The great writer Stendhal, author of The Red and the Black, once wrote that he was so overcome by the beauty and culture of Florence that he had heart palpitations and “walked with the fear of falling.” Two centuries on, dozens of other visitors to Florence have similarly experienced what doctors now call “Stendhal syndrome,” a general term for overwhelming emotional response to art.
A walk home after dinner at a favorite neighborhood restaurant. Heavy rain. Neighbors who had just fertilized their sizeable yard with manure, of all things in a city. The resulting unspeakable slurry that collected and eddied on our sidewalk easily overcame my dress boots, and pushed me to act on a longstanding temptation, even if it was like closing the barn door after the cow – unfortunately not metaphorical enough – had left.
What does it mean to be perfectly proportioned? Is it possible? The biologist JBS Haldane wrote about species “being the right size.” What he meant was that in nature, the size and shape of an organism is always a trade-off: between speed and strength, for instance. And the way that organisms work imposes some absolute rules: there’s a minimum viable size for mammals, based on their circulation, and (thankfully) a maximum for spiders.
When I first told my parents I wanted a fountain pen, they laughed at me. A generation that had grown up learning to write on the scratchy, messy, finicky things couldn’t believe that someone would want to turn his back on the easy, consistent and reliable world of rollerballs and ballpoints and fuss with inkwells, pistons and sensitive nibs. Of course, they didn’t realize that for many of us today, the fuss of the old-fashioned is the draw.
Many of the best clothing-industry memoirs, such as Martin Greenfield’s Measure of a Man, spend less time describing the writer’s time in the industry than they do the circumstances that led the writer to the business. Or, as Daniel “Dapper Dan” Day calls it in the fascinating Dapper Dan: Made in Harlem, the hustle. And for him, it was the attraction of, for the first time, carrying out “a hustle with no vic[tim]s.”
Ahead of a trip to Paris, I splurged on a new suit. My wife and I were headed to France for two weeks in celebration of my new godson. There was going to be a fancy party for one side of the family and a more casual fete for the other. I firmly believe in traveling with only a carry-on bag, so whatever I bought needed to be as flexible as possible. The answer to my conundrum came in an unexpected form: a lightweight cotton suit in taupe–not quite brown, not quite gray–a chameleonic color of surprising versatility. Below are some excerpts from my taupe-themed travel diary.
If not even bankers, the profession we suppose kept expensive custom tailors in business (because almost no other profession can still afford them), are wearing suits, then who is still wearing them? What will bankers wear instead? And what is to become of the suit?