Nowruz is one of the most important holidays in Iran, but this year amidst the Coronavirus pandemic, the citizens of Iran have adjusted their conventional celebrations to post poetry (an important part of the tradition) on their balconies and in their window. On the left the banner reads, “Smile like a flower in springtime,” while on the right a banner reads, “Spring is coming my dear, let the branches dance!” For the whole story and more images visit Ajam Media Collective (via ajammc.com)

What surprised me when I started going through the shelves the other day was that it turned out to be not the least bit unpleasant. I had really admired that MoMA De Chirico show, for instance, but I hadn’t cracked that catalog in decades. Doing it now brought me back.

I went into a file cabinet to dig out what I had written about De Chirico’s anxiety-ridden visions of vacant Italian cityscapes populated by ancient sculptures and distant railroad trains, all of it slashed by raking shadows. Most of the review seemed just fine. Then, flipping through the book, my eye snagged on a couple of picture-pages.

Plazas are nearly empty, long corridors of Roman arches are blank, sharp perspective lines don’t quite match up, which sends the ground plane tilting up and down. Steep shadows cast by a late afternoon sun, forbidding fortress towers, the Vatican’s famously uncomfortable sculpture of sleeping Ariadne from ancient Greek myth — the images were familiar. The years leading up to the nightmarish catastrophe of World War I are hauntingly evoked.

Yet now the paintings look a bit different. The current social climate has added another layer.

  • Renowned playwright Terrence McNally passed away this week from COVID-19. His obituary in the New York Times had this notable detail:

In a 2014 interview with The New York Times, Mr. McNally recalled an encounter at Stephen Sondheim’s 50th-birthday party in 1980 that helped him shed a personal demon, a turning point in his playwriting. He was drinking heavily at the time and had been for years.

“Then someone I hardly knew, Angela Lansbury, waved me over to where she was sitting,” he said. “And she said, ‘I just want to say, I don’t know you very well, but every time I see you, you’re drunk, and it bothers me.’ I was so upset. She was someone I revered, and she said this with such love and concern. I went to an A.A. meeting, and within a year, I had stopped drinking.”

If you really want to piss off a white man, ignore him. I did this online a few weeks ago when one tried arguing with me about a piece of racialized literary criticism I wrote. The dude desperately wanted to tell me his definition of Latina because he thought my definition was wrong. I told the fucker to shut up, I’m not interested in having myself explained to myself, and soon after, Alex, my publisher, emailed me.

  • The Harvard Business Review has a very useful interview with one of the leading authorities on grief, David Kessler. He explains:

What do you say to someone who’s read all this and is still feeling overwhelmed with grief?

Keep trying. There is something powerful about naming this as grief. It helps us feel what’s inside of us. So many have told me in the past week, “I’m telling my coworkers I’m having a hard time,” or “I cried last night.” When you name it, you feel it and it moves through you. Emotions need motion. It’s important we acknowledge what we go through. One unfortunate byproduct of the self-help movement is we’re the first generation to have feelings about our feelings. We tell ourselves things like, I feel sad, but I shouldn’t feel that; other people have it worse. We can — we should — stop at the first feeling. I feel sad. Let me go for five minutes to feel sad. Your work is to feel your sadness and fear and anger whether or not someone else is feeling something. Fighting it doesn’t help because your body is producing the feeling. If we allow the feelings to happen, they’ll happen in an orderly way, and it empowers us. Then we’re not victims.

  • The owner of Dirty Candy restaurant in Manhattan, Amanda Cohen, penned an op-ed that is telling us to deal with the realities of the service industry and then reform them:

Customers are willing to pay only so much for food, yet rent, utilities, insurances, taxes and food costs keep going up. We’ve survived by cutting our labor costs to the bone, but that has left us in the industry still on the edge, while cooks, porters, servers, dishwashers, and bartenders have no significant savings, health care or a safety net. Lots of restaurants have started relief funds for their staffs and that’s great, but if our workers need charity so badly now, maybe owners weren’t doing this right in the first place?

After this shutdown, we’ll have to rebuild the city’s restaurant business from scratch. A few restaurants with deep pockets can probably return to business as usual, but the bulk of places in this city would reopen with enormous debt. We’ll be welcoming back workers whose bank accounts have been drained, who will bear significant health care costs, who will more clearly feel the need for child care and sick days.

Required Reading is published every Saturday, and it is comprised of a short list of art-related links to long-form articles, videos, blog posts, or photo essays worth a second look.





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