Ah, October. Apple-crispy air and pumpkins. Leaves and bones and trick-or-treat. This month's reading makes me want to sigh, pull the afghan up around my neck and revise an old Virginia Slims slogan ("You've come a long way, baby!") to something like: You've come all this way, baby boomers, but when -- and how -- will you ever have a baby?
I may be kidding, but the literature is definitely not. It vacillates sharply between imaginary wood smoke and razored apples. The two best pieces are in this month's Harper's, exploring the ideas of family and community, love and loss, and consequences that we haven't, as a generation, completely yet confronted.
The Harper's cover story, "Missing Children," is a journal of one 40ish couple's agonizing struggle to conceive a child. Unlike the typical clinician's guide to fertility treatment, this is an eloquent document of the emotional and physical trauma that attends the hope for procreation. It is, as the author puts it, "a journey we took into the kingdom of science and beyond," where "the goddess Technology is not the protector but the madam, the pimp." It's a land where control is impossible.
The second great read here is "Back to the Future," a report on the town of Celebration, Fla., the Disney Corp.'s latest Magic Kingdom. Owned, designed and designated as a live experiment in community development, the town is an architectural work-in-progress. But author Russ Rymer visited and was not impressed. He sees it as an attempt at "clothing a commercial project with a sense of mission."
Advertised with videos of "lollipops and fireflies," the town is a surreal community-to-be, one that looks back to the '50s for inspiration rather than forward. Not yet occupied, it comes complete with stage-front houses, glued-on window mullions and imitation wood. Without meaning to be funny, Disney CEO Michael Eisner sums it up as "form follows parking." It's an idea that becomes more ghastly, more small-world-after-all, small-minded, as it goes on.
The American voter
This week's Time weighs in with a cover story on a more ambivalent America, a profile of this year's ultimate swing voter, the middle-class American mother. She is represented here by one Lori Lucas, 35, of Shrewsbury, Mo. Lucas casts herself in neither the Democratic nor Republican camp; she voted Bush in '88 and Perot in '92. She may be financially challenged, but she's far from ignorant. Without time for newspapers or magazines, Lucas plans to research her presidential vote by reading up on two weeks of newspapers before the election. She's just too busy for anything else.
A sensitive but telling profile, the piece is admirable for laying the election-ambivalence issues on the table in one woman's words. Lucas' life implies a hardy, ill-fated struggle for control -- over her time, her child's future and her finances. She's a smart woman who feels that she's just not cutting it, and neither is her government.
She says she has trouble remembering that Bob Dole is even in the race, and of Newt Gingrich she says: "His name alone irritates me. I know that a newt is a lizard. If you touch their tails, they break off as a defense mechanism, but they grow back."
Settling down with Vogue
Vogue has several worthwhile articles: one on the late, lonely model Margaux Hemingway, whose possible suicide confused the fashion world, as well as her family.
There's a wonderful light piece on adopting a baby girl from China by novelist Tama Janowitz, former big-haired arch-brat of the East Village loft-party scene. Tama's hair has settled down, and so has she, although the photo indicates that her split ends could still use a trim. But even as we miss her post-adolescent angst, we have to appreciate her wit, which remains intact despite her forays into marriage and motherhood. Having seen only her baby's photo, for example, she decides to name her Willow. Her daughter, she says, "is extremely short and fat. With a name like Willow, this will have to change."
Vogue's cover girl, Madonna (and a gorgeous cover it is, photographed by Steven Meisel), is expecting her child next week. Pumping her new film, "Evita," Madonna appears still fab, still strong in spirit and flesh, but perhaps slightly facially enhanced by more than mere makeup. She says nothing sappy, nothing stupid and she's worried about spoiling her kids. (She uses the plural.) She's even down-to-earth, saying: "I'm not into being Wonder Woman in the delivery room. Give me drugs."
The joy of Goldie
If she's worried, we recommend that the Material Girl read the cover story in Live on fabulous-babe-turning-50 Goldie Hawn. It's a Q&A; by Linda Ellerbee, surprisingly smart for this mag, and Hawn comes off as cool, together, in touch and in tune with career, kids and Kurt (Russell).
Their kids are 20, 17, 16 and 10 -- and, we suspect, rather lucky. After all, as she puts it, in the end, "Are you really going to be clutching your Academy Award -- or are you going to be clutching all the beautiful relationships and gifts that you've been given?" One of Hawn's ambitions is to make a documentary on joy. Now, tell that to Disney.
Other reads: Another blond-babe interview in GQ, with a Harvard and Wellesley alum, actress Elisabeth Shue. No wonder the author didn't get any good material, with questions like "Did you sleep with Nicolas Cage?" The New York Times Magazine has a short, great piece on '70s sugarplum and sacrificial lamb Karen Carpenter, whose posthumous unreleased solo album comes out this week.
Pub Date: 10/13/96