The Curated Life

Three New(ish) Short Stories

I'm in the middle of a website revamp. Things need spring cleaning and I'm also ready to build an add-on to this little online home where I can house my creative writing. So until the dust settles, here are links to my some of my most recently published stories:

-A Nice Place to Visit, featured in Cleaver Magazine, issue 3

-How Do You Say, featured in Black Heart Magazine

-Move-In Day, featured in Almost Five Quarterly

A Dozen Great Things I Read This Year. (Plus One.)

I was thinking about sharing a list of the best books I read this year*, but hadn't yet gotten around to it; partly because it just felt too limiting. There's so much great writing in the universe not contained in book form, why not consider it all? So I am. (And, as you may have noticed, the writers at Gawker second that emotion, having published their own similarly inspired lists.)

The following pieces aren't ranked or exhaustive or even limited only to things published only this year. It's just a collection of some writing — poems, reportage, essays, reviews, stories, novels — that stayed with me over the last twelve months. The best part? Unlike with a typical "best books" list, several of these pieces are online. Free. For all to read. Like, right now. So go.

1. "Bears Do It" by David Owen in The New Yorker: This fascinating article distills behavioral science for animal lovers as it documents the reproductive plight of the modern panda, proving that what comes naturally doesn't necessarily come easily. A total triumph of science writing.

2. "Sexy Tree" by Wendy Xu in The Pinch: A poem that is frenetic, joyful, and urgent. It demanded my attention from the first line and — in an unexpected move on the part of poetry! — made me laugh.

3. "The Round House" by Louise Erdrich: I described Erdrich's novel to someone as "worth calling in sick over." It grabs you hard and leaves a bruise. The story, told from the perspective of a teenage boy living on the Ojibwe reservation, traces his coming of age as it converges with his mother's brutal rape, leaving irreparable damage but revealing the true and complicated meaning of survival.

4. Guy Aroch's review of Arcade Fire's "Reflektor" for The Washington Post: It may not be original or particularly brave to bash Arcade Fire these days, but Aroch's hilarious takedown of the band's latest effort was a good-natured, raucous evisceration. It also contains one of the most hilarious ledes I've had the chance to read in a newspaper, perhaps ever: "Look, I’m sure they’re very nice people, but on their fourth album, 'Reflektor,' Arcade Fire still sound like gigantic dorks with boring sex lives."

5."Dogs Are People Too" by Gregory Berns for The New York Times: The second animals-and-science-themed pick on my list. This opinion piece explains how new scientific understandings of empathy in dogs and the way their brains work teaches us not only more about them, but about ourselves.

6. "Every Woman's Dream Wedding" by Meghan O'Keefe in McSweeney's: This brief story starts out sounding like several conversations most women have either overheard or participated in, then ups the comic ante with increasing levels of ridiculousness. Mandatory reading for anyone who has ever been a hesitant bride. Or bridesmaid. Or groom. Or friend or relative of someone getting married.

7. "I Don't Know Jack" by Benjamin Svetkey in Los Angeles Magazine: As someone who talks to and writes about celebrities for a living, I'm often asked what a particular star "is like." Svetkey's does an excellent job of describing the mirage of personality that these interviewer/interviewee exchanges set up — and explains why it's a question I can never quite answer.

8. "California" by Amra Brooks: Brooks's memoir-as-novel is experimental but not indulgent. She reveals the inner world of girls by showing us the life of one, with vignettes that are at times coldhearted and bleak, at others bouyant and adrenalized. The book maps her story in evocative settings that capture the California both widely known and widely unknown.

9. "Bobcat" by Rebecca Lee: Lee's masterful short story is a nesting doll of metaphors about the unhappy collisions of people against the world. Taking place over the course of a dinner party, it's a slow unravel that will leave you in awe of Lee's deft twists and turns. It's no wonder her collection of short stories is named for this one.

10. "Widow Basquiat" by Jennifer Clement: A richly written retelling of Basquiat's tormented relationship with his girlfriend, muse, and oftentimes caretaker Suzanne Mallouk. A visceral and poetic story about love, dependency, betrayal, and art that echoed with me.

11. "Fifth Avenue, 5 A.M." by Sam Wasson: Sheer fun. This retelling of the making of "Breakfast at Tiffany's" is quick and witty, expertly researched, and pulls back the curtain on one of the most iconic films of our time. It feels less like reading than being invited inside Holly Golightly's infamous cocktail party.

12. "Bettering Myself" by Ottssa Moshfegh in The Paris Review: Nothing much happens in Moshfegh's tale of a divorced, alcohol-dependent schoolteacher, but everything devolves. I read it on a quiet, lonely weekend afternoon and felt like it stole a little piece of me.

13."Sexting, Shame, and Suicide" by Nina Burleigh in Rolling Stone: Another piece that made me glad Rolling Stone still seeks out and publishes stories with real heft and weight. Audrie Pott's torment and eventual suicide will move you to anger, but even though it's hard to read, it's worthy of the reading.

*I've also still published my annual list of books I read this year on Pinterest, for tradition's sake. I don't necessarily condone all the titles contained in it, but if you ask, I'll be more than happy to give you a one-sentence review.

Marina Abramovic's Idea of a Dinner Party

Last night, Marina Abramovic transformed the already typically transformative MOCA annual gala, testing her audience with a strange play on objectification and the human body that put many of those in attendance visibly on edge.

Marina required every guest — no matter the Chanel gown or tuxedo tailored just for the occasion — to don a white lab coat before entering the tent where dinner was to be served. Inside, they were confronted by tables that were adorned by either A) a naked man or women lying prone on a sort of high-tech, constantly spinning lazy susan while being smothered underneath a skeleton, or B) a rectangular table festooned with two human heads that poked up and out from the tabletops, expressionless but still blinking, gazing blankly out on the crowd. (Will Ferrell's reaction when he came face-to-face with one of his unexpected dinner companions was pretty priceless.) For dessert? An anatomically correct cake in the form and size of a human body.

The surgical undertones and references to the Other were clear in Abramovic's confrontational but playful "experiment," but beyond the plainly visible portion of the art, what was more interesting to me is the influence of the work that cannot be completely seen. While I didn't stay for the completion of Marina's performance piece, since I hadn't shelled out for a seat at the dinner, I didn't witness the full unfolding of this strange trial of viewer vs. viewed.

Clearly, there were the obvious themes of examination and objectification suggested by the lab coats, disembodied heads, and bodies on display. However, I would have loved to see how the presence of two unknown observers at each table impacted the behavior and conversation of the guests. It's also impossible to believe that Marina wasn't also poking at least a bit of fun at the gala's well-heeled guests, many of whom found themselves having paid $2,500 for the privilege of eating dinner alongside a faceful of unkempt genitals. (Nope. No Brazilian waxes here, folks.) But there was a darker element to the effort. After all, Marina pointed out in a recent LA Times article, "we are creating a vulnerable position with respect to the performers. You could do anything — you could take the fork and stab it in their heads." Luckily last night's event included no random acts of violence, that I know of, but the possibility created a certain tension that permeated the evening. Who really had the upper hand in the situation, though? The guests, who could have easily manhandled their disembodied dinner guests? Or the performers, whose silent observation completely shifted the behavior and experience of the ticketholders?

Dita von Teese perhaps said it best with a Tweet from inside the festivities, writing: "A favorite quote of mine: 'this must be art, because it sure ain't entertainment'. -Pogo"

well heeled, with a sense of humor

Coco Chanel may have warned: "Don't spend time beating on a wall, hoping to transform it into a door." But what about transforming a shoe into a purse?

For Azumi and David, the latter endeavor was decidedly a success. The married duo behind the Coco Heel Clutch Bag have created all sorts of wacky, wearable projects since joining forces at Central St. Martins in 2003, including temporary tattoos that mimic watches and necklaces that double as fanny packs. Clearly, this iteration is a cheeky take on the classic quilted Chanel, and it also feels timely given the surrealist tone so many of the Spring shows riffed on. Not to mention—like it or not—the currently trendy kitten heel.

What I like about this purse is that it's both a little silly and inarguably stylish. (Also, I'd like to invite any woman who owns one out for a round of drinks.) The design is even counter-intuitively functional; the arch of the "shoe" is a perfectly cozy spot for the palm of your hand. Now that's a clutch that's truly a step ahead. (Har har.)

image via Purse Blog

lookin sharp

Aoi Kotsuhiroi's wow-inducing rings provided my first introduction to the French designer's wares. They were dark, talon-esque pieces that incorporated human hair, tiny porcelain skulls, and delicate threads of silk. Creations that looked suspiciously like something that had once been alive, but was no longer. Or, like the jewelry embodiment of Poe's "The Raven."

So it seems a natural progression that Aoi would apply her devotion to that clawlike, organic silhouette to creating a pair of truly killer heels. Her new, one-of-a-kind "foot objects," which she gave the name Exotic Regrets, are sexual, precarious, and basically belong on a pedestal in a museum. Made from lacquered cherry tree, they feature a seven-inch heel and—when paired with lamb leather thigh highs—generally make it very hard to understand why Aoi refers to these latest sculptures as a "work in progress."