I did say no more book reviews but I thought I’d just share what I’ve been reading. You never know, something might be of interest.
First up: John F. Kennedy by Alan Brinkley is the latest installment in The Presidents Series.
What’s The Presidents Series?
I’m glad you asked.
It was sired by the late, great Arthur Schlesinger Jr. bequeathed to Sean Wilentz, another great historian, compiled of little, succinct bios of American Presidents. I highly recommend them since they’re rarely over 180 pages, a small commitment with a mighty big payoff since you come away knowing something concrete of who you just read about.
Next is Gilded Lives, Fatal Voyage by Hugh Brewster about the Titanic’s first-class passenger list that after reading the first 150 pages you feel like you know. It’s truly an amazing read, so much so that I had a very hard time when I came to Chapters 12 through 14 that explain in graphic detail what happened at 11:40 pm on April 12th, 1912. It dawned on me that if I didn’t read those chapters and kept them all at dinner, I could keep them alive forever. How silly am I? It was so harrowing what happened I couldn’t bear to relive it even in print. As you probably know only 712 people survived out of 2,205 and there were dogs lost as well, something I didn’t know. Only a few made it into lifeboats but they all would have perished if some humane soul hadn’t remembered to run down to open up all the kennels. You know the expression too much information? Well, though topnotch prose, I’m warning you.
On a more cheerful note Ina Caro, wife of Robert, wrote a book called Paris To The Past (it just came out in paper) where she maps out a fascinating route by train educating along the way. I loved her irreverent sense of humor combined with a serious passion for French history. Also if you’re a Robert Caro fan (The Power Broker, Master of the Senate) he’s right beside her tossing in his 2 cents during the entire trip.
Paris In Love by Eloisa James is the sweetest memoir I’ve read in a while. After a bout with cancer she gathers up her family and moves to the city she’s always dreamed of taking her readers along with her. I read it twice and now want to go to Paris so badly that I’ve been wearing a beret since it was cheaper than a ticket. There’s also a detailed list in the back of places to see.
Mad Women by Jane Maas is about her years in advertising reflecting the truisms and falsehoods of the popular TV show Mad Men. It’s short, sweet and beautifully written. You’ll also be blown away by her candor that is always a refreshing change. If you can’t write memoir honestly you shouldn’t bother. It’s kind of like having sex with your clothes on.
Blow by Blow is a tribute to the late Isabella Blow written by her husband Detmar Blow. Isabella, who committed suicide in 20o7 at the age of 48, was a fashion icon in her own right and the muse of hat designer Philip Treacy and pal of the late Alexander McQueen. It’s filled with stories about English and American Vogue and everybody who’s anybody in fashion. Also candid and well done with drops of extreme melancholia in between Detmar’s heartfelt prose. I wept while reading it in 2 riveting sittings. Definitely a woman’s read.
After Camelot, an expose to put it mildly by J. Randy Tarborrelli that just came out to a thunderous reception chronicles The Kennedys from 1968 to the present. I lapped it up like 2% organic milk if that’s any indication of how much I liked it. It’s gossipy for sure and you can’t help wondering over its accuracy since it gets very intimate in its detail but boy, was I ever enthralled. It opens with Ethel Kennedy pacing the beach at her home in Hyannis Port pondering the horror of just finding out John Kennedy Jr.’s plane has been reported lost. I will say no more.
Deadline Artists may be my favorite of the lot since it’s a massive collection of columns penned by everyone from Damon Runyon and Ernest Hemingway to Jimmy Breslin and my man Pete Hamill. And don’t worry, there are plenty of women as well like Erma Bombeck, Anna Quindlen and the one and only Eleanor Roosevelt. I inhaled it since writing a column is a colossal dream of mine. I also liked how it was divided into categories: War, Politics, Tributes, Humor, Crime etc…
Yes I could go on but I promised someone I’d walk their dog, man’s other best friend…
so would you excuse me?