03 March 2011

E. B. White on Imitation in Writing

"The imitative life continues long after the writer is secure in the language, for it is almost impossible to avoid imitating what one admires. Never imitate consciously, but do not worry about being an imitator; take pains instead to admire what is good."

E. B. White, in "An Approach to Style," which first appeared in the second edition (1959) of "The Elements of Style"

02 March 2011

Describing: John Galliano

John Galliano. Image: Richard Avedon, 2003
Galliano’s personal hair-and-makeup team had been briefed in advance on the look he wanted to achieve, which was inspired by the evolution of dance. “I am feeling very Spanish tango dirty creepy with oily black hair,” he said. His stylist got the message: he glued a stringy goatee onto Galliano’s chin and trimmed it to a neat triangle; after that, he spent half an hour curling Galliano’s hair and then applied a thick coat of mascara to the lashes beneath his dark-brown eyes.

Galliano wore hoop earrings. His muscles were oiled, then covered by a layer of grime – so that he would look like a toreador when he took his victory lap. (Most designers simply dart onto the runway at the end of a show; a few take a quick stroll in the company of the models. Galliano struts the catwalk all by himself, and he does it with the hauteur of Naomi Campbell.)

– Michael Specter, in "The Fantasist," a profile of fashion designer John Galliano in the September 22, 2003, issue. 

Galliano, of course, is watching his professional life implode. His slurred anti-Semitic slurs in a Paris bar provoked Christian Dior, the fashion house that employed him, to terminate their 14-year relationship. It appears he'll also face charges for "anti-Semitic and abusive behaviour." Oh, and Natalie Portman is pissed. No word on Ashton Kutcher.

Specter today blogged an interesting update to his eight-year-old profile. While Galliano "deserves all the blame and ignominy that befall him," he says, he's amazed at people's  expressions of outrage. "Galliano’s act of self destruction was about as shocking as the widespread discovery, also this week, that Charlie Sheen is a vulgar fool."

I disagree with the cheap kick at Sheen – the slack-jawed television public seems committed to extracting a confession he has no obligation to give – but we can save the debate for our next drink. Say what you want about the guy, but "droopy-eyed, armless children" is genius.

UPDATE: More on the still-burning Galliano situation from Richard Brody, who is, appropriately, a New Yorker cinema editor. (It's possible he also does background work on period films about naturalists.) Galliano will be charged with injure raciale ("racial injury"), which is commoner in France than you'd think. Conviction would carry a maximum penalty of six months’ imprisonment and a fine of €22,500. 

Describing: Scientology Spokesman Tommy Davis

Tommy Davis with wife Jessica Feshbach. Image: i50.tinypic.com
I flew to Los Angeles and waited for him to call. On Sunday at three o’clock, Davis appeared at my hotel, with Feshbach. We sat at a table on the patio. Davis has his mother’s sleepy eyes. His thick black hair was combed forward, with a lock falling boyishly onto his forehead. He wore a wheat-colored suit with a blue shirt. Feshbach, a slender, attractive woman, anxiously twirled her hair.

– Lawrence Wright, in "The Apostate: Paul Haggis vs. the Church of Scientology," in the February 14th issue