The Paintings Have Been Drinking (Not Me)

Travel back with me, if you will for just a moment, to those happy, halcyon days of the year 2001. Oh, what a time to be a young American artist it was! The world waited breathlessly for the final bombshell in Matthew Barney’s Cremaster film cycle to drop (spoiler: Gary Gilmore did it!), and your […]

What! No Oliver?

Some years ago I was stranded at Minneapolis-St Paul airport for 24 hours on route from Portland, Oregon back to the UK.  Unfortunately, and admittedly completely unfairly — as I did not see anything of the Twin Cities themselves — I acquired a distinctly jaundiced view of the area, assaulted as I was by the […]

White Wine for Men

It is a pity there’s no reason to believe King Arthur actually existed. True, there was a sixth-century monk called Gildas The Wise who penned a wordy jeremiad that mentions a battle at a place called Mount Badon where the Celtic remnant of Roman Britain stemmed the tsunami of Anglo-Saxon invasion. It is also true […]

Spaghetti Red and a Seductive Nose

"Don’t you find," he said, "that there’s a funny taste of chicken coops in Rhone wines? Especially Beaucastel." "Chicken coops?" Was he pulling my leg? "Even the great wines, you know, have a whiff of chicken coops. It’s well known." I offered him a glass of the Beaucastel. I tasted it again, now frantically looking […]

Ripeness Is All

We all, they say, have one book in us. God knows what mine would be. How about Good Wine Needs No Bush: Political Maunderings of an Expatriate Oenophile? Or perhaps Latin Love in a Cold Climate: Memories of a Minnesota Classicist. These are merely titles in the mind. More intriguing are authors who produce one […]

Strong, Rugged, Somewhat Sweet

On any list of the smaller enormities of modern life, other people’s Christmas circular letters ought to loom large. It is not the information itself that is so rebarbative. In the great scheme of things, knowing about the family’s new job/house/car/place at the lake is no more or less annoying than reading that Junior has […]

California Dreaming

Last spring brought a nasty shock. I was walking down a leafy side street off Como Avenue, hoping to admire in passing the jolly gingerbread woodwork around the eaves of the tumbledown duplex where my POSSLQ and I shared our first Minnesota home. The place was in pretty poor nick when we rented it twenty […]

Something for the Weekend

A prophet is not without honor, save in her own country and among her own people. One of life’s perennial puzzles is why people in the United States do not seem to read the wonderful novels of Alison Lurie, the sharp-eyed rhapsode of Ithaca, New York. Every good paperback emporium in England stocks Alison Lurie; […]

Famous, but not a Grouse

A colleague likes to talk about the Ivy League football games he went to as a graduate student at Harvard. Apparently they did not sing the Tom Lehrer Harvard fight song (“Wouldn’t it be peachy if we won the game …”); in fact, the crowd’s invective sounds as though it was scarcely more subtle than […]

Pinot Noir for the Masses

Archaeologists have all the fun. Mere historians spend their summers sweating over hot computers while those on expeditions get fresh air and exercise, often in agreeable places. I have just heard from a student who is spending great swaths of his summer making a new map of the Boundary Waters. There are less pleasant ways […]