[Photo Via It's a Long Season and Ian Berry]
Rest in peace, Saul Leiter, dead at 89. A beautiful artist.
“There are certain people who like to be in the swing of things, but I think I’ve been out of the loop a lot of the time. When Bonnard died, one critic accused him of not participating in the great adventures of Modernism. And Matisse wrote a letter in which he defended Bonnard, saying that when he saw the Bonnards in the Phillips collection, he told Mr. Phillips, ‘Bonnard was the strongest of us all.’
I’m not like those photographers who went up to the top of the mountain and hung over and took a picture that everyone said was impossible and then went home and printed it and sold 4,000 copies of it and then went on and on with one great achievement after another.
Max Kozloff said to me one day, ‘You’re not really a photographer. You do photography, but you do it for your own purposes – your purposes are not the same as others’. I’m not quite sure what he meant, but I like that. I like the way he put it.”
Welcome Back to Where & When. This will be a special edition to highlight the recent loss of a cultural icon. For several generations and cultures who inhabit the city, this was their Penn Station. I present this without further comment, but feel free to post thoughts.
Head on over to Longform and check out their reprint of Gay Talese’s terrific 1966 profile of Alden Whitman, the New York Times obituary writer:
“Winston Churchill gave you your heart attack,” the wife of the obituary writer said, but the obituary writer, a short and rather shy man wearing horn-rimmed glasses and smoking a pipe, shook his head and replied, very softly, “No, it was not Winston Churchill.”
“Then T.S. Eliot gave you your heart attack,” she quickly added, lightly, for they were at a small dinner party in New York and the others seemed amused.
“No,” the obituary writer said, again softly, “it was not T.S. Eliot.”
If he was at all irritated by his wife’s line of questioning, her assertion that writing lengthy obituaries for the New York Times under deadline pressure might be speeding him to his own grave, he did not show it, did not raise his voice; but then he rarely does. Only once has Alden Whitman raised his voice at Joan, his present wife, a youthful brunette, and on that occasion he screamed. Alden Whitman does not recall precisely why he screamed. Vaguely he remembers accusing Joan of misplacing something around the house, but he suspects that in the end he was the guilty one. Though this incident occurred more than two years ago, lasting only a few seconds, the memory of it still haunts him—a rare occasion when he truly lost control; but since then he has remained a quiet man, a predictable man who early each morning, while Joan is asleep, slips out of bed and begins to make breakfast: a pot of coffee for her, one of tea for himself. Then he sits for an hour or so in his study smoking a pipe, sipping his tea, scanning the newspapers, his eyebrows raising slightly whenever he reads that a dictator is missing, a statesman is ill.
[Illustration by Jacob van Loon]
I’ve never read any of Tom Clancy’s books. My step father loved them and since I spent most of my high school years locked in battle with my step father (he: Republican, me: not) I just piled Clancy on top of my hate pile. Clancy died yesterday. I liked this part of his obituary in the Times:
Mr. Clancy said none of his success came easily, and he would remind aspiring writers of that when he spoke to them.
“I tell them you learn to write the same way you learn to play golf,” he once said. “You do it, and keep doing it until you get it right. A lot of people think something mystical happens to you, that maybe the muse kisses you on the ear. But writing isn’t divinely inspired — it’s hard work.”
Closer to home, enjoy this remembrance of Marcella from my aunt, Bis:
I first met Marcella Hazan at Coliseum Books, a store on west 57th street. It was 1978 and I had just returned from a trip to Italy with my husband, Fred. Of course I didn’t actually meet her in person, though I sometimes feel as if I did, but I did meet her through her first cookbook, Classic Italian Cookbook. I fell in love with it when I read her recipe for Amatriciana, which was the exactly the one given me by my friend Vicki, who had lived in Italy for several years. And then I saw a recipe for the Fettuccine al Gorgonzola that Fred and I had loved so much when we’d eaten it at Vini da Arturo in Venice a few weeks before.
It’s so long ago now that I can’t trust my memory as to exactly how my cooking evolved, but what I do trust is that is that Marcella’s books opened up a new way of thinking about food and cooking. I loved her very strong, opinionated voice (I’m pretty opinionated myself), and I loved the absence of unnecessary complexity in her recipes. I loved the idea that I could change the taste of a tomato sauce by choosing to make it with only one other ingredient, and then by changing that other ingredient from onion to shallot to ramp, I could make a different tasting tomato sauce each night.
In the early books she made menu suggestions for what to serve with a dish and it was from those suggestions I learned to think for myself, to make my own choices and create my own menus. She helped me to learn to trust my instincts to “use my head but [to] cook from the heart.” So cooking for friends and family became, and remains, my avenue of expression and creativity and I thank you Marcella for giving me that.
I bought her books and used them and loved what I cooked so I gave them to my family and friends. Today I don’t consult recipes as often as I used to but my books are there on the shelf, broken backed and stained, waiting to be consulted when I need them.
Marcella’s Amatriciana – Tomato Sauce with Pancetta
and Chili Pepper
The Roman town of Amatrice, with which this sauce is identified, offers a public feast in August whose principal attraction is undoubtedly the celebrated Bucatini – thick, hollow spaghetti – all’Amatriciana. No visitor should pass up, however, the pear-shaped salamis called mortadelle, the pecorino – ewe’s milk cheese – or the ricotta, also made from ewe’s milk. They are among the best products of their kind in Italy. When making Amatriciana sauce, some cooks add white wine before putting in the tomatoes; I find the result too acidic, but you may want to try it.
For 4 servings
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
1 tablespoon butter
1 medium onion, chopped fine
A 1/4-inch-thick slice of pancetta, cut into
strips 1/2 inch wide and 1 inch long
1 1/2 cups imported Italian plum
tomatoes, drained and cut up
Chopped hot red chili pepper, to taste
3 tablespoons freshly grated Parmigiano-
2 tablespoons freshly grated Romano cheese
1 pound pasta
Recommended pasta: “It’s impossible to say all’amatriciana” without thinking “bucatini”. The two are as indivisible as Romeo and Juliet. But other couplings of the sauce, such as with penne or rigatoni con conchiglie, can be nearly as successful.
1. Put the oil, butter, and onion in a saucepan and turn on the heat to medium. Sauté the onion until it becomes colored a pale gold, then add
the pancetta. Cook for about 1 minute, stirring once or twice. Add the tomatoes, the chili pepper, and salt, and cook in the uncovered pan at
a steady, gentle simmer for 25 minutes. Taste and correct for salt and hot pepper.
2. Toss the pasta with the sauce, then add both cheeses, and toss thoroughly again.
[Photo Via: Tampa Bay Times]
Over at the New Yorker, Anthony Lane delivers the finest tribute to Dutch Leonard that I’ve come across so far:
Once you hear the Dutch accent you can’t get it out of your head, and for innumerable readers it became a siren song. I fell prey to it in the mid-eighties. Leonard had a breakout, with “Glitz” (1985), and it led many of us to raid the back catalogue with glee. Some of the books weren’t easy to get hold of, and the hunt only sharpened our zeal. A friend and I ravened through whatever we could lay hands on; there is a strange, barely sane satisfaction in happening upon an author—or a painter or a band—and making it your mission to consume everything that he, she, or they ever produced. You rarely succeed, yet the urge for completeness is a kind of love, doomed to be outgrown but not forgotten. I have often pursued the dead in that fashion, but Leonard may be the only living writer who spurred me to such a cause.
…One proof of literary genius, we might say, is a democratic generosity toward your mother tongue—the conviction that every part or particle of speech, be it e’er so humble, can be put to fruitful use. If that means trimming the indefinite article, leaving us with a Albanian and a oyster, so be it. Nothing need go to waste. Richard again, aiming at the formal locutions of a police report, and missing by yards: “I cruised the street and the street back of the residence, the residence being dark, not any light on, but which didn’t mean anything.” So much dumb-ass delusion in so little space, and the linguistic shortfall squares with an overriding sense, throughout the novels, that our grip on the world—and this goes for all of us, not just the chancers and the thugs—is never as secure or as enduring as we would like. Marriages crack like plates; one side of the tracks has no concept of life on the other side, though it may harbor a risky desire to find out; and words will not stay still. That is why the movies inspired by Leonard’s fiction (a slew of disasters plus the odd success, like “Get Shorty,” “Out of Sight,” and “Jackie Brown,” which was based on “Rum Punch”) struggle to match his equilibrium. The souls that he surveyed, even when they were played by George Clooney and John Travolta, were unquiet and fairly uncool. Leonard’s gaze was cool, but, in all honesty, it belonged in a book.
I’m curious what Leonard’s reputation will be in 40-50 years. He sold a lot of books in his time but was also a critical darling. Not many writers enjoy both kinds of success but he sure did.
[Photo Credit: AP]
Rest in Peace, Dennis Farina.
I love this scene from Out of Sight, starting at 0:45 in this clip…
AVC: What do you think makes Elmore Leonard’s work special and so adaptable for movies?
DF: First of all, they’re usually short. I read somewhere that if a book is over 250 pages, it’s iffy for movies. That sounds very pedestrian, I guess. But I think people like that. That’s one of the reasons they’re good sellers, because they’re not 700 pages long. And he writes very clearly and very distinctly and very succinctly. I think everyone can identify with his characters.
AVC: When you’re reading the script for an Out Of Sight or Get Shorty and you see the character you’re going to play, can you tell right away what you’re going to do with that character? Does it jump off the page?
DF: With Get Shorty, I read the book as a matter of course because I’m a big Elmore Leonard fan. I remember saying to myself, “Boy, I would sure like to play Ray Bones.” As luck would have it, I don’t know how long afterwards, I got a call to go to a table reading in L.A. I got a call from Danny DeVito’s office. They wanted me to read Ray Bones. About six months later I was doing the movie. I thought he was the most honest guy in the whole story. He wanted his money, and that was it. There was no pretense. He wasn’t trying to make a movie. He wasn’t trying to be anything else. He was a gangster who wanted his money. I thought he was funny, but I don’t think he thought he was funny. He thinks he’s very serious and that he should be taken seriously, but no one else took him seriously.
Over at audible, you can download the essay, “In Memory of a Friend, Teacher and Mentor” by Phillip Roth for free. Here’s more on the story at the Paris Review.
[Photo Credit: Dan Burn-Forti]