What an absolutely bonkers month. September was…How to describe September? The family had a reunion of sorts. The island suffered its fifth shock of the season with a quadruple murder. Running was another head-scratcher as I officially resumed physically therapy for my twisted hips. But. But, But! I was able to log over 30 miles. Nowhere near the 70+ I wanted, but it’s something. At least I haven’t stopped entirely. And the reading? Here are the books:
- Tender is the Night by F. Scott Fitzgerald (AB/print)
- The Unexpected Mrs. Pollifax by Dorothy Gilman
- Burton And Speke by William Harrison (fictionalized history/historical fiction…whatever)
- My Dream of You by Naola O’Faolain (AB/print)
- O Jerusalem! by Larry Collins and Dominique Lapierre – Confessional: didn’t quite get all the way through this)
- Everybody was so Young: Gerald and Sara Murphy, a Lost Generation Love Story by Amanda Vaill
- Living Well is the Best Revenge by Calvin Tomkins
- Passions Spin the Plot by Vardis Fisher
- Henry James: the Treacherous Years (1895 – 1901) by Leon Edel
Early Review for LibraryThing:
- Boat Runner by Devin Murphy (fiction!)
Vaill, Amanda. Everybody Was So Young: Gerald and Sara Murphy – a Lost Generation Love Story. New York: Houghton Mifflin Company, 1998.
Reason read: F. Scott Fitzgerald was born in September. His novel Tender is the Night is based on Gerald and Sara Murphy.
I am trying to wrap my brain around just how special Sara and Gerald Murphy’s reputation was between post World War I and pre World War II. Just the who’s who name dropping when describing their inner circle alone is spectacular. Even at an early age, both Sara and Gerald hobnobbed with notables (Sara was warned not to wear a long scarf while flying with the Wright brothers and Gerald was schoolmates with Dorothy (Rothschild) Parker). The Murphys vacation spot of choice was a rocky beach in the south of France. It was easy to rub elbows with the big names for Paris was a hotbed for creativity during the 1920s. Artists, photographers, writers, poets and fashionistas alike flocked to the city center and soon made their way to the French Riviera. Gerald and Sara knew how to entertain all ages. Their children were treated to elaborate parties including a scavenger hunt that took them by sailboat across the Mediterranean. It was a charmed life…until it wasn’t. Interspersed with the good times are episodes of tragedy – illnesses, death, Fitzgerald’s drinking and subsequent estrangements from longtime friends. But, it was probably the tragic deaths of their two sons, Baoth and Patrick that were the most devastating and marked the end of an era for Sara and Gerald.
Pet peeve about Vaill’s book: many of the photographs Vaill refers to are not included in her book. The Fitzgeralds frolicking in the ocean; Sara with pearl looping down her bare back. Even the Pamploma photograph, which Vaill describes in great detail is not the same one included in the book. Hadley does not look at Gerald and Pauline does not look at her lap. Instead, all are looking straight into the camera. This might be why Pearl recommends reading Everybody was so Young with Living Well is the Best Revenge because Living Well includes more photographs and a section on Gerald’s art.
As an aside, I cannot help but think of my paternal grandparents while reading Everybody Was So Young. Their wealth and society was a mirror image of Gerald and Sara’s. To top it off, Sara’s family was well rooted on Long Island, just a short distance from where my Grandmother lived for many, many years in Quogue.
Favorite trivia: Gerald named his boat after a Louis Armstrong album, “The Weatherbird.” When having the boat built he had a copy of the record sealed in its hull. How cool is that?
Author fact: Everybody Was So Young is Amanda Vaill’s first book.
Book trivia: Everybody Was So Young includes two sections of 84 interesting photographs.
Nancy said: Nancy suggested reading Everybody Was So Young at the same time as Tender is the Night by F. Scott Fitzgerald and Living Well is the Best Revenge. by Calvin Tomkins.
BookLust Twist: from Book Lust in the interesting chapter called “Companion Reads” (p 62).
Tomkins, Calvin. Living Well is the Best Revenge. New York: Viking Press, 1962.
Reason read: F. Scott Fitzgerald’s birth month is September. Tender is the Night is (sort of) based on real life characters, Sara and Gerald Murphy. Living Well is the Best Revenge was also written about Sara and Gerald Murphy.
What is it about Sara and Gerald Murphy? Was it their personalities that made them so attractive? Or was it just the era they were living in at the time? This was back in the day when people gave houses as wedding gifts and didn’t worry about the red tape and mountains of paperwork that went with it. Maybe it was the people they associated with that made their light glow a little brighter. For Sara and Gerald Murphy could call Cole Porter, Ernest Hemingway, Pablo Picasso, Jean Cocteau, Igor Stravinsky, John Dos Passos, and, of course, F. Scott Fitzgerald as their friends. Maybe it was their talents. Gerald, encouraged and inspired by Picasso among others, spent nine years as an artist, creating breathtaking paintings. Sadly, he only produced ten works of art and many are either missing or have been destroyed. Together, Sara and Gerald knew how to throw an intimate, yet memorable party. They had personality and flair. Although this is a tiny book, Tomkins gives a succinct portrait of the captivating couple.
Quote I liked to describe Gerald, “Organizer of private gaiety, curator of a richly encrusted happiness” (p 86).
As an aside, I found it interesting to compare Tomkins and Vaill in what details they both considered worthy of inclusion in their books. For example, they both thought the story of Gerald falling through the ice and being made to finish a walk with his father in frozen clothes a telling detail of Gerald’s character.
Author fact: Tomkins has written a bunch of other works but I’m only reading Living Well is the Best Revenge.
Book trivia: Living Well is the Best Revenge is an incredibly short book, less than 150 pages. It is made even shorter by 44 pages of 74 fabulous photographs.
Nancy said: Living Well is the Best Revenge should be read together with Everybody Was So Young and Tender is the Night. They belong together.
BookLust Twist: from Book Lust in the obvious chapter called “Companion Reads” (p 62).
September starts out with sunny skies and a promise of a return to normalcy. What is “normal” anyway? I’m hoping to run without pain (have a whopping 72 miles scheduled). I’m also hoping to get back on track with the reading:
- Tender is the Night by F. Scott Fitzgerald – in honor of F Scott Fitzgerald’s birth month.
- O Jerusalem! by Larry Collins and Dominique Lapierre
- Burton and Speke by William Harrison – in honor of September being Curiosity Month (and isn’t that what exploring as all about, being curious?)
- Living Well is the Best Revenge by Calvin Tomkins – in honor of F Scott Fitzgerald’s birth month (& the reading of Tender is the Night)
- Everybody was So Young by Amanda Vaill – in honor of F Scott Fitzgerald’s birth month (& the reading of Tender is the Night)
- Passion Spins the Plot by Vardis Fisher – to continue the series started in August in honor of the day Butch Cassidy robbed a bank in Idaho.
Early Review for LibraryThing:
- The Boat Runner by Devin Murphy (the first fiction I have received in a long time!)