after spending the day with Mr. Henry Miller…

darlings

we are quite Exhausted (in a most invigorated way)!

you see, we spent the day with Mr. Henry Miller*

*not literally, we hasten to add but actually *quicknervouslooktocamera*, perhaps so – it felt as if the book was being read To us not By us – a most Curious experience.

42ef24ba755811e398200e56170da01a_8

we started early, with a cup of coffee, just post-dawn, nestled down inside the (very lovely) covers. OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

and then continued later on with the comfy socks in celestial blue, on the sofa. OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAin other news, we dashed out to meet friends for breakfast but did not stay long – Mr. Miller called us – so we purchased a coffee and picked up an armful of Newspapers and headed back home. 1fdee6ea756711e3bd5c0e0517cae372_8

and then we slipped back on the sofa and enjoyed the Quiet outside (is everyone still Out of Town for the Holidays? Or did we not get the memo that L.A is having a spring clean and all humans must go and visit cousins in Texas for the weekend?) while reading Mr. Miller.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

do we have a Review?

w-ell.

not really.

you see the strangest thing is two-fold (which makes it 2 Strange Things really not one that is folded in two, but we digress).

due to the quietness (this is no. 1, btw, as the young people say) of the Season we had been feeling a little nervous about, well, financial Flow – all is well – in fact for many many months – but we like to Keep Busy.

so (still on no. 1) – the Arrival of Mr. Miller (which we actually don’t remember ordering from the Los Angeles Requested Materials Service funny enough) – gave us Comfort – as it was all about Writing for its own sake and the money will come but only enough and comfort is not the best place to write from and all that good stuff.

no. 2 (have you digested the original part of the thought? good. we’ll move on then).

oh.

now we’ve forgotten no. 2

*pauses*

*looksoutofthewindow* – a crow flies past and dangles precariously on the (non-live) electricity wires outside and looks directly in the window – *shivers* – then flies away.

where were we?

it will come back to us. or Not (we’re feeling very Zen after being at that Retreat over new year’s).

a lack of a Review is because the book was Rather like a very long Conversation – as if we had dropped by his house in Big Sur (and gone back in time to when he was a. living there and b. generally present on the planet) and he’d said (Mr. Miller that is):

“Come IN!”

and generally welcomed us and made some coffee (probably in an original battered percolator that he brought back from PARIS) and pointed to the chair that isn’t broken and we’d sat there and picked up some postcards from Athens or somewhere and he’d started to tell us about his Life and his friends in Greece and beyond and basically we’d stayed the Entire Day just listening (even when the rambling got a bit weird or cryptic or kinda odd Opinions about Women or whom he calls the “ancient brotherhood” – this would be men drawn to live in San Francisco or Chelsea, Manhattan areas) and then we’d look around the room and admire (or not) the Art (because some of it would be dead dodgy) and then he’d make us an omelette (probably with chives and onions and a bit of camembert if that was still good) and we’d continue to listen (and occasionally join in).

so that’s the Review.

but we had a feeling of Comfort after reading it.

that was delicious.

once finished, we picked up our own pen (or rather fingers on the laptop keyboard) and wrote the First Two Pieces of 2014:

22a89de0757511e39542129016cbf599_8

what’s that?

oh.

bless you for asking.

*winningsmiletocamera3*

let’s see.

first we wrote about the Serra Retreat for Los Angeles, I’m Yours – yes, for the regular column which has been on Hiatus due to the Hols, “Where Shall We Meet”.

the other?

oh.

*said_airily*

a little preview of an evening with Anjelica Huston that we shall be attending (with the black pashmina wrap and dark glasses, naturally) in a couple of weeks.

fabulous is right.

or HARRUMPH.

as Mr. Miller might have said (while admiring the s w e e p of the pashmina we are Sure).

in praise of miss. barbara pym with pictures of england by teamgloria

darlings

we WEPT at the last page of A Very Private Eye: an autobiography in diaries and letters as Miss. Pym writes her last Christmas Card to Philip Larkin (december 1979) and then there’s a small note, in italics, from her sister, Hilary, or Miss Hazel Holt her literary executor.

she died on 11 january 1980

it was like losing a friend.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAso – in appreciation of miss. Pym – some words from her and some pictures of england (which we took this morning on the digital camera while browsing through the pages of old scrapbooks so forgive the quality – they’re snaps of slightly dusty prints from a film camera many moons ago – but they do provide atmosphere – non?)

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

 

sunday 28 march 1943
“we sat in the sun and listened to the Messiah. I wrote home, went to the post, pumped up my bicycle, put cotton over the peas. And then lay on a mattress with my face close to the ground, thinking about that poem by Robert Graves, the man seeking lost love…..”

friday 16 july 1943
“After Tea Boat we were FREE – it was a glorious afternoon and a lovely sensation to be able to walk out to the shops – I went into Smiths, got a book to read at the weekend and bought a copy of Tristram Shandy, which I feel will be nice to have about. I also bought apples and cherries and a Radio Times. I spent a happy house lying in my bunk eating and reading a Graham Greene novel.”

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

24 june 1953
“Reading a biography of Edmund Campion on a Friday over lunch one feels bound to eat fish.”

20th april 1961
“The new Archbishop of Canterbury has a lovely lap for a cat.”

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

31 october 1971
“Since the closing we have been to St Mary Magdalene’s, Paddington. It had rather good music and quite an amusing vicar (dragging on a cigarette) and curate who live in a startlingly modern clergy house just opposite the church.”

30 january 1977
“I am struggling to get that novel into a fit state to send to Macmillan…….I now rather regret having gone so far with this last one but perhaps we can’t help ourselves. I am really better at making marmalade (very successful this week!) and doing patchwork.”

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

20 may 1977
“Seeing a handsome Dorset woman at a petrol pump I thought a Hardy heroine of today might well follow such an occupation. Tess for instance.”

21 august 1977
“August is a funny time (not necessarily a wicked month?) holidays and all that, although I always used to like it in the old days in London – summer dresses in the office and visiting American anthropologists and slipping out for tea at the old Kardomah in Fleet Street.”

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

27 august 1977
Tullia Blundo the Italian girl who is writing a thesis on my novels came. She is a small dark Sicilian (living in Pisa) wearing mauve-tinted glasses – lively and interested in everything. Her word is ‘tremendous’.”

19 july 1978
“Went to London to record Desert Island Discs with Roy Plomley. Lunch (cold salmon) with him at the Lansdowne Club. A vast spacious room. Then listened to the records, a cup of tea, then did recording. Ate with Poopa in the Viking Bar at Paddington Hotel and back on the 8.15 train. Relief to be home and in the country again.”

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

26 april 1979
“Romantic Novelists’ lunch at the Park Lane Hotel, Piccadilly – a curiously deserted hotel, vast ladies’ cloakroom in the basement with marble basins and pink velvet sofas. After, bus to Paddington and had a quiet calm of mind all passion spent tea in the refreshment room on platform 1 before getting the five o’clock train home.”

thank you miss. pym for spending a little while with us.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAand just because we missed her so very much upon closing the book for the last time (before opening it again to record the nicest bits for You) – we found a digital device lying around (quite Wantonly actually – the device, not us, we were perfectly respectable this morning) and found Miss Pym on Desert Island Discs so we could enjoy her voice drifting into the room as we gazed out on the Hollywood Hills and enjoyed her choices with great Delight.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

yes.

this is who-we-are-in-RL and yes, that’s a tiny blue nose stud in a pierced nostril (the Idea!)

where were we?

why – on the beach at Whitstable (which is where William has just moved to) several *coughs* years ago (we had no Idea we had such Kennedy Clan teeth!)

why is it Here?

because these early words from Miss. Pym reminded us of what it was like to be at University and to Be (so very) Young.

13 june 1932
“I had a note from Rupert and Miles asking me to go to the flicks. I dashed to Carfax at 7.30 and we went to Goodnight Vienna at the Queener. It was lovely, and somehow appropriate. We sat at the back in the corner and I had two arms around me for the first time in my history. The flick was over at 10, so we stopped at the coffee stall by Cowley Place on our way back. We drank to each other in chocolate Horlicks.”

15 june 1932
“In the afternoon went on the river with Rupert and Miles. We had tea at the Cherwell tea gardens. Much semi-nakedness to be seen on the river. We landed at a bank and Rupert dropped his watch in the water.”

4 september 1933
“Reading Gertrude Trevelyan‘s novel Hothouse. I desperately want to write an Oxford novel – but I must see first that my emotions are simmered down fairly well.”

isn’t she tremendous?!

so glad that Miss. Pym came to stay.

BarbaraPym_InternationalAfricaInstitute

plaque_pym

for further reading (as they always say in the British Library when one asks about a particular Subject) – there’s a lovely appreciation here.

and what about our own Further Reading?

well.

we’re half-way-through the splendid Pomfret Towers by Angela Thirkell (a lovely blog post by The Captive Reader there)

pomfret-towers1and, well, we have a Lot of Writing of our own to do – because who-we-are-in-RL is currently juggling not one but two writing jobs (one is Post-Production on a moving picture, no less) and about to start on a consultancy.

so while she’s out Working.

we sit here in luscious comfort (silk robe, against the pillows) and r e a d

#bliss.

are you having a tremendous Sunday?

do. tell.

sunday in los angeles with george taking #westcoastportraits

darlings

george gave Picture Approval so we can now show you the Fruits of our collaboration this morning here in Hollywood (adjacent).

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

and don’t forget to visit George’s boutique page on Amazon (also available at other good book-sellers, of course, as they used to say on the BBC)

Screen shot 2013-02-24 at 3.54.44 PM

we adore George’s books.

so naughty.

and so Terribly Clever.

btw (as the young people say) – we were Present at the Cover Shoot for the one-in-the-middle – just in case you’d like an Eyewitness Account.

it was a delicious occasion, darlings.

as was the Portrait Shoot this morning (lovely strawberries, elegant tea – and a most gracious model).

Paul Auster, last night.

It seems so unlikely, but we have only Just discovered Paul Auster.

We are aware that he wasn’t waiting for us to discover him. Or that many millions of other readers aren’t already firm devotees (judging from the slightly heaving bosoms and moist eyes of identification and adoration from the bearded ones last night at the reading). But we have been so far in the past (usually between-the-wars – as in 1920s+) with our love of literature and usually in England (or Berlin – Isherwood) or in the drawing rooms as portrayed by Noel Coward (and set-dressed by Gladys Calthrop)

                        Gladys Calthrop* (by Howard Coster)

*we should explain – where Noel Coward is our virtual Guardian (dispenses our virtual inheritance and the golden pennies from Quality Street at Christmas) – Gladys is our virtual Aunt – look at that hat and the perfect almost boucle of the fitted jacket – isn’t that someone You’d like to have as your virtual Aunt to tell you how to behave in the Country (especially on packing and etiquette-at-late-auppers-after-the-argument)? We thought so. Just like you’d want Cecil Beaton to do your first awkward-stage-photograph (pre-palest pink tulle ballgowns and definitely after one has outgrown the sailor suit – a difficult age, non?)

How we Get Distracted.

………………………………back to Paul Auster.

so we sort of knew about him – in the canon of impressive looking men of a certain age talking about being a Lion in Winter and living in Brooklyn with all the other writers and we thought we wouldn’t find a place of connection (as they say). Strangely we did….

we saw an extract of his new book Winter Journal and could not stop reading – we read it into a cafe, during tea (thankfully we were Alone) and then decided we could Not start with his treatise on aging – we must Start At The Beginning (which turned out to be poetry and then translations of other people’s poetry, in Paris so we looked for the Moment the Prose began) and went to Barnes & Noble (it was close – sometimes we like to buy in an actual bookshop – especially now our commuting days are Almost Over) and bought:

we have not been able to put it down.

we’re able to read walking-down-the-street (or maybe people find it just so adorable to see someone with their head in a book walking down 6th Avenue in Manhattan that they carefully get out of our way……) and so we do, often.

we read Paul’s work across 6th to the swimming pool and back downtown and we just needed some tea (and a cupcake) and we couldn’t stop long enough to make it ourselves, at home (plus no cupcakes live in our house) so we went to sweet revenge and sat in the window with the shutters open, our feet on the side of the wooden flower boxes, leaning on the wooden counter and read and read until our eyes hurt.

shall we tell you about the reading at Barnes & Noble first, before we give you our favorite/favourite/choicest passages?

there was something called “priority seating” if one was carrying a copy of his latest book (we Almost started to tell them how we wanted to start at the beginning before we read the latest one but we thought they probably Wouldn’t Care).

the room was packed.

we did our best smile and asked if there were any seats.

they looked at us as if we were crazy.

but we’ve lived in manhattan for a while.

we know that people save seats just so they can pick and choose a stranger to sit next to.

didn’t know that, did you?

try it ;-)

we looked vaguely (and winsomely) into the crowd and looked as if we’d spotted a friend.

miraculously the chain was opened for us and we wandered to the front – found the sort of grad student with a duffle bag and mixed tan/khaki clothing with a spare seat.

is that, by any chance, free?

we said, with a Very Literary British Accent.

it was ;-)

we slipped into the space between the grad student and the adoring women-from-out–of-town who have loved Paul Auster since-the-beginning (who stared at us in horror that we got a seat at 6.55 at a Paul Auster reading, about to start).

suddenly we saw him – Paul Auster that is – he was standing diffidently behind the black curtain with a duffle bag (Andy Spade, bought by Siri? – the writer, darlings – not the weird body-less-voice on an device by the fruit company – god, that must have been an awful day in the Auster house when they found out about That Siri). The duffle bag perfectly matched the almost Calvinist look of dark denim, Prada-esque severely cut black jacket and what looked like a plain white thick cotton shirt (the sort of incredible textiles used by Margaret Howell) but on closer inspection (we have very long sight) was actually a tiny checked fabric, we believe. The shoes were leather, black, a tiny bit slipped-into-and-not-cared-for but thank goodness, no trainers/sneakers/unmentionables). The overall effect was definitely Lion in Winter and sort of Lou Reed – but less proud. The hair is magnificent.

when he got up to the podium there was no flourish, no here-I-am.

and no sense of performance either.

he took a sip of water, straight from the bottle (which, disappointingly was not a glorious Italian fizzy mineral glass one but there you go – times are hard), but otherwise read to us as if we’d popped round to his house and he’d cooked (as Siri had a reading at Yale that evening) and we’d eaten well – but not extravagantly and we’d begged (in an understated Brooklyn cords-wearing-cashmere-from-Milan-in-navy sort of a way) for “just a few pages from the new one” and so he cleared his throat and read to us.

the effect – for the first thirty minutes – was enchanting – his voice is Utterly beautiful and  frankly sonorous (the grad student next to us fell asleep at the feet of the Master and the luscious women in plain dresses and interesting necklaces and open toed sandals – no nail polish – relaxed and spread back into their seats).

but then – towards the end – he became darker……

I am flawed and wounded – bleeding words onto a page

almost from nowhere we were taken by surprise from the earlier comforting notions of being-Male and finding-out-about-Love and the lushness of women and the temptations of the flesh ever present, even while inside a long marriage and the glorious travel – whiskeys in Ireland, making a film, freezing temperatures and the warmth again of friendship, no, true camaraderie. The language of men. The stories they tell each other.

and then.

from lust and realism and pain and bathing his children while they were babies he turned dark and moody and yet his voice never changed – the tone remained exactly the same as he started to tell us about burning towers and grief and the crowd shifted, almost angrily, looking lost and bereft and irritated. You don’t surprise a group of New Yorkers with a tale about 911. they don’t like it. they barely talk about it. especially those who witnessed it. it’s a subject to be slowly introduced, carefully asked about, less shared the better, the group pain and anguish of a city that felt human dust on its tongue does not like to be surprised.

and yet he did.

relentlessly.

and then he went one step almost too far (although this is our first experience of a Paul Auster reading – maybe this is What He Does – and the audience are masochists and enjoy, on a deep scary level, the way he unsettles them – it’s possible – this is America, after all).

to an audience of predominately Eastern European descent he mentioned standing on a mass grave and hearing the screams of fifty thousand dead Russian solders.

you could hear a pin drop.

and then he stopped.

and thanked us.

there was clamorous applause.

but we felt confused.

we got up and ducked under the barrier and watched the hordes descend on the signing tables; a group of shop assistants attempting to keep order.

perhaps that’s what storytellers do.

they evoke pain. give us a place to understand it, in safety. and we go on. having experienced catharsis.

do you agree? we’re not sure.

what we will say is we took the Long Way Home to think.

and then stared in joy and bubbling happiness at a weaving inebriated party-goer who had a shining circular torch-like child’s toy and was twirling it around her head and laughing to the heavens.

it was exactly what we needed.

perhaps we’ll give you our favorite/favourite/choicest passages from Paul Auster another time.

it was a strange and beautifully moving evening and we need to let it all sink in.

so much is changing.

so little will look like this in even a few months.

we had a pain in our left inner elbow all through the reading and forgot its source until we got home and saw the blood on the surgical tape.

more blood tests.

just in case.

just to know that we’re healing.

because sometimes we think we’re not.

and others we are.

then we hear an author describe pain and beauty and love and sex and violence and rage and regret and we realize nobody ever really heals.

the point is to be alive to experience it all.

and twirl.

twirling is especially good to celebrate being alive.

 

 

people we love: sally zigmond.

@SallyZig Rosedale Abbey, N Yorks

did some serendipitous surfing on the interweb and found this lovely writer – what a delicious description…..wish I could head to Yorkshire today and find a small farmhouse tea-shop and dreamily stare into the middle distance. 

Novelist and short story writer, over-prone to leaning on farm gates and gazing at the view.