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.