About this site....
Portico invites you to reconsider - everything. It doesn't seek to change your mind, but simply to remind you of things that you haven't, in the press of life, thought about lately.
The site is still very much a work in progress. People ask, 'What's on your site?' or 'What's it about?', and I almost always shrug and murmur, 'Everything.' Which is certainly not true. 'Everything I can think of' comes much closer, but there are lots of things that I've thought about without having written anything about them - yet. So: 'Everything that I can manage to upload.' Not much of an organizing principle.
The site naturally reflects my interests: history, literature, theatre, music, and cooking - and the challenge of participating in what I hope remains a liberal democracy. This last is the stuff of history, but without the distance that the historical imagination requires. I suppose that most thoughtful people with an advanced degree of some kind would compile a not very dissimilar list of interests; if anything distinguishes mine, it is the invisible one: writing. Writing is (or can be) hard work, but then so is working out the thought of a complex book, and so is bringing your entire understanding to bear on the experience of a good play well acted. I'm lucky to be able to work my interests.
And as for cooking! On an intelligence test, 'cooking' would be the term that didn't fit with the other items, but I include it because it is just as much a part of my everyday life. Indeed, it's when a good dinner-table conversation takes hold that all my interests seem to come together. My approach to cooking is resolutely weekday. The patron saint of the site's Culinarion branch is Edouard de Pomiane, author of Cooking in Ten Minutes. If you could see my tiny, Upper-East-Side-of-Manhattan (windowless) kitchen, you'd know why.
Originally, I envisioned Portico as an online book, to which I would add from time to time. But I soon learned that, whatever the advantages of online publishing might be, a definite drawback is the need to refresh at least some of the material - preferably the first things a visitor sees - on a regular basis. I learned this early on, as I say, but it was only in December 2002 that I inaugurated the practice of writing a new Front Page piece every Friday afternoon, and decking it out with a new photograph. Younger readers will certainly gasp at this glacial pace, which, compared to the frenzy of the blogosphere, approaches perfect immobility. I sympathize - when I started reading The New Yorker in 1962, I would check the newsstands every day, and sometimes twice, for a new issue. But: this is not a blog. This is a site to check out once a week, and I refresh the Front Page on Friday because I also believe that this is a site to check out on the weekend, or, at any rate, not during working hours.
At this early stage, I'm also vexed by a distinction between the timely and the timeless. Between writing 'for the ages' and writing reviews. Oh, how I hate that word, and how I hate even more that writing reviews comes very easily to me. Does this make me a self-hating writer? No. It makes me a writer who hates the idea of a short shelf-life. My idea at the moment is that the reviews, which appear in the right-hand frames of every branch, will eventually work their way into more permanent, central-frame essays. We shall see. Note: bear in mind that you can use your cursor to expand or contract the width of the frames.
I'm aware that I've got a lot to learn about navigation (i.e., link management). But I want you to be aware that nothing makes my day brighter than email from readers. It's hard enough to make all of this up, without having to wonder how it's going over. You shouldn't worry about how well you write a reader's response letter any more than, in the theatre, you worry about how well you clap your hands. Another note: people who persist in visiting the site during working hours may find that their employers' IT personnel have blocked the 'mailto' function that underlies the 'Write to me' link on every page of Portico. If this happens to you, simply address your note to email@example.com.