Archive for category Books/Literature
Among the things that happened last week while I was selfishly enjoying California bliss was the death by cancer of David Rakoff, one of my favorite writers and contributors to This American Life.
This video made me cry; he wasn’t even 50.
“I think there’s nothing Truman can’t do. He writes like an angel, he’s the dearest and most understanding friend – and now this party, the most superb thing I’ve ever seen.” Vi Tate, for Time magazine.
Breakfast at Tiffany’s was the play that first put Truman Capote in the spotlight, but it was In Cold Blood that cemented his place as the most famous writer of his time. The book sold out immediately and bookstores couldn’t keep copies of it stocked. It became the most talked about book of the 1960s. In Cold Blood quickly made Truman Capote a millionaire and elevated him to a position of fame that no author has reached since.
To celebrate his new-found success, Truman Capote threw himself a party, the masked “Black and White Ball,” which was later called The Party of the Century. The ball, to be held at New York’s Plaza Hotel, had a limited guest list of 540, and an invitation to it quickly became one of the most coveted items in the world. Capote taunted the rich and famous with invitations for months (“Well maybe you’ll be invited, and maybe you won’t”). As they realized that being at The Black and White Ball would validate one’s place in high society, celebrities begged, bribed, and threatened Capote for invitations. The hounding became so bad that Truman had to leave New York for a while.
In the end, it’s said that Truman Capote “made 500 friends and 15,000 enemies,” snubbing even old friends and popular celebrities as he determined who was worthy of attendance. The final guest list contained a diverse mix of New York socialites, writers, movie stars, artists, politicians, royals, some townspeople that Truman met in Kansas while writing In Cold Blood, and even the doorman and elevator operator of Truman’s apartment building.
“They rolled off the assembly line like dolls, newly painted and freshly coiffed, packaged in silk, satin and jewels and addressed to Truman Capote, the Plaza Hotel.” From, The New York Times
The famous guests included:
Edward Albee, Richard Avedon, Lauren Bacall, Tallulah Bankhead, Harry Belafonte, Candice Bergen, Irving Berlin, Leonard Bernstein, William Buckley, Richard Burton, Noël Coward, Walter Cronkite, Sammy Davis Jr, Oscar de la Renta, Marlene Dietrich, Douglas Fairbanks Jr, Mia Farrow, Henry Fonda, Joan Fontaine, Greta Garbo, William Randolph Hearst Jr, Christopher Isherwood, Senator Ted Kennedy, Jackie Kennedy, Bobby Kennedy, Harper Lee, Vivien Leigh, Jack Lemmon, Shirley MacLaine, Norman Mailer, Walter Matthau, James Michener, Arthur Miller, Vincent Minnelli, Mike Nichols, Gregory Peck, Jason Robards, Nelson Rockefeller, Philip Roth, Frank Sinatra, Steven Sondheim, John Steinbeck, Gloria Steinem, Elizabeth Taylor, Andy Warhol, Billy Wilder, Tennessee Williams, and the Duke and Duchess of Windsor.
Mia Farrow and Frank Sinatra
The party started around 9pm. At midnight, dinner was served (Plaza Chicken Hash). Frank Sinatra and his wife Mia Farrow took their entourage and left at 2:45am, which suggested to other guests that the Black and White Ball was winding down. Aware that this would be the case, Truman begged Sinatra to stay longer, but he was ready to move on to his favorite bar, Jilly’s. The last guests to leave were Truman’s friends from Kansas.
The Black and White Ball
While researching this post, I found a recipe online for Plaza Chicken Hash. It sounds like something so rich and fattening and unhealthy that no one I know would eat it, but here’s the recipe:
- 4 cups finely diced cooked chicken breast
- 11/ 2 cups heavy cream
- 1 cup cream sauce
- 2 teaspoons salt
- 1/8 teaspoon white pepper
- 1/4 cup dry sherry
- 1/2 cup Hollandaise sauce
Mix chicken, cream, cream sauce and seasonings in a heavy skillet. Cook over moderate heat, stirring often, for about 10 minutes. When moisture is slightly reduced, place skillet in a moderate oven (350F), and bake for 30 minutes. Stir in sherry and return to oven for 10 minutes. Lightly fold in Hollandaise sauce and serve at once.
My friend Melody recommended a book to me a few months ago about overcoming the fear of death as an atheist. I think I’d refer to myself as a confirmed agnostic long before I’d use the term, atheist, but I thought the book sounded interesting; and in truth, I probably do have some death anxiety (less so about my own death than about what I’ll leave behind. . . Did I accomplish enough? Did my being here make any real difference?).
The author is a psychiatrist, who uses a lot of examples from his own practice in his writings. More than anything, the first 50 pages of this book made me miss the days when I had my own psychoanalyst. Reading this makes me wish that I was still in therapy.
And although I’m not quite sure that I’m ready to agree with the author’s assessment yet (that most of the troublesome thoughts people have stem from suppressed death anxiety), I am enjoying it.
That said, it was quickly determined by both Jay and me that reading a book about death in the weeks following the day we had Lucy put to sleep probably wasn’t the best idea. I put it back on the shelf for a little bit.
Then the Monday after Lucy died, Jay was running errands at lunch and heard a review of the new novel, The Family Fang, and immediately decided this was, as he called it, “a Scott book.”
Two days later, we were in a Barnes and Noble and Jay walked up to me with the novel in hand, pointing at its 20% off sticker, and reminding me, “That’s 30% off with your Barnes and Noble member card.”
One of the taglines, alone, from this book makes me love it already:
Mr. and Mrs. Fang called it art.
Their children called it mischief.
It’s been a long time since I’ve really looked forward to reading a book; I’m 30 pages in, and I can already tell this is going to be one of them.
I found two new photography books that I’m thinking out putting on my Wish List. The first is called, In their Youth: Early Portraits, which is a collections of Greg Gorman’s previously unpublished portraits of male actors, but shot when they were still unknown young men.
I want this book because Greg Gorman is an amazing photographer and I haven’t collected any of his work yet. And I think it would be fun to look at. You’d think that since I’m a photographer, I’m goot with faces. I’m not; I could walk past a person on the street that I chat with once a week on Facebook and not recognize him. Same goes for these portraits, I feel like I should know who they are, but . . .
The second book I want is called About Face, by John Russo. This book also contains some celebrities, but they’re all headshots, taken in the same place, with Polariod film, using natural light and no touch ups.
For whatever it’s worth, I do recognize all the guys I displayed from the second book. I think I’d actually rather have the second book — but of course, it’s twice expensive as the first. But it’s also limited edition.
My friend Rick Reed, who’s a gay author of gay-themed horror novels, just posted the following update to his Facebook status:
Amazon will never learn! Trying to post my author bio, and it flagged “gay” as “inappropriate” & wouldn’t let me post until I removed “gay.”
Rick then told me that he knows of other gay authors who are still running into similar problems. Jay deleted his Amazon account when all this anti-gay discrimination on Amazon came to light a couple months ago. He’s been shopping at B&N and Powells. The fact that Amazon is still doing this just made me decide that I’m going to follow suit. I’m building a WishList at Barnes & Noble now.
I’m lucky enough that Indianapolis also still has an independently owned gay/lesbian operated bookstore, and I think I’ll also start asking them to order my purchases as I prefer working with the independents, anyway.
I miss reading for pleasure, but I still haven’t been doing it as much as I used to. I use photography as an excuse — and having a full time job plus my photography business/hobby on the side does take a lot of my free time. (If I’m not in the middle of a photo shoot, I am editing photos, or emailing a potential model, or updating my website . . . )
But the truth is this: I probably don’t read as much as I used to because of my eyes. If I have my glasses on and pick up a book, I can’t see a fucking thing; if I take my glasses off, I have to hold the book eight inches from my face, and that just feels stupid. I am too stubborn (or maybe I’m in denial?) to go to the optometrist and get the bifocals that I am sure I need. The last book I finished for pleasure was over a month ago.
But this past Saturday night, Jay and I were trying to get to bed at a decent hour, and I was lying there not quite ready to fall asleep yet, so I reached down and picked up one of the books from my nightstand. It’s probably been there, being ignored, for six months. I started reading. Next thing I know it was 2:30 in the morning.
I LOVE this book.
I am ready to start chapter nine, which is probably close to the 30% point. I am, again, reading every day. I even brought the book to work with me, thinking that if I get 20 minutes alone time on my lunch hour, I could read. I don’t remember the last time I did that. It feels good.
If you are looking for something to read, I recommend this novel. I’d love to hear your thoughts when we both finish.