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

Culture

“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 Handout / Getty Images.

From selling probiotic supplements to picture frames and umbrellas

A Kardashian-level of success doesn't happen overnight, and it certainly doesn't happen without proper planning. Kim Kardashian West clearly knows this because, according to TMZ, she has already filed for trademark protection on the name of her two-week-old baby, Psalm West. From personal appearances and entertainment services to probiotic supplements and scrunchies, she is leaving no stone unturned in terms of possible business opportunities.

Apparently, all of the Kardashian parents file these kinds of trademark protections for their kids even if the businesses never come to fruition. It's done as a precautionary measure to keep others from profiting off of their name and to make sure that, should they ever want to start a business, they don't have to worry about someone else getting to it first. The sheer length of this list speaks to the huge earning potential of baby Psalm, who can't even control his own neck muscles yet, let alone go into business. Still, this brings a whole new meaning to "securing the bag."

Below, a list of all the things Kardashian West is seeking usage rights for.

Hair accessories

Barrettes

Bands

Bows

Clips

Ties

Ornaments

Pins

Scrunchies

Chopsticks

Twisters

Wrap

Hair extensions

Ornamental novelty pins

Entertainment services

Personal appearances

Skin care

Probiotic supplements

Toy figures

Doll accessories

Computer software

Clothing

Baby bottles

Furniture

Strollers

Beverageware

Swaddling

Blankets

Skin moisturizers

Lotions

Creams

Bubble bath

Fragrances

Body powders

Shower gels

Body oils

Skin serums

Nail polish

Nail polish remover

Nail care preparations

Puppets

Puzzles

Toy jewelry

Toy cameras

Toy food

Bath toys

Baby gyms

Playground balls

Electronic action toys

Baby bouncers

Baby changing tables

Baby walkers

Pillows

Mirrors

Cushions

Picture frames

Playpens

Baby carriers

Cosmetic bags

Toiletry cases

Duffle bags

Umbrellas

Clocks

Watches

Key chains

Calendars

Books

photo albums

Stationery

Stickers

Writing utensils

Collectible trading cards

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Photo by Pascal Le Segretain/Getty Images

Well, actually it's crocodile, but she looks out of this world so...

Winnie Harlow walked the Cannes red carpet on Wednesday on her way to a screening of Oh Mercy!, wearing a showstopping gown.

The sheer black dress featured green embroidery on the front and back, which Ralph and Russo confirmed was in the shape of a crocodile. She belted the dress with a black crocodile skin-like belt and finished the look off with some strappy heels. She didn't leave it at just that. For beauty, Harlow packed on full lids of sparkly purple eyeshadow. She kept her hair sleek and simple.

Photo by Pascal Le Segretain/Getty Images

Though the brand says otherwise, as Game of Thrones fans, we'd like to think the embroidery is reminiscent of a dragon's skin. Not to mention, Harlow looks out-of-this-world beautiful in it.

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Photo by Andreas Rentz/Getty Images

That denim kimono!!

Marion Cotillard shut down the Cannes red carpet on Wednesday at a screening for Matthias Et Maxime. Instead of an extravagant gown that's expected of the event, Cotillard wore a matching black crop top and shorts. Despite wearing an outfit I typically don to a hot yoga class, she looks incredible. She completed the look with an oversized denim kimono, a statement necklace, and heeled booties.

Photo by Andreas Rentz/Getty Images

At first, I was drawn in by the crop top and hotpants duo, but, after looking closer at the kimono, it's clear that it's the real scene-stealer. The floor-length Balmain piece was decorated with artful rips and dragon motifs. I would like to live in it.

Photo by Pascal Le Segretain/Getty Images

Let's all bow down to the Khaleesi of Cannes.

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Photo by Frazer Harrison / Getty Images.

"It doesn't make you weak to ask for help"

Singer Billie Eilish is continuing to open up about mental health, this time in a new PSA video in partnership with the Ad Council and Seize the Awkward.

In the video, Eilish insists that "it doesn't make you weak to ask for help." She doubles down on the importance of asking for help, and stresses the importance of friends and family being there when their close ones reach out and checking in on them as well. "You should be able to ask anyone for help, everyone has to help someone if they need it." According to Eilish, there have been times when someone reached out to her at the exact moment she needed it, and it helped.

It was particularly refreshing to see Eilish acknowledge that there are things she still doesn't know and has to learn about her mental health. At the very beginning of the video, the interviewer asks her to reflect on her mental health journey, and all Eilish can do is let out chortle. "I think when people hear, 'Remember to take care of your mental health,' they think that everyone else is, and that is not at all accurate," she admitted. "You know, for me I'm trying to learn still to make sure that I stay okay."

Check out the PSA below.

Billie Eilish On Mental Health & Friendship | Ad Council www.youtube.com

Photograph via @kimkardashian.

"#NotOnMyMoodBoard"

Kim Kardashian has definitely been accused of borrowing a design now and then. But when Instagram influencer and Kardashian look-alike Kamilla Osman claimed the entrepreneur copied her birthday look for a Met Gala after-party, Kardashian was not going to let it fly—and shared plenty of photo evidence to shut down the claim.

Fashion industry watchdog Diet Prada first noticed Osman's claims on Instagram and shared side-by-side images of Kardashian's Cher-inspired outfit designed by Mugler and Osman's dress. "Never get confused with who 'inspires' who. They won't give you credit but they will copy," Osman wrote on her IG story. "I designed this dress for my birthday last year. Nobody had a dress like this was an original design."

Kardashian responded by posting the true inspiration behind her look: images of Cher, in similarly sparkly, plunging-neckline dresses and wigs, and of model Yasmeen Ghauri walking a Mugler show in the '90s. In fact, the only similarity between Osman's and Kardashian's looks is the bodycon mini-dress style, which the two are not the first to wear. Among the images, Kardashian included a blank slide with the hashtag "NotOnMyMoodBoard," making it clear that this was in response to Osman's claims.

Screenshot via @KimKardashian Instagram Stories

Screenshot via @KimKardashian Instagram Stories

Though I am with Kim on this one, Kardashian does have a history of co-opting other people's work. From being sued over her Kimoji app, to claims she copied makeup palettes and perfume bottle designs, to being accused of copying Naomi Campbell's entire style, it's far from the first (and probably, far from the last) time Kardashian's name will be mentioned like this.

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