Giuseppe Tomasi di Lampedusa, another great merciless dandy of literature, said: "I was a boy who liked solitude, who preferred the company of things to that of people". And Seidel's on the same boat (well, motrocycle), with his very much adult love for Ducati superbikes (“The Lord is my shepherd and the Director of Superbike Racing” he writes in "Fog", from "Ooga Booga"). He's the greatest American poet you might not have heard of, due to his well-known allergy for networking, readings, poetry departments, literary prizes (O.K., he was a Pulitzer finalist ten years ago). His gleeful political incorrectness, too.
Maybe it was the bespoke Savile Row suits (he's a Richard Anderson man), or the family money and the nice coop apartment (check out the awesome photo essay by Antonin Kratochvil on VII Photo's website), or the distant affair with Diane Von Furstenberg (they're still close friends); maybe it was America's sof spot for the petit bourgeois fantasy of the bohème as fertile ground for true art. Still, not many poets in the English language this side of Larkin and Lowell can write stuff like these lines (from Barbados):
A cane toad came up to them. They'd never seen anything so remarkable. Now they could see the field was full of them. Suddenly the field is filled with ancestors. The hippopotamuses became friendly with the villagers. Along came white hunters who shot the friendly hippos dead. If they had known that friendship would end like that, They never would have entered into it. Suddenly the field is filled with souls. The field of sugarcane is filled with hippopotamus cane toads. They always complained Our xylophones were too loud. The Crocodile King is dead. The world has no end.
(More Seidel poems here from Macmillan's website and from The New Yorkerhere)
Seidel is, for Opera Chic, an icon of style. Literary and otherwise. Because he dances across the pages like an aging prizefighter, as if Rimbaud hadn't died young, a wealthy healthy Rimbaud who had somehow managed to keep both legs intact and had moved to the Upper West Side and fallen in love with modern Italian motorcycles. Opera Chic loves the centripetal grace of his lines and the mercilessness of his poetry (who else has written with such bemused horror about his saggy old man's bare ass caught in a reflection of a mirror at the Ritz?).
He's the 007 of American poetry, our international man of literary adventures, our secular bemused prophet of apocalyptic horrors. Or, as the great man himself, the morbid master of umorismo nero, the ashen haired Don Giovanni of the Hamptons would say,
In his long life he effortlessly went from preppy, Exeter/St. Albans young man of D.C.'s aristocracy to successful playwright with a Upstate NY buen retiro (see photo above) to expat novelist, always a sharp, bespoke dresser of great elegance and wit. A man of commitment, he also enjoys his first tumbler of Scotch around 11AM, still.
One thing Opera Chic especially loves about this -- obviously very narcissistic -- man is that what to OC are his two greatest books are -- at their core -- essentially about the two men he loved the most, Jimmy Trimble from St. Albans and Howard Austen from the rest of his life. Where we learn that the King of Snark -- if he didn't invent it personally, it's certainly Vidal who made it into an art -- is, at core, a teddy bear of a man.
There's no better day to give a Style Icon shoutout to that Milanese (ok she was born near Varese, but she's been living here since like forever anyway) icon of cool, la signora Rosita Missoni, designer of multicolor, multilayered talents, creative mind of museum-grade greatness, pioneering businesswoman since the early 1950s, classical music lover who, together with her husband (of 55 years this year!) Tai and a bunch of adorable grandkids, is a constant presence at Scala concerts and operas.
La signora Rosita just turned an incredibly youthful and active 77: OC hereby states she can only hope to age, one day, half as beautifully as la signora Rosita is doing.
Here, courtesy of Oprah.com three generations of Missoni women, Rosita with daughter Angela and granddaughter Margherita:
All That Jaz: Photographer, Bruce Weber BFF, mentor of -- among many other talented kids -- Sofia C., style icon: to inaugurate her new "Style Icons" series, Opera Chic bows to the effortless cool of Paul Jasmin, one of the most elegant men in America.