In the May 28 issue of The New Yorker, Rebecca Mead writes a brief piece in the spirit of Tom Wolfe's "Radical Chic," in which the theme of a social gathering feels at odds with the upscale surroundings. Here the gathering's theme is spiritual enlightenment, featuring the actress and recently published author Ellen Burstyn (Lessons in Becoming Myself) and Marianne Williamson (A Return to Love). Cindy Adams, gossip columnist for the New York Post, is the party's host, and she makes an easy target with her pampered dogs (one of whom she feeds a pastry held in her mouth) and her Park Avenue apartment, which previously was home to Doris Day.
But let's get on to the spiritual content. One passage includes a silent cameo appearance by actress Parker Posey, and it has the same humor of Posey's roles in Christoper Guest's improv films:
Burstyn, who was to appear that evening at the 92nd Street Y with Williamson, stood under Duke's black ceiling and explained that her memoir, "Lessons in Becoming Myself," concerned her life's spiritual journey. "I'm a Sufi," she explained, with a beneficent smile. "I like the expression 'I am one cell in the mind of God.'" Elizabeth Gilbert, the author of the best-selling memoir "Eat, Pray, Love," was telling Parker Posey that she had recently bought an eighteenth-century Presbyterian church in New Jersey to live in. "It's very Yankee, with fifteen-foot wavy-glass windows," Gilbert said, before adding that Julia Roberts had signed on to star in the movie version of her book. Gilbert said that she had asked her sister, a historian, whether she should beware of ghosts: "She said, 'Presbyterians won't bother you, with your yoga and your Buddhas and your cursing. It's not like they're Methodists.'"
Poor Methodists: The United Methodist Church can hardly be accused of hardcore doctrine wars these days, but its members must endure jokes that were surely funnier about 80 years ago.
There's also this confusing note about Billy Joel, who for many years made much of being an atheist:
"The women I know are all gravitating to a much more spiritual place," [April] Kramer said, at which her friend Myra Scheer, who raises money for the Rainforest Foundation Fund, laid her hand on a pearl peace-symbol pendant that she was wearing over her Dolce & Gabbana suit. "I went to a Kabbalah course, and it said that women have to bring light to men," Scheer said. Among the men to whom Scheer had brought light was Billy Joel, who wore a pendant like hers onstage at the last Rainforest Foundation Fund benefit. "Though he didn't wear pearls -- he wore Swarovski crystals," she said.