For a fashion issue, this week’s New Yorker is remarkably substantial. Of course, the disaster in Japan looms over the issue and our minds. Evan Osnos writes a terrific “Letter from Japan” with on-the-ground reporting of the immediate aftermath of the earthquake and tsunami, noting among other things the notable and very Japanese calm in the face of catastrophe (no looting) as well as the fantastic stories that have rushed into the vacuum of the government’s stingy information about the nuclear crisis. Osnos compares the current tragedy to past earthquake-related disasters in Japan and includes this bit of information new to me: “After the 1923 quake in Kanto, rumors swept Tokyo and Yokohama that Koreans were committing arson and poisoning wells. And so, amid the still smoking ruins of those cities, angry mobs, some including members of the police force and other officials, murdered thousands of Koreans—a massacre that remains a source of shame today.”
I’m not a huge fan of Karuki Murakami, so I didn’t read his short story “U.F.O. in Kushiro,” but it’s illustrated with amazing pictures taken of the aftermath of the 1995 earthquake in Kobe (above).
Peter Schjeldahl’s review of the inadvertently timely art show at the Japan Society called “Bye Bye Kitty!!!” makes me definitely want to see the show.
Among the fashion stories, I was surprised to find myself riveted by Alexandra Jacobs’s story about Sara Blakely and the invention of Spanx (and its related industry of shape-slimming underwear) and also by Lauren Collins’s extremely well-written and intimate profile of shoe designer Christian Louboutin, he of the red soles. One thing I love about the exceptionally sophisticated coverage of fashion in both the New Yorker and the New York Times these days is the almost inevitable and matter-of-fact way that high-end designers’ homosexuality is acknowledged — something that was just not done even a generation ago.
Malcolm Gladwell contributes an astonishing encapsulation of what sounds like an unusually good book, Ruth Brandon’s “Ugly Beauty,” which is a double biography of two cosmetics magnates, Helena Rubenstein and Eugene Schueller (creator of L’Oreal). Gladwell’s piece, which includes a side visit to the history of Ikea, muses on the interplay of politics and business — it’s a dense good read.