David Coggins | A Continuous Lean. - Page 3

Hero’s Welcome: The Return of Lucky Jim.

Oct 11th, 2012 | Categories: Books, David Coggins, England | by David Coggins

Lucky Jim, Kingsley Amis’s first novel, was published in 1954 and promptly entered the pantheon of British postwar literature. It’s just been reissued by the invaluable New York Review Books Classics, which is the literary equivalent of receiving a case of Laphroaig. Our hero, Jim Dixon, a young university lecturer, grapples with a stream of improbable academic cranks, pretentious artists, neurotic women, a vengeful oboist and his own self-destructive streak. The novel is trenchant, knowing and audaciously misanthropic. It may be the funniest book ever written.

Yes, that’s an absurd statement (Jim himself would surely raise an eyebrow at such a sweeping claim). But Lucky Jim remains the benchmark for satire, misbehavior and the absurd demands of adult life. Strangely, some Lucky Jim partisans struggle through the book’s opening the first time they read it. In fact, it’s not uncommon for people to take pause before they plow their way through it. Why is that? Like watching Shakespeare’s plotting villains or early episodes of Deadwood, it takes some time to acclimate yourself to the incredibly specific, rarefied language. But that makes it sound as if it’s an exalted enterprise: it’s not.





Pinup Provocateur: Bunny Yeager’s Darkroom

Aug 31st, 2012 | Categories: Books, David Coggins, Photography | by David Coggins

These days we are rarely without a camera, yet how often do we hold an actual photograph? We flip through streams of jpegs, on Tumblr, Instagram and the rest, we “like,” reblog and create virtual slideshows. We get daily dispatches from friends on alpine treks, course-by-course accounts of elaborate meals, and inspect carefully curated interiors. It’s so easy to create an evocative filter that we’ve become suspicious of what we’re looking at. It was not always thus.

Bunny Yeager’s photographs are direct and bracing. They remind us of the basic power of controlling the image and the elemental act of provocation. It should be mentioned that she was a pinup girl and named “world’s prettiest photographer” of 1953. You can enjoy her handiwork in the new book Bunny Yeager’s Darkroom: Pin-Up Photography’s Golden Era, (Rizzoli).





Western Dispatch: Idaho Rocky Mountain Ranch

Jul 2nd, 2012 | Categories: Checking In, David Coggins | by David Coggins

You know what you want from a country retreat: a good view, a big fireplace, comfort without needless luxury. Too few get the equation exactly right, so when you find the one you happily return over the years. That’s the case with the Idaho Rocky Mountain Ranch, which is situated 50 miles north of Ketchum along the Salmon River. The main building was built in 1930 and is on the National Historic Registry, and it’s a classic.

The ranch looks across the dramatic Sawtooth Mountains, and it has exactly what you want. Settle in to a straightforward cabin (with hickory furniture and its own fireplace) and then get down to business. The area is full of terrific hikes (the staff is eager to direct you), whether you want an something intense or low-key the scenery is fantastic. It’s also a reminder of how good life is away from the television (the rooms don’t have any).





ACL Appreciation: Kermit Lynch.

Apr 12th, 2012 | Categories: David Coggins, Uncategorized, Wine | by David Coggins

Kermit Lynch is not a name you forget—so it’s good that the man lives up to his moniker. Mr. Lynch imports wine, which sounds like something that’s easy. But it’s only easy for those who do it badly. For those, like dear Mr. Lynch, who do it well it involves trips, over decades, to dank caves and cellars (mostly in France) to taste wine directly from the barrel, and deciding if they’re going to be good over the course of their bottled life. Like many of the most important things, it’s a talent that can’t be taught.

Kermit Lynch Wine Merchant is an establishment of good repute in Berkeley. Lynch leaves nothing to chance—he imports his wine in climate-controlled containers, and insists that stores around the country receive them in the same. No heat casualties, no excuses.





Elevated Sensibility: The Whit Stillman Interview.

Apr 6th, 2012 | Categories: David Coggins, Film, Preppy | by David Coggins

By now, Whit Stillman has achieved a unique cultural status, at once iconic and elusive. His films have such a specific, literate sensibility that devotees hoard favorite lines like beloved family recipes (‘I don’t think Ted is a fascist of the marrying kind,’ remains very dear). And though he’s oft-quoted, Stillman has been a stranger for too long—he’s been executing his own Maneuver X, Barcelona partisans might say. After a dozen years, he’s back. Damsels in Distress, his university picture starring Greta Gerwig, opens in New York and LA today.

We spoke this week in a Madison Avenue hotel suite where Bloomberg News, of all things, was on the television in the background.

***

David Coggins: Is that Alexander Olch in the first shot of Damsels in Distress?

Whit Stillman: It is, and he also repeats, at the end, when they talk about cool people. His very recognizable silhouette goes through twice, kind of bad continuity. He’s wearing a suit and sneakers. I think you should talk to him about shoes.

DC: I will. It’s funny you mention coolness though, because in all your films there’s a distinction between people who understand what’s going on and those who are struggling to figure it out, and a lot of analysis about that fine line.

WS: I agree with the Violet character [in Damsels in Distress] in that debate, that if you really want to be cool, you have to tamp down your humanity a little bit. You’ve got to de-emote, depersonalize. But I tried to be fair to Lily’s character, and what she says does make sense, that yes, we need normal people so things work right.

For instance, I find dealing with Sony Pictures, I’m not so good with the deadlines, because I want it to be really right, but they need to get it by a certain time, so there’s a bit of a drama when ‘Whit needs to approve something.’ It’s been good, but I feel that the practical people get things done. And often I find there’s a conflict between a certain kind of particularism, and getting-it-done-ism. I don’t like to say perfectionism, because nothing is perfect, but if you want to get things in a particular way, that goes against getting it done on time.






The SXSW Dispatch: Sensory Reward and Punishment

Mar 19th, 2012 | Categories: Austin, David Coggins, Music | by David Coggins

You already know South by Southwest doesn’t lend itself to peaceful contemplation. It’s an endurance test for all involved, that reverberates long after you leave. Yes, it’s a crowded mess—overlapping with St. Patrick’s green-stained idiocy doesn’t help. But it can also be oddly intimate: You see bands in small clubs, carrying their own instruments, playing countless shows as their sanity wavers. In the best moments, you’re reminded of the elemental equation between musician and audience. It’s an attraction renewed in real time, one that outlasts clueless corporate sponsorships, new media gambits and apocalyptic meditations about the future of the recording industry.





Viand Coffee Shop: The High Rent Diner

Jun 30th, 2011 | Categories: David Coggins, Food, New York City | by David Coggins

The diner is a rightly beloved cultural institution, and yet it remains a curious one. In one sense they all resemble one another—you could order in any diner without referring to a menu. And yet they also reflect their owners and neighborhoods—they may have an unexpected specialty or insist on serving something only one way. (We won’t get into the hash browns v. home fries debate at the moment, though it is a rich one.)

Consider the Viand, on Madison Avenue and 61st Street. It’s near Barneys and Hermes, not the exact provenance of a fried eggs and bacon—unless you’re ordering room service at The Pierre. The Viand is narrow—the booths are only one person wide—and nearly always crowded with one of the more unusual cross-sections of diners in the city. You may sit at the counter next to a high-powered lawyer or a woman who would typically lunch in a far tonier setting. But it’s not always an overly smart crowd, you come across tourists, office workers, shopping Europeans. It’s local and international at the same time, which is to say, it’s a uniquely New York institution.