A few years ago, moments after we we heard the shocking news that Arakawa had passed away, Madeline called to assuage our anxiety. “We must keep going,” she said. "We must be strong. Arakawa is our reversible destiny hero." Now that Madeline is gone, we keep waiting for the phone to ring. We miss her intoxicating, death-defying courage. The universe just isn't the same. Yet, we can still hear the strength and resolve in her voice and in her words: just because it's always been this way, doesn't mean that it will always be this way. We miss you, Madeline. You gave the world the confidence to believe in itself.
My Lunches with Orson has the feel of a spectacularly candid series of ongoing conversations. Really, you just don't want them to end. They're the type of heart-to-heart discussions that you imagine yourself having with Welles, then going home to try to explain to your family and friends. Of course, it can be very difficult to remember everything just as it was.
Documented over the course of the last two years of his life, you feel as if you're slowly moving behind the scenes. You're finally getting a glimpse at the real Orson Welles. Not only are his secrets revealed, you really want to order another nicoise salad, just to hear one more story. Anything to extend the conversation.
Then, as you reach the end of the book, you realize that a single question has haunted you from the start. "Were these conversations staged?" Did Orson Welles, the director of F is for Fake, merely take us on a wild-goose chase? Can we truly believe what he, or anyone else, says? What is the status of these insights that we have just gleaned? Does it really matter? Can we take him at his word?
When he confesses - "I've realized that I've misquoted O'Hara all my life. He didn't say, 'This [Citizen Kane] is the best picture ever made. And the best picture that will ever be made.' He didn't say anything as good as that. I made it better…the way one does." - what's at work in these admissions?
As you turn to the epilogue, you immediately recognize that the same question accompanied his interlocutor(s). As Jaglom recalls, recounting their last lunch together, "For some reason I didn't have my little tape recorder on in my bag. I remember thinking as a I drove over that I'd done almost every lunch for a few years and I didn't feel I had to anymore. I remember wondering if he'd notice that it wasn't there, and what he would think it meant if he did."
You're left with the impression that Orson Welles really was a larger than life character. Or, at least that's what he wanted you to believe. It makes you wonder, the way one does.
It's a curious thing, when you revisit a city for the second or third time. You somehow imagine that it'll be just the same. That nothing will have changed. It'll have the same shortcuts and smells, the same cafes and (to be sure) the flowers will be in bloom. Yet, somehow, everything is always different. Even the people.
We've just returned from a few days in Paris. It'd been at least half a decade since we last strolled the streets. On the surface of things, and as our memory serves, everything seemed just like it was before. As we looked closer, however, everything felt just a little bit mismatched. Maybe it was us, trying to escape from our busy lives, half-way committed to a hurried vacation, running around to see this or that. Or, maybe it was something else, perhaps a muted or displaced recollection. At least the Eiffel tower was just where we'd always known it to be.
Nevertheless, this time, something felt different about Paris. It wasn't just nostalgia. Which is to say, it's not that Paris isn't a constant source of inspiration, but rather that it felt like it had lost just a bit of it's glowing enthusiasm. And then we read, only today, that when Orson Welles was prompted to write an article for Vogue on his love for the city, he couldn't think of anything particular to say. The article, he quipped, should be entitled, "Why I Loved Paris". Welles goes on to explain:
"When I could walk on the sidewalk in Paris, I loved it, but now I have to climb over automobiles. Soon there won't be any real Paris left, you know. Or real London or real Rome. Because a few untouchable monuments are not gonna keep a city…I think all the cities of the world are in decline. Because the idea of supporting cities has ceased to be part of world culture. We're all moving into shopping malls…Maybe I'm just reactionary", confides Welles. "If I am, it doesn't bother me much, though. I'm perfectly content to be reactionary - to belong to my own time."
This question of the real. It haunts us still. You see, Paris is such an enchanted city. It's full of so many dreams and memories. You can't help but feel a sense of purpose and pride, a sense of excitement and despair. You're not quite sure if you're living a moment, or reliving a memory. In many respects, it feels as if you are a part of something that's just about to happen, or something that happened centuries ago. It can be very disorienting.
As we strolled down the St. Germain-des-Pres, squinting just so, we could almost see Hemingway sitting at the Brassier Lipp, enjoying a strong dry martini. Like any "good tourist", we picked up the latest edition of the Moveable Feast at Shakespeare and Co - which is, in one way or another, not quite the same since George Whitman passed away. Needless to say, the same observation was probably made when Sylvia Beach moved to the rue de l'Odeon.
We read in the introduction to the new edition of the Moveable Feast, in a lovely piece written by his grandson:
"In November 1956, the management of the Ritz Hotel in Paris convinced Ernest Hemingway to repossess two small steamer trunks that he had stored there in March 1928. The trunks contained forgotten remnants from his first years in Paris: pages of typed fiction, notebooks of material relating to The Sun Also Rises, books, newspaper clippings, and old clothes. To bring this precious cargo home […] Ernest and his wife Mary purchased a large Louis Vuitton steamer trunk. I recall as a child seeing that trunk in my godmother Mary’s apartment in New York, and I can still remember its smart leather trim with brass fittings, pervasive Louis Vuitton logo and the gold embossed initials, “EH.” The trunk itself was easily big enough for me to fit into, and it filled me with wonder at the grand, adventurous life my grandfather led."
It's such a strange thing, revisiting a city, reliving a memory. To imagine, and to truly believe that nothing will change, that the city you knew and loved so well, will somehow stay transfixed, that your heroes will still be walking around. Well, in a way, they are....
We had the most incredible experience. We'd just exited the famous Faubourg Saint-Honoré district, the heartbeat of design and fashion in Paris - we were headed down the rue Saint Florentin, back to our hotel, and a coffee and a coke - when we stumbled upon the studio of Stephanie Cesaire.
We'd spent the day literally traipsing through the famous monolithic design houses, like Longchamp, Saint Laurent, and the coveted Louis Vuitton on the Champs-Elysees. We even passed Conan O'Brien, as he walked down a side street, with his beautiful family in tow. We were looking for design inspiration (and, of course, June was looking for a handbag or two).
As we opened the door to Cesaire's undersized retail space, escaping the treacherous afternoon heat, we were casually greeted by Cesaire's partner, and her newly stamped assistant. Both were as personable as they were gracious, an attitude that's so often remiss in such design experiences.
Instantly, we identified with their sensibilities of intrigue, hospitality, and cleanliness. These were attributes that we started to discern in Cesaire's sumptuous, minimalistic, modern designs. Not only could we feel the overt craftsmanship in the work, as we traced our fingers along the delicate, sturdy stitching, we could also readily sense the obvious care that went into each and every original shape, motif and construction.
It became clear to us that Stephanie Cesaire is emerging as a true-artisan - in the sense of an apprentice who has worked diligently to become a master. Interestingly enough, she learned her craft as a fashion designer while studying under the astute tutelage and expertise of Karl Lagerfeld and Sonia Rykiel. We're so happy that she decided to shed her inhibitions and start her own line. We hope she's widely successfully.
You should take a moment to view her work: www.stephaniecesaire.com
As with so many things, we turn to Gilles Deleuze for inspiration. In his wonderful interviews with Claire Parnet, Deleuze is prompted to comment on his childhood and what it means to write. He responds, "Writing is becoming, becoming-animal, becoming-child, and one writes for life, to become something, whatever one wants except becoming a writer and except an archive."
What exactly does this mean?
As soon as one becomes a writer, so the theory goes, one ceases to become something new. In essence, one becomes irrelevant, with nothing original or important to say. Not only does the individual lose the ability to transform themselves, their writing also suffers from the loss of the power of transformation. One no longer understands, for example, what it means, and what it takes, to write in the first place. The wellspring of joy and affirmation, from which writing often bursts forth, runs dry.
When one identifies themselves as a writer, says Deleuze, they have the tendency to become sedentary and complacent in their modes and habits of thinking and describing the world. They lose their nomadic perspective, so to speak. But, at the same time, they retain or gain their identity, i.e.: "I am a writer." In opposition, Deleuze presents another type of author, a "writer" that avoids the archive, losing themselves in their work. Another orientation to writing takes place, then, because the writer has engaged with the act of having something to say, to "becoming-animal" or "becoming-child".
Deleuze goes on to explain, in reference to childhood, that there are two types of "places" from which individuals write. The first, it could be said, is from the perspective of a "memorialist", which is to say, an individual who writes from the experience of one's own childhood. To be sure, we all have examples. Of course, this type of writing appeals directly to the private life of memories, accessing the personal archive of an individual's childhood. This model of writing, this personal archive of life, has zero interest for Deleuze. Why? Well, it just doesn't tell us enough about the world, or ourselves. It's a collection of identities.
In contrast to the "memorialist", Deleuze proposes a second type of author, one who writes from what he terms, the "childhood of the world". What a spectacular concept, one worth repeating, hearing it roll of your tongue: "The childhood of the world". The phrase contains just the right amount of staccato and optimism. It's as cautious as it is upbeat. That being so, and all things considered, Deleuze is absolutely convinced that writing has nothing to do with memory. It's something else entirely.
Following Ossip Mandelstam, Deleuze remarks that writing, therefore, is "pushing language to the limit, stuttering, becoming an animal, becoming a child". It has nothing to do with digging "through family archives", but rather, inventing a way to express a new language, within a language. Children are so great at this: inventing their own language as they go along.
What lessons can we learn from this line of thinking? How can it be incorporated and applied to our individual, practical lives? Can the concept of the "child of the world" be utilized to help us as we write and as we continue to create and draw the contours of our lives?
Well, in a certain, dare we say "autobiographical sense", we strongly believe that everything we have learned, we have learned from children. Not from our memories of childhood, but from their expressions towards the world. It's not that childhood isn't interesting on a personal level, remarks Deleuze, because it most certainly is, but rather, what is of most interest is the "emotion of a child", "the sense of being a child, any child whatsoever." It's a principle that we hold dear: as we write, as we design, and as we architect experiences for children. We all know children are amazing, but they're even more amazing than we give them credit for.
As Deleuze writes in What Children Say, "Children never stop talking about what they are doing or trying to do: exploring milieus, by means of dynamic trajectories, and drawing up maps of them". They're always exploring the world around them, trying to figure things out as they go along. Everything is new and exciting, and they want to taste it, and feel it, and see it - always for the very first time. Nothing is more new than the ordinary and everyday. If only we could learn to see the world with their mouths, fingers and eyes. If only we had the same confidence in our mistakes.
Yet, and with everything in mind, Deleuze insists, "'I was a child,' and the importance of this indefinite article is the multiplicity of a child. The indefinite article has an extreme richness." Lest we forget, we must never lose the perspective of the "childhood of the world". We must write to become a child. Or, if you prefer, become an animal!
Written by Bobby and June George.