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Letters & Essays: 1990s

Making It Hot for Them

By Terry Southern

Part I: Texas.    Born in the small cotton-farming town of Alvarado, 1924. My dad, a pharmacist and descendant of the notorious “Indian lover” and first prez of the Republic of Texas, Sam Houston. Around high-school age moved to Fort Worth and Dallas. Attended Sunset High School, learned how to get girls drunk on the original Grayhound — grapefruit juice masking the taste of vod — followed by the adroit and surreptitious use of sharpened rounded-point kindergarten scissors to snip away that last bastion of defense, the panty crotch panel. 

 

Russian Portraits

By Olga Carlisle

The portraits that follow are from a large number of photo graphs recently recovered from sealed archives in Moscow, some—rumor has it—from a cache in the bottom of an elevator shaft. Five of those that follow, Akhmatova, Chekhov (with dog), Nabokov, Pasternak (with book), and Tolstoy (on horseback) are from a volume entitled The Russian Century, published early last year by Random House. Seven photographs from that research, which were not incorporated in The Russian Century, are published here for the first time: Bulgakov, Bunin , Eisenstein (in a group with Pasternak and Mayakovski), Gorki, Mayakovski, Nabokov (with mother and sister), Tolstoy (with Chekhov), and Yesenin. 

Sketches of Paris

By Edmund White

One of our neighbors is the famous couturier Azzedine Alaia, the minuscule “architect of the body’ as he’s often called because he creates his garments directly on his models, whereas someone like Christian LaCroix dashes off a sketch which he tosses at a trained team of seamstresses who interpret and realize even his most far-fetched inspirations. Alaia works sometimes late into the night, his mouth full of pins, as he drapes and pulls and turns and twists and dances around the dais like Pygmalion dressing an already transformed and fully alive Galatea.

Bagatelles

By Daniil Kharms

The life of the Russian avant-garde author Daniil Kharms (1905-1942) was every bit as absurd, as abrupt and as symbolically charged as one of his stories. The son of a populist-radical writer with religious leanings, he began a promising career as a poet in the freewheeling artistic scene of late-twenties Leningrad; he knew the great avant-garde artists Malevich, Tatlin, and Filonov, the formalist critic Viktor Shklovsky and the famous children s authors Evgenii Shvartz and Samuil Marshak. Kharms was one of the founders of OBERIU, the Union of Real Art, an artistic society heavily influenced by constructivism, futurism and the za'um (Trans-sense) poets.