Susan Orlean, the author of lively books about orchids, famous dogs, travel, and suchlike things, is a fool for beauty. So should all of us be, but in her case (as most of ours, as it happens), the result was an untidy closet. Indeed, Orlean’s home, writes style curator and organizing maven Kristin Bungart, “is in itself a work of art, but its small closets were not designed for a woman with a full-fledged wardrobe, which meant that editing/organizing her clothes would be our major task.”
That’s probably not the sort of editing Orlean is used to, but it’s the sort that’s becoming ever more common thanks to a growing organizing/decluttering/neatening movement that threatens to beautify America one sock drawer at a time. Both the New York Times and the Washington Post, among many other publications, have devoted considerable space recently to Marie Kondo, the Japanese maven of clean counters and neatly folded T-shirts, whose new book Spark Joy is subtitled “an illustrated master class on the art of organizing and tidying up.” The book is climbing bestseller lists. Fortunately, it’s neatly designed and not too big, so it won’t be an object of unseemly clutter itself.
Sweden. A clean place, mostly, and very tidy. Until you look in the shadows, perhaps, but even then, it’s not all Henning Mankell and Stieg Larsson. No, it’s ABBA, too, and the good people of Stockholm now have a museum honoring the pearly-of-tooth quartet. Writing in a supplement to The Economist, British writer Matthew Sweet offers a vigorous, entertaining tour of the place, which turns out to be a bookish and surprisingly intellectual venue. If you’re in the neighborhood . . .
Readers whose high school teachers didn’t chase them away from William Shakespeare will delight in knowing that the Bard has been thoroughly digitized, up and down and sideways and eftsoons, courtesy of the eminent Folger Library. As of January 20, a vast trove of documentary data is freely available, from views of the first folios to a copy of his mortgage for his Blackfriars playhouse. Call it the native hue of high resolution.
On that note, observes the BBC, 2016 marks the 400th anniversary of Shakespeare’s death. That date falls in late April, but for the moment it’s worth sharing the Beeb’s excited note that it “will be marked with new books re-interpreting three of his plays, by Howard Jacobson, Anne Tyler and Margaret Atwood.” More on them as they appear on this side of the water.
Leon Wieseltier, the noted editor and writer, does more than eat risotto with Henry Kissinger at the Four Seasons. Reports New York Magazine, he’s launching a new publication with Laurene Powell Jobs. In other news from the world of publishing, the great British publisher George Weidenfeld died late last month. He was 96. Herman Wouk, as a happy counterbalance, recently celebrated his 100th birthday.
Democracies doze. Tyrannies never sleep. It’s a few weeks after the fact, but Svetlana Alexievich’s Nobel Prize lecture did not earn sufficient press—by my lights, anyway—when she first delivered it late last year. It emphatically lives up to Ezra Pound’s observation that literature “is news that stays news.” And so, for as long as the battle rages and little people suffer, her words will remain.
Gregory McNamee is a contributing editor.