Fighting the mean reds

May 23, 2010



Truman Capote knew what he was talking about but there are some great gallery shows on the Upper East Side (yes, really!)  right now that make for a quick and  immensely satifsying afternoon art outing guranteed to fight off any potential nasty mood swing.   Today I started at Acquavella to see their show of works from the collection of Robert and Ethel  Scull (apparently she was known as SPIKE and of course all I can think is how do you get people to start calling you Spike?)  


They were this very groovy couple who assembled an amazing collection in the 60s, the major pieces of which are now reassembled (with notes indicating which private and museum collections now own the works) at Aquavella gallery on 79th street.


Robert Scull commissioned Andy Warhol’s first portrait ever, in 1963, of his wife.

I’m a bit obsessed with Jasper Johns.  (The house at the center of the story of The Summer We Read Gatsby was called Fool’s House, after the Jasper Johns painting of that name. )


This piece wasn’t in the show but there are other amazing examples at Aquavella including Double Flag, also a commissioned piece. This show closes next week and it is well worth checking out before it does.


MIKE KELLEY ARENA #7 (Bears) 1990

From Acquavella we hopped next door to Per Skarstedt Fine Art to see the Mike Kelley Arenas show.  Poignant and creepy and wonderful.



At the Mike Kelley show we happened to run into Richard Prince which was funny as we were actually on our way to Gagosian gallery to revisit Richard’s new show of paintings, aptly, for this day, entitled the Tiffany Paintings


I’ve been having a major Truman Capote moment right now, re-reading his work reading up as much as I can about him (check out The Party of the Century by Deborah Davis about his famous black and white ball.) 

I’m going to re-read Breakfast at Tiffany’s

I’d be curious to hear about any other great gallery shows and reading suggestions

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Jon Stewart and Bruce, need I say more?

May 22, 2010

Jon Stewart and Bruce Springsteen got together tonight (along with Robert De Niro, Matt Damon and their respective wives) for a show at the Nokia theatre to benefit the Gateway school in Manhattan.  Now, I’m happily married and still, after 20 years, totally in love with my husband but Jon Stewart, and Bruce, together in one night?  I get the vapors just thinking about it.

Jon Stewart was hilarious, as usual.  He’s Jewish, his wife is Catholic (like me and hubby) so they’re raising their children…sad. And lots of other great material, well-delivered, even more well-received.  I’m in love…

And Bruce? What can I say? He’s a poet, a musician, a performer, and a God. We ADORE him. He didn’t disappoint. It was acoustic, just him, his guitar, piano, harmonica (and towards the end, his wife, Patty to accompany him)

The playlist:

Adam Raised A Cain

Bobbie Jean

Promised Land

For You   (about this he told the audience: all rock love songs since the beginning of time ask the same question, Will You Pull Your Pants Down?

Working On The Highway

Should I Fall Behind (one of my all-time favorite Bruce songs!)

Thunder Road

As put it: Two great taste that taste great together…


First Person Narrators

May 21, 2010

I’m curious about what makes some first person narrators so compelling and others so annoying you’d rather put pins in your eyes than read another word. I spent some time studying Fitzgerald when I was working on The Summer We Read Gatsby. (research…aka procrastination.)  It’s incredible how effectively the story of Jay Gatz  in The Great Gatsby unfolds from the perspective of the compelling voice of the narrator Nick Carroway. Could it have been told any other way? In the third person perhaps? Or narrated by Gatsby himself in the first person? Absolutely not.

The first person is tricky to write.  The character has to be self-aware without being self-absorbed and there is a fine balance there when they’re telling a story in which they have a significant role.  And sex scenes? Very dicey….But I love the challenge of discovering that first person voice and carrying it through and I realize that many  of the novels we end up adoring are ones that have well-crafted pitch-perfect narrators. These are the voices that linger in your mind forever. There is something so intimate about living a story  so  close to a compelling character.

My absolute favorite book when I was growing up was I Capture The Castle, by Dodie Smith.  As J. K, Rowling (Harry Potter!)  is quoted on the front cover of the paperback edition, “this book has one of the most charismatic narrators I’ve ever met.”

When I first started writing The Summer We Read Gatsby I tried to have both main characters,  Cassie and Peck, alternate narrator duties. But I found that this just didn’t work. Peck was a character better seen from another perspective, through the eyes of her half-sister, Cassie, than in the first person. I also found it difficult not to be repetitive, with both characters wanting to weigh in on the same scene.

The very first, first person narrator I remember being absolutely engaged by was Huckleberry Finn.  The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn is a must-read and well worth going back to as an adult, especially if  you’re interested in developing a first person voice. Mark Twain was brilliant.

Every person who’s ever read The Catcher In The Rye has been captivated by its young narrator, Holden Caulfield.  This was another voice that registered with me at a very young age as a writer.  And who can forget the voice of Humbert Humbert in Lolita?  To round out my little list of classic enduring novels with first person narrators, I’m adding an all-time favorite, the young nephew, Patrick Dennis, who writes about one of the most “unforgettable characters” ever, his Auntie Mame. I became somewhat obsessed with Patrick Dennis, who isn’t even a real person, but the pseudonym for Edward Everett Tanner III who wrote under this name and also that of Virginia Rowans. His life makes for a fascinating story (read Uncle Mame by Eric Myers to learn more about this fascinating best-selling writer who ended up becoming a butler!)

So, a little list of 6 classic novels with great first person narrators:

The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald

The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn by Mark Twain

I Capture The Castle by Dodie Smith

The Catcher in the Rye by J.D. Salinger

Lolita by Vladimir Nabokov

Auntie Mame by Patrick Dennis  (also check out The Joyous Season)

I’m curious to hear other favorites. Please share them.

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