norbert blei | finding a novel in a newspaper

23 03 2011

NOTES from the UNDERGROUND No. 212 | March 22, 2011

Finding a Novel in a Newspaper

Norbert Blei

So it’s late night. I pick up the New York Times, read and glance over page one.

Maybe I follow an intriguing story’s jump to another page, another section. Maybe I doggedly pursue today’s paper page by page, section by section. Maybe I’m in a fragmented frame of mind (or the news of the day suddenly puts me there), allowing a bold heading, a dramatic photograph, perhaps an appealing font capture my attention and lead me into and beyond whatever a story has to tell.

Some days or nights everything becomes such a jumble I may momentarily pause an wonder: am I reading a newspaper or a work of fiction? Is this the news or a novel assembling itself in my head? Should I laugh? Should I cry? Should I remember as a child on my grandmother’s farm, the warm eggs I once held in my hand?

Case in point. The New York Times, Sunday, March 13, 2011: All three excerpts below, “What I Wore”, “Quotation of the Day”, and “The Rural Life”, appearing in the same issue.


Amanda Hearst


Amanda Hearst 27, is an associate market editor and a blogger at Marie Claire magazine, one o the publications of the Hears Corporation, which was founded by her great-grandfather, William Randolph Hearst. She lives in the West Village and is active on the boards of several charities. —CHLOE MALLE


I was still kind of groggy from being in Europe for the shows, so I woke up trying to figure out a way to incorporate flats into my outfit. I just can’t deal with heels anymore. So I put on black Chanel boots over ribbed DKNY tights and then a blue and white batik-print Zara tulip skirt with an ivory short-sleeved turtleneck sweater from Michael Kors. After a day of working on my blog, I headed to a Core Fusion class at Exhale, for which I wore black Lululemon leggings with a white American Apparel tank top. I love these tanks because they have a built-in bra, so I wear them to work out in, under sweaters. I even ended up wearing a black one later that day under this sheer black Valentino top that I borrowed. I paired the top with black Yigal Azrouel shorts, tights and Prada booties, and headed uptown to the Gagosian Gallery’s opening of “Malevich and the American Legacy.” The only problem is that there was so much traffic that I missed the show! So I turned around and headed to dinner at Palma with a few friends. Nobody commented on my outfit. Should I have worn Zara again?


I woke up and threw on a Christian Dior lace top with leather Vena Cava shorts, Wolford tights and Prada booties. As I was pulling on my boots, the shirt ripped on the sleeve’s hem! I tried to see if I could get away with the rip, but finally decided that I couldn’t. So I kept the booties and tights and put on a Catherine Malandrino dress with an Hermes belt and a black, leather ruffled YSL purse. The belt was a gift from my ex-boyfriend and is probably the best gift I have ever received, period.

After work I headed to the Gagosian Gallery and then met a friend for a drink at the Carlyle Hotel. One drink led to three, so we decided to go out for a bit, dinner and then the Boom Boom Room.


I wore my usual weekend uniform: leggings, T-shirt, oversize sweater. It’s all about comfort on the weekends. I read “Shanta-ram” for a bit (an incredible book about the Mumbai underworld), took my Chiweenie Finn (he’s half Chihuahua, half Dachshund) to Washington Square Park and then watched “Paranormal Activity.” I proceeded to have nightmares all night in my Ralph Lauren flannel button-down.


Rebecca Beeson leggings, my boyfriend’s JDC striped top and a Bodkin gray knit sweater. Because of the rain, I threw on a Patagonia puffer and Finn wore his red parka by Canine Styles. We looked like drowned rats by the time we got back from our walk. We stayed in the house for the rest of the day, officially the laziest weekend ever.


I’m a big fan of J. Crew. I usually buy outfits directly off the mannequins. The styling is just so good! So while I normally wouldn’t have given this blue-and-white checked Oxford shirt a second glance, when I saw it with a camel colored cardigan and green shorts, I bought the whole ensemble. I wore the blouse with a brown Ralph Lauren suede skirt, DKNY stockings and black Ralph Lauren knee-high boots. My goal getting dressed for work is to be as casual as possible while still looking professional, so I’m a big fan of J. Crew and Ralph Lauren for work wear. I’m not really a jeans person, so I wear a lot of shorts and skirts with tights in the winter. Today I wore DKNY stockings, but I usually buy my tights at Duane Reade because they’re $6 and they last a surprisingly long time.


I put on an Urban Outfitters brown and black patterned miniskirt with a black Calvin Klein shirt, Wolford tights and black Chanel knee-high boots. I added a necklace by my friend Prince Dimitri, a watch by Franck Muller and small Tiffany gold hoop earrings. I spent most of the day researching ideas for my blog, but squeezed in a coffee break at Le Pain Quotidien on West 58th Street with my friend Luigi Tadini. After work, I changed into a Topshop by Christopher Kane black dress with black beading on it and black Chanel booties. (I’m such a New Yorker — I wear black all the time!)


One of those mornings where I couldn’t decide what to wear. I tried on a YSL, cowl-neck top with black 7 for All Mankind jeans (nope), a Catherine Malandrino blue floral dress (still not working), and ended up in an off-white Ramblers Way T-shirt, a black and white Chanel tweed blazer, Rag and Bone jeans and purple Miu Miu flats. I went to a market appointment for Matt & Nat bags, a vegan accessories line that is super stylish. In the afternoon I met my mom at Doubles for coffee. She was, as usual, wearing Ralph Lauren.

~ Quotation of the Day ~

“I have no electricity, no water, no cell phone, no telephone. I have no idea what’s happening.”

–Chiyako Ito, a 72-year-old rice farmer whose farm was hit by Japan’s earthquake and tsunami


Verlyn Klinkenborg

Marvel and Persistence

Again and again I’m struck by he persistence of objects. I go out to do the chores wearing a blue plaid wool coat. I have no idea how old it is, because it’s a hand-me-down, and yet every day it’s waiting on the hook. I fed the horses and reflect that Remedy, the retired cutting horse, is at least 31 years old, still sultanic in his majesty. The sun comes up, and here we all are every day—animate and inanimate—persisting together.

There’s nothing very surprising about it, and yet, I can’t help but keep marveling at it. The farm and everything in it seem wonderfully solid, and it all reports for duty, unbidden, every day. This is just a way of countering the other feeling I commonly have—that we’ve all been loaded aboard a planet streaking through time.

….The sunlight feels new and ancient, both. I put on my chore coat, slip on my muck boots and go out to the chicken house my dad and I built after 9/11…When I go out later, there will be something new and fresh, nine or 10 eggs still warm from the hens that laid them.

[from THE NEW YORK TIMES, March 13, 2011]



15 responses

23 03 2011
Ben young

reading a newspaper, esp the Sunday NYTimes is a serendipitous trip, by nature and design….

23 03 2011
Steve Fortney

I wear a pair of ratty bibs. Most of the time. Sometimes a derby for my head.

23 03 2011
Alice D'Alessio

Norb – the juxtaposition of those three was sheer genius! What a strange world of humans we be. Sitting here in my Farm and Fleet jeans (one torn knee) and cast-off sweatshirt (grayish) from one of my kids, I feel so appropriately dressed for a sloppy March day!

23 03 2011
Mary Ann Crayton

I too read the Amanda Hearst article and have read the previous such articles. I wonder why the NYT prints such trivia? And who at the NYT thinks anyone cares about such foolishness? And why does an individual put so much time and energy and money into their appearance? If one then reads the ads in the NYT Sunday magazine and their periodic fashion magazines, they will see the cost of those baubles and clothes. My husband and I frequently say, “That is why they hate us.” Referring to most of the world. It is ludicrous to imagine what the people in Africa, China, India and other countries think when they read such news of us and assume that is how most Americans live. Although it just occurs to me that perhaps the NYT is printing them as a joke. That’s a nice thought. And isn’t it a joy to read “The Rural Life”.

23 03 2011
Kris Thacher

Clay-splotched, olive green plastic worn-down Crocs, black socks and jeans (concessions to NYC), wilted spring green sweatshirt that’s seen too many Springs, and a nice old Navajo pin of a hummingbird sipping nectar from datura blossoms in jet, turquoise and mother-of-pearl set in silver. It’s all about accessorizing, you know.

23 03 2011
Anne Emerson

Anyone know where I could put my hands on a pair of Lululemon leggings in the Egg Harbor/Fish Creek area? I’d sure like to have some before heading off to the Boom Boom Room in Carlsville this weekend. Thanks! Anne

23 03 2011
Mary Ann Crayton

the sister bay resale shop has everything anyone would need, fashion wise or house wise.

23 03 2011
Donald O'Donovan

I have to say that of the three “novelists,” Amanda Hearst is my favorite. This girl cranks it out! As we know, details are the life of it, and her use of specifics proves that conclusively. As I read through Amanda’s work last night I had the eerie feeling that she was putting me on, that “What I Wore” is a satire about the Beautiful People, but in retrospect I think she’s entirely serious. Needless to say, I cabbaged several paragraphs for future use. I mean, I can talk about this one’s Armani suit or that one’s Gucci socks, but never on my own could I come up with a gem like a “white batik-print Zara tulip skirt.” It would be interesting to see what some of the desperadoes in my neighborhood would think about this piece (those that can read English, I mean).

23 03 2011
Robert M. Zoschke

Amanda Hearst would be under doctor’s care would she ever read American Psycho by Bret Easton Ellis. (Clearly she would be having nightmares that the main character in American Psycho had leaped from the novel’s pages to torment and finish her).

What a trifecta of babble…amazing the low depths of ephemera the NY Times will stoop to while trying to grasp at any and all straws to postpone bankruptcy.

23 03 2011
Phil Hansotia

The general population falls in a bell-shaped curve. This bit is about 2 Standaed deviations off the median on the petulance trivia end. This is the group that lives in the ‘wrapping’ and never tastes the real thing. They too are part of our lives–cause we can afford them! Phil Hansotia.

23 03 2011
Karl Lagerfeld

Hi Amanda, if yo read this please contact me asap. I’m a fashion designer, living in Paris ( not in a Hilton… if you know what I mean…) and I’m planning to create a new socks line which really should sucks!!! I mean the ones Japanese like to wear, the ones just with a separation for the big toe!!! Drop me a line please. A bientot?

23 03 2011

Everything here a delight to read.

23 03 2011
Barbara Vroman

I thought, I can’t even imagine being this woman. What a strange life. Why would Norbert even read this? Then the more I read the replies the more I smiled and smiled at all the possibilities of why this would be printed, and why Norbert saw fit to expose the fragility of the piece with solemn, solid barn yard chic. Great fun. I wish everyone who wrote would send a letter to the editor of the

23 03 2011
David Dix sr

Mr. Blei:

Precisely who we read the NY Times of every Sunday. The variety coverage, and in this example strung together, the Hearst girl’s high-end thread habit, and the Japanese guy with nothin’, and Verlyn KIlinkeborg’s RURAL LIFE watched for once a month as the sign-off entry on the editorial page – and this one touching on the threadbare jacket on his hook….

It is no wonder you (YOU!) strung these newspaper items together!

Thank you, sir!

And may the print NYT and VK live forever!

24 03 2011
Jean Casey

How very far we’ve come from the fig leaf!

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