Susannah’s Fall, Winter Reading list…2018-2019

I always say, I rarely read fiction, but who am I kidding, after spending the whole summer reading almost nothing but.

My friend Joanne is to blame, always cooing over a novel to literally lose yourself in, turning out she’s so right, the little well-read imp that she is.

I’ll start with Lucy…Ellen Feldman (2003). The love affair between Franklin Roosevelt and Lucy Mercer that could have changed history, if FDR had left Eleanor the way he intended, once their tryst was discovered. Taken from the actual letters Eleanor found in his suitcase along with the history woven around them, Lucy will leave you heartened despite the circumstances.

Belgravia…Julian Fellowes…2016. The Big Daddy of Downton Abbey, beginning on the eve of the Battle of Waterloo at a grand ta-do rivaling any at Downton, Fellowes clearly in command of this chivalrous, opulent era. 

The Camomile Lawn…Mary Welsley (1984). Written around The Blitz, where, thinking you might not see the light of day, all beds, I mean bets were off, World War Two England the place to be. Mary, who didn’t get published till she was 71 years-old, was a riveting writer with lusty mischief oozing from her quill.

Not That Sort of Girl…Mary Welsley (1987). Another saucy tale about a young British girl falling in love with two boys toasting menage a’ trois so joyfully, you’ll feel it should be legalized.

Death Comes To Pemberley…P.D. James (2011). After reading Mary, I just needed more British noir picking up the sequel to Pride & Prejudice (1813) by the mistress of murder mysteries. I suggest reading both, back to back, to get the full thrill of what happens to Mr. Mrs. Darcy at their beloved, grand estate. 

Katharine of Aragon: The True Queen…Alison Weir (2016). The first of Henry VIII’s 6 wives, as well as the launch of Weir’s Tudor Queen series. Kate, the sweetest woman mean King Hal did everything but push off a cliff when he wanted to marry that medieval minx, Anne Bolyen, is someone you’ll root for. It’s written wrapped around grisly events…beheadings, burnings, so I warn you, but it’s kinda’ like an accident you don’t want to see, but can’t look away from.

Anne Boleyn: A King’s Obsession…Alison Weir (2017). Oh, the Kim Kardashian of her time, just with a smaller butt, who some say was misled and innocent, but I say, was the demon Queen deserving her downfall.

The Waterworks…E.L. Doctorow (1994). A thriller set in New York City, 1870 about a newspaper writer that makes Poe seem like Dr. Suess. You see it all, the over crowded tenements, pigs trolling the streets. Cops on the take and harlots on the make. For any writer, Doctorow is a course in paying attention to what you see, and lavishly imagining what you can’t.

Casino…Nicholas Pileggi (1995). We love him, married to the late Nora Ephron he dedicates it to. So much better than the movie with luscious detail making Scorcese’s cinematic efforts pale. Pileggi made his bones as a journalist, and that sharp eye a reporter has to have, is still in twitchy residence.

Imagine, 10 novels, and there are many more, but it’s time to segue into American History, my favorite subject.

First in Line…Kate Anderson Brower (2018). Now you’ll know why it’s so important who one chooses as their running mate. You’ll learn who was considered and not chosen, and why some who were, became legendary losers. Ms. Brower who wrote, The Residence (2015) about what the help at the White House had to say of its occupants, is a hellova writer. 

Ripple of Hope:RFK…Kerri Kennedy (2018). Bobby’s daughter commemorated the 50th Anniversary of her father’s death with interviews with those who knew him, and many who wish they had. I’m a Bobby fan, so I lapped them up like New England clam chowder, he and his brother Jack’s favorite fare.

Leadership in Turbulent Times…Doris Kearns Goodwin (2018).  Well, she’s done it again, penned a book every American should read, this time focusing on four great men shining down like beacons: Lincoln, Teddy, FDR and Lyndon Johnson bow from the page. Yeah I know, LBJ, in that illustrious company? Kearns feels his work for Civil Rights taking over where JFK left off, earns him his place. Right or wrong, one can hear God Bless America mewling from the ethers.

The Georgetown Ladies Social Club…C. David Heymann (2003). How I loved this. The women during the Kennedy years and those thereafter, who really ruled Washington, proving, behind every great politician is a smart woman with mouth watering catering skills. Katharine Graham, Pamela Harriman and Sally Quinn, among others, jump off the page to answer the door.

My Twenty-Five years in Provence…Peter Mayle (2018). Charming and spare (179 pages) inhaling it in one gulp on a drowsy summer Sunday. The village of Provence in the south of France where life is still simple and cell phone free, will have you calling your travel agent.

Paris in Love…Eloisa James (2012). The perfect chaser to the above, another engaging memoir but written in diary form. The beautiful Ms. James, after losing her mom to breast cancer then surviving a bout of her own, convinces her Italian husband and their two young kids, to move to Paris for an unforgettable year. Vivid, funny and a tad sad in spots, but a keeper for your bookshelf.

Now for a little humor, vice and murder.

Calypso…David Sedaris (2018). His latest collection of essays, not as silly as his earlier ones, but still wry and clever making you as always wish, there was just one more left to read.

How to Write An Autobiographical Novel…Alexander Chee (2018). His first collection of essays, not as funny as Sedaris, but their talent could easily spar in the ring. A great storyteller getting an A in candor, I especially liked when he was a cater/waiter for Pat and William Buckley.

Robin…Dave Itzkoff (2018). A tender tale because you know what’s coming, yet reading about the genius of Robin Williams can’t help but make you smile–his energy seeming to levitate on each page.

Crooked Brooklyn: Taking Down Corrupt Judges, Dirty Politicians, Killers and Body Snatchers…Michael Vecchine and Jerry Schmetterer (2015). This will hold your attention. Vecchine’s 20 years working as a Brooklyn prosecutor, shares all that made even him shudder. You’ll be amazed what people try to get away with, speaking of…

Betrayal: The Life and Lies of Bernie Madoff…Andrew Kirtman (2009). A fascinating story, what this man did to so many trusting souls. How he got away with it for so long, and the sad carnage in the wake of finally being caught with no other place to go, but the slammer.

This Crazy Thing Called Love: The Golden World and Fatal Marriage of Ann and Billy Woodward…Susan Braudy (1992). Evangeline Ann Crowell, a sexy showgirl from Kansas, lassos New York’s favorite cafe society’s playboy son, William Woodward Jr., shooting him dead at their Long Island estate, thinking he was a burglar (so she said), launching the biggest murder trial of the century. Inspired Dominick Dunne’s best selling novel, The Two Mrs. Grenvilles (2012), a page-turner, and then some.

Fashion Climbing…Bill Cunningham…2018. For all you fashionistas, Mr. C. who died in 2016 at 87, a fashion photographer for The New York Times, as much a Manhattan landmark as The Empire State or Chrysler Building, traveling strictly by bike, snapping all that was chic catching his elegant eye. They’ll never be another Bill.

Ma’am Darling: 99 Glimpses of Princess Margaret…Craig Brown (2018). Princess Margaret, the younger sister of Queen Elizabeth, was never someone I was too interested in, yet read this book in three sated sittings. Regal up to her piled hair attempting to make the 5 foot princess appear taller, mean and spoiled one minute, generous and humane the next. Your heart opens, despite Marg being one royal bitch.

Medium Raw…Anthony Bourdain (2010). The man is no more, but his voice in his books, lives on. A memoir of sorts that, as I read it again, saw more of his torment eluding me the first time. A talented, elegant man clad in truth, passion and unheralded pain, who alas, will never be forgotten.

 I’ll end with one of my favorites, Shoeless Joe…W.P. Kinsella (1982)the novel the film, Field of Dreams, was taken from. Prose like none other, brimming with mystical imagery that will make you smile as Kinsella brings Shoeless Joe Jackson of the 1919 Chicago White Soxs back to life as if there never was a Black Sox scandal, ruining the lives of 8 American men ending, forever, their love of the game. You don’t necessarily need to be a baseball fan, but guaranteed, you’ll feel blessed in the bleachers as Joe and his teammates happily head for home.

Remember folks, reading is like a muscle, the more you read, the stronger it gets.

See ya in the stacks.        



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Best Story of the Week…September 20th

I was on the train seated between two Asian tourists. How did I know they were tourists?

Because they were wearing everyplace they visited. They had on Statue of Liberty T-shirts, Yankee caps and carried MOMA tote bags. They were a walking, or sitting rather, ad for New York tourism.

Suddenly a very skinny, older woman got on giving the whole car dirty looks since no one got up to offer her their seat, including me. She wasn’t that old, and her entitlement didn’t exactly inspire even Joan of Bark to heed the call.

But then Joan softened, moving closer to one of the men who kindly also made room for her. Then the other man scooted over but she still stood there irritated we wouldn’t give up our seat. “Oh come on,” I said, “you’re thin, there’s plenty of room,” which wasn’t really the case.

Finally she sits and the whole row looked like sardines in a can, but instead of getting mad, we all laughed at how funny we must have looked, well, everyone but snooty who still didn’t seem happy.

One of the Asian men was so squished he started to slide off the seat before a good-natured business man grabbed his arm.

When we hit Brooklyn Bridge, everyone but the woman got off.

She finally had, not just the seat to herself, but the whole damned car, still frowning, giving the name sourpuss all new meaning.

Humility, pretty soon will only be available on Amazon…PRIME.

 There were ten in the bed
And the little one said,
“Roll over! Roll over!”
So they all rolled over and
one fell out

There were nine in the bed
And the little one said,
“Roll over! Roll over!”
So they all rolled over
And one fell out

There were eight in the bed
And the little one said,
“Roll over! Roll over!”
So they all rolled over and one fell out

There were seven in the bed
And the little one said,
“Roll over! Roll over!”
So they all rolled over and one fell out

There were six in the bed
And the little one said,
“Roll over! Roll over!”
So they all rolled over and one fell out

There were five in the bed
And the little one said,
“Roll over! Roll over!”
So they all rolled over and one fell out

There were four in the bed
And the little one said,
“Roll over! Roll over!”
So they all rolled over and one fell out

There were three in the bed
And the little one said,
“Roll over! Roll over!”
So they all rolled over and one fell out

There were two in the bed
And the little one said,
“Roll over! Roll over!”
So they all rolled over and one fell out

There was one in the bed
And the little one said,

“Alone at last!”

Just that kid in me. 🙂


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Friends, Missing In Action

In my last post, I mentioned my late pals, Mimi and Jackie missing them more than I can say.

My fantasy is, they’re together in one of their living rooms, Jackie’s painted peach, Mimi’s pale yellow, looking down at me shaking their noble heads.

“Oh, when will she learn, none of this stuff she worries about matters. What can we do we haven’t already done?”

Mimi would nod like an old sage. “Let’s have more wine and discuss it.”

“Excellent,” Jackie would say, offering to pour.

Sometimes at 5 o’clock, the World WASP Cocktail Hour, I think I hear Mimi calling from across the hall. “Come on over Suz, gettin’ the wine out, and I have a new cheese I’m sure you’ll love.”

I’d run over barefoot in tights and a Hanes T-shirt looking like a punk peasant with a pear or an apple, the only thing she’d allow me to bring, slicing it as if it were made of gold.

Ah, how much I miss Mimi.

Jackie, who I knew much longer, a mentor of sorts…classy, well-heeled with a strain of whimsy separating her from the other upper east side snoots in our midst.

I’d get a call. “Susannah dear, come on over for a nice glass of wine. And I have those cucumber sandwiches you like from Billy Poles.”

I’d make skid marks to her house on Fifth, sometimes seeing Ralph Lauren in the elevator residing in the penthouse.

Nick, the doorman, also gone to that great mahogany lobby in the sky, would say, “Go right up…Mrs. V’s expectin’ ya.” Everyone loved Nick, who was jolly and kind and told you how pretty you looked, even when you didn’t.

Jackie would greet me in one of her cashmere turtlenecks and black capris, Rene Mancini flats gracing her Elizabeth Ardened feet. Every Christmas I’d too get a turtleneck from Saks, hence, my lovely collection due to her.

We’d laugh and giggle, like girls of the same age. Same with Mimi. Where two women, or three, are gathered, age matters none. The older one just has more stories the younger one gets to listen to.

I feel blessed to have known both who liked me just for me, expecting nothing, appreciating who I was without criticism or censor.

They were generous women, unlike those I meet now who would just as soon kill you for a parking spot.

I’m sure Mimi and Jackie are up there chatting to the sound of a cocktail shaker occasionally liking that ice cold martini, wondering…what’s happened to humanity since we’ve gone?

“God if I know,” Mimi would say, “more cheese Jackie?”

“I’d love some, and isn’t it great not to have to worry about our figures anymore?”

“Oh, I’ll drink to that….Cheers.”    





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Last Thrill and Testament

I had a job where they asked me, why I thought I still had style at my age. After unplugging my oxygen tank and parking my walker said, “Because I’m still breathing?”

I did ponder this though, once my ego settled down. There there, have an Oreo sweetie, you’ll feel better.

My mother was very chic until one day, mysteriously disappeared inside an elastic waistband, like her style went on the lam.

My late friend Jackie, quite a bit older than I was, and one of the chicest women ever, said, “She got tired Susannah. It’s exhausting wiggling into a suit, holding your stomach in like a fat cadet.” (she was very funny)

It wasn’t the answer I wanted to hear, yet it made sense.

But I remember my pal Mimi, tooling through her 80s in her Chanel jacket she’d wear over trim Talbot’s slacks, shiny loafers with braided tassels, gold posts gleaming from her ears. See, that’s how I want to go out, kicking and screaming, clutching the latest Brooks Brothers catalog making sure I didn’t miss anything.

My friend Lisa’s mother is even older than Mimi was, and she blows the doors off the place when she dresses to go out.

Age shouldn’t be an excuse to look like you’ve given up, surrendered to, oh what’s the use, so you can defend that paunch that no longer fits inside your blouse.

So, why do I think I still have style in my twilight years?

Because, despite wrinkles and a hearing aid named Max, I can still turn that occasional head, that’s why, so you can just…

do the Monkey!!! 

You monkey you.  🙂



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Getting the Most Out Of Your Vacation…From the Waist Down

It’s that time of year again, when those naughty Europeans prowl in the Park, trying their darndest to get laid before going home.

How do I know they’re not locals? Because they look at you as if you’re an exotic zoo animal, like a lynx, or a zebra.

They troll the runner’s track and road on a reconnaissance mission for that quick, casual canoodle.

I suppose one in their twilight years should be flattered, like this morning when I was ogled by a fella 35 at the most, smiling like he was just hit over the head.

After looking behind me making sure to be the actual recipient of his simpering smiles, realized, it had to be me, there was no one else around at 6:00 A.M..

I’ll admit, he was quite cute with wavy d’Artagnan hair, and like any well-equipped Musketeer, had a sword, just not one you could, how you say…en guarde…right away.

“Bonjour Mademoiselle.”

Mademoiselle indeed. Well, that’s certainly one way to break the ice.

“I am Fitz from Dijon.

“Dijon did you say…any relation to the mustard?”


do you leeve’ how you say…cloose by?”

“You mean like in a tree? No. And excuse me, but I have a schedule to keep.”

Nu NuWeet, Mademoiselle...s’il vous plait, which way, how you say…Boat House?”

“We say, Boat House.”

Turns out my frisky Musketeer just needed directions to the nearest mens room.

Alright, alright…but who knows, if I hadn’t gone on my merry way, what might have happened once he unsheathed that sword.

Oh mon Dieu!

Oh my God indeed.    

🙂   SB



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A Date Which Will Live In Infamy…9/11/2001

One of the most famous quotes in American history by President Franklin Roosevelt, coined after the bombing of Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941, can more than apply to what happened on a tranquil Tuesday, 17 years ago today.

When I went to the 9/11 Museum, one of the many things leaving an indelible impression, were the pictures on the wall of all 13 hijackers…4 inches wide, 6 inches tall…who were responsible for ending, and changing so many lives.

The curators did it modestly, so not to anger nor insult, but clearly felt the need to include them as the architects if you will, of one of the darkness days the world has ever known.

A friend of mine was ranting about stronger immigration laws, supporting President Trump across the board. He admonished me, saying, “You of all people Susannah, who’s still so affected by September 11th, should rally behind him. Imagine if our laws were tighter back then, all those people would still be here.”

Yes, alas, all those 2,983 souls, randomly lost.

I let his ire wash over me like rain, appreciating his point, since it throws me too, when I think, not only did these men who flew into the Trade Center and Pentagon, crashing in Shanksville, Pennsylvania live in the tristate area, but were taught, by us, to fly those planes.

He bullied me further by saying, how can I feel empathy for all the dirty illegals sneaking in who want us dead.

“What the hell’s the matter with you? Tell me, or will I have to read it in one of your stupid essays.”

Yes, his anger knew no bounds.

I held my tongue, not mentioning mothers separated from their children, knowing whatever I’d say would only inflame him further, choosing to simply excuse myself.

If he really wanted to know how I felt, this is what I would have said…

Any tragedy I’ve endured in my life, rather than make me harder, opened my heart wider. I certainly don’t mourn those 13 men, nor was sad when we murdered their leader, Osama bin Laden, but neither did I rejoice in the kill, for me, a hollow victory.

But I do know this..unless we’re the change, like Mr. Gandhi said, there’s no hope of ever healing such inexplicable hatred.

Al-Qaeda’s loathing of us, morphing into ISIS, brainwashing young men and women to do whatever’s necessary to annihilate Americans, will only cease combated with some sense of sanity.

No one who held a box cutter that day thinking their God would approve, was sane.

Most of those men were mere boys, twisted into thinking virgins and riches would await them on the other side.

I’m hoping they’ve met those they took with them, the 252 on the 4 planes including 8 children ranging from ages 11 to 2, the 125 at the Pentagon, and the 2,606 in the Towers, who I’ll bet as noble Americans, would greet them without malice.

God bless the fallen

God bless America.

Susannah Bianchi



Posted in Faith, grace, History, humanity, Love, media, men, New York City, Politics, travel, violence, war, words | Tagged , , , | 22 Comments

Best Story of the Week…September 7, 2018

It was 3:30 a.m. as I ventured out to get coffee at Hot and Crusty, the only 24 hour place open. I had an early job but alas, was out of milk, hence…foraging like the caffiene junky that I am.

Naturally, Aunt Clara had misplaced her Discover Card she could have sworn was in her bag. As I rummaged through it, on my knees on my corner, there are two hefty looking men having an argument oblivious to my sudden appearance.

I heard unidentifiable accents…middle eastern maybe, since they had that bite to them, as if the words were chewed before spoken.

As I empty my duffle onto the pavement now really pissed, I hear one say, “Boot’, thad’ ez’ not quite right, you misjoodge’ me.”

The other guy says, “Yes boot’, where were you all neet’?”

“I wooz’ reading, and my phune’ was in the oothur’ oom’.”

Finally, my card turns up in my change purse. After shoving everything back inside my bag, about to pass these two men, they suddenly kiss passionately like two porpoises in love.

I assumed their argument was work related. Who knew they were more than business associates, certainly not by the looks of them, making me think…

Discover should be more than a card, wouldn’t ya say so, Aunt Clara?   

🙂   SB

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Speaking the Same Language

 I ran into Alice, a former neighbor, running with her daughter.

First question we always have for one another is, so what are you reading?

I start carrying on about a novel called Belgravia, written by Julien Fellowes who wrote Downton Abbey by saying, it begins on the eve of the Battle of Waterloo, using the word, pivotal, in my abbreviated description.

Her preteen, well-mannered daughter Sara, asks its meaning.

I loved that she didn’t know, but was bright enough to ask. At her age I would have been bored and embarrassed, but being her mother’s daughter she too is an avid reader who loves language.

When you read a lot, your vocabulary can’t help but to increase, therefore you speak with an elegance you’re not always aware of. It’s one of the many boons books bring within their binding.

Alice lets me take the helm since I used the word, so I say in Susannahese, it means it’s key to the story, appearing throughout, hoping my clipped meaning was correct.

I look at Alice for verification.

“That’s right,” she says, think when you pivot in dance class Sara, you go all the way around coming back to where you started because your starting point is that important.”

How I loved watching Sara listen, making the word her own.

When I came home, I still looked it up….an adjective…  

Of crucial importance…the report was missing a pivotal piece of information. Central, urgent and necessary. Something that appears throughout. A sliding or pivotal motion.

I knew all three of us would remember this story since it would forever be essential, vital and pivotal, to our ongoing, literary relationship.       



Posted in Books, Family, friendship, grace, humor, kids, nature, New York City, parents, readng, words, writing | Tagged , , , , , | 24 Comments

Dr. Ed MD

Whenever I have a medical question, I call my friend Ed.

“Ed, I have this sudden rash on my arms and neck…what do you think it could be!”

“What were you eating, dare I ask?”

“Well, I dunno. Nothing out of the ordinary, I don’t think.”

“Stop pacing like a lynx and think harder…strawberries maybe? When they say they’re good for you Susannah, they don’t mean by the quart. Did you happen to pull one of your all-nighters at a raw fish bar perhaps?…

Or was it Frozen Margarita Night at Burrito Joes?”

“Well, Whole Foods did have a pretty good sale on shellfish, shrimp in particular, and I did buy some.”

“How much…how many did you eat?”

“I dunno, a few…dozen?”

“Well you’re lucky you don’t have gills. Or do you?”

He always figures it out before I can cab it to the ER terrorizing the taxi driver, who thinks I’m about to die in his backseat, always excelling in the art of diplomacy.



“Thanks Ed. I guess I’ll wait till tomorrow to tell you about…


“Okay, will do. G’nite now.”


 Dr. Ed MD, not for the faint of heart.



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Dr. Zeus, My Cat In The Hat

I’m happily feeding Zeus, the cat, down the block.

He’s a redhead, big and buff, rugged and tough…strapping, sturdy and oh so sexy–my kinda guy, greeting me at the door with furry swagger, like he’s welcoming me to his bachelor pad.

Did he just meow, “Hey baba,” or did I imagine it?

He then struts to the couch, taking one smooth leap hoping I’ll join him.

He purrs, his paw on my knee, preening, so I get a good look at him.

Is that a can a’ tuna in your pocket, or are ya just happy to see me?

Next thing he does is bunt my head like a football player, so solid…all male, causing me to blush like a maid in her prime.

After a little cat-noodling, I fetch him a treat he knowingly waits for, like a gentleman, as though it were a hot Hor d’oeuvre–a little liver on a Ritz kitty cat?

I swear, if possible, he’d mix me a cocktail.

He’s so urbane, like Clooney, or James Bond with a little TV repairman tossed in.

I know if he were wearing pants, a nice pressed pair, his rear would no doubt crack a smile, winking slyly from across the room.

But unlike Patrick, the cat next door, he never publicly cleans his private parts, preferring to keep them private, the size of cymbals, still in residence.

What a man, I think, what manners, such class–WHAT BALLS!

And he’s single.

I’ll have to tell his mistress when she gets home, we’re dating.

Hope she approves.    






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