Thursday, January 21, 2016

Everybody Was a Book Lover

For all the online blathering about the impending Snowpacalypse, it seems to be completely focused on one of two things.

The first is alcohol, with reports of heavy-duty trips to the ABC store, trying to figure out how many bottles of wine or cases of beer will be necessary to manage so much leisure time.

The second is the inevitable grumbling about what might happen, as in, the city will be slow to clear streets, how long will we be without power, why do people have to lay in provisions for a week, whine, grumble, complain.

I've yet to see anything about laying in sufficient reading material. Aren't snow days the best possible time to curl up with (insert beverage of choice) and get lost in a story?

January's been a wonderful reading month for me, partially because of vacation, but also because I've been devoting more time to reading at night, resulting in three books already finished this month. I'm on a roll.

The first was Patti Smith's "M Train," a Christmas gift, but also a title that had been highly recommended to me a week before by my aunt as something especially suited to me. And it was, both Smith's prose and the snippets of her colorful life, especially the thread about her finding a ramshackle bungle by the sea, a dilapidated old place that manages to survive Hurricane Sandy's devastation a short time later.

From there, I began a book loaned to me by a friend who knows my taste. "Everybody Was So Young" told the true story of Sara and Gerald Murphy, a well-off couple who married after World War I and proceeded to live their life by entertaining, supporting and sharing ideas with an incredible array of Lost Generation notables.

I'm talking Picasso (who did drawings of Sara), Hemingway, F. Scott Fitzgerald (who was a bit in love with Sara), Dorothy Parker, Cole Porter, John dos Passos and Stravinsky, among many others.

Naturally I was as fascinated by two people who could attract that kind of circle of friends as by their life in Antibes in their bohemian Villa America.

It left me wondering if those kinds of people still exist today, Americans living abroad and willing to support starving artists, critique their work when asked, buy their art when it would help them or if we've become too self-centered a culture for that.

And it wasn't even as if their entire lives were charmed because two of their three children met tragic deaths and, at least in my reading, Gerald was actually a closeted gay man who ignored his own needs for the sake of the marriage and family.

Yesterday, I finished "Jacqueline Bouvier Kennedy Onassis: A Life," one of my library giveaway finds offering many details about Jackie's life I'd never before read. Surprisingly, the book left me feeling sorry for a woman who was never properly loved her entire life, beginning with her parents and right on through her husbands.

It was fascinating reading about how separately she and JFK lived their White House years, with one or the other often in another state or country most of the time, something that seems unthinkable for a First Lady today and yet that was 50 years ago.

Finishing that book last night leaves me wide open to pick the perfect Snowmageddon book or books for the next few days.

Do I want another memoir - I have so many to choose from - or perhaps a best-selling 1950s novel? Ooh, maybe I should finally read the third book in a five book series, having read numbers one, two and five?

Assuming that all my going out plans for the next three days will be canceled, I've got days to lose myself in books, all the more so for the stack of 26 books awaiting my attention in my bedroom. It's a little like my annual sojourn at the beach, when I happily devour books by the day.

Come on, Jonas, give me a reason to knock off a few more.

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