Great Mysteries of Art and Literature, Explained

What is the Mona Lisa thinking? (fifteen-hundreds)

• Enigmatic happiness is the best happiness.
• A flattering portrait of a wealthy merchant’s wife—a bit mercenario, Leonardo, no?
• I don’t mind the name “La Gioconda,” but “jocund” puts ten pounds on your midsection.
• Thanking God that Leonardo did not want me to hold the Vitruvian Man’s pose.
• I’m not staring, mio caro, I’m buffering.

What is Nora trying to say when she slams the door at the end of “A Doll’s House”? (eighteen-seventies)

• I have passionate feelings about egress.
• Society’s scorn seems a high price to pay for an act of light forgery.
• Self-fulfillment: sometimes noisy.
• Lying about your macaroon consumption is the bellwether of marital discord.
• A hasty exit is the “disable comments” of my era.
• Doll wife, out.

What does the green light at the end of Daisy Buchanan’s dock symbolize? (nineteen-twenties)

• “The orgiastic future that year by year recedes before us.”
• Old Money, upstaged by New.
• The essential ludicrousness of party-hosting as a romantic gambit.
• The Eighteenth Amendment’s choke hold on the crème de menthe industry.
• How everything we want seems to lead to everything we despise.
• Zelda.
• Zelda’s jealousy.
• Zelda’s jealousy of Fitzgerald’s jealousy of Hemingway.
• Minnesota, the Land of Authenticity and Wholesomeness.
• Mrs. T. J. Eckleburg.

Vampires: Why? (two-thousands)

• The notion that vampires in their dotage are beautiful and aristocratic provided solace to graying baby-boomers.
• Lowered social standards, as evidenced by voters’ avowal that George W. Bush was someone they’d “like to have a beer with,” devolved into outright biting.
• Depictions of survival-based bloodletting mirrored most Americans’ initial experiences with Internet chat rooms.
• The “Twilight” saga promoted the highly consoling idea that, at our greatest moment of vulnerability (i.e., having been bitten), our skin will magically bloom with Swarovski crystals.
• Individuals who can morph from human to vampire or wolf pay silent homage to the beloved Jane Fonda’s metamorphosis from Hanoi Jane to filmic everywoman to exercise guru.
• It was all pre-publication publicity for Nora Ephron’s “I Feel Bad About My Neck.”
• The image of Dracula travelling on a ship in his coffin allayed the public’s long-held anxieties about budget airlines such as People Express and ValuJet.