revolves around solitude among outcasts in a rural berg, Ragtime around glitzy dreams in a churning, syncopated metropolis. Yet both books’ plots are propelled by a black man’s thwarted quest for justice — a sad story that continues to be told today.

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Friday Mood Music: Chuck Berry


It’s Friday! It’s also the first day of Black History Month.

That said, there is no better fit for this week’s “Friday Mood Music” than Chuck Berry, the St. Louis-born musician whose regarded as the unofficial father of rock and roll. This here footage’s from a 1965 performance for the French program, Face au Public, and the tracks include “Promised Land” and, of course, “Johnny B. Goode.”

Have a great weekend!

Found in the LOC: 13 Woodcuts from 1720

For this week’s Found in the LOC, I present 13 gorgeous woodcuts by Tachibana Morikuni.

Information on Morikuni is few and far between, but I learned he was born in 1679 in Osaka, and was trained in the art of woodcutting by a man named Tsuruzawa Tanzan. I also discovered Morikuni published three books: 1714’s Ehon kojidan (Old Stories about Illustrated Picture Books), Ehon utsushi takarabukuro (A Treasure Pouch of Picture Book Sketches) in 1720, and Unpitsu soga (Strokes of the Brush and Rough Pictures), posthumously, in 1749, one year after his death.

His legacy, however, lived on his apprentice and son, Tachibana Yasukuni, whose work is also in the Library of Congress.

The Library of Congress dates the Morikuni images here circa 1720. Featuring foxes, rams,  horses, cats, and even boars, Morkikuni’s art is quite the menagerie. Above you see “Domestic cat nursing kittens.” Some beauty never goes out of style.

And click here for more Found in the LOC.

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Found in the LOC: 13 Bill Perkins Costume Designs

For 2019’s first Found in the LOC, feast your eyes on these 13 thirties-era costume sketches by designer William Perkins.

I haven’t found too much  information about Perkins, but he clearly had a knack for the theatric and an eye for alluring style. Below, you’ll find costumes Perkins designed for a production of William Shakespeare’s Winter’s Tale, as well as some for Jack Erman’s  The Mystery of the Broadwalk Asylum, a sci-fi tale that, if the notes are correct, starred Martha Wright before she became Broadway sensation.

Most notable are Perkins’ designs for the 1938 premiere of activist Arthur Arent’s One-Third of A Nation.

Produced by the New Deal-era Federal Theater Project, One-Third condemned political leaders for the affordable housing crisis in New York City and other urban areas. The general message: slums and other dilapidated dehumanized and endangered innocent people for capitalist gain. It drew 270,000 viewers in the city alone, and even more once it toured across major urban areas.

You can imagine how this went over in DC: Conservative lawmakers were so incensed that they rallied their forces against the Federal Theater Project and forced its closure the next year.

Above, Perkins’ 1937 sketch of Winter’s Tale‘s Antigonus, the poor schmuck who gets eaten by a bear while abandoning a baby on the king’s orders. But at least he was wearing a gorgeous robe before becoming the beast’s dinner!

See more of Perkins’ mesmerizing sketches AFTER THE JUMP.

And click here for more Found in the LOC.

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ICYI 2018 Year in Review

Whoa. Where did 2018 go? I guess it doesn’t matter. It’s nearly done now. To celebrate, here are ten of my favorite stories from ICYI over the past twelve months, in no particular order.

Brett Kavanaugh’s Drinking Problem

Join, or Die, America’ First Meme

All the LGBT Books Around My House

Was Pocahontas Her Real Name?

Lyndon Johnson Hated The Graduate

“Daybreak,” Over and Over.

16 Posters By Graphic Great Lester Beall

The Incredible Arthur Ellerman

Found in the LOC: A Cat’s Autobiography

Paul Revere: Art Thief

Found in the LOC: 11 Winter Scenes for the Solstice

“Carlisle, Pennsylvania. Frozen ground,” Marjory Collins, 1943

Winter has arrived, and while the days will now get longer, the season’s here to stay for a minute.

To prepare us what’s to come, here are eleven gorgeous winter scenes captured between 1860-1943, including a shot from ICYI favorite Marion Post Wolcott, a few of a frozen-solid Niagara Falls, two showing the eerie, frost-bitten aftermath of the 1912 Equitable Building fire, and a 1901 shot of DC under deep freeze, which is perfect considering we’re currently this close to a government shutdown.

Ch-ch-check out all the frosty shots AFTER THE JUMP.

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