The real selling point of the song is Friedberg’s voice. She sounds a bit like a 60’s-era male with a high voice (indeed, she reminds me a little of Russel Mael from Sparks). Maybe I’ll think of her as a mix of Kirsty MacColl and Sparks.
I like this song. It’s not amazing, but it has a real bouncy summer feel. An enjoyable romp that bears repeated listens.
[READ: May 21, 2013] “Art Appreciation”
I read this story in two parts. And when I finished the first part (about four pages in–the paragraph that ended “and he kissed her there for the first time”), I thought it was a delightful story. A sweet story of young romance. True, the main character is a bit of a douche: “Henry Taylor had always known he would have money one day, and this confidence was vindicated when his mother won the lottery.” But I thought that maybe Eleanor, Ellie, would somehow make him a better person. And that sweet kiss seemed like a wonderful start.
The year is 1961, the place is Australia (it took me a little time to figure that out). Henry is a gambler–but a mostly winning gambler–he goes to the dog tracks on Friday nights, the horses on Saturday. But Henry, who is 28, is also a working man–a mid-level employee at an insurance firm. And even after his mother won the lottery he didn’t quit his job (it was of course douchey to assume that his mother would somehow give him the money but that’s what he thought). Despite his confidence about the money, he also didn’t want to show off about it.
Ellie had recently started working in Henry’s office. She was very attractive and he thought that “now that he had money, he would marry her” (geez, he gets douchier by the minute). Soon enough he has asked her out. And she happily accepts. Ellie is 20.
Finally one Sunday Henry’s mother says that she is moving to Victoria with her sister and giving him the house–she wants to see him settled. He imagined selling the house and buying something closer to the city.
That night he visited Kath. Kath is his un-serious girlfriend. He tells her that their fun is over, that he is dating Ellie now so this will be their last fling. He also has the douchiness to tell her that he has won the lottery.
Soon we learn what the title refers to, Ellie goes to art appreciation classes on Friday nights. She asks Henry to walk her to class, which he does. Henry stays for this one and doesn’t like it. He sits with another bloke who asks if he was dragged there, too. But she is so excited by the class, art is her passion. They have a nice dinner together and they kiss for the first time.
And I thought that was nice.
But there’s more.
Henry bought a car and continues wooing Ellie. She still goes to her classes on Friday nights, but Henry feels that she has learned enough about art and asks her to discontinue (he has no suspicion that anything weird is going on, he just doesn’t seem to want her to go to the class). He figures that he can still go to the dogs if she is at class, so he doesn’t say any more. But Henry begins changing in a good way. Even though Ellie is much more proper than Kath, (he hasn’t seen Ellie naked yet) he really falls for Ellie. Indeed, he even thinks that maybe he’ll stop going to the races. It’s time for him to settle down.
But Henry’s mother had not moved out yet–she seems to be really dragging her heels. And that’s when he realize that she was serious about the settling business. She wants to see him settled down–with a woman–before she gives him the house And so, he brings Ellie over and Henry’s mother is thrilled, especially when she sees him propose in the backyard.
Ellie’s parents approve as well, although when Ellie says that she told them that he wanted her to stop the art classes, they were not happy. Her mother was a remarkable artist and if they had had money she could have been famous. His father was forced to retire and wanted to see her go to university. So no, she’s unlikely to stop the classes.
The story seems like it will be a domestic squabble type thing until Henry’s mother comes back from visiting her sister. She had a man with her–Arthur. Arthur was what Henry could have turned into–an insurance salesman and a gambler. He’s loud and boisterous but when Henry quizzes him on his motives (Arthur knows about the lottery), Arthur plays it straight and says that he knows the money is going to Henry.
Two weeks before the wedding (in April), Henry went to his usual hamburger place and Kath was there. She looked pretty (if a bit slutty) and asked if she could go to the dogs with him that night. He tells her that he no longer does that and she is surprised. After cajoling, he agrees to go with her and teach her how to bet. Henry felt that here was something satisfying about Kath that was so different from Ellie–Kath was confident and bold. She didn’t need art classes.
At the track, they have a good time and he casually kisses her. Then he looks up and sees that Arthur is there–but he doesn’t know if Arthur saw. Indeed, Arthur doesn’t acknowledge them. And then Kath tells him why she really came looking for him.
And I felt like the story got strangely nebulous there. I was unsatisfied with the way it ended and I was unsatisfied with a number of character aspects–almost like a section of the story was missing. And its a shame because the douche was really turning around.
Because I’ve been behind in my stories I know that Karen has written about this (and a few other New Yorker stories that I have recently read). So now it’s my chance to see what she thought.