Friday, September 26, 2008

A Run on Spunky Ladies!

New York Times reporter Lily Koppel must have some great karma. Moving into her new apartment at 98 Riverside Drive, Lily noticed a cleaning company disposing of old trunks and furniture that had long since been abandoned in the basement of the glorious old brownstone. Riffling through the detritus, looking for anything she might be able to use, Ms. Koppel came upon a disintegrating leather diary sporting a tarnished brass lock. The rest, as they say, is history.

Lily's book, The Red Leather Diary; Reclaiming a Life Through the Pages of a Lost Journal, is a pure delight. Unlike the other two novels of this nature that I've recently written about, this book is the very true account of an amazing young woman named Florence Wolfson, now Howitt, a spry 90-something widow still kicking in Connecticut and Florida. Yes, Ms. Koppel tracked Florence down and received permission to write this biography based upon the musings of the younger Miss Wolfson from the historical period between 1929 and 1934.

It never ceases to amaze me how many folks there were out there (you know, back in the day) who had seemingly endless supplies of resources for travel, Parisienne couture, fine dining, and leisure work. Not that I'm jealous but damn! Our very rebellious, independent Miss Wolfson was only 15 years old when she began to make diary notations about her evening forays to Carnegie Hall, the days spent at the Metropolitan Museum, her lovers both male and female, her desire to live a bohemian life in France, painting and writing, and having the wherewithal to carry it out. The funny thing is that she's an absolute sketch and you can't help but love her honesty and openness. Reading her forward to the book gave me the impression that she hasn't changed one bit!

I've been off Elizabeth Berg for a while but the title of her latest collection has been calling to me from the new book section. I look up from the reference desk and see that bright yellow cover - yes, I do often judge a book by its cover - with the reclining nude holding a three layer cake and I know I'm going to have to have it. (the book, not the cake) The Day I Ate Whatever I wanted and other small Acts of Liberation is pure Elizabeth Berg and had me laughing out loud in the lunch room to the point where I had to retreat to our picnic table to read. If you know Elizabeth, you also know that one minute after the laugh you might be crying uncontrollably. She can strike a vein that quickly, her specialty being the joys and indignities of aging, friendships lost and found, marriages stuck through and abandoned, and illness fought against. Body image is another perennial Berg theme and the subject of the marvelous title story of a woman abandoning the restrictions of Weight Watchers for a day of decadence.

First of all, for those of you who don't know, I kind of consider myself an EB expert. When I was full-blown involved in the Reading Festival it was my "duty" to pick Ms. Berg up at the airport and get her to her hotel. She was so easy to talk with and had that way about her of drawing me out and getting all personal, like we were actually friends, when you know she probably HATES these festival things where you fly into town one day and out the next, staying in some non-descript hotel (Holiday Inn on the River - oy!). I also had to reread all of her books so that I could go on WINK-TV's very EARLY morning show and talk coherently about her and the festival. For me, that was traumatizing. God bless my boss at the time for calling to tell how proud she was that I didn't once say "um." I performed better than Sarah Palin I guess!

One last thing. I started Ethan Canin's America, America last night and could not put it down. Gorgeous writing! Very Richard Russo in style. I stayed up late reading and can't wait to get back to it. Work sure does get in the way of my habit! Oh, and I HAVE to stay awake for the debate tonight so.....Andrea, you're going to love it - I think.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Not sure where to post this but I wanted to ask if anyone has heard of National Clicks?

Can someone help me find it?

Overheard some co-workers talking about it all week but didn't have time to ask so I thought I would post it here to see if someone could help me out.

Seems to be getting alot of buzz right now.