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The Emails of Jonathan Safran Foer and Natalie Portman, Part 2

Why did their joint appearance get canceled? We have the answer.

Getty Images/Ringer illustration
Getty Images/Ringer illustration

Noted emailers Jonathan Safran Foer and Natalie Portman were scheduled to appear in conversation on September 6, 2016 — but unfortunately, Portman had to bow out of Brooklyn By the Book presents Jonathan Safran Foer, with Natalie Portman, leaving the world perplexed and disappointed. (Note: that part is actually true.) Luckily, The Ringer has gained access to a more recent set of emails explaining this cancellation. Join us as Foer and Portman open up their inboxes once more.*

>> On Mon., September 5, 2016 at 4:31 a.m., Jonathan Safran Foer wrote:

After a long weekend like this I should feel sapped, and yet here I am, briny with a post-post-midnight energy too sublime to be jitters and too jittery to be anything else. We’ve corresponded with these digital missives in an almost-furtive emotional bric-a-brac for so long it may be jarring to sit side by side tomorrow, I fear.

To distract myself, I think of this holiday, this Labor Day, as it winds into beingness, and all the Labor Days abattoired by cruel time. As I wait for The Times to arrive on my door stoop, and attempt to magick the needy grunts of the guinea pigs out of earshot, it is all too easy to reverie upon a 1920s milkman’s jovial clanging — this home was constructed in 1834, sturdily if stoutly boned! — or the recalcitrant coos of the jaybirds kept in great brass cages by its original owner, Mr. Conklin Brush, who did a stint as mayor of Brooklyn. What many people don’t know about Conklin Brush is how tenderly he attended his jaybirds. The homes I feel most passionate about have ghosts in them, even if they are only the ghosts refracted in the tough folds of my silly cortex.

>> On Mon., September 5, 2016 at 10:31 a.m., Natalie Portman wrote:

It is strange to own so many sweaters and to be an artist. My husband, Benjamin, teases me about the downy hanging lines of cardigans, surplices, oversized cowl-necks, mohair ponchos, woolen boleros knitted in Italy, and draping cashmere pinafores, as though I am not at all times stung by the irascible plenty that, at times, can be a challenge. As an actor, the craft demands that I can wear a sweater of any size and shape, so to speak. I must retain a roominess in my personality that can, at times, feel like a blankness. It is hard to feel emotionally roomy when one is so surrounded by knits.

Benjamin also teased me about coming to speak with you about your novel, as though it was a stolen lover’s engagement. “Imaginez si vous me cuckolded avec cet auteur végétarien,” he said, and kicked his feet in a sort of improvised frappé for good measure.

How we laughed after that!

>> On Mon., September 5, 2016 at 10:43 a.m., Jonathan Safran Foer wrote:

I am glazing a tofu shakshuka perilously over-poached in the Le Creuset and waiting for my cousin Cy to awaken. He is spending the weekend with me, and I must confess he also teased me about you. Not in French, though.

When my first book came out, when I was very young, I took teasing seriously. I scrolled through knife-toothed blogs, forehead crenulated in a premature furrow, mouth slackened into a gape of sheer despair. Now I use the Times app on my iPad and ignore the constant gurgle, and I ask Cy to check the Google alert for my name to ensure nothing too bilious crosses the digital threshold. Cy says I should pay him. We’ve laughed about that, too.

>> On Mon., September 5, 2016 at 11:22 a.m., Natalie Portman wrote:

I keep thinking about what you said about Cy teasing you, as I received a curious dispatch from Benjamin. He’s already left for his commedia dell’arte seminar, but this is what he has text messaged me: Why did your Jonathan friend ask me if I know what polyamory means?

I translated that from his French, as I know yours is a tad rusty; remember that night at the osteria when you couldn’t decipher his pleas for you to move your chair?

A ponderous morning, all around.

>> On Mon., September 5, 2016 at 11:28 a.m., Jonathan Safran Foer wrote:

I was merely ferreting the outer edges of Millepied’s vocabulary. It is wild and almost fiercely unknowable to me how a relationship works in which one individual is such a boundless lover of words and the other individual can only really speak French.

>> On Mon., September 5, 2016 at 12:02 p.m., Natalie Portman wrote:

I’ve told you so many times, you can call him Benjamin.

>> On Mon., September 5, 2016 at 12:18 p.m., Jonathan Safran Foer wrote:

Of course. I wonder if I remembered to mention to you that my publicist has requested a rather noxious favor. She takes the writhing pulse of the literary melee and tries to warm me up so I don’t get burnt, and she mentioned something odd that you may find, I hope, mostly a whimsy. She said it may be best for the optics if Benjamin does not attend tomorrow night. I can’t pretend I understand what she means, but I suppose that is why she is paid to craft messages on the externalities of life while I SCUBA the trenches of our internal lives.

She also says it’s probably best if they put us up in the Hotel Le Bleu. I hear they have remarkable scones.

>> On Mon., September 5, 2016 at 12:50 p.m., Natalie Portman wrote:

Could you forward me the email where she says Benjamin can’t come?

>> On Mon., September 5, 2016 at 1:13 p.m., Jonathan Safran Foer wrote:

Ah, I’ve been scouring since I received your last missive but it appears the Hotmail goblins have wriggled impishly into my inbox once more. I can recall from memory, however, that she made arrangements for us to dine privately in the room. I know it may seem quaint to you, as a real movie star, but my meager legion of appreciators have a surprisingly rabid interest in my personal life.

>> On Mon., September 5, 2016 at 1:55 p.m., Natalie Portman wrote:

I just called your assistant and she said she never wrote an email about this or made a reservation at the hotel. What did Cy joke to you about?

>> On Mon., September 5, 2016 at 2:01 p.m., Jonathan Safran Foer wrote:

Perhaps she simply doesn’t remember; I do ask her to send many emails in my name, I admit. I’ve contacted Hotmail about the disappearing email, but just to be safe, you should come alone. Hotel Le Bleu has a strict no cell phone policy and a dress code. Sticklers, yes, but I find the adherence to old-fashioned manners more charming than oppressive. I’ve re-booked the hotel under my name — or, in truth, under a code name. I’ve long held a private yearning to be addressed at some point at “Professor Littlefoot.” As Hotel Le Bleu is a family business, when you are checking in, it may be prudent to refer to yourself as “Mrs. Littlefoot.” What a lark it will be!

>> On Mon., September 5, 2016 at 4:15 p.m., Natalie Portman wrote:

I’m actually not feeling well but my friend Jodi can go.

*This isn’t real, but Natalie Portman really did bail.