On Frank Sinatra, from a fascinating NYRB review inspired by his 100th birthday:
That unitary, fully shaped experience shatters the moment you step back and contemplate the man in all his aspects, so that those who try to sum up Sinatra—and everyone who ever crossed his path seems to have made the effort—fall back on contraries: he was tender and rough, vulnerable and domineering, boundlessly charitable and infinitely rancorous, a lover of string quartets and an admirer of mobsters, the most serious of artists and a childish prankster, perfectionist (in the recording studio) and perfunctory (on movie sets, more frequently as he went on). He was a singer who could evoke with aching persuasiveness a monogamous devotion quite foreign to him, a hothead who could look like a model of cool, gregarious by compulsion and solitary by nature. Among all those shifting appearances, where might the center lie? An anonymous friend, who may have been Sinatra’s longtime songwriter Sammy Cahn, ventured, in a statement notable for its studied absence of judgment: “There isn’t any ‘real’ Sinatra. There’s only what you see…. There’s nothing inside him. He puts out so terrifically that nothing can accumulate inside.”
How many of us "put out so terrifically" that we fail to be ourselves, or to even know what that is?
One of my favorite parts about the NYT Magazine is the advertisements for new luxury high-rise condominiums. Grand views. Clean lines. Clutter-free. I linger too long and look too closely. Why? I never knew why until Rebecca Solnit skewered me. For the tired and disorganized self, it's as escapist as the steamiest fantasy.
Admiring houses from the outside is often about imagining entering them, living in them, having a calmer, more harmonious, deeper life. Buildings become theaters and fortresses for private life and inward thought, and buying and decorating is so much easier than living or thinking according to those ideals. Thus the dream of a house can be the eternally postponed preliminary step to taking up the lives we wish we were living.
-- Excerpt from Rebecca Solnit's Encyclopedia of Trouble and Spaciousness (HT: Brainpickings)