Posts Tagged ‘clothes’


Tuesday, February 15th, 2011

Stylish readers!  I’m London bound for a series of really promising events.  Tomorrow evening I will be heading straight from the airport to the Auburn & Wills clothing store in Notting Hill, for a double-booking with the visibly fabulous Molly Parkin:


“the queen of bohemia resplendent in her urban turban”

This event must not be missed by anyone who (a) is in London, (b) loves literature, and (c) needs to pick up some light yachting wear.

Seriously when we were going over the schedule, my publicist mentioned that I should pack something elegant for a photo shoot.  I immediately got demoralized, because all two of my pairs of leggings now have holes in them – and then I was like, “Wait – if I’m reading in a clothing store, can I just buy something there?”

“Oh, yes – I believe you get a discount,” my publicist said, a shade hesitantly.  “It’s just, the clothes might be a bit preppy.”

stonyfold cardigan


Clearly Ms. Parks and I are gonna fit right in.  I actually have my eye on this rather attractive duvet cover to wear to my next engagement:

duvet cover


This will be at the British Museum on February 21, where I will talk about Cervantes, Balzac, and Double-Entry Bookkeeping, as part of the LRB Winter Lecture Series, the other two speakers in which series being, hilariously, Judith Butler (who spoke on the Kafka papers controversy) and TJ Clark (who spoke on Picasso).  A huge honor and I plan to dress accordingly.

Apropos of all my hard work researching Kafka and kittens last year, I was delighted to note that Quirk Classics, the visionaries who brought us Android Karenina, are finally putting out a Kafka-kitten mash-up:


Looking sharp, little guy!


Tuesday, December 7th, 2010

In the attempt to fathom Turkish sports fan culture, I spent this past Sunday at not one but two Istanbul soccer games. I started at Beşiktaş, whose fan organization is renowned for its high levels of political committedness and general enthusiasm.

“You’re going to hear all kinds of curse words,” the taxi driver told me, on the way to the game. “You’re going to hear unheard-of things that nobody should ever hear.”

“That’s fine,” I said. “I’m trying to advance my knowledge of the Turkish language.”

“If you’re trying to advance your knowledge of the Turkish language, I’m not sure a Beşiktaş match is the first place I would advise you to go. It seems to me there are other, better places to advance your knowledge of the Turkish language. But of course, you know best,” he said. We drove a while in silence. “Here’s what I really want to know,” the driver resumed. “What are you going to write in your story? That the Beşiktaş fans are spewing curses unfit for the ears of civilized people? Or that Inönü Stadium is united by a warm, intimate, unpretentious atmosphere?”

“Well, whatever I see, that’s what I’ll write,” I said.

“You’re going to write what you see?” The driver looked really depressed. “Well, then we’re done for.”

I’m told there were between 40,000 and 42,000 football fans that day in the stadium, which has a 38,000 capacity. I had bought a ticket in the cheapest section and literally every seat had someone standing on top of it and directly in front of it. Getting into the stands was no joke. The low point for me was when some particularly solid-looking dudes in leather jackets shouldered me out of the crowd and it looked like I wasn’t going to make it into the gate.  But just then a magical gust of wind blew off my hood, and one of the solid dudes exclaimed: “There’s a lady here! Back off, man, let the lady through.” Everyone standing near me stepped aside and let me through! Say what you will about Beşiktaş fans, they know how to treat a girl (sort of).


Towel Story, Part II

Friday, November 12th, 2010

The driver, Mehmet Bey, drove me to Mahmutköy early the next morning, weaving in and out of traffic with no apparent regard for the incredibly violent bouts of coughing that racked his body every few minutes. I have never seen someone with such a philosophical attitude toward such a terrible cough. All day, whenever he would park and get out of the car, he would immediately lit a cigarette, sometimes only managing two or three drags before we reached whatever building we were headed to and he had to throw it out.

At the central FedEx depot, before I had identified myself in any way, I was greeted by an official as “the writer.” (“Wow, you guys know everything!” I exclaimed in alarm, to which he cryptically replied: “It’s easy when you have the Internet.”)  My job at FedEx was basically to sit in a chair and sign a lot of forms, and then they gave me a huge pile of papers and Mehmet Bey drove us to the airport.  There I signed more forms, paid someone $150, and, having been escorted through a series of increasingly-important looking offices, found myself standing before the desk of a purple-faced official.

“Don’t let him out of your sight!” the purple-faced man was shouting into the telephone. “What he’s doing is clear to no one.  First he says, ‘I’m a businessman.’ Then he says, ‘No, sir, those are my own belongings, I’m an artist, sir, a musician, I play the davul.’  Keep him under the closest observation, from the minute he enters.  What? No, you can’t miss him—a long-haired type.”

He slammed down the telephone, glared at me, opened a dossier that had been placed on his desk and, to my astonishment, produced a piece of paper in my handwriting: the packing form I had filled out back at Jensen’s Mail & Copy in San Francisco. It was strangely touching to see it here, halfway across the world. As it turned out, this document was the source of all my problems: because it contained the text “Commercial Shipping Invoice” and referred to a payment of $550, the purple-faced man had concluded that my suitcase contained commercial goods with a resale value of $550, and was thus subject to $400 import tax and $200 penalties. When I tried to tell him how far it was from my plans to sell anyone my towels, he kept interrupting and pointing at the word “commercial.” “’Commercial’! ‘Commercial’! Why has Jensen written this, if these items aren’t intended for sale?”

Stepping back a moment from the scene, it occurred to me how remarkable it was that fate had brought me face to face in this way with the author of my bureaucratic troubles. All too often, such struggles just wind to an end without you ever finding out what the deal was, or what human interest was concealed in the heart of the machine.  And the nature of such ordeals is that, by the end, you don’t care anymore, anyway. What a rare treat then for me, as a writer, to actually meet my secret opponent, and to thereby be able to contextualize my own particular situation within the broader field of human activity—within, for example, the life-story of a purple-faced man whose mission was to shut down smugglers, and who believed that I was trying to sell my used towels to the Turkish people without paying import taxes.


Towel Story, Part I

Friday, November 12th, 2010

The problem of my towels originated in San Francisco last month, when I had the great idea of mailing a suitcase of non-urgent items (namely, summer clothes and some towels) ahead of me to Istanbul.

Hoping to avoid my customary bad luck with luggage, I used FedEx, which ended up costing $550. Those of you who have seen my summer clothes and towels know they aren’t worth that much. On the other hand, who can put a price on girlish dreams? One of mine happened to involve sitting by the banks of the Bosphorus in a $12 H&M shirt-dress that, among its other excellent qualities, already belongs to me, and the wearing of which thus does not require me to visit the Istanbul H&M, subjecting myself to potentially traumatic encounters.


Istanbul’s first H&M opened last week


Girls gone wild

Tuesday, October 26th, 2010

Immanent readers!  I address you now, free of worldly belongings, untethered to worldly concerns, divested of my bed and other housewares, separated indefinitely from my loyal intern

I was really happy to spend part of these disembodied days making a tour of some of the East Coast’s most venerable educational institutions.  A huge thanks to Carlo Rotella at Boston College, Natalie Rouland and Tom Hodge at Wellesley, and Cris Martin and Svetlana Boym at Harvard, among the many others who made this possible.

Special thanks are also due to undergraduates Madeleine Schwartz, who invited me to the Harvard Advocate, and Alexandra Dennett, who brought me to Yale’s Saint Anthony Hall. Ms. Dennett and a classmate can be seen below reading The Possessed on the shores of Lake Lagoda Ladoga:


The two friends were on a Russian summer study program together and didn’t realize they were both reading my book until they happened to sit down at the beach that afternoon!

Because I love pictures of girls gone wild for Russian literature, I was also very happy to receive the following from Amy Knowles (a calculus teacher in North Carolina), who appears below with her friend Shannon at the time of their college graduation. Amy had just written a thesis on Andrei Bolkonsky; Shannon had written about The Brothers Karamazov.

Screen shot 2010-10-11 at 3.43.50 PM

Ladies, I salute you!