Books and words are old friends, aren’t they? Fiction, nonfiction, dictionaries, picture books, maps… One of my pleasures is to browse in a bookstore or library and see familiar names across the centuries: Chaucer, Saint Simon, Emily Dickenson, Amy Lowell, Kenneth Graham, Edith Wharton, James Baldwin, E. M. Forester, Ruth Rendell, Michael Connolly, etc. Each recognized name makes me recall the book, the author, the circumstances under which I read it. When I read Simenon’s description of French life it takes me back to a rural train station near Rodez in which my partner and I had delicious
homemade soup. Andrea Wulf’s Founding Gardeners whisked me back to colonial times and to the fragility of the brand new United States.
A man once told me that he enjoyed flipping open a dictionary at random to wander among the words and their derivations. One reason I enjoy the British sitcom, Black Books, so much is because it takes place in an old fashioned, hideously disorganized bookstore. I had thought of opening a children’s bookstore but chickened out when I faced the reality of cost. Reading is a wonderful way of taking a trip in time and space. Why does it grip some of us more than TV, movies and the stage?
Ruth Rendell died today. She was a great and prolific writer. R. I. P. The Duchess of Cambridge gave birth to a baby girl today. May her life be as rich and full as Ruth Rendell’s.
My condolences to the Nepalese. Why are the most beautiful places often plagued with dangerous weather? I was in Nepal, briefly, many years ago. I flew from New Delhi in a tiny white Nepalese Airlines plane. We landed in the magical city of Katmandu and then gazed at misty, fogged-in Everest.
I was at the Frick Collection on Friday. It was packed. Was it because of the Sèvres exhibit or Coypel’s Don Quixote Tapestries? Maybe, but I think the Russell Page garden had something to do with it. Controversy is good for a museum, don’t you think? The air was buzzing with talk of the Russell Page garden being replaced by offices. Page designed the garden in the Seventies.He is reputed to have said it was a scene to be looked at. If people wanted to walk they could go to nearby Central Park. In the snapshot, gardeners’ equipment is in front of the lily pond. The Frick has a beautiful and informative website. You can download its app.
Speaking of Central Park, it is in its lovely spring mode.
Finally, a shout out to Peter Carey, Michael Ondaatje, Francine Prose, Teju Cole, Rachel Kushner and Taiye Selasi for withdrawing from the PEN ceremony. If only the powers that be had seen fit to honor Ruth Rendell.