What are you working on? What’s on your desk?


On my desk: a jug of pink peonies, family portraits, convex mirror, strand of pearls, an hourglass, a glass of pilsner, a skull, a knife. All that just on the cover art of Svetlana Alpers’s The Art of Describing (avec sticky note saying “Constantijn Huygens / Emperor Constantine?”). Surrounding the Alpers: a slack Valentine’s Day rose, photos of my son, broken pink Miu Miu sunglasses, a Sony Handycam, a glass of cheap wine, a dictionary, and a bookmark. The bookmark says “The Book Trader, 501 South Street, Philadelphia,” which I discovered as a fifteen-year-old from Valley Forge and subsequently became as important to me as, say, Zipperhead, the immortal punk shop. The bookmark also says “Open Every Day 10 a.m. to Midnight,” which in 1985 would give any future Belle & Sebastian fan a certain shiver.

What I am working on: Something that will incorporate the name Walter C. Arensberg, a Brooklyn storefront that exudes Novocaine and hyacinth, and a very young fortune-teller who sits in an open doorway at the bottom of a steep stairwell and calls out to passersby, “Ma’am, would you like a reading?”

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