What is it with ants? They check in. They do not check out. They ignore bait, but swarm bananas. They ignore lids filled with smackerals of honey (thanks Pooh) but  ferret out crumbs of carrot cake. But the more I read about ants the more endearing are their odd little ways.

You can see what I've been eating and reading.

It is raining. Again. I love rain. Rain was the best part of Woody Allen's new movie, Midnight in Paris, which as far as I'm concerned was simply a sanitized peek into any good English major's head. Every time we read a great novel or a biography, we slip through time into a different golden age. However, I take his point: once again, the world does divide into two: those who will walk in the rain (even without an umbrella) and those who will worry about their Manolos. (Link is for those who have been living on Mars.) Owen Wilson's nose has never looked better; Kathy Bates is a splendid Gertrude Stein, and Ernest Hemingway was clearly an insufferable prig. Give me F Scott any day. I love that rumpled elegant look. It may soon be necessary to reread Great Gatsby for the thousandth time.

Meantime, though, in this golden age of living with younger men, The Sons are doing a superb job of sweeping, vacuuming, and cleaning dishes. Making beds, not so much. But I kind of see their point. What's the point? Until the ants get word out on the Anternet (sorry) about those crumblets of midnight snacks, I'm remaining calm.

Ah yes, Nancy Drew and Miracle Whip on bread. The grown up version of that is to simply add watercress to the MW and BW (bread, white), creating a WMWBW, which does have  nice look to it, better than BLT. I think, after being served a pig's ear in Tennessee, which I crackled into before I knew what it was, that I am done eating pig for a while. No more bacon. Even though there's nothing more delicious than pork belly, it will have to become a fond memory.

And Nancy Drew is an even fonder memory. I can't bear to reread those books, because I don't want to be disabused of my notion that they were fabulous, riveting, inspiring tales about a woman who became a role model for me, until she was supplanted by Get Smart's Agent 99, whose hairstyles I slavishly copied.

I've set aside Parade's End--to savor it. It is much too hot for such a novel, don't ask me why.

May I confess that I have NEVER EVER been able to get past a hundred or so pages of Swann's Way? That every time I try, I become engulfed in a sympathetic depression so paralyzing that I cannot lift my head from my fainting couch? But I do admire Alain de Bottom's cliff notes. His string of tweets is about the most elegant thing I've seen in that neighborhood.

I'm setting off on a Patrick Leigh Fermor jag, having just gotten a package containing a slim volume called A Time to Keep Silence, about his youthful visits to monasteries. And a thick volume, In Tearing Haste, of his correspondence with Deborah Devonshire. (Anything involving those Mitford sisters is irresistible.) By coincidence, a friend just sent me an excellent obituary from the Economist, of Paddy Leigh Fermor, who died on June 10th, aged 96. The obit is unsigned, as is the Economist's tradition; it is wonderfully literary in its own right.

"He had become famous largely for chronicling a Europe that had been swept away, and had spent a charmed life without a regular job, fed--as he liked to put it--like Elijah, by the ravens. But he had done more. His wandering, writing life evoked the essential unity of Europe, the cultural and linguistic intertwinings and layer upon layer of shared history; and all with a lightness, and an infectious joy, that inspired many others to set out in the same way."

This in response to his critics, who "complained that he swanned through 1930s Europe without noticing the clouds."

I can't speak to that, though most people seem to have swanned through the 30s without noticing the clouds--those Mitford sisters notoriously among them. Speaking of, I finished In the Garden of Beasts, and in the end, found it thin.

I hugely preferred Hare with Amber Eyes, an eccentric, rich, fascinating exploration that covers, in part, the same period in Vienna. Author Edmund de Waal's website is worth a stroll; the netsuke that set him wandering through clouds is on full, gorgeous display. And I am a devoted fan of this potter's work as well (picture swiped off his website, thank you).

I loved Out Stealing Horses, which several of you recommended (thank you Leslie) and I'll go on to read the next book. I finished reading Per Petterson's novel (and check out his portrait at that fan page, what a gorgeous Norwegian face) while I was waiting for a friend at Pain Quotidien (which I insist on pronouncing as if it were Daily Pain and Suffering, to which one is frequently treated by improperly trained wait staff, I might add.) The skies had opened and we were being deluged by one of those new-fangled downpours we get now, what with all the moisture hanging over our heads because of global warming. I ducked into Daily Pain an hour early (and yes, left a big tip for keeping a seat occupied--but the place was mostly empty.)

When I put the book down, sighing, a woman next to me asked what I was reading, that had me so entranced? I simply gave her the book, and asked her to pass it on when she was done. I like doing that. And I note, the most frustrating thing about Kindles is that you can't easily lend a book to a friend. Which is one of the most pleasurable things about reading.

This horse head is a picture of a photograph by Roberto Dutesco, whose work, Chasing the Wild, is on display at Samuel Owen gallery in Greenwich; I've swiped it from the lovely and luxurious Quintessence blog, which covered the opening of what looks to be a beautiful show.

And because I, too, was feeling there was bit  much hair in my eyes, I took myself over to see Joseph at Salon 74 for my first haircut in a year. But as I never read at the hairdresser (too much fascinating stuff to see and hear) it would be inappropriate to tell you here about the scandal I uncovered concerning me, my hair, my shunning of shampoo, and Christa D'Souza's hilarious and charming W magazine. Where was I in March while this was happening on the blogosphere? Probably on Mars. I'll post on it soonest--but may I just say immediately, for the record: even though I don't use shampoo, I have never advocated on behalf of DIRTY tresses. And now, a time to keep silence.


Lucindaville said...

Fab post! F.Scott AND Agent 99. I, too, have been on a Patrick Leigh Fermor jag and was so sad to read of his death. Out Stealing Horses was one of favorite books of last year and Hare With Amber Eyes is on my night stand. Lets start a book club...sounds like too much work.

Dominique said...

Hey Lucindaville! We're having book parties instead...No quite reading here: nice chaotic gatherings where all can rant and share. Let the wild rumpus begin!

My Dog-Eared Pages said...

It sounds like a happy time with boys around again! I feel the same way about Swann's Way and have tried numerous times - even changing environments in which to read it. Fermor fever is of course going around... I just ordered The Traveller's Tree: A Journey Through the Caribbean Islands. I too, loved Quintessence's look at Chasing the Wild. Great post. Happy summer Dominique!

quintessence said...

Firstly, thank you kindly for the mention! It was indeed a beautiful show. Your boys are certainly ahead of mine in housekeeping skills!! Also a failed Proust reader here, as well as a Nancy Drew, Agent 99 and Fitzgerald lover. But my all time favorite was Diana Rigg on The Avengers!!

Leslie Brunetta said...

So glad you sank into Petterson.

If you're interested in ants, check out Mark Moffett's book Adventures Among Ants, and also his blog: http://www.adventuresamongants.com/Adventures_Among_Ants/Blog.html
I like how he says the Dalai Lama should not make ants his political ideal. There's loads of beauty and wonder in nature, but it really is red in tooth and claw and mandible. Even within families.

And the writer I've gone back to year after year for decades? Henry Green. For your love of houses and gardens, I'd recommend "Loving" first. Ireland. Rain. How could you of all people not go for that title?


Catherine said...

If ever you get to Derbyshire in the UK (maybe you've been?) do go and see Chatsworth House, home of the Devonshire family. JFK came during his presidency to see the grave of his sister, Kathleen Kennedy, who was married to one of the clan. It's a wonderful stately home with beautiful gardens, fountains, farm, restaurant and shops. The Duchess can be seen walking through the grounds...

Eulalia (Lali) Benejam Cobb said...

As we're swapping confessions of Great Books We Never Finished, I'll say right now that I've let The Divine Comedy fall from my listless fingers many times.

However, because reading Proust (and trying, and mostly failing, to teach him to undergraduates)used to be part of my job, I can say that he's much easier to read in French than in English. His vocabulary is quite restrained, and all those relative clauses stacked one inside the other do, eventually, make sense.

Anonymous said...

I studied Ford Maddox Ford's Parade's End at University. My prof. pointed out that when the hero Christopher T. gets blown out of his foxhole, we should immediately think of the Dormouse's poem Twinkle Twinkle Little Bat and its line "Like a tea tray in the sky". I don't think I could reread it now. Loved Wait for Me by Deborah Mitford, and will now look for that letters collection.
I want to read Donna Leon's Handel's Bestiary, her non-fiction book with accompanying CD. I love her mysteries although they always make me hungry.

Lost in Provence said...

I am left wondering if Mr. Terry sent you the afore-mentioned package...?

Well, my admission is even more embarrassing because I actually DID finish Swann's Way and yet do not remember it. Not one tiny bit. Just that it was work. But Ms. Cobb's explanation makes terrific sense so perhaps it is time to give it another go...in French! Oof.

Thea said...

you've been so quiet lately and now i see it is because you've been reading away. good for you!

Erica said...

Fabulous post! Sounds like a happy time with boys around again!

Homeowner Insurance Policy

CHC said...

But you can loan books with your Kindle...here's the Amazon link, but should you have problems just Google "Lend Kindle books"...happy reading!

Judith Ross said...

Wait, back up. Yours are VACUUMING? Hmm, where did I go wrong. On the other hand, mine has done some fabulous cooking on the grill, including pizza. Hopefully I won't bear a resemblance to his culinary hero, Mario Batali, by summer's end.

My Norwegian husband (who is pretty darn cute himself) found Per Petersen's Out Stealing Horses, a bit slow, but I loved it. I have my very own copy of Visit from the Goon Squad to read on an upcoming trip. By the way, for an excellent interview with the book's author, Jennifer Egan, copy and paste this link: http://talkingwriting.com/?p=20549

My hairdresser is also an advocate for shampooing less often. If I didn't swim three times a week in a chlorinated pool, I could easily go without.

How many inches did you lose, Dominique, do you now more closely resemble your portrait in the trains story that was in the New York Times?

Happy Summer!

david terry said...

Dear Heather, Ms. Browning, et al.....

1. For those who do not know? "Heather" is the legal name of the perfectly-bright and usually-reasonable lady who beguiles the tedium of her expatriate hours by writing the blog "Lost in Arles". Previously, I have admired both her writings and her partner's ("Remi", one gathers) photographs.

2. that said?.....

3. I cannot, just now, summon the force sufficient with which to counter "Lost in Provence"'s publicly-broadcast suggestion that I have sent an "aforementioned package" to Ms. Browning.

4. Ms Browning is unmarried and lives quite alone while she devotes herself to gardening, art, spirituality, and Edifying Books.

Her admirable solitude is punctuated by very occasional visits from the two sons she bore as a result of her first, brief, and disastrous marriage. She can NOT be blamed for granting them access to her hermitage. Such is a woman's way in this life, as I'm sure we all will agree.

In short, Ms. Browning is a lady who has obviously attempted to reform her ways and live a life (on a barren, rocky coastline, quite apart from society) which might provide her with deeper spiritual consolations, while simultaneously affording her some opportunity for possibly absolving her past
transgressions, faults, prideful errors, self-involved indulgences, materialistic cravings, opportunistic back-stabbings, disrespectful "back-mouthing" to her mother,and any number of other "things". I have no doubt that, at one point or another, we have all felt the call to "answer" for our past (although I'm glad to say that I've never felt that call so deeply as Ms. Browning rather obviously has done).

5. THAT SAID? I would, of course, NEVER send any "package ("aforementioned" or otherwise) to Ms. Browning. To do so would be a violation of her privacy, at a time when she is busy making amends to society during her wilderness "retreat".

6. Please, Miss "Heather"/"Lost in Provence"?.....do not EVER mention our names so publicly, ever again. Ms. Browning and I wish, in our own separate ways and for quite disparate "reasons",
to do nothing but to forget our pasts and forge new (if considerably diminished) lives.

And THAT is all I ask of you.

thank you in advance.

as Sincerely as Ever,

the Rev. Dr. David C. Terry
"Entropy Acre"
Rt. 676, Albermarle County

david terry said...

P.S...I hope I don't need to emphasize that the above is a "joke".

Still? After posting that, I recalled that, just when anyone would in the least expect it, all sorts of self-appointedly "serious" folks are floating about the blogosphere and conveniently (and usually self-congratulatingly) taking "offense".

In any case, that was meant as a joke-gift for heather and dominique. I like their writings loads and a big bunch.


mary said...

Great post and comments---just wait I needed to activate my brain. Thanks all. Mary

Warren said...

I think it was the New Yorker that got me reading 'A Time to Keep Silence.' Silence is a great gift that we seem to run away from here. The book was sort of a 30,000 foot view of monastic life but the writing was good.

In the same vein I would suggest you NETFLIX (imagine -- now it's a verb...?) INTO GREAT SILENCE and see if you can sit through an absolutely breath-taking view of the monks of Grand Chartreuse.

Sitting without moving in silence is something I finally mastered as an archery hunter. It is coming in handy as my teen-age daughters drive. Getting them ready to leave home sucks. The silence and a candle have become good friends.

List of things to teach your kids should include sharpening knives, how to clean an iron skillet, and dare I mention it, how to skin a rabbit. I am being pestered for dance lessons now so add that too.

Their rooms ARE a disaster and the puppy has great fun finding more delectable things to chew on. But I cannot abide walking past their silent rooms with doors closed.

I was once invited into a fancy Madison Avenue salon while prepping a star for a commercial shoot. Men don't have anything to rival that sanctuary-like space. Women!

Today I got shorn at a non-religious punk salon called Rudy's barber. The founder of which is taking NYC by storm.

david terry said...

Dear Warren,

Why doesn't it surprise me that you know of "Into Great Silence"?

You're a nice man, so you deserve some honesty in this world:

I'll admit.....just last year, a young and remarkably hapless couple (at fifty, I'm old-enough that some of my hot-to-trot college classmates have sort-of-adult children) showed up here on their way to vaguely-somewhere else,and I gathered (once they were HERE) that they wouldn't necessarily be leaving the next morning. Their travel-plans seemed very informal.

Herve and I have both, over the years, spent considerable time in Grenoble... and quite enough time at the Grande Chartreuse.

that night?...Herve ordered skimpy vegetarian take-out from some chinese restaurant and promptly slapped all 12,756-or-so hours of the film "Into Great Silence" onto the DVD player.....telling our guests "You're going to LOVE this!...I LOVE this movie!....if we can't finish it tonight, we can finish watching it tomorrrow!!!!!".

He made them sit through almost the first-two hours of SILENCE. I'd long-ago gone to bed with the dogs, and he told me of it later.

I do, actually, love the movie (or whatever you'd call it).

My college friend's son and new-wife didn't. They changed their plans and LEFT the next morning.

Not everyman is as patient as you and I are, Warren.

----d. terry

Cristina said...

Francis Scott Fitzgerald and Nancy Drew: we must have been unknowingly separated at birth! ;-)
P.S. basing myself on this interesting revelation, I've already jotted down your Per Petterson's suggestion.

Sarah said...

LOved all of this, and surprised that Agent 99 is such a welcome reminder. Thank you.

lostpastremembered said...

I read Proust in my youth... forced myself to read it... like an overstuffed sausage that sat undigestible in my brain. Trying it one more time with my older fresh eyes.

Did have too much fun reading a fun book from a few years ago... Proust was a Neuroscientist... a really amusing read. Ended up loving the WHitman chapter...

david terry said...

Dear Ms. Browning,

Wasn't it just 14 or so days ago that you described "In the Garden of Beasts" and "Plastic: A Toxic Love Story" as being at the top of your bedside reading-stack (just as they were in my own house)? At the time, I rather liked the notion of our having some mysterious&deep, psychic connection, but Herve merely shrugged and claimed he wouldn't be awfully surprised to hear that I'm not the only person paying such regular attention to the recommendations by "Fresh Air"' and Salon.com's book reviewers (Laura Miller and Maureen Corrigan....both terribly smart ladies).

So, now you're reading "In Tearing Haste" and "Hare With Amber Eyes"? So am I ...or least was until last night.

Lately, everyone seems to be reading the same 3 or 4 books. Or perhaps I'm simply (after decades of dustily rooting around in Proust, Flaubert, Hardy, et al) suddenly becoming au courant.

In regard to "In Tearing Haste"?.....

On 12 June, Frances Mayes (yes, the Sunkist authoress of Tuscan fame....who's, surprisingly enough, moved to a house about twelve miles from my front porch) sadly announced that she'd just read of Fermor's death. In reply, I wrote:

"Oh...Just yesterday, I was sitting on my back porch, opening several birthday presents that had arrived during the week (all preceded by emails forbidding me to open anything from Amazon until Saturday), when the telephone rang. The call was from an elderly Irishwoman who’s rather fantastically named “Martini Emmart-Niedbalski”.

She allowed as how I could open her present at that moment, so I did. It was a copy of the 2010 NYRB edition of “In Tearing Haste” (the letters between The Duchess of Devonshire & her longtime pal, Patrick Fermor).

My first reaction (I hadn’t known that the book existed, though I’ve long been an admirer of “A Time of Gifts”, etc) was to notice that Charlotte Mosley is the editor….thus proving that one can indeed spend thirty or so years digging the same hole in different ways.

I said “Oh, how wonderful….thank you”, and Martini was saying “Well, Fermor is just wonderf….” when I heard her large, usually quiet husband bellowing something in the background. She interrupted herself to say “..just wonderful, and Bob says he’s DEAD. This morning."

It reminded me of the morning, some years ago, when I was finishing up a portrait of Robertson Davies for the Washington Post’s review of the just-published (as in, that week) biography of Davies. The telephone rang, the art director asked me how the portrait was going, I said I’d just happily finished it, and he said “Well, get it here OVERNIGHT! Davies died last night. This book is going to SELL….some biographers DO get lucky…”

In any case, you're right. Fermor was a wonderful writer and, apparently, also a really lovely person (as you’ll have had cause to know, that’s not a necessarily predictable combination in this world).".....

In any case, Ms. Browning, it's good to read that Fermor Fever is going around so wildly this Summer.

Mosley wrote of him and Deborah Devonshire ““Much of the charm of the letters lies in their authors’ particular outlook on life. Both are acutely observant and clear-sighted about human failings, but their lack of cynicism and gift for looking on the bright side bear out the maxim that the world tends to treat you as you find it.”

Did you know that Bruce Chatwin's ashes were scattered not far from Fermor's front-door in Kardmyli? As ever, there are scarcely ever any actual coincidences in this world.

----david terry

david terry said...


Given the number and length of my postings since last night, one could reasonably wonder how much time I have on my hands. My reply would be "A Lot".

My younger brother, his wife, and their two boys were to be here for a long weekend as of this afternoon (Friday). She broke her ankle on a danged motorcycle, though, so they called at about this time yesterday to announce that they're not coming. Two hours later?.....Herve called to ask that I give them his apologies, but he'd just been summoned (with 6 hours notice) to an emergency CDC inspection in Seattle (yes, Warren, I know what you're thinking). so, off Herve went until sometime late tomorrow night.

Consequently, my tail is sitting here in a COMPLETELY cleaned house, with a meticulously prepped yard and garden, freshly bathed&groomed dogs, a trussed and stuffed pork roast in the refrigerator (along with two roast chickens, plus trimmings)...and absolutely nothing requiring my presence or attention. I'm considering going out back to see if the tomatoes would appreciate someone's watching them while they ripen.

"Into Great Silence, indeed.....

----david terry


david terry said...


a longtime, good friend of mine is a very successful/talented painter who happens to be named Nancy Tuttle May. (Think "Helen Frakenthaler if she were a southerner and unencumbered by academic ideology"). If you like, go to:

In any case?....Nancy (who's in her sixties these days) has had a long and deservedly successful career as an artist.

I remain chronically delighted that she has a habit of signing-off correspondence with: "Nancy Drew (until she learned to paint)"


SweetRetreat said...

I simply loved Into Great Silence and saw it just weeks before an international scholar on the life of monks visited and spoke at our book club. By chance I had just bought an old National Geographic map of Medieval England which we displayed during her talk. Members of the books club read some of the Brother Cadfael Mysteries by Ellis Peters. An interesting afternoon for everyone, not one of us knowing anything of the life of monks.

Will check Netflix or Graboid for Into Great Silence.

Just starting "Wait for Me" - just cannot get enough of those Mitford Sisters' lives.

profA said...

Inspiring, motivating post and comments, Dominique and co.
Yes. Petterson is among books in and on the bedside table. Your posting (DB) has given me the impetus I need to get to it...as soon as I finish Nocturnes by Ishiguro.
I don't know how you manage you nosh and read so much without turning into a fatty-fatty 2x4. MiracleWhip (though I prefer Duke's) and white bread with watercress sounds refreshing and satisfying. Perhaps if you used Pepperidge Farm Thin Sliced white, you could cut the calories...if you care to.

I would perhaps avoid reading/eating in bed while the ants are on the march. Mother always said, they just go where the food is and take it away! Are they nipping ants?
As for Nancy Drew. Yes. And then it was on to Beverly Gray, young woman foreign correspondent. Clair Blank. Left over from Mother's childhood, I think. They were stored in my bedroom and I went through them one summer at about age 12. Romance. Mystery. I think there were jars of baby food fruit that accompanied this, along with the romance comic books that my best friend Elizabeth and I used to read aloud, tears streaming from laughter.
And yes, Fitzgerald has weathered the passage of time (in my opinion) far better than Hemingway. Gatsby is better/different with every reading. Like Mrs. Dalloway and To the Lighthouse.

Mr. Terry, I hope you can rustle up some dinner guests. Your larder sounds full and delicious.
Happy reading, everyone.
Best, Linda B.

david terry said...

p.s (#3 or so, 7:23 p.m.....Pork Roasts & Mitford Sisters, et al...):

1. Dear "Linda B"...I didn't "rustle up some dinner guests". I froze the pork roast (with a chard and raisin stuffing I learned from Dori Greenspan's new & deservedly award-winning cookbook), and I gave the chickens to two neighboring, young families. They're all happy that they don't have to cook tonight, and I'm happy that I don't have to worry about what I'm going to do with two dead&cooked chickens. I'v never tried to freeze an already-roasted chicken.

2. Not to sound as though I were one of Ms. Browning's own sons, BUT?....I feel (just now and for the first time ever) obliged to dispute her opinion.

I just don't think anyone can describe the Mitford sisters (a nasty&unadmirably-self-promoting...if-clever bunch of social jumpers, as far as I've ever gathered) as having "swanned" through the thirties without having ever noticed the gathering "clouds".

Diana quite happily chose to be married in Goebbel's dining room with Hitler as a witness, and she warrantedly spent her war years in prison. Unity was a committed Nazi, until she shot herself in the head because of the business. Thereafter (and to give her due credit), she wasn't particularly committed to anything beyond 24/7 nursing care for a couple of decades. Their mother, Lady Redesdale, was an unabashed admirer of Hitler. All were extremely intelligent, and none ever expressed the slightest regret (trust me...they were ASKED) over "what happened later", nor did any of them ever suggest, in any way, that they were caught unawares. In fact, they all made a VERY distinct point of stating otherwise in later interviews and writings..

All that aside?....Jessica (the "Communist") wasn't exactly unaware of gathering "clouds" during the thirties. Very few ladies who eloped with their first cousins and ran off to cover the Spanish Civil War retained a "Brideshead" naivetee about current events during the 1930's.

All done and said? These were not women who had no idea of what-was-up during the1930's. Diana, in particular, wasn't sent to prison for criminal-naivetee and a lack of prescience.

all in all?...a pretty nasty bunch (with the obvious exception of the by-far youngest sister, who seems to have learned early on to avoid publicly professing a devotion to anything beyond poultry and her husband's house).

If you happen to "like" the Mitfords, however?.....read James Fox's "The Five sisters: The Langhornes of Virginia". It's a fine "biography" of the five daughters of a bankrupt Virginia stable-owner....who managed to work things their own way once they were set loose on society (you might know of Lady Astor). Once again....a remarkably appalling bunch of women who happen to be sisters and yet managed to be awful in surprisingly individual ways.

Advisedly yours as ever,

David Terry

Dominique said...

Yes, you are right, David...I always want to think those sisters were unaware of just how awful things were, as they were falling in love with Hitler and his cronies. But you're right.

SweetRetreat said...

Ouch, another blow from David Terry. I stand firm 'liking' the Mitford sisters, nasty and scandalous they may have been. The Langhornes of Virginia has been added to my reading list.

CLAUDIA said...

Oh, Dominique Browning, you are my very favorite homebody sophisticate.

Thank you for that!


david terry said...

Dear "Sweet Retreat",
What I wrote about the Mitfords (which, by the way didn't contain anything that's not readily available for anyone not completely consumed by post WWII Anglophilia) seemed a "blow"? Goodness.

For all it's worth?....I've never felt obliged to regard them as a "group" so thoroughly as they've been narrated over the past fifty years. The majority of them (and their parents) were vicious, to be sure. And, yes...you can add "intelligent" and "witty". Still?... Sometime?.. read some of their comments about jews. Those are (I would like to think that we would both think so) eye-popping in their self-congratulatory and COMPLETE overtness. Society "scandal" is one thing....self-promoting (and usually for cash and social advancement, thank you) anti-Semitism is another thing.

I'll be the first to assert that there wasn't a fool among those sisters. For whatever that's worth.

The editress of all these various volumes of letters is Charlotte Mosley...the daughter-in-law of Diana Mitford and the fascist Mosley. Her husband is 31 year older than she is (the figures, so to speak, do add up; this is not a family which has ever particularly minded unconventional marriage arrangements or getting THAT MONEY I NEED TO MAINTAIN MY POSITION!). Her brother-in-law is Max Mosley (google him....he's the former head of Formula One European racing and the subject/auteur of a charming nazi/concentration-camp sex tape that somehow leaked only a few years ago).

The current Mosleys have lived for a long while in a 7th arrondissement (trust me....the Faubourg St. Germain is not where down&out folks go to lick their wounds) apartment which is, oddly enough, just around the block (as we say in Paris) from ours (Herve's, actually...he inherited it). Given that Herve's grandfather spent two years in Auschwitz?......well, no one's ever, in about three decades, taken a "welcome wagon" casserole up to the Mitford/Mosleys.

O, well...the Mitford industry just rolls and rolls along.

However, it's not entirely by-the-way to note that the most of the Mitford sisters (as was the case with the pretentious and desperately-ambitious Langhorne sisters) mostly hated each other by the time they'd each achieved their individual goals in their own twenties. They all went for decades (literally) switching-off on which faction wasn't speaking to which supposed other-faction or sister.

Advisedly yours as ever,

David Terry

Judith Ross said...

Okay, then, given what David Perry has just explained, why do we want to read these letters?

I guess I don't. I would rather put my limited reading time into some of the other books that have been mentioned here.

Just sayin'

Judith Ross said...

Sorry, "David Terry," not Perry. This post has certainly been an education!

david terry said...

Dear "Judith",

To answer your question?....because practically anything written by those sisters is (1) very well written, (2) usually extremely witty & sophisticated, and (3) because, and as I wouldn't be the first to note, one can very productively read a good book without at all considering the bad person who wrote it.

Quite frankly, I spent a lot of the 80's and 90's being gradskooled in several institutions where we were CONSTANTLlY told we couldn't simply enjoy various books... because the actual-person-who-wrote-the-book was, in prviate life, a misogynist, a racist, an anti-semite, a homophobe, etcetera, etcetera.

That gets very tiresome after a while, particularly if, like me, you're someone who's loved BOOKS most of his life and never bothered much about "knowing" the authors.

I should also admit 2 things:

(1) I woke up this morning and, in that obsessive way I can't seem to shake, even after leaving the field seven years ago, immediately thought "Shit...I did the math wrong."

Charlotte Mosley (who is, all done and said, a skilled writer and editor) is only 14 (not 31) years younger than her husband. He was born two years before his Mitford Mum was put in prison. She was born in 1952. At this point I probably don't need to emphasize that I majored in English, rather than math.

(2) Over the years, I've delightedly read practically everything-I-could-get-my-hands-on about the Mitfords and Langhornes. Most of them are just FASCINATINGLY awful people. Since I'm the sort of person who likes nothing more than to see my suspicions confirmed, I also enjoy poking at the various ways by which they and subsequent others cultivated and have perpetuated their "legacy"/myth/"legend". In a word?....the Mitford "Industry", which rather obviously continues to this day; the youngest and only surviving sister has TWO books quite-currently "out" just now.

That's actually quite a triumph, given the she, herself, was born in 1920 and "came out", herself in 1940.

So, there's all sorts of good reasons for reading things about or by the Mitfords.....not the least among those being that the books are almost always great fun (for varous folks' various reasons), which is the mark of a good book.

---david terry

Judith Ross said...

Thanks, David, for taking the time to explain. Gosh you are patient!

I'm not sure if Ms. Devonshire and Mr. Fermor will be traveling with me next week to Florence (our niece is marrying an Italian fellow), Paris, and Oslo, but when I do read the letters, I will be sure to report back.

david terry said...

Oh, Judith....if you have the time....order (go for 2 day shipping) the fairly-new editions of H.F. Ullman Press's "Art & Architecture" for both Paris and Florence. They're wonderful fun, beautifully made, small-ish, and indispensable.

My good guess, though, is that (this being a wedding) no one will get to "be" themselves, and very few people will recall much of anything after the whirlwind ceremony. Much less go sightseeing.

My mother claims that she remembers scarcely anything of her own bigass wedding...and absolutely NOTHING of the three times she gave birth(this was during the 1960's, when hippies AND doctors were ga-ga for all the drugs they could muster).

In any case, the letters between Fermor and Deborah Mitford Cavendish are charming..... a lovely, if relatively minor, virtue.

I read them and considered that she wanted to keep conspicuously in touch with "literary" types, and he didn't at all mind knowing someone very rich. I also & regularly thought "cute". these were/are two people who LIKE being "charming" to/for each other.

I also wondered why "Debo" had so readily and recently handed them over to her neice(sp?)-in-law for such public promotion.

Not that the letters aren't CHARMING, but?.....

Advisedly yours as ever,

david terry

Judith Ross said...

Thank you! Interesting to hear your comment on the "bigass" wedding. My husband and I had a very small, modest one. And sometimes I have regretted we didn't make a bigger deal of it. But our marriage has been a happy one and we have been together almost (gulp) 30 years.

I greatly appreciate the recommendations of those books. I don't think I will be able to get them before my trip. The Paris one is only available from private sellers. But I will put them on my wish list for later.

It thrills me that this is the second art book recommendation I have received in two days -- the other was from Dominique in a comment she made to my "Talking Art" column on TalkingWriting.com

I am getting fabulous and unsolicited help as I work to expand my repertoire of writing topics!

SweetRetreat said...

David, I'm in awe of your knowledge. I simply enjoyed reading about the Mitford sisters, giving no particular thought to their somewhat controversial views which, for the time, were not that unusual. Six sisters, expect anything. Particularly parting of ways!

david terry said...

Dear "Sweet Retreat"..

Please don't bother yourself to be too much "in awe".

I'm the first to emphasize that I've never had/raised children or (until I was 43) been in a "relationship" that would count as anything more than "dating" for a couple of weeks. I gather that neither children nor marriages are ever referred to as "time-savers". I did, at age 43, get my tail basically-married, but the fact remains that I spent my first four decades doing nothing but happily reading, going to various skoolz without ever worrying about the expense, and being generally self-indulgent. I didn't drop-out of school until I was almost 35, which is when I took up the disreputable habit of reading ALONE and in my own house during the daytime. Every old-fashioned, southern patriarch would be the first to tell you that reading and drinking ALONE have been the ruin of many an otherwise-good wife.

so, while I've read a lot of things, there are all SORTS of normal-adult experiences which remain complete mysteries to me. I've never even had to drive to work; I always taught at boarding skoolz or Duke (which is two blocks away).

So, I've read a lot over the years and, for better or worse, have a slightly Asperger-y (I happen to think) habit of recalling almost everything I've read, heard, or looked at. Weird, but true.

At this point, I should say that Ms Browning (who cares about her readers and fans) could reasonably complain that she doesn't want them all to be afflicted with Carpal Tunnel Syndrome from having to scroll over these lengthy comments of mine.

Herve, my brothers, and my parents would all roll their eyes and say "Who ENCOURAGED him?...."

where's "william" when Ms. Browning's fan-base needs him?.....

Bemusedly as ever,

David Terry

profA said...

Oh, those wild and crazy Mitford gals! How Shakespeare, Congreve, et al. would have loved them!
The stuff of Masterpiece (Theater-re) writ large. (And I think there was a cousin who was fascist in the recent Downton Abbey....)
Great costumes and sets. Lots of bubbly and cheeky talk.
David T. I sooo enjoy your posts. I have a son who also remembers just about everything he has ever read or seen. I hope he is as lively a writer as yourself someday.
Linda B. (breaking my vow not to go on line today, but needed some consolation after discovering that the voles had eater ALL of my golden beets)

david terry said...

Dear "Prof A"...

good for your son...although I'll bet a shiny, red apple that (if he indeed remembers almost everything an adult has said to him...or LIED/Prevaricated about), he's been a pain-in-the-ass to every adult who ever encountered him.

I was, I gather, dreadful in that respect. My spoiled grandmother (we disliked each other until the day she kicked-off) repeatedly told me as much by the time I was 10 or so. I told her that I thought the same of her.

Still (and this IS Ms., Browning's blog)....don't you agree with me that Ms. Browning is attracting some very fine readers and commentators, etcetera?....?

Rather obviously, I'm doing a twice-daily dip at the "Slow Love Life" watering hole....and I'm regularly/delightfully surprised with the sort of folks her blog is attracting.

I do wish Warren Buffet or someone similarly wealthy would just give the lady enough money to start her OWN magazine.

In the meantime, I think that this blog of hers is a great gift to a number of folks.

I was given the first of her books about ten years ago by a friend...and I read it...and I thought "Oh...what an unusual person..." (that, in my book, is a compliment).

Later, I first saw the movie "Orlando" (sorry, but I don't go to movie theaters or have a television, so everything comes "late" to this house). do you recall the scene in which the young Orlando meets Queen Elizabeth I and later bundles himself into bed...simply saying to no one "what an EXTRAORDINARY person....".

It's a lovely and accurate observation.

Watch out for that son of yours, though....This Wide World doesn't, as a very general rule, take kindly to boys (or girls) who remember too much and too readily. I learned by the age of twelve that doing so makes most folks nervous and consequently ill-tempered.


David Terry

VL said...

"This Wide World doesn't, as a very general rule, take kindly to boys (or girls) who remember too much and too readily. I learned by the age of twelve that doing so makes most folks nervous and consequently ill-tempered."

You are so right about that. But what to do? As Lionel Trilling wrote, there is a Moral Obligation to Be Intelligent...

SweetRetreat said...

Enough of the Mitfords. What about this scandal about Dominique's hair? No shampoo would seem to result in dirty tresses ... but what do I know?

Deborah A said...

I have just finished reading a memoir with a sequel. When I first started reading it I wasn't sure if I was going to stick with it or not, but soon, I was hooked and like I mentioned, had to get the sequel.
If you were brought up in the fifties, and sixties there is a lot in these books that will bring you back in time.
The titles are "Too Close to the Falls" and the sequel "After the Falls". The author is Catherine Gildiner. I picked them both up at our local library.
The sequel is particularly fascinating, all about coming of age in the sixties, includes so much history. I finished the book in 2 days. Catherine Gildiner is truly able to captivate anyone's attention, even if you weren't brought up in the sixties, you will enjoy her way of drawing you into her story.