Quick Reads: Henry Alford, “Conducting a Field Test on Pheromones”


I’ve been an avid reader of Henry Alford’s prose for more than two decades, so I was delighted to note that his latest column for The New York Times recounts his unscientific, but highly amusing, field testing of synthetic pheromones.

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Quick Reads: Betsey Johnson in The New York Times

betsey johnson 1988

I’m a second-generation Betsey Johnson customer—my mother wore Johnson’s original Alley Cat line, and my own attachment to the designer’s stretchy floral-print miniskirts, lacy tops, and corset-waisted frocks began twenty years later. I started wearing Johnson’s designs when I was sixteen, and I still haven’t quite stopped…

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Quick Reads: “The Vase of Perfume” by Chang Wu-Chien

mfa boston jade flask

The Vase of Perfume

Chang Wu-chien, translated by Gertrude L. Joerissen


If I open this flask of jade, in which is enclosed a

wondrous perfume, its mysterious fragrance will

overpower thee.


When I caress thee, O my vase of amber, do not

breathe forth thy amorous thoughts.


Image: Jade snuff bottle, 18th century, Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, 95.817.

Quick Reads: Tilda Swinton in GQ

tilda swinton gq

I met Tilda Swinton in person once, four years ago. She was making a personal appearance at Henri Bendel in New York to mark the launch of Like This, her fragrance collaboration with Etat Libre d’Orange. You can read my brief post about that event here. I ended up getting a nasty e-mail from Bendel, which wasn’t happy about something I said in the “comments” section. All in all, though, the experience was a thrill, and Bendel doesn’t even sell fragrance anymore, so that’s all water under the bridge.

Where was I? Oh, yes. Tilda Swinton was just as preternatually beautiful in person as she is in photographs, and she radiates intelligence and wit and warmth. All of those qualities come through in her recent interview with, of all things, GQ. You can read it here. Spritz on some Like This and enjoy.

Quick Reads: Frank O’Hara, “A Step Away from Them” (excerpt)


Frank O’Hara’s poetry collection “Lunch Poems,” first published in 1964, is celebrating its 50-year anniversary.

I own a small used paperback copy of “Lunch Poems” that I bought two years ago. I had heard that O’Hara wrote many of these poems during his lunch breaks while working at the Museum of Modern Art, so I thought I might occasionally read a poem or two during my own museum-job lunch breaks.

Here’s the first stanza of “A Step Away from Them,” written in 1956. It’s a vintage slice of New York in summertime.

It’s my lunch hour, so I go

for a walk amongst the hum-colored

cabs. First, down the sidewalk

where laborers feed their dirty

glistening torsos sandwiches

and Coca-Cola, with yellow helmets

on. They protect them from falling 

bricks, I guess. Then onto the

avenue where skirts are flipping

above heels and blow up over

grates. The sun is hot, but the

cabs stir up the air. I look 

at bargains in wristwatches. There

are cats playing in sawdust.


To read the entire poem, click here.

To read a short New York Times article about the anniversary of “Lunch Poems,” click here.

Image: Leonard Freed, Wall Street, 1956.