Xmas Gift Guide
Part 1 & 2 & 3 below…
Venmo @Kaitlin-Phillips if you like what you read.
Sam Mckinniss’s real estate agent
The painter Sam McKinniss says, “It’s time to consider gifting a second home in Litchfield County to that special someone in your life. I mean, why not. You missed out on a pretty good window (it’s a seller’s market now, too bad) but if you need the number of my real estate agent, he’s a real bitch, but also a shark and more than capable of securing a most favorable deal. His name is David Brooke. Yes, like the Times columnist.” Call him today: 860-670-8081.
Perfume for hot girls who are really depressed
My winter scent is never coy, as the season demands… My go-to perfume for cold covid nights was musty, like a book with nicotine-yellowed pages (or whatever cliche means “smells like dust” to you). No one likes this perfume but me. Therefore, I recommend it to women who are just like me...
It occurs to me that global warming will eliminate the need for a “seasonal” perfume. The very idea of women wearing summer scents all year long, designed to be cloying to the point of literal fruitiness, suffocates me. (There is a time for the peak-July MNZ girl smell—that mix of sunscreen, sweat, butterfly ginger lily, pua kini kini, frangipani, tuberose, jasmine sambac, black salt and ambergris—and that time is July and August.)
But the waning necessity of seasonal perfumes—if we’re lucky!!—will inspire something else altogether. Like a stirring desire for mood-based spritzing. I recommend, as I did, finding a “depression” perfume before it’s the same temperature all year round. I’m wearing it as I type this:
AEOOJ ($130), “After Every Ounce of Joy (Leaves My Body),” is a perfume Chris Rusak made during a mental health crisis. When the perfume first appeared on his website, he refused to release the ingredients, inspiration, or decode the acronym. If you’re a depressive, his actions will make sense to you. If you want to honor the spirit in which the perfume was created, believe me when I say AEOOJ smells like gasoline & smog & green urban decay, which is a convoluted way of saying it smells like Maria Wyeth. (Eventually Chris started feeling better and released some info. Or maybe he still feels like shit, but no one would buy a perfume without scent notes, so he acquiesced. “It features a structure of pinyon pine resin, exudation a tree produces to heal from wounds to its shell, foraged from Inyo National Forest in July of 2019.”)
Chris... is a friend, and an experimental small-batch perfumist with an idiosyncratic and conceptual style. I don’t really know that much about his day-to-day life...He’s been working intermittently on a perfume zine of excellent experimental perfume writing (perfume included)...He graduated summa cum laude with a degree in art history from UCLA, which I mention only as a means to explain why he calls his customers “collectors” and signs all his “work,” besides the obvious explanation, which is that his perfume is for a very specific customer, someone who appreciates the artfulness & doggedness & heart of the 1-man operation. I guess you could say his perfumes are difficult, but it seems more important that his perfumes are singular....
If you are the kind of girl who orders two drinks at a time—the only way to order in a crowded bar—I recommend Beast Mode, Chris’s weirdest perfume, of which he is particularly proud. The first spray really does hit you with pepper & licorice, as the perfume notes claim... Sometimes perfume people, like wine people and astrology people, use language too liberally, but in this case he’s being literal. But there’s an unmatched Freshness/aliveness to it? Don’t you want to feel alive???
If you’re a basic bitch who wants to spell like an xmas tree, try Timbre…
My general thesis here is, It’s insane that women are OK with smelling like other women??? If you’re buying a girl perfume, make sure none of her friends already have that perfume!!
Husband & wife: DIRECTOR ALEX ROSS PERRY & ARTIST ANNA BAK KVAPIL RECOMMEND EXOTIC CLEMENTINES, MUSHROOM POWDER & NOEL GALLAGHER’s SNEAKERS
Anna says, Fortnum and Mason’s Glacé clementines and apricots are the ideal gift for a new friend; exotic, vaguely puzzling, visually luscious. (I’ve never actually tasted one, they may be inedible.) Pair with deadstock Paper Moon greeting cards. Odd Eye NYC has them sometimes. I also like buying directly from one of the original artists, Brian Zick (seller name: ZickStuff) on Etsy. Buy someone a DVD of Frederick Wiseman’s underseen 1983 documentary The Store, which follows the customers and employees at the glittering Dallas Neiman Marcus through one lush holiday season. (The blu-ray is only available through Wiseman’s Zipporah Films.) Give it to someone you want to get in the mood to buy you something really expensive. It’s full of nouveau riche Texans treating themselves to outrageous jewels and furs…
Alex says, I discovered Novesta shoes at a concept store in Slovakia (where they are made) in 2016, as locating and acquiring local sneakers while traveling is always a priority of mine. Their classic designs are unchanged for decades; however they also frequently collaborate with various international brands, my favorite of which was with UK company Universal Works for a line of thick, felt sneakers. Noel Gallagher is also a fan...Cascade Mushroom Powder will radically change the way any dish tastes, it’s like fifty mushrooms pulverized into a tablespoon and can go in any dish, soup or sauce. This stuff should become the next chili crisp: everybody knows about it and has some on hand to improve everything at all times. Anna’s parents turned me on to World Spice Merchants when we were visiting Seattle. It’s only available through their store…
Editor’s note: Artist Claudia Grigg Edo says “Fortnum and Mason’s Glace apricot’s taste like an old rich, English woman’s house… more than house, like her carpet.”
Alexis Page —New York's most elite beauty consultant (M.A.C, Glossier, Pat McGrath Labs), who famously did the BEST Not Really episode of all time leaking all of her and the industry’s beauty secrets — tells you what beauty products to buy:
Are you seasonally exhausted from reading beauty gift recommendations every year that tell you to buy Buly toothpaste, Byredo candles and P50? I want to take this time to say that I’ve been using Biologique since 2009—I’m true to this, not new to this. My guide was written with you in mind. If you don’t already know that the baby Mason Pearson is a thing, then I don’t know what to tell you. But I’m feeling festive and, frankly, generous so I’m going to let you in on a beauty secret that I’ve held onto since an Olsen personally disclosed it to me in 2013. I’m going to make you read this whole thing before I announce what it is…
I’m a believer in giving ONE GOOD THING. Why not an Hermes chapstick? The tinted ones are ok (they’re oddly dry) but the clear one is your best bet and works for both girls and gays. It’s an elegant $67 and something that no one buys themselves. Unlike the Hermes Nail Polish, it is actually useful. Fine, Rouge H is chic for a pedicure. It comes in an orange bag and they’ll messenger it to your house if you call in the morning. If you don’t have the time or wherewithal to deal with Madison or the Meatpacking, a beautifully crafted Pat McGrath Lip Fetish Balm also does the trick.
Everything is better in Japan, specifically in the cypress tub of the Park Hyatt Tokyo Governor’s Suite where I stayed with my mother for her 60th birthday thanks to the good people of Delta Diamond Medallion. Bring that same allure to Avenue A with Hinoki Japanese Spa packs. Light a Mister Green Midori-San candle if you like doing that sort of thing while soaking. Their Hippie Shit soap is the official hand cleanser of my home.
My hair is neither here nor there but a product that for some reason doesn’t get talked about enough is Brilliantine. It’s good for everyone and for everything. It’s described on their website as “an oil based styling cream that’s unique and hard to define,” which I couldn’t have said better myself. My preferred shampoo and conditioner are both Leonor Greyl. Now would be the time to mention that I once bought a man an Hermes comb for his unruly hair, which he’s probably since sold to purchase more Arc’teryx.
I think mostly every person in Manhattan is discussing The Row Hand-Blended Oils so that’s probably worth investigating, but I’ve surprised myself by not being as interested in these as one would think.
If you have a passionate beauty historian in your life, a very special touch would be out of print beauty books. My personal favorites are both by Way Bandy. The Artificial Face is also illuminating and has a great cover. The original Kevyn Aucoin book my mother bought me in 1997 is still incredible. An ex gave me the Serge Lutens book one Christmas and our breakup (which I categorize as the 3rd most traumatic experience of my life) mostly left me wondering if anyone would ever know me that well again. Are you the one?
I don’t think it’s at all tacky to give a gift certificate for a beauty or wellness treatment. I can’t say enough good things about Jas Imani for brow lamination. It’s absolutely not scary and 100% life changing, book it now. Shereene Idriss is the only person anyone should see for Botox. Gift a facial with Karine, who is extremely thorough and looks like my Greek grandmother. For the forlorn friend, send them to Dr. Brooks and tell them to call me.
Concealer isn’t really an appropriate item to present to someone else so consider Illuminaire Concealer as the gift you give yourself. Look, I don’t know anything about this weird ass company and I’ve been trying to track down the lab that makes it for 8 years (aka this is the Olsen rec) but all I can say is that this is truly the only concealer that looks like skin. The colors are WEIRD the branding is WORSE. I use shade Florentine Fair (can you believe the naming) and it somehow works no matter what time of year it is. Strictly apply it with a wet Beauty Blender. I mentioned my “secret concealer” in a rude “I’ll never telllll” way on the illustrious Not Really pod and received 72 dm’s from strangers about it. Were you one of those strangers?
CRITIC SARAH NICOLE PRICKETT RECOMMENDS HOSTESS GIFTS
The best gift for a hostess is something to be used right away. An ashtray, say, that doubles as a conversation piece for the cold, jittery space near the opened window. Coming Soon, the shop at Orchard & Canal, sells a butt-holder made in homage to those chairs that are just big hands, except obviously this hand is small as well as green. Seletti makes a ceramic one that is fully dentata, making it impossible for a cigar to be just a… you get it; it’s disgusting and it’s sold out almost everywhere. My favourite ashtray resembling a salient part of the smoker’s body is, however, the Anissa Kerniche one, which looks like a deflated lung or half a heart.
It’s nice to bring ice, especially in a bucket. I feel like millennials don’t own ice buckets, but would use them…? There are some well-priced, fun-looking, golden-age-of-plastic options secondhand, I guess you want me to recommend something new as well as shiny, so… least to most expensive: 1) the elegant little “Bucky” by Aldo Cibic; 2) a stone-cold Arne Jacobsen classic; 3) Tina Frey’s hand-sculpted pail. These are all stainless steel, by the way. Glass is out of the question. Gifts given while standing, especially at the door, cannot be heavy.
What about a bag of salt? Julia Kennedy recommends fleur de sel from Guerande in linen bags, manufactured—according to the website—by a workers’ collective.
No one does this, nor should everyone, but someone should bring bars of old-fashioned laundry soap to parties. The Laundress’s wash-and-stain bar saves my living-room rug from beaujolais stains once a month, ditto my white shirts and bedsheets. It’s $7 or less, fits into the most micro of purses, easy to stock up on, etc… It also comes in a ‘festive’ version.
Or, maybe this is too L.A., but once my friend Cyrus brought a bag of fresh pomegranates to a dinner in the Hills. Charming, everyone thought. Incidentally Ben Mora says eating a whole pomegranate is the cure for a hangover; I guess any activity that takes eight hours to complete could be said to be a hangover cure… Though if I’m having a party, what I really want is someone to sedate me. I think a (filled!) pill box is the nicest present imaginable, a millefiori pill box especially. That or a drug-testing kit in a velvet pouch. Oh and I always love $60 candles, I think they’re so… notionally perfect, you know… burning cash… I give a lot of those slightly trashy, trippy-looking candles from Feu de L’Eau, the ones dyed like wet candy… the blue one smells the sexiest…
I personally think the Ted Meuhling “turtle” pill box is the best pill box in New York ($700). Read more about Ted below…
Carly Cody, a wine merchant at Thirst, incidentally my favorite wine store in Brooklyn, wrote in after the first gift guide and offered her recommendation services to readers. (I know it sounds suspicious that I would have a favorite wine store in Brooklyn, but I assure you it’s not. I briefly dated a bad man who had great taste in wine, and he introduced me to it.) Looking for a specific wine pairing? E-mail email@example.com. She is at your service!
She says, for champagne, “I'm partial to Lelarge-Pugeot's Tradition NV and Christophe Mignon's Champagne Brut Nature or Laherte Frères Extra Brut Rosé de Meunier (for pink bubbles). All three are made with pinot meunier, which is the underdog of champagne grape varieties but hits the perfect balance between fruitiness and minerality. Nice price point for all three. If you want to splurge, Georges Laval ‘Cumières’ Premier Cru is the one. Yeasty, chalky, mineral-driven, festive, less than 10,000 bottles made per year and made with little use of sulphur if you care about that.”
LET THERE BE LIGHT!
Nothing says Yuletide like walking past a townhouse in Manhattan, freezing fucking cold, starring up at someone’s more idyllic life, subtly eluded to by electronic candles situated in each window… radiator heat fogging up snow-cased window panes… cosy cosy cosy! The Perfect Nothing Catalog—which is a guy who may or may not still sell things out of a shack out of garden—is now making perfect single Electronic Candles in his signature bejeweled silver ($200/each). They have a 1950s formica-era vibe: one flickering electric candle with a long cord extending to the wall plug… He also makes the only good TRASH CAN. Order custom.
A weird lamp is a really aggressive gift, and you really have to know the person you give it to. It’s great to know someone, great to be known. Good luck… So, if you know a woo-woo girl who, left to her own devices, would buy one of those giant crystal lamps (???), why don’t you surprise her with one of Georgia Jacob’s Athena lamps.. Vaginal palettes, with the vibe of a lava lamp.
LUCY CHARLESWORTH FREEMAN RECOMMENDS THE CLASSICS
I reached out to Lucy for some “classic, chic, Manhattan” recommendations — the sort of thing you give a wealthy mother- or sister-in-law from stores that have stood the test of time (9/11?).
She recommends fresh water pearl earrings from Ted Meuhling (“pink are my favorite”).
Joanna Avillez—like Lucy, a native New Yorker with a downtown, artist mother—wrote a great article in the Strategist (before the Strategist was inundated with recommendations from Madewell and Parade) called My Mother Never Takes Off These Ted Meuhling Earrings. Ted is a go-to store for clean lines, clear design — my ex’s ex, who was rich enough not to work, had these candlesticks all over her house…Personally, I think Ted makes the classiest pair of hoops in the world ($1,600). Last year, for her 30th birthday, I got my best friend, the equestrian Sarah Mankoff, these subtle almost see-through Amethyst earrings from Ted; a non-flashy choice for riding… (Go into the store and ask to see any “bug inspired jewelry.”)
Lucy recommends another classic downtown NYC store: Selima Optique, the sunglasses boutique. (Made famous, among millennials, as the place where Caroline Bessette-Kennedy bought her slimmest frames.) Selima herself will do pulls for you, or at least I’ve seen her do that for a native New Yorker at the Bond Street store. She recommends the Leo frame. “The shape is so feminine.”
And one recommendation from abroad: “There is absolutely nothing I won’t recommend from Santa Maria Novella. The best times in my life have all happened while I smelled like the store.”
Retro stuff is routinely coming back into style (dial-up phones). I recommend all the lovely bathroom products Makio Hasuike made in the 1990s. I love that it’s called “The Roberta Line.” I want to name my kid Roberta and call her Rob. She also made this lovely jewelry case with mirror.
Artist Nicole Eisenman says, “I forced a museum to sell some gold plated clippers in their gift shop during the run of my show, however those clippers, while cute (gold), turned out to be kinda junky. This is what I have and they are terrific, swiss made surgical.”
The only thing men really want out of their clothes is for other men to notice them. (*This applies only to men that actually care about clothes, if they don't, buy them anything else.) A sweater needs to be good enough that it makes someone else at a party walk over and gently, but excitedly, inquire “what is that?”
Tres Bien Shop's in-house line is superb—probably better than many of the outside brands it carries, really—especially this turtleneck with a hulking, almost-brace-like neck that's basically a built-in scarf.
I love the muted, muddy colors of Missoni's '80s/'90s knits. Like the dip cup after you're done watercoloring. They're surprisingly hard to find in America but stores like 194 Local in the UK have loads of them.
A traditionalist will appreciate this garish, almost saccharine, fair isle vest from Jameison's. It's very Princess Diana at Christmas. (Do not also take them to see "Spencer" though, awful movie....)
Judy Turner's roll neck has that slouching Isabel Benenato/The Row/Yohji thing going on, only (as it's currently discounted) much cheaper.
I think tote bags do make good gifts. Practical, but also… there is such a thing as a perfect tote bag, and the ones you get for free are not perfect. Also, the tote bag backlash depleted my stash. I love the thick straps and bold color of my Hassla tote, and it’s the perfect shape, an isosceles trapezoid (I think?). American Art Catalogues did a wonderful cartoon tote with Rita Ackermann (I think they fuck each other, that guy and her). Custom BODE tote bag also worth it…
I don’t think the argument for shopping locally is “ethics.” Or not first and foremost. It’s just fucking easier to shop in person, particularlily because the shopkeepers in NYC are some of the most knowledgable in the world; they’re also fucking cool, and you’re lucky if they deign to help you…
Stock Vintage at 143 E 13th St.
The only place to find the perfect vintage T-shirt...with, like, the logo of a girls’ camp on the Eastern Seaboard. Dash Snow used to get all his threadbare duds here… Now, it’s more indy actors, and chic Japanese tourists. Melissa, the owner for over ~16 yrs, is badass, and lives across the street. Store opens when she wakes up... her pitbull, Hazel, is a fixture.
Paula Rubenstein at 195 Chrystie St.
Paula has been a go-to Soho antique furniture dealer forever (she used to be on Prince Street). If you need bookshelves, garden chairs, or end tables for your bed, pop in. She’s less reliable on dm, or that’s my experience, but I assume it’s because we don’t know each other! She also has a wide variety of fabric, and the occasional odd garment.
L’Antiquaire and the Connoisseur at 36 East 73rd St.
In 2003, this UES antique store was EMBROILED in scandal! You can read about it in the Times, but, more or less, a talented gay protege, armed only with his charisma and the company credit card, financially vulnerable but living off the fat of the land, found himself to be, structurally, underappreciated, so made a grave error in demanding fairness—& maybe along the way takes some liberties with the company coffers—only to wake up one day to the family closing rank, crying theft, and demanding restitution. Tale as old as time??? (This is why the pull yourself up by your bootstraps theory doesn’t hold water.) Know that James is FINE!, though I have no idea how, and available for hire.
I only care about L’Antiquaire because Joan Didion — who lives at 33 E 70th — and her husband shopped there, and he, at least, was good friends with (or at least a loyal customer of) James’s. In case you’ve forgotten, or obvious things don’t occur to you, b/c you prefer to get swept up: Joan Didion is a rich lady, who grew up rich, who lives on the Upper East Side (she was even the president of the board of her prestigious East Side co-op, nothing to sneeze at!!). This doesn’t matter to me—since talent, to me, on occasion, eclipses the class war; this is a gift guide, frivolous opinions have a place here—except that rich people generally are surrounded by pretty, precious things that are pleasant to look at & nice to the touch. And, whether they have taste or not, they often know where to shop. So, go to L’Antiquaire & buy something pretty & precious, like this cobalt blue pill case...Everything is a pill case to those who still do pills. No one did more pills than Joan Didion.
For the record, she has bland and exceptional taste.
328 E 9th Street
It’s an animal-themed bookstore. Need I say more than Marisa Meltzer can? Actually I’ll say one thing more: She wraps everything beautifully…and her father is Pierre Le-Tan, the late illustrator.
I’m not interested in charity. Buying my friends dinner when they can’t afford dinner, and letting them buy me dinner when I can’t afford dinner, is the extent of my relationship to the concept.
Now look, I encourage blither people to be “responsible for” planting olive trees in Palestine or saving the green turtles; trad holiday gifts that I have been more than grateful to receive. But when it comes down to it, if you aren’t putting money into the palm of an individual person—bail funds, etc.—then you aren’t really moving the needle. (If you think the American Red Cross deserves any more money, you’re a centrist who believes everything you read in the paper.) I chatter on in order to make it clear that I don’t recommend “charity” lightly. In fact, I have always recommended something very simple, though rarely tax deductible, Helping people.
Which is why there is one charitable donation this holiday season that feels ethical, impactful, important, and I think in this case tax deductible (?!), and that’s a donation to the artist Bernadette Mayer, who needed it when she was just struggling with getting older, and especially needs it now that she has been diagnosed with cancer. (Artists in the ‘80s and ‘90s used to throw fundraisers for each other all the time, like at St. Mark’s Church, and it pains me we’ve lost the force behind that community activism...)
You could also buy Bernadette’s poetry books, though I haven’t read them, so can’t make a decisive recommendation... My familiarity is with a sliver of her artwork, which moved me considerably, and I recommend googling for free (lol). I’m thinking in particular of seeing Memory a few times when it was at CANADA gallery in 2017. I might have drawn the wrong conclusion, but I found Memory supremely romantic, like it made me want to live in New York, even though I already lived in New York at that point for eight years. The press release said it was the first installation of the piece in its original form since 1972, which I’m sure was true, and created a nice buzz around the show at the time. (Here’s a lovely interview with Bernadette conducted by Janique Vigier.)
Even if you don’t donate or buy her books or look at her art or read her interviews, you can still glean her taste from a Top Ten she did for Artforum in 2013... Honoring her legacy while she’s alive is the best gift you can give. I’m so sick of people fanning out over all the fucking dead people. We have artists among us!!!!
Critic/curmudgeon John Ganz recommends a few more books:
Pretty much can’t go wrong giving A Time Of Gifts, a beautifully written travelogue of pre-war Europe. Every copy I’ve owned has been borrowed or stolen from me. Josh Cohen’s The Netanyahus is, among other things, just incredibly funny and entertaining. Pushkin’s Eugene Onegin, a “novel in verse” that tracks the tragic career of a rake in 19th century Russia is probably the best book ever written. Snowy sleigh rides and glittering balls give it a holiday vibe. Get a nice old copy. Let’s face it: we’re never going to read Balzac’s Comedie Humaine with its 48 volumes. Fortunately, critic Peter Brook’s Balzac’s Lives gives us a terrific cheat-sheet, diagramming the lives of the principal characters and their (sometimes simultaneously) dingy and glamorous milieux. The legendary New Yorker writer Joseph Mitchell’s tales of the denizens of old Gotham’s dives and alleyways is an essential part of any would-be boulevardier’s library.
Dumb, cheap religious gifts are always cool: icons, rosaries, etc. Audrey Wollen sent this from RI.
Susie — James Joyce freak, queen of the West Village, lover of Simone Rocha — is kicking off the gift guide because she has given me the best, most thoughtful gifts over the years: A heart-shaped le creuset on Valentine’s Day... the best smelling non-sticky hand sanitizer at the peak of the pandemic, by a perfume company… her favorite “ugly” fur house shoes just in time for winter. (See left: paired with the Row slouchy corduroys, the best corduroys money can buy, I have them in every color: camel and black.)
She says: Go to P.E. Guerin and replace all of the door handles in your entire apartment. This is really good advice, please PAUSE, click the link, and think about doing it. And by it I mean: Elevate your life. Change things no one else would bother to change!
She says buy clothes at 45R. “Pricey but forever.”
My grandmother was appalled by the gift of alcohol. But it’s hard to find a truly great glass of champagne in Sinai, South Dakota (population 200 and dropping), so what the fuck did she know, RIP.
Needless to say, I am not appalled by the gift of alcohol. For my 30th birthday present, my ex, Carsten H*****, called and gave me a choice of gifts, one of which was a case of wine from the year I was born (1990). Touching! Also touching: Giving people gift options?? He does this yearly and I think it’s cool.
A case of wine—a great gift!—doesn’t have to be expensive. I would categorize it as a supremely “practical gift” to send someone 12 bottles of “house wine,” so that when people who are not in “the best friend tier” come over you have something for them in the wine rack. It’s not for you, it’s for him, the alcoholic (ehem, any alcoholic but you) downing an excellent wine faster than you think it should be downed.
What case of “cheap” wine, you ask??? My friend, the LA astrologist Mercedes Kilmer,—who lives in the model apartment from The Long Goodbye, you know, the one where Elliot Gould is watching those girls do yoga topless; so you should take her advice, I mean imagine the ideas you have living in a place like that!!!—loves this primal wine, which “embodies the perfect alignment of primal of ancestral prowess and subtle elegance and nobility. Made from 100% Grignolino, one of the most ancient and revered local varieties of Monferrato, it comes from an East-facing single cru....Electric drinkability, zippy tannins, unending freshness and depth of character sing here a unique song of deep forests after an Autumn rain, Calvados-soaked wild sour cherries, spiced rye bread, red currants and cinnamon.” This wine company has a wine club — the gift that keeps on giving, seems like a family operation, I would def fuck the guy that owns it, he seems hot. Also…. Now that I’m biocoastal… I’m sort of a California-style wine drinker … so this natural wine shit appeals to me.
However, my house Chardonnay is not natural or fancy or notable, that’s why it’s “HOUSE WINE”: Bonterra Chardonnay. For whatever reason, this isn’t offered at Astor Wines, but everything else I order in bulk at Astor Wines, for the discount, they have a great selection, they’re really the best in the city, every boomer I know orders from them. Call them today: 212-674-7500.
When I want to buy a SINGLE bottle of PERFECT wine, AND I want to walk from the East Village, where I live, to the West Village, I go to “rare wines” in the west village, and talk to that SUPER hot guy who owns it, and who, incidentally, writes an AMAZING wine newsletter. Read the blog here. The WSJ wrote about it once, so you know it’s good...the WSJ knows wine. Buy something that costs $50 and you won’t be disappointed, and you might even impress someone.
Whenever I say a man is hot, I mean hot to me, but this guy is really hot, no???
If you know someone living abroad in a cosmopolitan city, I recommend buying them a subscription to The Natural Wine Company, which is affiliated somehow with Omar, that guy that runs Apartamento. For 135 euros, you can get 6 bottles, they don’t ship to the U.S. yet, sucks, but they hit the only 35 countries I’d ever bother to visit abroad.
If you are reading this gift guide please Venmo me @kaitlin-phillips! I would like to buy myself a nice bottle of champagne (see below). If you want to send me a bottle of champagne, I will give you my home address, I really don’t give a fuck: Kaitlinephillips@gmail.com.
~~~A WICKER BASKET OF CAVIAR AND CHAMPAGNE AND POTATOES~~~
A single bottle of champagne — now that’s a great gift.
I like to send people a bottle of Laurent-Perrier champagne. Why? Michael Bargo drinks it. He’s the gay guy who is always unidentified in the Olsen twins’ pap photos (him and Tory Burch’s step-daughter, the wan redhead). He picks all the furniture for The Row store… follow him on instagram if you want to get the inspo that inspires the inspo-ers.
So yeah: If he’s doing something, you should do it too. For instance! Whenever he has a dinner party he just serves baked potatoes, caviar, and champagne. If someone came over to my house with a wicker basket of those three things, I would fucking kiss them. I suppose you could also round out any gift basket with a fucking ugly champagne-shaped candle…though it’s too tacky for Bargo, he would never.
Caviar is a staple of Marian Goodman’s diet. She prefers the Petrossian brand. Her staff says, “We usually get her the basket...it doesn’t matter if it says sold out, you can just call...
Also it detracts from the glamour but be sure to get the bodega thin lays, because the chips are sometimes too crisp...the best crème fraîche is isigny st mere.”
Alex Traub, the Times reporter and native UES-er, says Sabel’s is where his parents buy caviar.
I can also recommend Dom Perignon (vintage 2010), because the aforementioned Susie has messengered them over to me out of the blue from time to time, and it’s excellent. Whenever she sends me champagne, she explicitly says do NOT save it for a special occasion.
Let me just say that, in general... it’s really good advice to chill out and do whatever you want and not care about anything at all EVER. Like...so what I got wasted and spilled on your couch. Flip the fucking cushions over. Or Get it reupholstered by Nick Poe…then you’ll actually have something nice. Not to belabor this point but every time I’ve spilled wine on someone’s couch it has not been a couch worth saving… This is why they call it “social work.”
...Oh, while I’m here, call Nick Poe if you need a desk? He just did some nice desks for the Paris Review office, dunno if they’re still having parties but if they are, check them out...
THE KITCHEN GIFT GUIDE, BROUGHT TO YOU BY RACHEL TASHJIAN OF OPULENT TIPS, and GQ MAGAZINE—NOTABLY MY EX BEST FRIEND, like, 2014-2016—THE GODDESS HERSELF:
Do you dream of having an overpriced, inefficient kitchen appliance that inspired an entire literary genre??? Have I got the gift for YOU! The AGA is a legend of British country cooking culture, which you may have seen while perusing WOI or studying the Instagram of English-Russian heiress (and explorer??? In these times???) Alexandra Tolstoy (yes, that Tolstoy). This is a $20,000 cast iron stove—though you can get a half size for $6,000ish, and you can sometimes find them used, I know someone who drove to Nebraska to get one off Craigslist—that locks the heat into dedicated "cooking zones" so that the insulation creates the most tender and moist roasts and baked goods possible. The price does not connote ease of use: you have to adjust nearly everything you make to its impetuous ways. Its radiant warmth means British country house owners often use it in place of heating, and its regular presence in these kinds of homes gave rise to a niche genre of British romance novel called the AGA saga, pioneered by author Joanna Trollope. (Her real name!!!) Essentially, these are books about people in Laura Ashley dresses making pies and having sex in purposefully down-at-heel cottages filled with chintz furniture--very au courant. My favorite is The Rector's Wife, and the queer romance novel (!!!!) A Village Affair.
Claude Lalanne designed the GREATEST bar carts of all time with her husband Francois-Xavier; my favorite is a hippo. Also every boring rich person has one of their sheep. You might have seen the gold breast and torso plates they designed for Yves Saint Laurent, which are still copied by designers to this day. But most interesting to me are Claude's flatware designs...radiant organic sculptures you can use everyday, like these Snail Spoons (probably ~$6,000?). They really believed that being alive is a work of art! Shouldn't you, too?
It’s super easy to find children cheap funny gifts—like magic grow toys—but sometimes you just want to buy the yuppies yuppy shit:
A friend of mine just had a baby, and the celebrity S***** M***** sent her nice stuff from Quincy Mae, the organic baby store.
If you want to dress your kid like a serious Japanese architect, which is a really good idea, shop at Makié. “It’s all handmade,” says T editor Thessaly La Force, “Baby couture!” (This baby hat set, with Super soft and fluffy fleece booties, is my favorite.)
Little Moony in Nolita has a personal shopping service for people who just want to e-mail over the age and “gender” of the baby and not get involved on a personal level and have it shipped, and not give a shit what’s in it. I like the store because I think the only humans who can get away with wearing harem pants are children; their harem pants for unpotty trained kids make SO MUCH sense!
I do think every 10-year-old boy should get an uncut sheet of $1 bills.
This isn’t an earth shattering suggestion, and I debated deleting it, but children are boring so their gift guide must too be boring… if I’m shopping online, and therefore I’m being lazy and cheap, I shop for children at Norman & Jules, which has a nice selection of plushy toys for under $40 and dumb stuff like galaxy glitter “activity dough”. Otherwise known as Play-Doe LMAO!!
Children are a waste of money.
There’s nothing like a gift that costs over $5,000. The best gifts I’ve ever received have been over $5,000, sorry to all the people who gave me thoughtful gifts. I don’t really care about that shit. Thinking is overrated, thoughtfulness is so often oppressive, “get the fuckkkk away from me, I’m on xanax, let me enjoy my expensive things in private” etc etc etc.
My most recent ex—Chris Habib, I still love you!—bought me an entire look from The Row each holiday, for, like, five years (last year’s on the left). Now I can wear the Row every day of the week if I want to pretend I’m rich. It slaps! Just the IDEA of owning a full runaway look had not occurred to me. Now it occurs to me all the time. That’s good gift giving. Makes me want to get back together literally.
Anyway: The most expensive thing on my wishlist right now (~$2,500-$30,000) is a piece of furniture — don’t care which or what — by Pierre Giraudon. Giraudon is not an unknown furniture designer, I’m not discovering anybody, he’s just the guy that does it for me.
He was a biologist, and invented some technique for freezing bugs and shit in resin. So all his furniture has, like, an ugly wildflower frozen in the base of a lamp. I don’t usually like recommending “used things” on the gift guide, but I will make an exception for Giraudon. I want this ugly layer cake lamp. It’s so ugly. I want this $30,000 leaf table. Also kind of tacky looking.
Ugly ugly ugly, I love it!!! I have nothing against ugly. And nothing against expensive things that should cost less than they’re worth.
DATE NIGHT BY ALEX VADUKUL
Fair warning: Vadukul and I prefer atmosphere to food, every time, always. Fuck food! It makes you fat.
A really nice meal is a great gift.
Alex Vadukul, our main man at the Times, has some suggestions on where to take your lady to dinner. Going to dinner is the most sophisticated thing you can do in New York City. This is all we have.
King of the hill, top of the heap, a true unsung gem is Villa Mosconi, which abuts the very same SoHo basketball court that Da Silvano's toilet window once overlooked. This place is absurdly overlooked and a historic red sauce wonderland. I recommend a drink at the bar in the front room and then dinner in the back room. One waiter used to work at the printing plant of the Times back in the 80s. Next door to Mosconi is a private Italian rifle club concealed in a brownstone.
Gene's, the last holdout of its Greenwich Village domain (R.I.P. French Roast/Charlie Mom/Sammy's). It floats beneath the radar but is a fantastic restaurant for both food and atmosphere. It can also be somewhat slightly sceney as it is a discreetly low-key old guard media haunt (and younger media folks who now go there get an atavistic street cred thrill out of the place). But the place is very peaceful, warm and beautiful, and generally kind of perfect in my opinion. The bar is where the action is at (if one can beat a regular to their spot).
Hidden in Midtown is the legendary Pietro's, which is the very last of the Italian-style chop houses that were expense account havens during the Mad Men era. I don't know how romantic Pietro's really is, however it is without question a gem, with a fine menu and kitchen. It is famed for its shells a la nat, epic table side Caesar, and of course the Italian steak. Father and son, Bill Bruckman and Bill Jr. run it. The main dining room is great but I prefer the little intimate sidedining room by the bar.
Rossini's. Also in Midtown, the deepest of cuts. Est. 1978, it is an Italian restaurant frozen in 80s decor and also frozen in time. Eat at the front bar...but the dining room is an adventure, too. One of the gimmicks of the place is...live opera/piano singing at night. This place is a bit zany, truth be told. Legitimately "out there" even. But eating in the front room, for two, can be a special treat. I like the place because it feels like the taste of power Midtown stuck in the early 1980s.
Also in Midtown, of course, is the rowdy piano bar/red sauce institution Mimi's, starring Chicken Delicious. Not sure if you've ever given it a shot. This place is beyond beloved. And also insanely fun. This is a must.
Kaitlin says: If Petrossian was open, which it is not, I would say just take her to eat caviar… If you’re the type of person who fits in at fancy restaurants, take her to La Grenouille. If you don’t fit in at fancy restaurants, do not under any circumstances take her to a fancy restaurant…. Fitting in at fancy restaurants isn’t even a skill, just take her to Sevilla and order the lobster.
Every gift guide, every article, I say the same thing, because it’s not a lie— and I’m always lying, so it’s nice to be able to point to something, and be like, I didn’t lie—“Lucien is the best restaurant in New York.”
To the point: Raffaella, the fashion designer of Lou Dallas, is making custom Lucien sweaters. I don’t know how you get one, I don’t even have one, but… 2/2 world wide, that’s the shit right there.
UGLY STUFF IS FUNNY OR THE MOLLY YOUNG PHILOSOPHY OF GIFT GIVING
John Derrian, who I think they call the “king of decoupage,” opened too many stores for me to feel excited about shopping with him—because everything that isn’t ONE store is a chain store to me, and therefore NOT a desirable place to shop, HOWEVER—I absolutely love this blackberry pie candle. It’s fabulously dumb and ugly and sometimes you just want to give someone something “sizeable.” I have no idea how it’s going to burn...Puddle in the middle, like it was undercooked??? I think it’s a great way to show up to a dinner party when you were supposed to bring food but didn’t feel like it.
FOR THE MENTALLY ILL
Some people need their houses cleaned. When you’re mentally ill, your house gets really dirty.. That dude who wrote that really inappropriate book about suicide, about how he saw Sylvia Plath right before she died, said that he knew she wasn’t well because her hair smelled; he was onto something with that, though he might have used that knowledge to save her life. (Buying a friend with dirty hair a blowout IS cool...)
So: If someone’s house is really dirty, they need YOU to fix it, they can’t fix it. Don’t listen to anything they say, help them. Hire someone to clean it, or do it yourself. Fight them on it, push past the embarrassment, just knuckle down. And most of all: Don’t act like it’s a big deal. Take them to the bar and never mention it again.
Helping people is actually really really hard. If you can actually help someone, that’s a nice gift. I’d like to belabor this point.
HOWEVER, I don’t want to imply that people who are down on their luck, in the shit or whatever, need practical gifts. It is, in fact, the opposite. Your most unlucky friend literally NEEDS clothing that costs thousands and thousands of dollars. Money and clothing are the only gifts that can turn your entire life around.
An aside: Sending someone a money tree is really cool. Someone in my childhood did this: like literally they gave someone a tree with money twisted around every branch with tape. It was super hard to get the money off the tree if I remember correctly. Seems cool, 100% recommend.
I know this isn’t what people want in a gift guide, which is why I put it at the end, but Back to “the people with shitty lives thing”: Sometimes when you live in a shitty apartment, it’s hard to want to fix it, so you need other people to fix it for you. Like simple, simple things. I never fixed anything in my apartments in the first ten years I lived in New York, because I never lived anywhere nice, but my best friend insisted on fixing dumb shit, like putting a little catcher in my drain or whatever or slipping one of those restaurant rubber doo-dads they put under the table to keep it from rocking.
Or being like look I got you this great dish rack for the tiniest sink situation ever, with a little drain…
Or replacing someone’s light sockets with nicer light sockets…
Or buy someone an EXCELLENT showerhead. “It’s like showering in a very aggressive cloud,” says my ex of this one. If you buy them this showerhead, be sure to buy them a filter too. “Reduces Dry Itchy Skin, Dandruff, Eczema, and Dramatically Improves The Condition of Your Skin, Hair and Nails,” says the copy. “cos it reduces the chlorine and fluoride you breathe in the mist,” says my ex.
Blah blah blah, but that shit is real! Save some lives!
BOOKS BOOKS BOOKS
Gift guide Part 2
Tobi Haslett, on WhatsApp from Turkey, says everyone should read John Edgar Wideman’s new book. And Afflicted Powers by Retort, because it’s “a Marxist—in fact, Situationist—analysis of 9/11. I refuse to say more about it because if that doesn’t sound enticing you shouldn’t read this book.”
Christian Lorentzen recommends five fiction “books by women big in the 1990s,” because that’s the prompt I gave him.
(1) House Rules by Heather Lewis (1994). “Kicked out of boarding school and into the Florida show horse riding circuit, all appropriately sordid.” ***This Heather Lewis profile is essential reading in the New York Times Magazine!***
(2) The Colorist by Susan Daitch (1985). “A digressive New York City novel about a woman who colors in the panels of comic books, this one predated the literary comic book wave led by Lethem and Chabon, which anticipated the debasement of American film by Marvel. Daitch has a new book coming out called Siege of Comedians.”
(3) The Spectacle of the Body by Noy Holland (1994). “Contains Holland’s legendary story ‘Orbit’. According to lore, it is the only story Gordon Lish ever let a student read out to the end in one of his classes. Actually, Lish told me that himself.”
Durga Chew-Bose recommends Books for Readers Who Like The Pictures:
The near pocket-sized version of Robert Bresson’s Notes on the Cinematographer, published by Green Integer, is a terrific stocking stuffer—full of aphorisms, fortunes, gentle reminders, attitude and sweet sentiments. The kind of gift that is unexpected, impossibly evergreen/essential, and most of all (!) it provides heaps of inspiration, which I know we could all use right about now. A couple examples here:
Catch instants. Spontaneity, freshness.
Neither beautify nor uglify. Do not denature.
Your film is beginning when your secret wishes pass into your models.
YOUR MODELS MUST NOT FEEL THEY ARE DRAMATIC.
Don’t show all sides of things. A margin of indefiniteness.
Marguerite Duras’ Green Eyes is lovely if you like her Practicalities. It’s lovely, too, if you like her writing and not her films, but also—and yes, this is related—if you love your friends and are fine with them not liking your writing. She has a great line in Green Eyes that is about making movies that aren’t worthwhile making. How free! More movies that aren’t worthwhile!
Another gift option—film related and adjacent—could be a personalized box set of Lillian Ross books, curated with a variety of covers and wrapped in a ribbon. Like these three. ONE. TWO. THREE. Or simply: just get this version of PICTURE, inscribed by John Huston. Perfect book design.
The July 1971 issue of Playboy has a nice interview with Cassavetes. It's not incredible, but gifting a magazine because it includes an interview, well...that seems like the definition of a good gift, no? You don't even have to wrap it. Just scribble the page on a post-it, and stick it on the cover. (There's a nice bit in the interview about miracles, very on theme for Christmas.)
Eleanor Coppola’s Notes is one of my favorite diaries to read and re-read. It's about marriage and motherhood and making movies and making a home and buying furniture and remembering to write it all down. It's about children and their imagination, too, like when Sofia was confused as to why the Easter Bunny hadn't visited them on the island and Eleanor was able to find leftover chocolate eggs a week later at a hotel in Hong Kong.
Eleanor Coppola, and Francis, in great shirts. (I also think it’s weird our generation has completely ignored the option to get colored lenses. Olivier Zahm is onto something.)
Thora Siemsen says get an annual subscription to The Song Cave, which delivers a singular book every other month. “I’m reading Punks by John Keene now.”
Janique Vigier, reporting from the belly of the art world: For stories of bitter competition, petty grievances, ruthless ambition, and mostly tarnished idealism, nothing beats books about art dealers.
Don’t rewrite history, start with the classic: Duveen: The Story of the Most Spectacular Art Dealer of All Time. Get a nice copy of the first edition, the one with the Steinberg illustrations. It’s the most practical: he manipulated people like Frick and Rockefeller, paid butlers and drivers to tell him when aristocrats were selling their Old Masters. Learn how to get what you want…
My first boss gave me a copy of The Art Dealers and told me to memorize it. It’s a famous oral history of American dealers, from Sydney Janis to Paula Cooper. I did memorize it, but all the wrong parts I guess, because I got fired. What makes you a good dinner guest is not always good for your “career.”
This is really for someone who likes the “image” behind the anecdote: Franz Kline, a terrible driver, speeding in his Ferrari on the West Side Highway. Also...girls prone to taking questionable advice as irrevocable truth. Leo Castelli saying the decisions he made out of weakness turned out best.
Jean Stein’s West of Eden is horrifying. It also provides an oblique view of the beginning of the Ferus Gallery through Walter Hopps and Ed Moses’ work as psychiatric attendants to Grace Garland’s daughter, i.e. the most infamous gallerist in LA made his money taking a schizophrenic woman to Disneyland....
If you need something breezy, I suggest Peggy Guggenheim’s Confessions of an Art Addict. Everyone here is always “setting off somewhere” and saying things with “perspicacity.”
The most sober, roundabout and truly FASCINATING of art books is Christopher Wood’s A History of Art History. He takes a LONG view, like “altars from 1368” long. Good for…your erudite stepdad.
A real gift would be Mary Boone writing her autobiography.
DO BOOKS EVEN MAKE GOOD CHRISTMAS PRESENTS??
Great question. Every Christmas various well-meaning people who don’t really know me give me books for Christmas. Sucks. There is a misconception that—because I believe there is such a thing as a perfect book & there is nothing on this earth that compares to reading a perfect book—that I like books. I don’t. I like perfect books.
I also like art books, because they appreciate. Like Susie Lopez got me The Tarot of Leonara Carrington this year before the entire printing was recalled (!), so now it’s like $400. Not that I would ever sell it. Great book!
I tapped Visitor Design a.k.a Chris Habib to recommend three artbooks, because that’s what he collects. He directs you to Hassla press. “They are killing it.” (1) Laurie Parsons: 36 Slides 1986-1990. “I love Laurie Parsons, she dropped out of the art world and never went back,” Habib says. ***Bob Nickas wrote about her disappearing act for Artforum, Whatever Happened To: Laurie Parsons. Essential reading!*** (2) Richard Kern’s CARS. “Car crashes.” (3) Shannon Cartier Lucy: Better Call It Grace. Lucy was a heroin addict and art student in the 90s and had to leave NY, and then came roaring back with a painting show last year. This is already sold out, so you need to ask your local bookseller if they’re holding back a copy…
Truth & Beauty (2004), by Ann Patchett. Clock her old author photo, what a wackadoodle.
I always thought Ann Patchett was synonymous with “sweeping novels for wives sold at airports.” I have no idea why I thought this, I just always did, and never picked up any of her books. Also, I’m sorry, but who walks into a bookstore and just idly picks up a book titled Truth & Beauty with...an illustration of a dragon fly on the cover???
Then, this year, Harper’s published an absolutely batshit story about Ann’s inappropriate relationship with and extreme co-dependence on her personal assistant who used to be Tom Hanks’s personal assistant. A few months after this piece came out, I was getting drunk in Livingston, Montana at the home of writers Amanda Fortini and Walter Kirn, one of my favorite couples in America, and we were, as usual, talking shop. “What writers are good? What writers are bad? And who is lying about it online?” Etc. Etc.
I expressed shock that Ann Patchett was such a great writer—a batshit crazy person who has never met a boundary she didn’t cross—but, without a doubt, one of the greats. Amanda noted that Harper’s was just the tip of the iceberg, that Ann has a history of writing about her sycophantic relationships, that she wrote an excellent, if inappropriate, book called Truth & Beauty about her best friend Lucy Grealy—a difficult and ugly heroin addict, who also happened to be a talented writer who barely wrote—within a year of Lucy’s death.
It is a perfect book!!!! And completely salacious: Lucy is without a doubt a disastrous, self-involved narcissist who squandered all of her talent partying and doing drugs...when she wasn’t feeling bad for herself because she was disfigured (the bottom half of her face was, more or less, completely smooshed)...Here’s Lucy Grealy on Charlie Rose, if you’re curious as to how ugly she was.
Isn’t it so unlike me to recommend a book about an ugly woman! And yet, you can just tell that Lucy was cool and Ann will never be cool, and that’s why Ann could write, and Lucy couldn’t... One of the most fucked up female friendships to ever be put to the page, for the history books. (Thanks to book-critic-turned-Hollywood-darling Michelle Dean for alerting me of this article about how upset Lucy’s family was about the book when it came out.)
~BONUS REC~ Ann Patchett’s The Story of a Happy Marriage. Some great insight into “how she made it” in this essay collection. If you’re looking for inspiration to write your first book, or know someone who needs that (it almost worked on me)...
Lust (1989), by Susan Minot
Author photos used to be so good… Susan Minot between two doors???
Lots of people have told me they have a really good Susan Minot story. It’s a great sign when a woman is talked about in this fashion… You can tell she’s “something else.”
When I came across a copy of Lust, I was staying in the basement room of my friend Susie’s house in the West Village. This now makes sense because, as Susie pointed out later, Susan Minot is her neighbor...
This is a collection in the style of Amy Hempel’s Collected Stories and Ann Beattie’s Distortions: short stories about disenfranchised cosmopolitans, sophisticated sluts, unsophisticated sluts, unhappy rich people, and clever (over-educated) poor people…
White women writing about Africa is not my favorite genre by any means, but it is an insane genre with a few notable gems—Doris Lessing, Nadine Gordimer; I guess Izak Denison, though I never bothered to read her—and to my surprise Susan qualifies. One of the best stories in Lust is about a slutty and uptight expat (an incredible archetype) who accidentally sleeps with a married man in Kenya...
Minot told the Times she “made four extended trips to Africa in the 90’s, staying with friends in Kenya and journeying through the ravaged landscape of Uganda and Lesotho.” ***This was when she was profiled alongside her rivalrous siblings in the heyday of the New York Times Magazine! Really makes you realize that people don’t tell reporters the truth anymore. Essential reading...***
~Gift guide aside~ Susie’s guest room is fitted with Olatz bedding (Olatz is Schnabel’s ex-wife). She says they’re the only sheets she’s ever mended... These were in last year’s gift guide, courtesy of the comedian Lauren Servideo! Olatz also makes impeccable sleepwear (it’s why her ex husband wears pajamas to openings), I personally could use this 100% silk nightgown, with French lace, in white.
While we’re on home goods...I buy all my towels, $5 incense holders (even random pieces of ornate window dressing from a house in Tokyo???) from Makari Japanese Antiques and Fine Art, which I stumbled into when I was noodling around the East Village. (I live around the corner.) I got into “Japanese towels” after Chris Habib bought me a set of white “air waffle” towels from Nalata Nalata for Christmas. Everything at Nalata Nalata (just off Bowery) is so beautiful and precise, and it is my go-to store for gifts for “thoughtful friends.” Like two years ago I got my friend, who is addicted to adderall, this discrete maple pillbox with a hidden chamber. And shop in person, because they have lovely holiday gift wrapping...
Back to the task at hand. Here’s a great excerpt from Lust, if you don’t like this, you won’t like the book!
“Five political books for dads,” another prompt for Christian Lorentzen: (1) The Public Burning by Robert Coover. A stylistic tour de force on the execution of the Rosenbergs, burning with contempt for Richard Nixon. (2) The Mimic Men by V.S. Naipaul. Naipaul’s most acidic novel, on the first generation of postcolonial leaders in the West Indies. (3) Trance by Christopher Sorrentino. There are a lot of novels about Patty Hearst and the US radicals of the 1970s, and this is the one with the most beautiful writing. (4) Democracy by Joan Didion. Last year Didion told Interview Magazine that this novel is the work she’s “most proud of.” She may be the only person on earth to hold that opinion, but it’s still a good novel about America’s warped and warping foreign interventions. (5) The Conformist by Alberto Moravia. The classic portrait of an everyman’s descent into fascism and a deviation from the themes of rotten love and sex Moravia does in Boredom and Contempt.
Chloe, the people’s lawyer, who famously got dumped earlier this year, says, “For communists—or for your friend who just got dumped—I’d recommend Genet’s posthumous Prisoner of Love. Love, loss, rage, terror, savagery, it’s all in there. I’ve heard it described as touting an “unpolemical” or “curiously cool” anti-zionism, but I think he just had an anxious attachment to failure. (It recounts his time with the Palestinian fedayeen in Jordan and Lebanon before his death, and touches on his involvement with the Black Panthers in the early 70s.)”
Aside: If you’re not looking to buy books but you want to follow someone online who understands “perfect books” (and, crucially, read 3-5 books a week, even now, as an adult who isn’t a full-time writer) follow Bookforum and n+1 editor Namara Smith. One of my oldest friends in NYC, and, very casually, one of the smartest.
DAVID PLATZKER on 1 good art book:
As a quasi-bookseller I’ve got far too many books. Between our home and a phalanx of storage units in Chelsea there’s around 30,000 books awaiting sale. The churning sea of titles center around art post 1958 with an emphasis on Pop, Fluxus, Minimal, and Conceptual art—what informed those movements and successive generations of artists whose work follows formally and intellectually from these precursors. There’s artists’ books, catalogues, monographs, periodicals, reference titles and critical theory…
Good criticism should also be good storytelling. In arguing a position an engaging narrative must be constructed that brings a reader into agreement with the author. It’s not enough to write an unrelentingly humorless screed to argue a position. A better approach is to enlighten and entertain, surrendering a bit of enjoyment into the conveyance of critical thinking. Such a book is “The Invisible Dragon,” by the recently departed critic Dave Hickey, originally published in 1993 by Art Issues Press. Here Hickey tells a series of four short stories conveyed as first person contemporaneous folktales. In obit after obit published within the last week writers praised Hickey’s capacity to entertain and educate. To tell seemingly outlandishly fictional stories that are not only factually grounded but drag the reader into Pandora’s caves of grouchy wit via dark, narrow interlocking fissures. This book has everything bad criticism lacks. Insights into the unhealthy codependence of artist, galleries, museums, curators and collectors; a loving disclosure on Robert Mapplethrope’s X Portfolio contextualizing a one of his artful photographs of fisting against paintings by Caravaggio; and Hickey’s lasting circulate on art as a participle within the politics of beauty. Good criticism shouldn’t feel dated by prose or positions tendered. While it’s painful to reread much that was published in the 1980s and ‘90s—when English was reduced to polysyllabic sprees of gibberish in wanton attempts to belittle “uncomprehending” readers—twenty years on Hickey’s told tales remain tuned in cascading straightforwardness that bait readers to the author’s unique phantasms.
BOOKS FOR TEENS OR DRUNK ADULTS:
Manon Mascasaet—who I met despite our decade age gap, b/c we were fucking the same guy, older than us both; lucky me, because now she’s my friend—just self-published a sick tattoo book called I <3 TATTOO ($70 at MAST Books). 18 PAGES of temporary tattoos by all of downtown’s favorite tattoo artists: Will Sheldon, Aurel Schmidt, Pacing Tiger (aka the artist Dylan Kraus). This is a lot of bang for your buck, probably the most valuable book in this guide, page for page.
Dangerous Muse by Nancy Schoenberger. I don’t read a lot of non-fiction, but when I do I read biographies about rich and misbehaved people, preferably mean drunks. This is a fairly common sentiment, no? Lady Caroline Blackwood was all three, and a witheringly deceptive novelist—pair her bio with Great Granny Webster if you’re in the mood for withering social satire!! Sorry, I just never hear the word withering anymore. I’ve read this bio five times.
Thora Siemsen recommends Patricia Highsmith: Her Diaries and Notebooks: 1941-1995 (“I’m working on self-love. In the meantime, Patricia Highsmith is my favorite lesbian alcoholic.”) I would counter that the bio is better than her letters. Is this wildly controversial??
Violet Bent Backwards Over the Grass by Lana Del Rey ($24.99)
I am the first to admit that Lana Del Rey’s first poetry book, Violet Bent Backwards Over the Grass, has got some cringe elements: typewriter font, self-published, bad writing, hazy teen girl photography. However, it moved me! I read it sometimes when I’m drunk. Actually that’s the only way to read this book. In fact, several times drunk people have read from it aloud at my house… That’s just what this book is FOR. Drunk people and Fans with a capital F. A great requirement, I think... there’s a purity to something not being for everyone, especially if something is ONLY for people who can suspend their cynicism… which you’re going to have to do if you read the end of one of her poems (see below). I’m not going to LIE and tell you that this book is perfect. It is perfect TO ME!!!
when I’m drunk
though I haven’t been drunk for 14 years
I go on trips to the beach with my friends who don’t know
that I’m crazy.
I can do that.
I can do anything—
even leave you.
DAVID PLATZKER on Bikes & Booze
~~FEW LINKS, LOTS OF INSIGHTS from David, who is probably the most knowledgeable person I know on books/artist ephemera/whatever you ask him about~~
For over 25 years I was an aspiring runner with an unhealthy enthusiasm of “pain for gain.” Finally, nearly ten years ago my Achilles’ heel became my Achilles tendons. Years of hardcore running become a five long years of physical therapy. Short intervals of periodically renewed running resumed only to be bookended by more physical therapy. Biking became my salvation. The happenstances of an aggressively encouraging boss and a reacquaintance with an old friend coaxed me back into my abiding relationship with enduring for the sake of endurance.
Bicycles are magical tools for self-powered freedom. There’s no better way to navigate NYC than on a bike. Bikes are the fastest, cleanest, most enjoyable and in the era of Covid it is generally the safest way to get from point A to point B. Citibike bikes have their limits. Want to ride to Nyack? Do some hill climbs, or simply ride fast under your own power? Yea, that’s not going to happen on a Citibike. Weighing in at around 45 lbs and with a very limited drivetrain a Citibike is nobody’s first choice to take on a 50 mile ride with 2,000 feet of climbing let alone a 100 mile ride with 10,000 feet of elevation gain…
In such situations one lusts after a genuinely more than decent road bike. Something lightweight, responsive, stiff and comfortable. There’s a few dozen such bikes for a pretend pro, those guys and gals who wears Spandex and religiously shaves their legs.. It’s not enough to have a designed in NYC, made in Italy, Ostory cycling kit, you need a bike that equally dresses for pretend pro success. In the name of holiday giving, I like a 2022 Cervélo R5. Is it the fastest, lightest or most comfortable bike? No. But it is a fine amalgam of those three points when graphed out against similar configured road bikes. While the “five black” paint of a R5 doesn’t scream midlife crisis as much as a geriatric driving a red Porsche, it’s a bike that tens of World Tour team riders need yet a substantially larger number of weekend warriors want. An R5 is designed for long, suffering, sustained rides in the Santa Monica Mountains where a cyclist with reasonable climbing skills would be reasonably aided by the R5’s designed for pro properties. The R5 is available from Cervélo dealers worldwide with prices starting at $8,400 (pedals not included). Pretend Pro jersey and bibs are available from Ostroy.com for $145 and $150 respectively.
Vodka is the beverage of brutal cold winters, dark nights and despondency. In every movie I’ve ever seen where a protagonist is circling the drain there’s always a bottle of vodka being pulled out an icebox dumped into an oversized glass consumed in a single swig or swilled tearfully in a dive bar straight up, shot after shot. Vodka is the stuff of grim pasts, bleak outcomes, foreboding doom. Vodka is Chekhov’s gun.
Arby’s is the fast-food device of similar outcomes. It’s the floundering ship that pilots a sea of late night jokes. I’ll admit to an unhealthy love for their roast beef sandwich, Jamocha shakes, and curly fries. There’s a pure joy in getting off a domestic flight, getting into a rental car, opening a map app, finding the nearest Arby’s and hitting the drive through. There’s only one reason to love Atlanta’s Hartsfield Jackson Airport, it’s the only airport I know of that has an Arby’s deep inside the bowels of a terminal. Appropriately at Hartsfield Jackson the Arby’s is located in Concourse E, the fallow hinterland of the airport. Here Arby’s takes the edge off layovers and canceled flights. It’s the sole always abandoned refuse from squabbling travelers far, far away from my flight’s gate. Arby’s is the vodka of fast-food outlets.
A few weeks ago Arby’s announced a limited edition of Curly Fry Vodka. What could possibly have gone so horribly wrong in one’s life that anybody would think this mash up would be a good idea? Worse, what small segment of population is so far gone that such a tonic would—or could—right them? Well, I’d like to find out. That’s why Arby’s Curly Fry Vodka is on my holiday wish list.
Exclusively available from Arby’s, $59.99…
An extra restaurant recommendation from Alex Vadukul, the city correspondent for the New York Times:
A pleasant, if uninspired, gift is a drawing of someone’s favorite NYC restaurant ($95, see left)...
El Parador Cafe — romantic, a major deep cut — concealed in an old building improbably just next to the entrance to the Queens midtown tunnel: the oldest fine dining Mexican restaurant in manhattan. Essential to sit at the bar. And the food, for once, is as great as the atmosphere.
A wacky pairing is…. drinks before or after that at the super zany Baby Bo’s Cantina, just across the block, maybe the wackiest old Tex-mex cantina bar in the city. Been there ages.
An inspired gift is a drawing from the “restaurant self portrait” series by the artist Aurel Schmidt ($1,000), who is, bar none, the funnest person I know. This whole series is just her drinking in Paris and NYC with boys (cockroaches, rats) in bars... she gave me one right before she flew back to Gay Paris... They aren’t online, but E-MAIL HER!
Aurel yukking it up at Lucien and Casablanca.
ASHTRAYS, CANDLES, OLIVE OIL, KNIVES: THE SIMPLE THINGS
Sadie Stein-Stein—who has a better name?? or more exquisite taste, in New York City??—says “the best gift is a personalized jackknife, for cutting branches in the park. And 1970s and 1980s harlequin romances that vaguely touch on the recipient’s career.”
Queen of Dimes Square, Meetka Otto, recommends things you can buy anywhere: “Tapered Candles make great gifts. Everyone loves them but no one remembers to add them to their grocery list. They are cheap, beautiful, and slightly manipulative. Make anyone think you slightly love them with something that disappears and burns away. They come in a lot of colors and you can buy them at any hardware store. Ashtrays are great for that one dinner party host who makes you ash into a beer can or god—forbid out the window. Expensive olive oil is elegant and has chic passive aggressive vibes. I always give people I don’t like expensive olive oil.”
Dana Vachon says, “My Mom forced this olive oil spray on me when I came back from visiting her and I thought how needlessly tacky and then became addicted… It is like Warhol, so lazy and ghastly as to be magical and essential.”
Stein-Stein recommends THIS olive oil for everyday use, “good value and handsome/sinister.” And says if you want “huge, convenient, convivial, disgusting” ashtrays, try Dunhill or Cinzano. But if you want something “small and versatile,” the Elsa Perretti thumbprint “bowl” is iconic. She suggests googling “souvenir novelty vintage ashtray Reno.”
Mark Grotjahn likes this ashtray/all-in-one rolling table from Seth Rogan, sold out in the cool colors, so wait for that restock. (Fakes “for poor friends” on Etsy.)
GO MEET JAY
The Main Event (42 Avenue B) is the best place to buy weed downtown…I mean it’s an art gallery. There’s a sick show up through January with all this unseen work by and photos of Lee Scratch Perry (RIP)... It’s open seven days a week until 9PM… Gallery hrs have never been people friendly, in my opinion, so it’s nice to see.
They deliver, but you really should walk over there, and talk to Jay, the owner, and, incidentally, my favorite profile writer of all time. I love him (so does everyone else, one of those most popular guy downtown types)... I wandered over last Friday and Jay’s friends were playing jazz music… on Tuesdays, people go and smoke and “live draw.”
The artist Issy Wood wrote in to say, “If you have anorexia an AGA [stove] is perfect because you can warm your frail body on it all winter.” She had one as a kid.
Hot tip: Watch out for the new Picture Book series from Gagosian, edited by my dear friend Emma Cline. The first book is a short story by Ottessa Moshfegh paired with a painting by Issy Wood!! Gagosian using his bucks for good.
TV writer — and Barnard redhead like myself!! — Juli Weiner wrote in with a HOT TIP: Petrossian has branded gym bags now, if you ask for one, they will give it to you for free (with a purchase). She says they are also selling candles?!