I just finished a book of New Yorker profiles by John Lahr called Show and Tell (2000). They were no more than 40 pages long, more like 30 ranging from Woody Allen to Frank Sinatra, David Mamet and Bob Hope to what had to be my favorite, one on actor/director Mike Nichols.
John Lahr is the son of Bert who played the Cowardly Lion in The Wizard of Oz, so there’s a piece on him as well and one on his mother, Mildred, who was a Ziegfeld Follies girl.
All 15 essays are awe-inspiring, for a writer, reader and everyone in between.
Mike Nichols had Alopecia, a condition resulting in no hair on his body, so he always wore a wig. Sometimes, like in the case of Winston Churchill, it’s a partial loss since he still had hair on his head but none anywhere else.
Nichols, flirting with the writer, Susan Sontag, was surprised when she was aloof to his notorious charm…from Lahr’s essay:
Thirty years later, Sontag confessed to Nichols that she couldn’t accept the scars from her mastectomy: “I have this thing, and every time I take a bath I’m horrified.” He said, “Susan, now you know how I have felt all my life.”
Here were two brilliant people hesitant to show their imperfections for fear the world would judge them.
Did that speak to me with the shame and discomfort I feel over my hearing loss.
Of course these two brought lots more to the table talent wise, but it didn’t matter, they felt as I do, as though they committed a crime.
My heart both hurt and rejoiced when I read this…aching for them, but feeling hopeful learning they suffered yet rallied over their trials.
Inspiration, empathy, and self-acceptance are three reasons why I read.