New Work

 
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Courtesy of Jenny Zhang (photo), Courtesy of Penguin Random House (inset).

How Jenny Zhang Discovered Her Literary Fairy Godmother in Lena Dunham

Reading Zhang’s stories in sequence is like looking through a prism at other people’s lives: candid, kaleidoscopic, and often illuminating. The characters in this collection come up against socioeconomic limitations; they seek to understand the contours of their parents’ and grandparents’ experiences abroad before they were born; they reckon with the power of their changing bodies. Yet their first-generation immigrant status and gender do not wholly define them. Zhang’s decision to write through an adolescent lens was born out of a desire to reclaim, as she calls it, “a time of life, especially for girls, which is either dismissed or idealized.”

 
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‘Sleeping Woman,’ Man Ray, 1929. Courtesy of the Museum of Modern Art.

When We Dream About Clothes: 
Embracing the ‘Embodied Experience’ in Dreams

On a recent Saturday morning, I dream about clothes. On a single rack in a sparse space hang voluminous skirts in heavy, vintage fabrics of vermillion, baby pink, cherry red and monochrome; a jumpsuit in pastel stripes with rows of fringe; an off-the-shoulder dress of the softest silk in a rich, plum hue; and a collared shirt patterned with puzzle pieces. I run my hands over each piece, lovingly, longingly, prepared to buy and wear each one. They are completely within my grasp… Then, just as suddenly as I’d drifted off that evening, the dream ends, leaving me with little more than fragmented images of beautiful garments in a white-walled room. A question lingers, too: What – if anything – might the presence of these clothes in my dreaming mind mean? And why bother paying attention to them at all?

 

Lady Bird Continues Its Standing-Ovation Streak at the New York Film Festival

As the credits rolled on the New York Film Festival’s screening of Lady Bird Sunday night, a woman astutely observed, to no one in particular, “I feel like we’re all in the middle of calling our moms.”

Perhaps the film’s ability to evoke that feeling explains its runaway success on the festival circuit thus far. Lady Bird stars Saoirse Ronan as Christine McPherson—who demands others call her “Lady Bird”—a high-school senior dueling with her tough-loving mother (played with knowing candor by Laurie Metcalf), falling in—and just as quickly, out of—love, learning to distinguish true friendship from faux popularity, and dreaming of East Coast college life. While Lady Bird revels in the hyper-specificities of suburban teenagehood in the early aughts (Dave Matthews Band songs, puka shell necklaces, TV news consumed by the burgeoning war in Iraq), it also waxes universal about young love and sex, class and mother-daughter dynamics, and the ever-shifting meaning of home.