Letters & Essays: 2020s

Letters & Essays of the Day

The Mirror Test

By Melissa Febos



always squeeze bread to make sure it’s fresh; but what if the baker won’t let me feel the bread?; you mean to say that after all you are really going to be the kind of woman who the baker won’t let near the bread?

—Jamaica Kincaid, “Girl”


In the eighteenth century, “slut’s pennies” were hard nuggets in a loaf of bread that resulted from incomplete kneading. I imagine them salty and dense, soft enough to sink your tooth into, but tough enough to stick. What could a handful of slut’s pennies buy you? Nothing—a hard word, a slap in the face, a fast hand for your slow ones.

A slut was the maid who left dust on the floor— “slut’s wool”—or who left a corner of the room overlooked in her cleaning—a “slut’s corner.” An untidy man might occasionally be referred to as “sluttish,” but for his sloppy jacket, not his unswept floor, because a slut was a doer of menial housework, a drudge, a maid, a servant—a woman.

A slut was a careless girl, hands sunk haphazardly into the dough, broom stilled against her shoulder—eyes cast out the window, mouth humming a song, always thinking of something else.

New and Recent Work

By Paige Jiyoung Moon & Charlotte Strick

This spring, with the world still in on-again, off-again lockdown, our memories of seasons past grow sweeter. The California-based artist Paige Jiyoung Moon makes a practice of recording her memories in paint. Her canvases are ambitious not in scale (no work included here is larger than two feet across), but in their level of minute, prismatic detail. She playfully skews perspective, hovering just above each scene like a ghost revisiting an experience that she won’t allow time to swallow up. Quotidian moments are captured with a jeweler’s eye: her home being spruced up with the help of friends in Painting Day; a cluttered hotel room shared with her parents in Oakhurst Lodge; and in Warm House, an evening with friends in a crowded Seoul bar.



Lonely Paddle Boarder, 2020, acrylic on panel, 18 x 24".