In the Depths of the Digital Age

In the Depths of the Digital AgeVirginia Woolf’s serious joke that “on or about December 1910 human character changed” was a hundred years premature. Human character changed on or about December 2010, when everyone, it seemed, started carrying a smartphone. For the first time, practically anyone could be found and intruded upon, not only at some fixed address at home or at work, but everywhere and at all times. Before this, everyone could expect, in the ordinary course of the day, some time at least in which to be left alone, unobserved, unsustained and unburdened by public or familial roles. That era now came to an end.

Read more from Edward Mendelson’s wonderful essay In the Depths of the Digital Age here

The Early Black and White Photography of Saul Leiter

  • The Early Black and White Photography of Saul Leiter “Remy, c. 1950”
  • The Early Black and White Photography of Saul Leiter “Barbara and Jay, c. 1950”
  • The Early Black and White Photography of Saul Leiter “Jean and Bobby, c. 1948”
  • The Early Black and White Photography of Saul Leiter “MacArthur Parade, c. 1951”
  • The Early Black and White Photography of Saul Leiter “Deborah at Tante Esther’s, c. 1947”
  • The Early Black and White Photography of Saul Leiter “Hands, c. 1954”
  • The Early Black and White Photography of Saul Leiter “Adele with Friend, c. 1947”
  • The Early Black and White Photography of Saul Leiter “Sailors, c. 1952”
  • The Early Black and White Photography of Saul Leiter “Snow, 1960”
  • The Early Black and White Photography of Saul Leiter “Self Portrait with Inez, c. 1947”

Saul Leiter lived in an apartment on a quiet street in New York’s East Village, a neighborhood that evolved, during the six decades he lived there, nearly as much as Leiter himself. An undervalued photographer for most of his life, Leiter quietly amassed a body of work that has only recently begun receiving the credit it deserves. Since his death, last fall, the apartment has become Leiter’s de facto archive; Margit Erb, his gallery representative, and Anders Goldfarb, his long-time assistant, have spent months organizing the boxes of prints, negatives, portfolios, and books that he left haphazardly piled throughout the space.

Read more about Saul Leiter and about his early black and white photography

Gabriel García Márquez by Richard Avedon

Gabriel García Márquez  by Richard Avedon

Richard Avedon had long wanted to make a portrait of Gabriel García Márquez. He first photographed the writer on a rainy day in 1976, but he felt that the portrait was a failure. In 1999, he wrote a letter to Jon Lee Anderson, whose Profile of García Márquez had just appeared in The New Yorker, expressing his desire to try again. “I have a group of portraits which are meaningful to me—Borges, Beckett, and Francis Bacon—and of course, Marquez belongs in their company. Congratulations on a disciplined and wonderful portrait of a great man. I know how difficult that is to do.” Avedon finally had another chance to photograph García Márquez in Mexico City, in 2004. This is the portrait that emerged from that second session.

Gabriel García Márquez in Mexico City on March 29, 2004. © The Richard Avedon Foundation.


Sorry, Your Baby is a Narcissist

Sorry, Your Baby is a Narcissist

This article by Jeffrey Kluger makes one point very clear which is that is we are all born as narcissists. Infants have to be self-indulging to survive and their lack of remorse and inability to empathize gives them an evolutionary advantage. Most of us eventually grow out of these destructive behaviors. 


I was once a sociopath. I didn’t know it, and wouldn’t have cared much even if I had. It’s hard to say exactly when I crossed the line from incivility into social savagery, but it was probably the day I tried to clobber a strange man on the head with a boat.

Read more of Jeffrey Kluger’s The Evolution of a Narcissist for Time Magazine here:

Femen Is A Special Kind of Feminism

Femen Is A Special Kind of Feminism

Femen is a radical new wave feminist movement that began in Ukraine and today has chapters across the world. These activists have attempted to break away from the traditional vanguard of the feminist movement by using their sexuality to directly engage and provoke the laws and systems of patriarchy. Their basic motto is very simple and profound. When a woman take charge of her sexuality, she breaks away from the universal forms of political and economic oppression, that have enslaved her gender from time immemorial.  With her sexuality as a weapon, a femen activist finally becomes free and can inspire other women to join the cause.


Before or Tinder There Was a Five Ton Mainframe for Love

Before or Tinder There Was a Five Ton Mainframe for Love

Online romance and matchmaking had a direct predecessor with respect to using computing power, the IBM 1401 mainframe which weighed five tons and was released in 1960. One of the most successful programs to run on this mighty machine was Operation Match, a dating service that began for Harvard Co-eds who had to use punchcards to answer a personality questionaire. The program would soon spread  to campuses nationwide and had anxious students waiting for the results of their matches to arrive by mail.   


Well before the arrival of Tinder and Hinge and OkCupid, there was another technological marvel that fed our never-ending quest for true love. It was called Match. No, we don’t mean We mean Operation Match, the dating service that ran on a five-ton mainframe computer, using spinning tape drives to arrange your next date. […]

To read more about the history of how computers have helped us hook up click here

Soul Legend Bobby Womack Passes Away


Bobby Womack was a rare musical talent who made an indelible influence in early  Rock n’ Roll history. This was before he became famous as a soul singer. Recording as the Valentinos, one his songs ‘It’s All Over Now’ was remade by the Rolling Stones early in their career. This song would eventually end up on Billboard U.K Top 10 list. Bobby Womack had a very illustrious career and his musical achievements are too numerous to list. Readers of The Literati are provided with excerpts and links to two excellent tributes.

Readers are also encouraged to listen to both versions of ‘It’s All Over Now’ and comment on which they think is the best.

Here is the original version:  

This is the Rolling Stones version:



Bobby Womack’s death is a huge loss. There are other soul singers and songwriters who are ranked higher in the pantheon because they’re considered auteurs: Marvin Gaye, obviously, and Curtis Mayfield, and Sly Stone. But Womack belongs among them, now and forever. He started out with his brothers in Cleveland, in a family gospel act; first hit the charts as a teen after the group, renamed the Valentinos, was discovered by Sam Cooke; wrote that first hit, “Lookin’ for a Love”; also wrote one of the early classics of the rock-and-roll era (“It’s All Over Now,” famously covered by the Rolling Stones); became an in-demand session guitarist (for Aretha Franklin and others) and songwriter (for Wilson Pickett and others); went solo; stayed solo; released a string of albums through the early seventies that combined his increasingly sophisticated compositions, his profoundly soulful covers of other people’s hits, and long between-song monologues; co-wrote “Breezin’,” later for George Benson; continued to write, record, and tour; became an elder statesman; appeared on the Gorillaz’s “Plastic Beach”; had a comeback record produced by Damon Albarn; was diagnosed with cancer; beat cancer; was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s; and, finally, Friday, left the earth a far better place than he had found it.

read more about Bobby Womack’s legacy by Ben Greenham for the New Yorker

Here is another excellent tribute in Rolling Stone Magazine by Jason Newman


Antique Trousers From China Maybe Earliest Jodhpurs

Antique Trousers From China Maybe Earliest Jodhpurs


Judith Thurman writes in the New Yorker Blog about an amazing discovery  from an ancient graveyard in Western China of personal items which include a pair of trousers  almost three thousand years old and remarkably in great shape. The dry air in this desert region has preserved some perishable items such as food, leaves, and even cannabis which was still green after nearly three millennia! Green reefer older than Jesus would have been enough of a news story for most but Judith segues into a historical account about the culture of wearing pants. We learn about the dress code in Biblical times, about how women were forbidden to wear what was considered ‘manly,’ and which equestrian culture got it right when it came to gear that prevented chaffing(Yes Jodhpurs had a purpose). Joan of Arc wore pants. Right up to the twentieth century women in France needed permission to wear pants in public, (a law which remained on the books until very recently) and one wonders if this history is a part of the heated debate in France over wearing the hijab and burqa in public.  This is not a topic discussed in this article.

Here is an excerpt:


I thought that my ex-boyfriend owned the world’s oldest trousers. He bought them when he went off to college, in 1952, and I found them disintegrating in the back of his closet, some sixty years later, though he refused to part with them. As far as I know, they are still there. But now it appears that an even older pair of trousers—some two thousand nine hundred and forty-eight years older—has come to light. According to a paper in Quarternary International, the garment was unearthed by a team of scientists excavating the tombs in an ancient burial ground, the Yanghai graveyard, in the Xinjiang Uighur Autonomous Region of western China. This vast cemetery, which covers an area of two square miles, was discovered in the nineteen-seventies by local villagers. It lies on the fringes of the Taklamakan desert, close to the Turfan oasis, in the Tarim Basin, a stopping place for nomads of the Bronze Age and, later, for the caravans of the Silk Route. The extreme dryness of the climate preserved the bodies and their grave goods to a remarkable degree, including perishable items like clothing and food. In one tomb, there was a basket of fruit and leaves near the mummy of a presumed shaman and, next to his head, a stash of cannabis that was still green.

read more about the culture of wearing trousers from antiquity

Nelson Mandela and the Bees


On a chilly Easter Saturday in 1998, I received an urgent message from Nelson Mandela’s press aide to call a phone number in the Eastern Cape. I was a reporter for a Sunday newspaper in Johannesburg at the time, but was on vacation in Cape Town and had just stepped off a wind-swept beach. So I was ill prepared for the conversation that followed.

I called. A woman answered the phone and I gave my name. Soon, a familiar voice boomed down the line. “I’m happy to hear from you,” said President Nelson Mandela, as though a call from a reporter on a Saturday afternoon was a pleasant surprise. But he wasn’t well, he said. The reason for his indisposition was a swarm of honey bees that had attacked him in his bathroom, while he was getting out of the bath.

read more

This College Student Photographed Everyone Who Shared Her Bed for 2 Years

While studying at an art academy in the Netherlands, Dutch photographer Katy Strange took her time creating the photo series 789. The name takes count of the literal number of days over which she captured the friends and lovers who shared her bed at the university. Katy says her “bed-stories” were a window into her life as a student after hours.

Each photo is a placeholder for a memory, a bunkmate diary of sorts. A girls’ night in with best friends. A one-night stand with a fellow art student. Late night stories or brave new explorations. Strange has proof of them all.

789 captures the grayscale beauty of young independence and self-discovery. Take a look at some of the best images here

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