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Letters & Essays: V-Z

Sketches of Paris

By Edmund White

One of our neighbors is the famous couturier Azzedine Alaïa, the minuscule “architect of the body” as he’s often called because he creates his garments directly on his models, whereas someone like Christian LaCroix dashes off a sketch which he tosses at a trained team of seamstresses who interpret and realize even his most far-fetched inspirations. Alaïa works sometimes late into the night, his mouth full of pins, as he drapes and pulls and turns and twists and dances around the dais like Pygmalion dressing an already transformed and fully alive Galatea.

The Flaneur

By Edmund White

Paris is a big city, in the sense that London and New York are big cities, and that Rome is a village, Los Angeles a collection of villages and Zurich a backwater. A reckless friend defines a big city as a place where there are blacks, tall buildings and you can stay up all night. By that definition Paris is deficient in tall buildings; although President Pompidou had a scheme in the sixties and early seventies to fill Paris with skyscrapers, he succeeded only in marring the historic skyline with the faulty towers of a branch university, Paris VII at Jussieu (which was recently closed because it was copiously insulated with asbestos), the appalling Tour Montparnasse-and the bleak wasteland of the office district, La Defense.

On the Cover: Kenneth Noland

By Karen Wilkin

Kenneth Noland’s name is synonymous with a particular kind of American abstraction—one based on the potency of color, rooted in the belief that relationships of hues, like music, can directly and wordlessly stir our deepest emotional and intellectual reserves. Noland’s name stands, too, for pictures with lucid, near-geometric formats—images that ring changes on frontal, symmetrical, deceptively simple compositions, brought to life by seductive color. Probably the best known of these are the Circle paintings—unabashedly beautiful concentric rings of disembodied hues—with which he first announced himself as a painter to be reckoned with, four decades ago.

An Anecdoted Topography of Chance

By Emmett Williams

In my (Tr. Note l.) room. No. 13 on the fifth floor of the Hotel Carcassonne at 24 Rue Mouffetard, to the right of the entrance door, between the stove and the sink, stands a table that VERA painted blue one day to surprise me. I have set out here to sec what the objects on a section of this table (which I could have made into a snare-picture) (see Appendix II) might suggest to me, what they might spontaneously awaken in me in describing them: the way SHERLOCK HOLMES, starting out with a single object, could solve a crime; (see Appendix III) or historians, after centuries, were able to reconstitute a whole epoch from the most famous fixation in history, Pompeii.