we steal stories

as janet malcolm writes in the silent woman, her MASTERPIECE of biographical criticism, the biographer is “like the professional burglar, breaking into a house, rifling through certain drawers that he has good reason to think contain the loot and money, and triumphantly bearing his loot away.”

i’ve been thinking about life-writing in terms of stealing quite a lot in the fortnight since andrew o’hagan spoke at the conference a colleague and i organized up in oxford on life-writing and celebrity. o’hagan’s question was whether our stories actually belong to us. it is a question to which i would answer wistfully but firmly: no.

(a discussion that i will primarily illustrate with random photos from sarah jessica parker’s instagram, because i’ve recently become obsessed with celebrity instagrams and because ❤ …)

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40 years ago, jackie onassis got a job: reflections on our curious cultural reluctance to seeing first ladies as working women

well, 40 years and some days ago. and, to bring us full circle, this happened to coincide with the aforementioned spate of 1975 rumors that she was hooking up with sinatra, so the story is frequently illustrated in the contemporary papers with a photo from The Night of The Visible Bra Black Striped Jumpsuit and The Suit of a Different Color.

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which, OF COURSE, <3.

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a moment of reflection on our cultural loss: the importance of hair dryers in mid-20th century american life

because biographical research takes one to all manner of rando places, i’ve been thinking about hair dryers today.

this isn’t really sooooooo random. the magazines i’m writing about were believed, at the time, to be the province of “The ladies under the hair dryers in the nations beauty salons” and because beauty parlors and hair dryers are two things that have rather radically changed within american culture in the last half century, it makes sense to do some research into what they were like and reflect on the changes that have come. 

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