Wednesday, September 5, 2007

City Views, Country Dreams

Good evening from New York.

Knowing that I was going to see Michael Palin yesterday evening, and having the day off, I decided it would be wise to get a needed haircut. No need to look shabby on such an occasion.
So, off to the salon for another expert cut, and I now once again look like the photo.

My stylist and I agreed that hair coloring is something that I will most likely never get into. My stylist is currently looking radiant in very red hair. It is dramatic, but suits her. She told me that her boss has given her a raise, which means that her rates will go up, but not for her devoted old time following including me. Relief!

Besides the treat of the styling, I also just did a lot of leisurely errand rounds, and picked up a bunch of books at the library, including a few recommended by Jane and Milla. My library is such a grand resource. I generally read fairly recent books, but if you go into the "stacks" and ride the funny little cage of an elevator from floor to floor, you can come upon what are most likely very valuable old first editions (and I am not even talking about the actual rare book room.) It is just a great place to wander about in, get lost in, and then ... come upon a treasure.

So...after all that leisurely errand doing, and leisurely prowling in the library stacks, I all of a sudden realized that I had better get a move on, get back over to the west side, have a quick dinner and hop it down to the book store, or probably would not stand a chance to actually entering the Michael Palin reading I wanted to attend.

Quick, quick and quick. Almost on time I was briskly walking along Broadway, headed for the book shop, when I saw a neighbor, and of course, stopped to say hello and see what the gossip was about the apartment building. All we old-timers are concerned about the ramifications of the new owners. The neighbor I encountered said she was still okay, since she like me, is a protected tenant. However, she told of another tenant who is not protected, who is in the process of fighting a recently initiated eviction process. Oh boy!

I just did not want to think about such traumas then, and don't want to right now, either.

On to the site of the reading. Well, it was mobbed. Every chair already taken, and every standing room spot also taken. What was left was the option to watch the proceedings through a glass wall and hear what was being read via closed circuit television. Those of us who arrived only 20 minutes early went for that option.

And, it was very entertaining. Palin is engaging, funny, energetic. He read scattered parts from the Diaries 1969-1979, The Python Years. For those of the gathered fans such as myself, it was a welcome step back in time. There were lots of young and very young people there as well, some of who probably were not born before 1990 or later. We had a great time.

Palin took lots of questions, and then sat down with his selection of felt tipped pens to sign anything that was put before him. Not just the current book for sale. No indeed. Folks had brought along all sorts of Python stuff for his signature. He signed them all. Lots of photos were taken. He just kept chatting with everyone, smiling and signing. A real gent.

What amazed me was that I did not recognize anyone in the assembled bunch of fans.

Today was also a day off for me. But, as is often the case, it was necessary for me to drop by the shop for a few hours to take care of a few things. Wish it were otherwise, but it was not.

Then a quick walk over to the greenmarket to replenish my produce assortment. Tomatoes, green beans, lettuce, squash, nectarines, and peaches. Scrumptious.

Back uptown for a few more errands, and then a bit of reading and working on my current knitting project. Today was mild, but overcast, so the light was not right for me to work on my oil painting. Got to wait for another day with real sun.

Had a few phone calls with friends, and a few that were shop-related too.

Then, off to another neighborhood bookshop for tonight's reading by Joyce Carol Oates.
I did take along a few notes that I had made from you all regarding possible questions for her, should the opportunity present itself.

I have seen many photos of JCO over the years and knew that she was a tiny person, with a very recognizable face. In person all this is true, but her presence and movement add another definition.

She does have a pointy chin and a rather heart-shaped face, seemed to wear no make up other than a reddish lipstick. Hair seemed undyed, and rather wispy sort of winging out from an irregular off-center parting. I wondered if she did comb it. Do not think so.

Very bony shoulders. Tiny body. Very large hands in proportion to her arms and the rest of her frame. She moves them around a lot.

She wore a strange white jacket open in front. The jacket was edged in fluting ruffles of the same white material. She seemed to have a yellowish blouse with long sleeves on under the jacket. She carried a small black fabric handbag with her to the podium. Her large glasses were in the handbag. She pulled out the glasses to read and when finished reading, returned them to the handbag.

Now, please forgive me, I cannot remember the name of the book from which she read. (Perhaps it is "The Museum of Dr. Moses") It is a hard cover collection of shortstories, and I think they are what she referred to as genre fiction (i.e. gothic, horror) rather than what she referred to as literary fiction.

She spoke quite a bit about the supposition of a connection with readers that a genre fiction writer has. She referenced workks of H.P. Lovecraft and Poe. She also spoke of loving to read the descriptive passages in Hardy and DH Lawrence.

She also spoke of the impact of the Bela Lugosi "Dracula" film on her young mind, perhaps somehow connected to her Hungarian grandfather.

Most of what Ms. Oates said, and her answers to various questions posed were delivered in a very dry manner, actually provoking quite a few laughs. She said that she liked trying to investigate states of mind in the world even though they might not be very pleasant.

She said that she does lots of preparation before beginning a book, and once she actually begins a book, she sees it through to completion.

I did get to be the final questioner of the evening, and made sure that she knew I was carrying with me unseen readers from the UK. I asked the question about how she selects her protagonist. She took quite a long time in answering, saying that the selection of a name was very important, and that she understood that the writer Elmore Leonard felt the same way about his characters. She cites examples of very good names that of Hamlet and Heathcliffe.

She felt that the title of the book, the first and last sentences established the structure a certain landscape from which the rest of the book's river and tributaries would flow.

Hoping that will give you all a bit of an idea of what was on offer in two book shops along Broadway on two September evenings.

Back to work for me tomorrow.

Pleasant dreams.


  1. Mad with jealousy ah the joy of hearing a book reading by an author any author would do!!!!

  2. I am also very envious! You are so incredibly lucky to have all that at your feet. Michael Palin is a true gentleman - he appeared on Parkinson some time ago and was a complete hit, my mum even thinks he has sex appeal. I have to say there's something...!!

    I'm currently reading We Were the Mulvaneys for the book group so I would have loved to have met JCO. Thank you for that very vivid description of a very talented author.

    Crystal xx

  3. Oh, rummaging around in bookstores and finding a real treasure - how wonderful. It is such a pleasure to meet authors/celebrities and they are pleasant and unassuming - nothing worse than being disappointed by someone you admire - good for Mr Palin. As for Ms. Oates (well done for asking the question!) and what an interesting answer - title, first and last sentence sets the whole of the book - I shall have to remember that one. Thank you, Frances for sharing that with us.

  4. What a wonderful way to spend a day! Your life in New York sounds so full and rich - thank you for sharing it with us all.

    Beautiful, beautiful pictures on your blog page - and your hair looks very chic, too.

  5. Now JCO's answer re the first and last two sentences in the book was interesting - as those two were the one's that I recall so clearly from reading the book. I wish I'd been there too.

  6. isn't it wonderful to get to hear writers read from their work, and see them in person?

    i drove 2 1/2 hours a few years ago to see Roddy Doyle. the bookstore was so crowded, however, that i never actually saw him. only heard him.

  7. You have been so busy, you lucky girl, thank you for the description, i could see her clearly... The oak leaf is lovely..xx

  8. Oh I would love to meet Michael Palin, he has been over here recently, on the island, but for a personal visit so there was no publicity and the moment was gone. He was near Oban a few weeks back too, so hopefully he will come here again. Lucky you getting to hear him speak in person, I am very envious.

  9. I love Michael Palin, how lovely to have been there, a treasured memory. I was a great fan of Monty Python. The man who was the inspiration for the Life of Brian lives here in my village and funnily enough he is called Brian!!
    I think he was just wonderful in a Fish called Wanda and then he is wonderful in everything. Thanks for sharing it all with us.
    Love Blossom

  10. Thanks for sharing the two author visits. Sorry I didn't come up with a questin in time. I am still reading (and enjoying) the Mulvaneys.
    A friend of mine who has met Palin socially doesn't like him, says he was very 'superior' towards him. I've always thought his public persona very attractive.

  11. What a lovely way to spend your day off!

  12. Your life does sound so rich and cultured. I love Michael Palin. Felt as if I was inthe room with you for both readings.

  13. Hello Frances,
    I read your blogs last night and was about to answer and ran out of time, had to go out. Then found your new message. I always get the back to school feeling .I am old enough to remember the bottles of milk and paper straws too.
    Really like yor paintings, you have a great sense of colour, especially the pebbles and leaf. Just been on a pebbly beach. On my blog, a little video of my exhibition, made by my daughter. It is fun to watch , gives a flavour of it all, me arranging the cabinets with all my bits. Sorry to hear work is hectic again, but you have been enjoying some free time , and in the company of Michael Paylin. Have a lovely weekend. Milly

  14. Frances I love living in the country and could never see myself 'trapped' in a city - but the way you describe your life and especially the two book evenings with two wonderful authors does make me envious.

    Does sound as though you give 110% to your work - i hope your job is rewarding and that you are very much appreciated.


  15. Frances, how I too envy you the rich cultural diversity of NYC... In my dim memory I recall reading a 'spooky' story by JCO - an ex-boyfriend was a mad keen fan and pushed it on me as we were holidaying (disastrously) in the Greek islands. It put me off her for years (by association) so I was pleased to revisit thanks to purplecoo and the Mulvaneys.

    btw, don't forget I have tagged you for your soul-scents/sounds/touches. jxxxxx

  16. Thank you for your lovely comments on my blog, great fan of Michael Palin and his books too. Hair colouring, oh dear had a rather 'interesting' end result yesterday !

  17. Green with envy here - but, as always my friend, you bring us with you.

    It is like having all the comforts of home yet all the joy of being with you at these events, thank you, and again thank you!

  18. Good Evening Frances,
    Sorry I have got here late, trying to catch up.Thank you so much for your comments, most kind.

    A friend of my daughter's did say to me once that when she was working as a Airport Hotel Manager, Michael Palin was quite obnoxious, and upset about some booking arrangements. I have always thought he came across as a friendly chap on TV.

    How are the books going Frances? L.Woolf and Mrs Woolf & Her Servants. I have not had time to catch up with any reading lately, but I do enjoy my wonderful books.

    Love your pictures and paintings Frances, and how you describe life in the City of wonderful New York.

    Best Wishes,