October 8, 2014
At the Newberry’s annual book sale we spent $100 for a year’s worth of entertainment. Edith Sitwell’s autobiography Taken Care Of is a harrowing account of an Edwardian childhood that she survived thanks to Osbert and Sacheverell. In the last chapter she describes a meeting with Marilyn Monroe trotted out like a freakish pony for visiting intelligentsia like Edith, Karen Blixen and so forth.
Painting as a Pastime, 1932, by the Rt. Honorable Sir Winston Churchill notes how he used the art as therapy to overcome “worry and mental strain” during a lacunae in his career after the disgrace of Gallipolli. His Jungian anti-shadow created sweet Impressionist style paintings now in the collection of Chartwell House.
Also bought for pennies, Clive Fisher’s Cyril Connolly, Fawn Brodie’s The Devil Drives a life of Sir Richard Burton (the explorer), Crome Yellow, A.L. Rowse’s annotated Shakespeare Sonnets, Malraux’s Anti-Memoirs, Janet Flanner’s Paris Journals 1965-71, history of Harrow. Diana Cooper’s Autobiography.
Diana Cooper was “an orchid among cowslips and a black tulip in a garden of cucumbers.” In her later years she called Margaret Thatcher “my niece” because her own natural (she was illegitimate) father, the supernaturally handsome Harry Cockayne-Cust, was also the lover of the future prime minister’s great grandmother, a housemaid, who had a child Beatrice ….and so on….
Noel Annan in Our Age calls Diana a déclassé aristocrat like Nancy Mitford. The last of the Mitford lot Deborah Devonshire has been elaborately lauded in obituaries for being the dowager of Chatsworth, and an aristocrat. She preferred Elvis and chickens to reading and once said, “Oh Proust. Shall I try it now or later? I do hope it’s too late.”
The Upper Ten Thousand was a 19th century term to denote Britain’s ruling elite who had divvied up all the land by the 11th century.
The surname Sackville-West is dazzling enough and Robert (“don’t call me Baron”) the current resident of Knole in Kent added an extra frisson at the Casino for a lecture about his latest book The Disinherited, another chapter in the upper classes illegitimate children saga, one of whom was the grandmother of Vita. Fourteen generations of Sackville-Wests have lived in the house which was built for show and always a drain on resources and psyches.
We are contemplating writing a book maybe to be called Keepers of the Piles, about the current residents of the grandest homes, Castle Howard, Knole, Chatsworth, Highclere and so forth. Crime writers and other nincompoops get 15 million dollar advances and we would have a smaller audience who can actually read.
Florence King in the stodgy National Review calls Claire Booth Luce a rapacious, stupid man-eater, another Pamela Harrington putain-type. We were misinformed that brains got the man.
Ken Burn’s Roosevelt extravaganza on PBS dwelled rather much on FDR’s polio and on Eleanor (early model Hillary) who raised the president’s blood pressure to 240 over 150 after every conversation. She loved being the center of attention and never had dinner alone. Teddy was Da Man! but we can never forgive him the slaughter of 11,000 animals including endangered (even in 1909) white rhino during his trip to Africa.
Eric Hobsbawn’s memoir Interesting Times laments the Lost Civilization of prewar Europa and Mittel Europa, a time when there actually was an elite not a pack of phony baloney Hollywood types jamming the canals in Venice; formerly “a place made sacred by building” it would horrify Ruskin and Mary McCarthy today.
The Gone With the Wind revival prompted another viewing and it was utterly impossible to get past the false depiction of the life of African-Americans under the yoke of slavery. As in Downton Abbey it embraced the Myth of the Loving Servant. Read Mary Chesnut or Ella Clanton to see what plantation mistresses were really like, even worse than the thoroughly loathsome Scarlet.
Hugh Lowther, the 8th earl of Lonsdale is a truck driver currently selling the mountain Blencathra (we called it Saddleback in our climbing days in the Lake District.) The mystery bidder probably some “swivel eyed loon” who wants the meaningless title of Lord of the Manor of Threlkeld.
EXPO was bloodless this year, with the absence of those magnificent monumental –scale photographs. Jeanne Gang did a splendid job in the atmosphere-y communal spaces but the identical cubicles, so glaringly lit, created La Nausee.
Free community college to any student with at least a 3.0 in high school. Wunderbar, Now, Rahm, will you address the absurd entrance fees to the Big Five? Those who could most benefit cannot afford to go. And let’s not get started again on the parking costs on Museum Campus.
Fig and Olive served a ghastly tagine with dried rock-like apricots, mammoth stuffed green olives and a deconstructed cold couscous. Prosecco on Wells is still wonderful however and a new rule emerges: let a restaurant prove itself for a year before dropping dollars.
Poor old Woody Allen looked more bummed out than usual here in Chicago for his latest movie premier probably to please backers Ron Chez and Michael Rose.
The new Aspen Art Museum by Pritzker winner Shigeru Ban was deemed an ugly squat box by Holland Cotter. Museum board members of the future should just hire Gehry and be done with it or if he’s busy call Libeskind or Renzo Piano.
A Suddenly-It- All-Became-Clear Moment occurred when director David Steinberg told Robert Osborne how he loved films and how art never really did it for him. All those years racing through the Uffizi or the Alte Pinakothek now made sense.
A Channel 5 survey concluded that New Yorkers, i.e. smart, are the unhappiest and Louisianans, i.e. stupid, the happiest people in America at the same time another survey claimed Utah the happiest and West Virginia the most miserable which makes more sense. Monocle names the top 25 livable cities in the world and only one in America, Portland, borrrrrrrrrrring, makes the cut.
We note that owner Oscar Farinetti’s third food emporium, Eataly on Ohio, is exploiting locally born writer (he left as soon as he could) Ernest Hemingway to promote wares with posters of the Great Misogynist and an idiotic book.
At a recent benefit fashion show at the Fairmont, such an old dark renovated dog these days, we witnessed the spectacle of women coyly parading in front of other women and figured out it was less about the shmatte than about sizing up the competition.
Dickie Arbiter blows another lid off the Diana and Charles teapot, confirming that she was crazier than we thought (if that’s possible) and wanted to murder Camilla.
It’s medically official! We are now, along with many others in the civilized world who drink a glass or two of wine at dinner, “a mild alcoholic.” Makes you want to take up smoking again.
The Secret of Life: Do Not Dabble. We learned that one too late.