A Beautiful New Book Reveals How Memory Makes Us Who We Are


“I didn’t know what I would discover”

The wail of distant sirens punctuate my conversation with Dani Shapiro; we're speaking over the phone, me in New York and she in Italy, about her latest book, Hourglass, a slim, profound meditation on the topics of marriage, memory, and, of course, time.

It's an appropriate, if muted, soundtrack. First, because Shapiro is in Italy for the Sirenland Writer's Conference, which she co-founded more than a decade ago. And then, also, because the urgency inherent to a siren's wail speaks not just to the trauma at hand, whatever that may be, but also to a larger emergency; the reality that we are all doomed, that life is ephemeral, but that finding value in that which is ultimately transitory, is still a worthwhile, even necessary, goal. A siren speaks to the idea that time is running out. It demands that we assess where we are at the moment, where we've been, and where we're going. A siren speaks to mortality, yes, but also to the conditions of life—and the conditions on life—and thus it also evokes more than just a specter of death, but rather one of time and the passing of seconds and hours and days and months and years, and all the living that goes on within them.

In Hourglass, Shapiro dives deep into themes of time, yes, but also love, both marital and filial, and loss. It's a profoundly personal book (of course; it is a memoir), not merely because it reveals details of Shapiro's life, but rather because it's so clear that the stories which Shapiro recounts are not among those that are always easy to tell. This book feels born of the ideas that plague you when you're up late at night, unable to sleep. Shapiro tells me, "Hourglass is my ninth book. I've come to understand when the thought of digging into something terrifies me, that's a sign that it's exactly where I need to go."

Specifically what made Shapiro wary was writing about her marriage, which she does in great detail in Hourglass. She tells me about writing an essay about going on the Virtual Dementia Tour, an experience which she relates in Hourglass and in which people can experience what it is to suffer from dementia, to lose all sense of where and who they are in the world. But by the time she finished that piece, which was centered around "time, memory, and what we inherit," Shapiro realized that it was actually a book. "It was about marriage," she tells me. "I had been tiptoeing around what it is to go through life alongside another human being, and having no escape hatch. My mind was inquiring into what it is to form ourselves alongside each other, both in harmony and friction."

While it might seem terrifying to most people to either be the writer or the subject of a memoir centered around marriage, Shapiro's husband not only happens to also be a writer but also, as Shapiro tells me, has always known that "at some point, I would write about him." And, in fact, as Shapiro wrote the book and gave pages of it to her husband, his comments included, "You're not being hard enough on me." Shapiro says, "The permission he gave me, by saying that, was tremendous. The endeavor of me writing this is something he had a lot of respect for... He cared about what was true."

One of the most striking things about Hourglass, in fact, is just how true it rings. This is not to say that it feels like some complete, capital "T" truth (what even is that, anyway?), or a total read on Shapiro or her marriage; rather, it offers an honesty and an intimacy that's rare, even in a memoir, because of how quiet these thoughts are, soft as the slipping of sand through your hands. Memoir—particularly when centered around topics as broad as marriage or motherhood or mortality—tend to get loud; there's lots of "aha"s. This can be fine, of course. Who doesn't want to shout sometimes? But the delicacy with which Shapiro slices through all the noise surrounding these topics is stunning; the deftness with which she details her thoughts on commitment and love is astonishing—and very welcome. Shapiro lays bare the silence at the center of the stormiest of thoughts, making reading this book feel akin to taking a deep breath of air after spending too long under water; like the words are feeding your mind, allowing you to make connections to your own life, and your own thoughts on love and partnership and what it all means.

Shapiro tells me that when she started writing the book, "I didn't know what I would discover. [It] was very deliberately plotless." She wondered, "Where's the jeopardy?" But as she continued, she realized that it was "about the jeopardy of staying in a relationship," and not allowing there to be "escape hatches everywhere." It is, therefore, a testimony to the beauty of committing to another person, and of committing to life itself, and doing that not because it will be a smooth experience or because you know there will be some sort of stereotypically happy ending, but because, as Shapiro tells me, "the beauty of [it], part of it is its fragility, and how it's weathered by time." 

These are these moments of seemingly ineffable beauty that Shapiro captures so well in Hourglass; she likens putting down these memories to "pinching the middle of the hourglass and not knowing where the middle is." This is the opposite of nostalgia; it is instead a recognition that our past, present, and future selves are all the same being, and that we can best respect them—respect ourselves—on this journey we're all on together, by paying close attention to the small beauties and truths around us, by choosing to give ourselves to the people and things that matter to us, and by acknowledging that, even with the sound of sirens in the distance, there is still a space to find silence within us and think about what it means to live a life of care.

Before we hang up, Shapiro tells me that even though she has written extensively about herself before, she does "not walk around in any way feeling exposed... this book feels a little different." And while I know exactly what she means, the truth is that reading it made me feel more exposed, too, in that I wanted to dwell in the dark thoughts that had been troubling me, and try and figure out a way to bring them to light. "Exposed," as it turns out, is just another way of being open. 

Hourglass is available for purchase now.

Photo by Imani Givertz

Premiering today via NYLON

Small Talks, aka Cayley Spivey, has come a long way since starting a band, then becoming the entire band herself and forging her own fan base from the ground up. On her recent album A Conversation Between Us, she began to unpack any lingering baggage with one particular song: "Teeth." Today, she premieres the accompanying music video exclusively via NYLON.

"'Teeth' is about my personal battle with letting go of the past," Spivey tells NYLON, admitting that it's easily her favorite song off of A Conversation Between Us.

Watch the video for "Teeth" below.

Small Talks - Teeth (Official Music Video) - YouTube

Photos by Joe Maher/Getty Images, Dimitrios Kambouris/Getty Images for TIME

Must have been pretty awkward

Taylor Swift and Sophie Turner were guests on the U.K.'s The Graham Norton Show together, which must have been awkward for Turner's husband, Joe Jonas, seeing as he also happens to be Swift's ex. I wonder if his name came up?

The interview doesn't come out until Friday night, but promotional photos show the two sharing a couch. Swift is making an appearance to perform her new single, "ME!" while Turner is promoting her new film, X- Men: Dark Phoenix. But it seems necessary for the two to be asked about Jonas.

Swift was just on the Ellen DeGeneres Show earlier this month, where she brought up the fact that she felt bad for putting Jonas "on blast" on DeGeneres' show back in 2008 by telling the audience that he broke up with her in a record-setting short phone call. But, according to Swift, she and Jonas are chill now, since it happened pretty long ago, which means she's probably already hung out with Turner and maybe even gossiped about him with her.

We can only hope that they get the chance to spill some tea on television.

Screenshot via YouTube, Photo Courtesy of HBO

"That's! His! Auntie!"

Leslie Jones has rewatched the Game of Thrones finale with a beer in hand, Seth Meyers at her side, and a full camera crew ready to take in all her glorious reactions. Spoilers ahead, but, if you haven't watched last week's episode already, that's kind of on you at this point.

When Jon Snow started to make out with Daenerys, also known as his aunt, only to stab her through the chest moments later, it was emotional whiplash for everyone watching. And, Jones' reactions—both from her first and second viewing—sum it all perfectly.

"That's! His! Auntie! [gagging noises]," Jones says before making an aside about calling the police if her uncle ever tried to do the same. But then the knife goes in, and Jones screams. "Did you see that?!" Jones asks, "Yeah bitch, that's a knife in you." Meyers points out the funniest part of all: "Why are you so upset about someone kissing their aunt but totally fine with someone killing their aunt?" Jones replies, "Because that bitch needed to go," and, well, same.

Other highlights from the comedians' rewatch include comparing Dany's victory speech to a bad improv gig, predicting that their dogs would have less of a reaction to their deaths than Drogon did to his mother's, and more.

Watch all of Jones' reactions from this Late Night clip below.

Game of Jones: Leslie Jones and Seth Watch Game of Thrones' Series Finale

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These lyrics are a lot

Robbie Tripp, aka Curvy Wife Guy, is back with a music video, titled "Chubby Sexy," starring his wife and a trio of models. In it, Tripp raps about his bold choice to find women with an average body size attractive.

The video begins with a series of statements laid over some pool water: "Curves are the new high fashion," "Chubby is the new sexy," "We Out Here." Tripp posits that these queens deserve an anthem, which they do. What they do not deserve is this Cursed Song. As he lists all the names he knows to call them by (thick, thicc, and BBW), one model (who I really, really hope was paid well) squirts some lotion down her cleavage, and Tripp begins dancing.

"My girl chubby sexy/ Call her bonita gordita," Tripp states in his chorus, before going on to compare "big booty meat" to the peach emoji. Another thing he mentions is that his wife can't find a belt that fits her waist, and that's why he calls her James and the Giant Peach. He then tries to dab. Here are some of the other Cursed highlights from his, uh, verses:

Got those Khaleesi curves/ Knows how to dragon slay
She like a dude that's woke/ We like a girl that's weighty
Some say a chubby girl that's risky/ But they ain't met a curvy girl that's frisky
Imma dunk that donk like I'm Andrew Wiggins.
Thick like an Amazon/ Built like Big Ben.

Tripp says one thing in the video that I couldn't agree more with: "She don't need a man." No, she does not. Please run. If you must, watch the entire video, below. Or send it to your nemesis!

Robbie Tripp - Chubby Sexy (Official Music Video)

Photo by Emma McIntyre / Getty Images.

See the promo here

It was bound to happen. The Kadashians and Jenners have committed themselves to letting the cameras roll on their lives, for better or for worse. So if you thought that the Jordyn Woods and Tristan Thompson cheating scandal was off limits, you thought wrong. The trailer for Sunday's episode of Keeping Up with the Kardashians was just released, and it involves the famous family working through the fallout of what happened when Woods went to a party at Thompson's house.

The teaser includes the infamous clip of Khloé Kardashian screaming "LIAAAARRRRRR." It's still not explicitly clear who prompted that strong response. She could be responding to Thompson, who clearly isn't always honest. Or she could be reacting to Woods account of the events on Red Table Talk. But the most revealing moment comes when we see Kylie Jenner—who was Woods' best friend before all of this happened—react for the first time.

In a heart-to-heart conversation, momager Kris Jenner says, "For you and Jordyn, it's like a divorce." Kylie only offers this in response: "She fucked up." Based on Woods' version of events—which I'm inclined to believeThompson is the one who fucked up. Still, I'm hoping for some kind of reconciliation between the two longtime friends. Perhaps we'll have to wait until next season for that.

Check out the promo video below.