Blair McClendon

  • Finder, Keeper

    NOVELISTS ARE LUCKY. Not only is their “I” a fiction—even or especially when the veil is of the gossamer kind—but when they need some space to say what can only be said when “I” is another they can always switch to third person. The critic tends to get stuck in first. So I find myself in a waiting room, just as he does. I am in New York and he—Tunde, a photographer, writer, professor and sometimes narrator in Teju Cole’s novel Tremor—is in Boston. His friend and colleague Emily has cancer. The tests or treatments she is undergoing might give some rough idea as to the span of her life. “For the

  • Swinging on a Star

    THRALL IS A JEFFERSONIAN WORD. In Constructing a Nervous System, the critic Margo Jefferson is enthralled by or to: her mother, her father, Bing Crosby. She suspects Condoleezza Rice is enthralled by or to George W. Bush, and Ike Turner by or to “manic depression and drug addiction, to years of envy,  . . . to a Mississippi childhood that was a trifecta of domestic abuse, sexual treachery and racist violence.” A young James Baldwin enthralled the Harlem faithful. Nina Simone refused the thrall of “warring desires.” It’s the last that clarifies the stakes. Thrall, some time after it meant “slave”

  • Eat, Slay, Love

    TWENTY YEARS AGO, the Cannes Film Festival made a concerted effort to bring in more Hollywood fare. This may explain why Shrek showed in the 2001 competition up against works by Shōhei Imamura, Michael Haneke, Jean-Luc Godard, and Mohsen Makhmalbaf. Baz Luhrmann’s musical Moulin Rouge! opened the festival before going on to worldwide box-office success and eight Academy Award nominations. At one point in Luhrmann’s film, the impresario advises Nicole Kidman’s character to renounce the man she loves in favor of the powerful duke to whom she has been promised so that the jealous aristocrat will