…[T]hese delicately wrought essays can be read as a kind of extended, irresistible People for the literary set.
The best things in this book… are the tidbits of gossip. We are eager to know that Zora Neale Hurston seems to have had an unrequited crush on Langston Hughes, that Lowell apparently confessed his love to Elizabeth Bishop in a letter to which she did not respond, that Marianne Moore praised Muhammad Ali’s sense of prosody, “particularly his alliteration, his use of antithesis, and his sense of the comic,” in her liner notes to his 1963 spoken-word album, and that a young John Cage played chess regularly with Teeny Duchamp while Marcel smoked his pipe, looked on, and said, “You are playing very badly.”
I first read and enjoyed Rachel Cohen’s work in The Threepenny Review. The piece, an essay about Toulouse-Lautrec’s painting The Sofa, is here.