Peak Dandy

I know an awful lot of people who will be upset with this pugnacious little article, but I’m not one of them.

My own brief stay in Dandyland (2004-2007) was an exercise in persona, a foray into the performative, oratorical side of writing (or in my case, carefully-crafted bullshit), which to my mind had been neglected in writerly circles where a strange fixation on authenticity–whatever that means–still holds sway.

I’ve largely kept my distance from the neo-dandy demimonde for almost a decade now (I’ve never been to the Jazz Age Lawn Party events: I’d moved on by the time they came around, and nostalgia was never more than a dirty weekend for me, anyway). However, I do think these kinds of articles are going to become more frequent, because the media probably hit “Peak Dandy” about a year ago. My own early efforts in this realm are all but forgotten (thank goodness), but a few of my friends have helped raise the profile of this trend. And I’m very happy for them: they’ve worked very hard on documenting the denizens of this little world, and have created a beautiful artifact. Their accomplishments are well-deserved.

But this “scene” has probably now reached everyone that could possibly give a damn about it, and I think this passing interest in neo-dandyism is on the far side of the bell curve now–which of course is great news for the real dandies. The general public, who are distracted by petty things like survival, will be oblivious to this momentous rise and fall.

Some rare hothouse flowers will doubtlessly stick with the trend as it declines, in hopes of another ascendancy in the future. The romanticism of such a gesture is somewhat touching, but personally I’ve never been interested in living out my life as a pumpkin growing inside of an empty bottle. There’s a self-amputating severity to dandyism that continues to fascinate me, though. (Not that this article I’m talking about is really about dandyism, mind you. I’m just making hay, as usual.)

I’m hoping for too much out of our beleaguered times, but I’d still like to see alternatives to modern male frumpiness that offer something beyond barbershop quartet costumes, “men’s magazine” luxury douchery, and Pee Wee Herman gear. It’s all good fun, but as a lifestyle it’s all pretty hard to take seriously.

Behind the harsh tone, this article makes a sensible point: express yourself, but don’t wear a costume because it’s corny. Unless your living depends on the continuation of this fad, there’s no need to be defensive. She’s right: it would be nice to have a long-term, everyday alternative to the clownwear on either end of the spectrum (thug chic vs. fop chic). To me, both extremes of this spectrum are expressions of childish decadence.

True-blue eccentrics and practitioners of the grand tradition of Camp should completely disregard this article (you’re glorious), but normal guys wearing an eccentric’s uniform should probably listen up. This article is a bit of tough love: big boy pants are the hot item this year.

Alright: back to things that actually matter. I wish you all a great summer.

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Weird NJ: Interview With the Whimsy

(Photo by Ryan Doan)

In anticipation of my new book, Whitman Illuminated: Song of Myself (Tin House), the folks at Weird NJ have been kind enough to open their ancient vaults to release this rather comprehensive interview from July 2008. It has never been published until now. Quite a time capsule, at least for me. My sincere thanks to Joanne Austin, Ryan Doan, and everyone at Weird NJ.

 

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Whitman Illuminated: Song of Myself

This is in part why I’ve been so scarce over the past eighteen months: here is the trailer for my upcoming illustrated edition of Walt Whitman’s poem, “Song of Myself”. The entire 256-page book is written out and illustrated by hand. My publisher Tin House is releasing it on May 13. Pre-orders of the book can be made here. Hope to see you on the book tour.

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Childe Quentin, A Tale of Grift

Here’s an old animation that I slapped together from old artwork lying around the studio, sometime around 2002, I think. I’m finally getting around to getting these old Flash animations into Quicktime format and uploaded onto YouTube. This one seems the most appropriate for readers of APC I, so here you are. Enjoy.

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Head Shot for Tin House

Been very busy making preparations for my book’s launch in May. This week I painted a canvas banner for the book tour; it served as a handy backdrop when I needed a head shot for my publisher’s PR department today (this is my “smug furniture designer” photo). The vermillion color really brings out my veins.

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The Importance of Audience

If you want to hear an interesting theory about the folly of democracy in culture (society is another matter), and why the use of wit in writing is now such a hard sell in American publishing circles, go to the 19-minute mark of this video.

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Metrolit Verlag’s Edition of The Affected Provincial’s Companion Vol. I

The German edition of my first book arrived today. It’s quite handsome: Metrolit Verlag did a beautiful job with the crisp design. My thanks to Barbel and everyone at Metrolit!

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Hooves of the Devil

People ask me (they do!) what are my favorite shoes, and without any hesitation I say Florsheim’s Duke line of ankle boots. I don’t go in for prissy John Lobbs or that sort of precious “Old Bean” fetish gear: It’s not my world. Hell, it’s not anyone’s world, anymore. It’s cosplay! The shoes I’m talking about are inexpensive, but beautifully made. Classic cut. Black. Clean lines. Zippers. Leather soles. Wooden heels. None of that elastic band and rubber soles metrosexual nonsense. These boots are true old-school chariots, long worn by the soaplocks, lounge lizards, pool sharks, preachers, guttersnipes, frontmen, wise guys, hustlers, and pimps of the Greater Mid-Atlantic. They force you to walk (and dance The Slop) on the balls of your feet, like a nimble sex panther, like a lynx across the cobblestone wildernesses of places like Philly or Brooklyn. Best of all: SQUARES CAN’T PULL THEM OFF. So get to know them.
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Bergdorf Goodman: I Am Dandy Fete

On Thursday evening, Bergdorf Goodman hosted the launch party for Rose Callahan and Nathaniel ‘Natty’ Adams‘ book, I Am Dandy; The Return of the Elegant Gentleman (Gestalten). (It was by invitation only, of course: We’re talking dandies, here. Standards must be kept, you know.) The second floor of Bergdorf’s was absolutely packed: I could barely move, which is saying something since I’m such a runt. There was quite a menagerie of human specimens on display, some of whom looked decadent, even nefarious. It was a comfort knowing that Baron Ambrosia was there, just in case a walk-off or male diva meltdown broke out (Speaking of which: the Baron has confided in me a caper of such magnificence that I cannot resist being a part of it. More later). All lenses were fixed on the ever-photogenic Patrick McDonald, as evidenced by the media’s reportage of the event. As always, with Patrick in the room no other professional peacock stands a chance. And last night, the competition was fierce.

And because no event would be complete without my expecting to be congratulated for putting on clothes, here is my “gentleman ranger” ensemble for the evening: a lean but hardy green tweed suit by Against Nature, blue tie and socks, green pocket square (the colors of the Pine Barrens), and a horseshoe crab pin I got from the NJ Dept of Fish & Wildlife for reporting a tagged crab. It’s not my flashiest ensemble, but it is my favorite: I feel the  personal emblems I don in this particular getup best represent what I’m about. Besides, it was my way of publicly thanking the incredibly generous folks at Against Nature for giving me such a fine suit. And again, my thanks to Rose and Natty for including me in their book: It’s a beautiful object, and one worthy of unseemly pride. Congratulations.

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“I Am Dandy” has arrived!

Just received my copy of Rose Callahan’s and Natty Adams’ magnum opus, I Am Dandy: The Return of the Elegant Gentleman (Gestalten). I was amazed at the number and variety of profiles in this book: quite a menagerie of personalities. I look forward to reading the profiles. I’m the potato in the rose garden of course (Compared to the other exquisites, martinets and peacocks, I’m rather shabbily clad), but I’m deeply flattered to have been included. Thank you, Rose and Natty!

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