Sometimes, when the world is too much with us, we just need a love story or a laugh. This week, Storyboard obliged with lots of both. We talked to the writer of a viral Modern Love column in The New York Times about love. We also talked to a producer of the C.O.O.L. podcast about the healing power of humor. And we gave you not just One Great Sentence, but 11 of them by a woman who knew a lot about love and laughter: Dorothy Parker.
Mandy Len Catron and “How to Fall in Love With Anyone.” “Perhaps you’ve read that Modern Love essay in The New York Times, the one that zipped around the country along internet tethers and social media synapses in 2015 like contagious hope, bearing an irresistible headline – ‘To Fall in Love With Anyone, Do This’ – and instructions on how to actively navigate into love instead of passively stumbling and falling into it.” That’s how contributor Katia Savchuk starts this Q&A with author Catron about the follow-up book, and the danger of fetishizing love.
The soundtrack: “I Fall in Love Too Easily,” by Chet Baker. I’ve had the album “Chet Baker Sings,” a collection of vocals by the trumpeter, in regular rotation for many years. The unexpected vulnerability of his voice always gets to me.
One Great Sentence
“Take me or leave me; or, as is the usual order of things, both.”
— Dorothy Parker. Read why we think it’s great. (Bonus: Ten other Great Sentences by the master of them.)
Podcast producer Lily Perry and humor as a survival tool. You have to love a podcast on the healing power of humor that interviews everyone from Terry McMillan and Margaret Cho to a drag-queen-turned-rabbi. This is my favorite part, from contributor Roy Rivenburg: It’s reminiscent of one of my favorite passages from Ken Kesey’s “One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest,” where McMurphy breaks into hysterics because “he knows you have to laugh at the things that hurt you just to keep yourself in balance, just to keep the world from running you plumb crazy. He knows there’s a painful side … but he won’t let the pain blot out the humor no more’n he’ll let the humor blot out the pain.”
The soundtrack: “Blasphemous Rumours,” by Depeche Mode. The chorus of this song has gone through my head at fairly regular intervals for the past 20 years, if not longer. “I don’t want to start any blasphemous rumours/But I think that God’s got a sick sense of humor/And when I die I expect to find him laughing.”
What I’m reading online: Earth in Suspension, by Ferris Jabr and Golden Cosmos. Yes, we’re all tired of the eclipse. But I have to mention this eight-frame mini-graphic novel that The New York Times ran last week. Not only is it absolutely gorgeous, it’s moving, reminding me of those Sad Animal Facts that seem funny at first, and then the pathos of them hit you. The last frame begins: “A total solar eclipse is not just the momentary theft of day. It is a profound interruption of the world as we know it.”
Living in a Void: Life in Damascus after the exodus. This has been a week of escapism, but I want to bring you back to reality with this stunning piece by the Syrian novelist Khaled Khalifa, who has remained in his city as thousands of people, many of whom he holds dear, have fled. This is how he begins: “My sister, whom I haven’t seen for more than two years, told me she was going to cross the sea in a rubber dinghy. She hung up, not wanting to hear what I thought. She merely said something profound and sentimental and entrusted her three children to my care in the event that she drowned. A few minutes later I tried to call the unfamiliar Turkish number back, but the phone had been turned off. Hundreds of images from our childhood flooded my memory. It’s not easy to say goodbye to half a century of your life and wait for someone you love to drown.”
What’s on my bedside table: “Longbourn,” by Jo Baker. The Jane Austen reference in the Mandy Len Catron piece above sent me to “Longbourn,” which tells the story of “Pride and Prejudice” from the servants’ point of view. It’s very clever, because we know the Bennets aren’t cruel to their help, but they do blithely ignore the hard life of that help. This passage, from the housekeeper’s point of view after an unintended cruelty by one of the Bennet daughters, is lovely: “Mrs. Hill looked down at a willow-pattern dish, empty, though crusted round with egg. The three tiny people still crossed their tiny bridge, and the tiny boat crawled like an earwig across the china sea, and all was calm there, and unchanging, and perfect. She breathed. Miss Lydia meant no harm, she never did.”
What’s on my turntable: “But Beautiful,” by the Norman Luboff Choir. It doesn’t matter what this album sounds like; it has two wonderful things going for it. One: The title is possibly my favorite for any song, an old jazz standard with this line (which, like the “Blasphemous Rumours” line above, flits through my head at regular intervals): “Beautiful to take a chance/And if you fall, you fall.” Two: That cover. Stunning. (FYI: The link I’ve included is for a better version of the cover song, a duet by Bill Evans and Tony Bennett.)
If you want to chat about storytelling (or music), I’m Storyboard editor Kari Howard, and you can reach me at firstname.lastname@example.org. Or you can find me at @karihow on Twitter.