Tuesday, May 30, 2017

Read any good books lately?

That used to be a fairly common question, especially when I was growing up in the 1940's. I nurtured a firm belief that men who read books (like my high school English teacher Mr. Hopkins) were sophisticated and worldly wise, a notion derived from seeing such scholarly types courtesy of MGM.  So I assumed certain men who looked that way were gentle and sensitive, like my high school English teacher Mr. Hopkins.  He had a book tucked under his arm every time I saw him, and he always encouraged my writing.  I was only a teenager, so it never entered my mind at the time that older men might also ignite my nascent romanticism (unlike MHST Mr. Hopkins). He did, however, teach me that reading is one of life's great pleasures, a lesson of inestimable value.

Judy Garland's sweet love letter video to Clark Gable (who presumably carried the weighty "Gone With The Wind" under his arm in 1937), is below, but one need only substitute the name Walter Pidgeon because he was the older man of  my dreams.  This image says it all for me ... the pipe, the tweed jacket, the book!

In his movies, he was a true father figure: kind and gentle, romantic, debonair, urbane and sophisticated with a touch of what I took to be a slight British accent although he was born in Canada.  If you remember the 1942 classic film "Mrs. Miniver" with any fondness, you will recall that Pidgeon's character Clement Miniver reads a portion of "Alice In Wonderland" aloud to his wife and children, hunkered down in their bomb shelter on the grounds of their home, proof of his love of classic literature.  He was my heart throb.  He lived in Boston for a time, and even studied voice at the New England Conservatory.

Judy Garland's love letter to Clark Gable is from the movie "Broadway Melody" of 1938.


I am writing this literary-flavored post today because a loyal reader has asked me to. She wrote: "I know you enjoy reading, so could you tell me what books you like and what are you reading now?"  Happy to oblige.

Dear E: On my bedside table at the moment, among a stack of others, is a recent acquisition titled "Great Short Stories By American Women"*, featuring some authors unfamiliar to me, plus a few outstandingly famous ones.

I was very moved by Edna O'Brien's intense book "The Little Red Chairs",* and I will read anything and everything by Ian McEwan*.  I am also reading a book by British journalist Martin Gayford which describes fascinating episodes in the period from October to December, 1888 when Vincent Van Gogh and Paul Gauguin shared an often stormy relationship in Provence for a few fractious weeks. Why am I reading this? Because Van Gogh is one of my favorite artists, and I met Martin Gayford many years ago in London, so I feel a double connection to the book. I am enjoying it very much. *

Speaking of relationships which frequently foundered in the choppiest of seas, I recommend John Brady's rollicking book about that fun loving, happy-go-lucky pair, Frank Sinatra and Ava Gardner. Their own version of Bosworth Field is strewn with the wreckage of a match which on paper should have been Sinatra's dream come true because he was truly mad for the woman. However, a rival named Jack Daniels persistently meddled in the affair, leading to the inevitable flame out. Still a good read if you ever imagined yourself an inconspicuous insect clinging to the stucco.


Here are photographs of just a few authors whose works I admire: Recognize anyone?

I am also reading a fascinating book titled "Elizabeth The Queen, The Life Of A Modern Monarch" by Sally Bedell Smith, Random House 2002.  This is part of my research for a work of fiction that occupies my time sporadically. I am also flailing away at my memoirs of interactions with famous jazz musicians and singers during my 60+ years as an active jazz singer. (My Web Site).

I've always been intrigued by the British Monarchy ever since my mother acquiesced to my demand that she wake my ten-year old self at the crack of dawn on November 20, 1947, so that I might listen to the live radio transmission commentary of the wedding of Princes Elizabeth to Prince Philip Mountbatten at Westminster Abbey. I knew I'd see actual film footage of the fairy tale moments when next I went to the movies, and the Pathe News Reel would most certainly include images of the Royal Occasion.  Just now I am thinking of the fabulous technology which today enables us to witness events as they occur.  If I'd actually been able to watch a live broadcast of that wedding, I'd have been in heaven, dazzled into speechless enchantment.

Of course, you will visit your library as often as possible. Read book reviews, make your own choices, and fan the flames of your curiosity. Read about science, philosophy, the arts, criticism, poetry, fiction or biographies, geography, politics, architecture and history. Just read any and all subjects that inspire you. And please remember the following truism from a famous American film director, screenwriter, author, actor, stand-up comedian, journalist, visual artist and art collector who once wisely said:

"If you go home with somebody, and they don't have books,
don't [have sex with] 'em.
Don't sleep with people who don't read!"
                                                        -John Waters

I am now going to pour a glass of wine, put my feet up, and open my book.  

Write me about your favorite authors, dear Readers. 


P.S.  There is no prize if you correctly identify the authors.  Sorry.  But give it a go just the same.

P.P.S.  I have a reasonably extensive, growing library, Mr. Waters.  


"The Yellow House" by Martin Gayford, Mariner Books 2006
"The Little Red Chairs" by Edna O'Brien, Little Brown 2015
"Great Short Stories By American Authors", edited by Candace Ward
           Dover Thrift Editions, Paperback, 1996
"Frank & Ava, In Love and War" by John Brady, St. Martin's Press 2015
"Elizabeth The Queen, The Life of a Modern Monarch"
            by Sally Bedell Smith, Random House 2002
"Nutshell" by Ian McEwan, Nan Talese-Doubleday  2016

1 comment:

Pamela Enders said...

Dear Carol, I LOVE this post for some many reasons: first, your writing is so delightfully engaging; second, I share your love of books; three, I share some of your interests in the types of books you read. Like you, I enjoy everything from the juicy biographies of famous people to serious and deeply moving classics (and some just fun), and the Royal family - especially the historical figures like all the Kings Henry and their various wives and intrigues. So thank you for this post and now I must read on and discover other treasures on your blog.