I promised to edit an essay for my little sister by tomorrow, which is why I was digging through the documents saved onto my computer. I found her essay, but I also found a word document called “writing in Poland,” with about ten unfinished pieces from my holidays. I had already forgotten it. Was I really visiting my family in Poland only three weeks ago?
It’s probably not a good idea to publish it, but I’m so sleep-deprived I don’t care. Here is something of a journal entry that made me particularly sad to read, and not just because I referred to myself in the third person.
Kasia had forgotten how to write. Not logistically, of course. She still knew her alphabet. She knew how to hold a pen to paper. And she knew how to type on a computer. And she hadn’t forgotten how to write everything. She could still write a mean essay and a damn good journalism article.
But there was a reason that she wanted to study English in the first place, and that was because she wanted to be a writer. The kind of writer who knows creativity, and can write a story that sucks the reader into a different world and then lingers in the reader’s mind for days, months, and years afterward. And this was what she had forgotten.
That’s probably why she hadn’t updated her study abroad blog for a while, and was focusing instead on her original tumblelog, typing up personal posts about New Years’ resolutions and pop culture analyses. It wasn’t that she didn’t have the impulse to write, because she certainly did. And writing these dinky little articles not only came to her as naturally as tying her shoe, but she enjoyed it greatly too. Crafting each sentence, picking the right words. Making clever jokes here and there. It was great fun for her to write. But she could no longer write a story.
She didn’t know how to end this story, for instance. So she sat there, on a crowded bus, staring at the Polish dude on the television screen who was instructing passengers that gambling was strictly prohibited on the 15-hour ride.
In the fifteen songs on “Born to Die,” Del Rey is both theatrical and noncommittal. But the new album does not make “Lana Del Rey aka Lizzy Grant” seem like an error that needed redacting. The earlier work had a variety of tempos, styles, and moods, which may be exactly why Del Rey ditched it; its song titles hinted at a notion of going retro (“Put Me in a Movie,” “Mermaid Motel”), but the ungainly album title revealed ambivalence about Grant’s identity. “Born to Die,” by contrast, is a model of consistent branding. The string section thrums in permanent lassitude, the number of beats per minute hovers in the eighties, and Del Rey’s pliable, smoky voice suggests that nothing is a problem, including the narrative contradictions that she plants throughout the album.
Several demos were leaked before the album’s release, and they played with faster tempos and guitars and more aggressive sounds. All of that is gone. The lack of active rhythms was a wise correction by somebody: Del Rey is often at a loss when mobile—she won’t be challenging Beyoncé to a dance-off anytime soon—but she’s fairly compelling when simply looking into a camera and declaiming. Anyone crouching on the Internet, ready to tag Del Rey’s mistakes, will be frustrated by “Born to Die,” which is too expert to register as a failure.
- In next week’s issue, Sasha Frere-Jones writes about (online now) Lana Del Rey and her new album, “Born to Die”: http://nyr.kr/wVJBFW
Interviewer:Have you heard from Ryan Gosling since you told Rolling Stone that he came up to you at a Jamba Juice but you shut him down because you didn't recognize him?
Aubrey Plaza:I actually did hear from him one time. He invited me to a magic show through someone else, and I couldn’t go because I had to go to this charity thing for Amy, and it was like, "bros before hos," or "hos before bros," however that phrase goes. I just rhymed a lot. So, yeah. I don’t know what’s in store for me and him. I think he has a girlfriend, but maybe I’ll murder her someday and we’ll be together forever.
In honor of the announcement of the Oscar nominations today, I thought I’d share with you some definitely true, undisputed, totally objective, really important facts about the Academy awards.
2004 was the best year for the Academy Awards.
Chipotle takeout is the best Oscar dinner. Which sucks if you don’t live in the USA or London. (Did you know that there’s a Chipotle in London? Awesome, right?)
This is the only program that can make James Franco permanently ugly.
In 2011, indie masterpiece Winter’s Bone was robbed.
In 2012, actress Kirsten Dunst was robbed by not even getting nominated for her performance in Melancholia. No worries, Kiki. You’ll always have Cannes.
Pretty much every year, someone is robbed.
Except 2004. That year was glorious.
The Oscars haven’t been held on March 4 since 1943, although they had their chance this year, since March 4 is on a Sunday. What the hell, Oscars? How am I supposed to have a glamour-themed birthday party if you aren’t on my birthday? I mean, 1943 was a whole forty-eight years before I was born.
Immersing yourself in Oscar-mania until the boundary between interest and madness is blurred is the best way to get through the winter.
This one time, The Return of the King won everything. Including Best Documentary Feature and Best Original Screenplay. It was just that good. 2004, what a year.
“Being with you and not being with you is the only way I have to measure time.”—
Jorge Luis Borges
It’s in my nature to be cynical, and I know that with all of my criticisms of cuddly She & Him or The Notebook (why, Gosling? You could’a had it all!), and even more so, with my apparent inability to connect with other human beings, you might not expect that I’m a romantic. And I’m not, because based on my experience, just about everything you hear is regurgitated, clichéd bullshit that makes you feel stupid in the end for believing it at all.
Sometimes, though—be it rarely—I read a passage that surprises me. A genuine thought that I actually gives me some hope for the prospect of affection (or even love) at all. Borges can do that. So can Neruda. Or Saint-Exupéry. And I suppose that’s the way it should be, because sincere words are more valuable when you have to dig for them.
It’s 2:00 a.m. on a Thursday night, (or Friday morning, depending on your point of view), and I dash to the building next door to grab my clean laundry. I’ve nothing but leggings, a tie-dye t-shirt, and cowboy boots to shelter me from that aggressive wind, but as I go back inside, I’m reassured that I’m not the craziest person here. I consider waking the young man in smart dress who is alone and snoring on the floor of the administration hallway, but instead quietly tip-toe over him.
As much as I want to say that I’m shocked, this is pretty typical Cambridge behavior.
Man, it’s good to be back. Bring it on, Lent Term.