Natalie Portman’s emails
Karwai Tang/ Getty Images
Last month, in a post about Michelle Williams, I mentioned her relationship with Jonathan Safran Foer and his unrequited love for Natalie Portman. Briefly, Natalie wanted to turn Jonathan’s book into a documentary. They became friends and would email all the time. And he told his then-wife, Nicole Krauss, he was in love with Natalie. Natalie, however, was like, I’m married and I’m staying married. Jonathan and Nicole divorced. Jonathan went on to date Michelle Williams.
But now, he and Natalie are emailing again. Because, to promote the release of her directorial debut, A Tale Of Love And Darkness, he’s interviewing her for T Magazine. By email. And those emails have been published. And…well… my takeaway from it is that this will only be appreciated by people who live in Williamsburg or people who want to live in Williamsburg and decorate an entire wall with typewriters. Otherwise, Christ Jesus this is insufferable.
Radiolab’s podcast this week was about a guy who walked around audio-recording himself for years. Like he just left the recorder on all day, all the time. Part of the conversation became about whether or not he was ever actually himself, because in knowing he was recording himself, his behaviour had to have been at least partly performance.
That’s how I feel about these exchanges. This is how people write to each other when they know that their emails WILL END UP IN THE NEW YORK TIMES. My friend Lorella called it “relentless, aggressive intellectualism”. At 4 o’clock in the morning. That’s another thing that kills me about this correspondence. It’s like the time stamps are its own characters and in knowing when these messages were written, you can almost picture the scene set-up: two artists thinking their brilliant thoughts when everyone else is asleep, because this is the hour when brilliance meets brilliance.
And brilliance is awesome, don’t we all want to be brilliant? Of course. It’s just…why is it that their brilliance feels so…unnatural? It’s all quirky anecdote followed by a deep thought about deepness and then a question about freedom. Repeated over and over again. They’re the parents of Manic Pixie Dream Girl. Or, maybe, her descendants. Or this is performance art. And she’s writing as, I dunno, Emily Bronte and he’s Thomas Hardy and they’re imagining what their letters to each other who read would read like. Is it supposed to be this annoying? And, also, boring?
Natalie Portman once hosted Saturday Night Live and rapped a song with Andy Samberg and she was great. She can be silly. She can be silly without worrying that she can’t be taken seriously. And I’m not sure why she’s serious about being taken seriously by the kind of guy who opens an email by writing:
“The clock recently ticked over to 12:00, from Thursday to Friday. It’s been unseasonably warm, lower nineties. The calendar is ticking over to summer.”
So it’s midnight. It’s hot. And it’s summer.
Also attached - Natalie at Wimbledon a few days ago with Rashida Jones.