We are still catching up on “Only Murders in the Building” (initial thoughts here), and some of the more recent episodes brought to mind a graduate school class on 20th century literature led by a bright professor with an obvious soft spot for Jorge Luis Borges, Vladimir Nabokov, and magic realism as a concept. I remember on occasion this professor would find himself so enthralled in unwinding a section of Borges that it was as if the entire class disappeared around him. We’d play audience to his soliloquies about wordplay, interrogating the seams between fantasy and reality, direct engagement with the reader, metafiction–all the hallmarks of that sub-canon. His reverence won me over and, for a time, I considered texts from that era the apex of the esoteric. Drafting off of that half-formed opinion, I forced my book club at the time — comprised nearly entirely of UVA friends that had since shuttled into promisingly sturdy careers in government consulting, finance, politics, etc. — to read “Waiting for Godot,” which is in some way an extreme extension of — or at least cousin to — that period of writing, and I did it because I was eager to seem intelligent at the time, as I grappled with my own insecurities over my chosen academic path and realized how seemingly flimsy and insubstantial my peers perceived it to be. (“But what will you do with a degree in English?!”) Everyone read it, hated it, and arrived at our convening with glazed-over eyes, myself included. I have since thought back on those works — with the exception of Nabokov’s — and shuddered a bit. They feel overwrought, cloyingly self-aware, too wrapped-up in the intellectual coterie of the time to stand on their own legs. Those books are like riddles for the academically anointed. They are outposts of theory. It is as though Beckett said, “OK, someone’s gotta write this book to chase this theory to its absolute extreme. I guess I’ll do it.”
Watching “Only Murders in the Building,” I detect some of the high-brow strategies from my erstwhile preferred literary cadre. The show appears to me an elaborate interrogation of the conditions of artistic production, which is not far afield from some of the meat of Nabokov, Borges, etc. But I find myself receiving the show and its strategies differently. There are heavy-handed parts (I am thinking of the episode deliberately devoid of dialogue, which, about five minutes in, led to a conversation with Mr. Magpie about whether or not Aziz Ansari had already “done” the gambit in the entirely silent 8-minute capsule episode from “Master of None”), but I find the techniques winningly paired with the show’s unexpected warmth. It is almost impossible not to love Steve Martin. And any show that invokes Hardy Boys in earnest, without any seeming kitsch or cutesiness, has my admiration. Beyond that, Selena Gomez! I can’t figure out what to make of her, but her implicit “coolness” feels like a bridge to something. I can’t tell whether I am impressed that Steve Martin and Martin Short chose to work with her, or vice versa, but either way, there is something highly grounding about the pairing, as if Martin/Short anchor Gomez in an old-school, highly-regarded Hollywood tradition, and Gomez lends her millennial imprimatur to their cheesiness and occasionally outmoded routines. And so even the overwrought bits feel to me like genuine creativity, and I can nearly imagine them sitting around giddily imagining an episode with no dialogue. “How we will achieve it?” “Scrabble!” “Tiptoeing through a crypt!” “A deaf character!” Aha!
And truly is there anything more delightful than bearing witness to genuine enthusiasm? (“Ted Lasso” reminded me of this, which in turn reminded me of the time Mr. Magpie and I went to a performance of “Oklahoma” at the Arena Stage with my parents, and, halfway through, during the most cabaret rendition of “Surrey with the Fringe on Top,” Mr. Magpie nudged me to look at my mother, who was sitting, entranced, with the most delighted expression of enjoyment on her face! That was a major “Ice Cream” moment, and we talk about it frequently in our house. “Elaine at Oklahoma!” we say, shorthand for “a moment of guileless enjoyment.”)
Over-reading is an old habit that dies hard, and so it is possible I am making too much of this lark of a show, but I find it so refreshingly unlike anything I’ve seen lately that I can’t help myself!
Do you feel the same?
+On feeling desperate, in my younger years, to appear discerning.
+Despite my implied jabs, Nabokov is truly in a category of his own, and one of his masterpieces made my list of “10 Books that Will Change Your Life.”
+Currently halfway through my autumn reading list!
+If you could go back to school and study anything, what would you choose? (Love the comments on this post!)
+A great class I took at UVA.
+Love the way this sweater vest is styled with a white blouse and denim! SO chic!
+While you’re at Anthro, note that they are offering an extra 30% off their sale items, including this cute navy gingham mini (I would pair with those navy drivers and a cableknit around my shoulders!), this fun Farm Rio (under $100 with code), this embellished navy top (perfect for holidays!), and this Solid + Striped one-piece for your winter getaway.
+Tis cardigan season, and this is a really good one, in both colorways.
+A heads up that this this brand-new Westman Atelier petite face stick set will be in my gift guide this year — such a fab gift for a sister/girlfriend/mom who enjoys cosmetics! Also a great idea if you want to test a few products without investing in full-sized variations!
+This bee knocker would be such a chic upgrade to your front door.
+Everyone’s favorite fitness top, in new colors!
+This under-$200 black dress is SO CHIC.
+In my cart for mini — I love to give my children holiday-themed books! (And this under-$4 Halloween book will arrive quickly via Prime if you’re still looking for something for your littles ASAP. It’s been one of mini’s favorites this season!)
+Lots of other Halloween finds here, many still available on Amazon Prime with quick delivery! I am hosting a little Halloween parade the day before Halloween for my UVA girlfriends and their little ones, so I just recently ordered a few items for the occasion, and everything arrived really quickly:
THIS WIPEABLE GINGHAM TABLECLOTH TO USE FOR A CUPCAKE-DECORATING STATION
GLITTERY GHOST GARLAND
THIS INEXPENSIVE BAG OF FAVORS IS PERFECT FOR PUTTING IN THE HALLOWEEN SENSORY RICE BIN I MADE (I DYED RICE PURPLE, ORANGE, AND GREEN — LITTLE ONES LOVE PLAYING IN THESE BINS WITH LITTLE BOWLS, SHOVELS, AND TOYS…MORE SENSORY PLAY IDEAS HERE)
+I ordered the rest of my party supplies on Etsy from ThePartyDarling, which — if you place an order today — will still arrive before Halloween!
ENORMOUS GHOST BALLOONS
GHOST NAPKINS AND PLATES
IRIDESCENT TREAT CUPS FOR SNACKS — GRAPES/CLEMENTINE SLICES/PRETZELS
+A pretty everyday pendant necklace.
+I’m busy convincing myself I don’t need this sweatshirt…but…
+A beanie is a great gift for a dude. What man doesn’t look great in one? I keep thinking of a question from a Magpie reader last year, who asked for help finding “a beanie that won’t make my husband look like a bank robber.” Haha! I think this one fits the bill because of the cableknit detail 😉
+Also eyeing the turtleneck sweatshirt for my man.
+Super sad these pants in chic pink are sold out in my size — currently on sale for under $20!
+OK, but this blouse for a little lady…meep!
+This windowpane bedding is so handsome and inviting.
+This pearl-topped highlighter is just spectacular. I almost want to wear it as an accessory!
+Adorable confetti knit mittens for a little one.
+One of my longtime favorite art supplies for little hands. Easy enough for tiny ones (micro started using these around 18 months) and just FUN for older ones. Great for making posters or rolling out a huge piece of kraft paper on the ground. So fun!
+This mini is so chic.
+This iPhone case is beyond.