Paris in Paintings

Susan Harlan’s previous work for The Toast can be found here.

When I was in Paris recently, I wondered what would happen if I just never went home. Most people wonder this in Paris. It is not novel.

When I graduated from college, I was all set to move there and start an internship at The International Herald Tribune. I can’t remember how I managed to get this internship. It seems that it should have been more difficult. But I have the sense that most things I accomplished when I was younger, including getting into college, have become much more difficult since then.

I didn’t really know much about journalism. I had been an English major, and I wanted to be a professor, but before that, I wanted to live in Paris. More specifically, I wanted to live in Jean-Luc Godard’s Breathless.

I had spent a semester of my junior year abroad, living in an apartment near the Parc Monceau, right around the corner from my best childhood friend Anne, who was also studying abroad through her university and staying with a French family. I spent a lot of time in this family’s apartment, which looked exactly like what I thought a Parisian apartment should look like. Everything beautiful, but comfortable and lived-in. Rugs strewn about. Cornices.

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Things I Believe To Be True With Perfect Trust And Perfect Faith About Yesterday’s “Modern Love” Column

N.B. I am perfectly aware that “Modern Love” articles are carefully calibrated to create outrage in people such as myself. Personally, I think I do an admirable job ignoring them, as a general rule. I am, however, MERELY A HUMAN WOMAN, and you can only ask so much restraint of me. 

When I checked the home answering machine after my ferry commute across San Francisco Bay, there was a proposal of marriage from my old friend John Basso, who was now living in Florida.

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Link Roundup!

Are you following the protests by University of Cape Town students who want the statue of Cecil Rhodes to come down? You should:

Students argued that the university’s lack of transformation is evident in the naming of structures around the campus. Jameson Hall, they noted, is named after Leander Starr Jameson who was prime minister of the Cape Colony from 1904 to 1908. There are no black female professors employed by the university and the history of black academics such as AC Jordan, UCT’s first black professor, and Archie Mafeje, a senior lecturer at UCT whose removal from the campus under apartheid law sparked outrage and protest from staff and students, has been largely ignored.

The statue of Rhodes, they said, had become symbolic of this lack of transformation and of institutional racism at the university.


I am the nerdiest person in the world but John Renbourn died last week and now he and Bert Jansch are reforming Pentangle in heaven and FOLK ROLK FOREVER. Not just Pentangle, tho, John Renbourn’s solo stuff was great too!

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Toast Points for the Week of March 27th

Toasties, earlier this week I was very excited to bring home a couple of weeks-old baby chicks for chick-sitting, and today I will be very excited to return them both to my daughter’s school, where the children can care for and enjoy them until such time as their true owner, a local farmer, sees fit to retrieve them. Here is what I have learned after just a few days as a chick caregiver:

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Film Noir Friday

I’m down in LA this weekend for the TCM film festival, and instead of Fry and Laurie, today I give you Lizabeth Scott’s greatest role in TOO LATE FOR TEARS

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“The Spinster’s Almanac”: Poetic Advice for Finding a Different Story

Please email all questions you would like poetry to answer via, with “Spinster’s Almanac” in the subject line.

Dear Spinster,

I had hoped that university would be my golden ticket to a golden world far away from the endless kitchen sink drama of my home-life. So really I was always bound for disappointment. Rather than dancing my way through a golden haze of new friends and old books, I have traded one set of insecurities and small sadnesses for another. I have watched my friends couple off, joke about another notch on their bedpost, and all while another night passes and my bed is empty. It did not worry me before. There was always so much time; months, years even. But now I feel I am creeping closer and closer to Miss Havisham levels of deluded loneliness, and that time is slipping through my fingers. 

I do not necessarily want a relationship, I merely wish to be attractive, to attract and occasionally fulfill the urges I feel as strongly as anyone else. I want sex. It should be easy. Perhaps it would be were I not as virginal as a Regency romance heroine. Only one man has ever deigned to kiss me and I was obviously horrible at it and no doubt the butt of many jokes the next morning. I do not wish to be merely a joke. 

A friend once told me that if I were an element I would be ice, and as much as I wanted to snap that ice wasn’t one of the four elements, I didn’t. It was true. I am as charming and kind as I can be, but I am so afraid of rejection that I can’t ever take my love life into my own hands. So I am cold. Frigid. But I want to melt. I spend my days poring over poetry and trying to find something meaningful in it. Perhaps poetry is a way to help me find something meaningful in myself and to find a way to share this with another.

Today, dear reader, I’d like to talk about stories and storytellers. When I was at university myself, I took a course on the history of writing and rhetoric. My delightful maddening professor lectured about European fairytales, how they were a shorthand parenting tool to teach young women about sexual threat and appropriate male protraction and other truish but oversimplified lessons.

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