With the tragic loss of public figures Kate Spade and Anthony Bourdain comes a collective heavy heart and a reckoning with how their work and lives intersected with our own. Bourdain’s TV shows were so full of moments of real human connection and understanding across cultures. I read Kitchen Confidential immediately after I had my second baby, and Bourdain’s writing totally transported me to the world of the kitchen and everything surviving a life there reflected about finding your place in the wider world. It was an ass-kicking, grown-up place I wanted to spend a few minutes in each day, while I shoveled yogurt raisins into my mouth and nursed my baby. His Parts Unknown episode on New Jersey, with a long segment on the Jersey Shore, got the place I’m from so perfectly, when so many other tries at portraying it never did, exactly, and made me less homesick in the Midwest.
Spade’s bags and aesthetic represented something both grown-up and simple so many women aspired to. I was thrilled to get a black Kate Spade bag to bring to work for Christmas, and I carried it through a year when I didn’t know if I’d be able to become a mom the way I’d imagined, when work was a distraction and a constant, and feeling professional, polished, and a little bit fancy every day was a blessing.
Their paths to becoming iconic figures, and the ways they talk about their lives in these podcasts, are fascinating. Hearing them tell their stories in their own voices, full of laughter and incredulity that they got to do the things they did, full of grit and sarcasm talking about the bumps in the road that almost derailed them, were just what I needed this week.
The intimacy of an audio interview is one of my favorite art forms, and these three are particularly good tributes to two complicated, interesting lives: