Clothesless in Chicago | Bleader

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Clothesless in Chicago

Posted By on 01.22.08 at 04:07 PM

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The late Simone de Beauvoir just turned 100, so to speak, and the French magazine Nouvel Observateur honored the occasion by showing her on its cover in her birthday suit. It's one of my favorite pictures -- a rear view of the writer fussing with her hair in 1952 in a Chicago bathroom, which photographer Art Shay took her to on assignment from Nelson Algren (his pal and her lover), whose own apartment had none. The photo has stirred quite an uproar -- some of it over the posthumous birthday gift of a Photoshopped tush. If you read French, here's Le Monde's report of this "astonishing photograph." 

And finally, here's the New Yorker account. Adam Gopnik sees the bigger picture, which has room in it not only for Algren and de Beauvoir but also for President Sarkozy and his flame, Carla Bruni. Gopnik advises us never to underestimate the power "of masculine sexual conceit, of the kind that leads Chicago writers who can’t believe how they’ve lucked out with their French girlfriend to have her nude portrait taken in the bathroom, and French Presidents who can’t believe how they’ve lucked out with their new babe to parade her around in a swimsuit, even at the price of looking a little tubby themselves."

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