Saturday, November 7, 2015

Knopf 100--day 20

73.  You know how you hear stories about Barbara Walters being a fierce and possibly a difficult boss? Read Audition and you’ll understand that she’s earned the right to be demanding, and, well, whatever the hell she wants to be. Yeah, she had to put up with Harry Reasoner, so she get’s to do whatever she wants. Forever. Actually the torment Walters put up with at The Evening News is worth the price of the book. Walters is a pioneer of the highest order, she had to put up with a ton of shit so the next generation wouldn’t have to. Oh, she got some pretty good interviews along the way as well: Fidel Castro, Boris Yeltsin, The Shah of Iran, Mohammad Reza Pahlavi, Margaret Thatcher, Vaclav Havel, Jiang Zemin, and of course…she asked Katherine Hepburn about being a tree (she would be an oak).

74.  So I felt a little guilty reading The Selected Letters of Willa Cather. It’s a huge collection and it took me nearly the entire summer to finish the book. And to make matters worse, Cather mentions that her letters are private within the letters themselves (so guilty), and more than once asked that her letters be destroyed. Ugh,  the guilt. I know, but the thing is, its just one of the best collections of letters I’ve ever read. Cather comes to life in the same way Flannery O’Connor came into full view in Habit of Being: Letters of Flannery O’Connor. They were both kind, funny, generous, and had their mind on their money and their money on their mind. Well, the ladies took care of business. Don't read the Willa Cather letters to look for clues to her sexuality, or gossip. Why are we still talking about it? What isn't clear about it? She was inducted into the National Cowgirl Hall of Fame, that's like old timey softball cred!  

75.  Diane Arbus was ahead of her time; she was pigeonholed as a strange photographer who took pictures of "freaks." Now we know she was actually capturing  people forced to live on the fringes of society, often shamed and ridiculed. Arbus who suffered from depression her entire life (as did her mother) would eventually kill herself, which would then catapult her to worldwide fame.  What Patricia Bosworth does so well in Diane Arbus: A Biography is temper the odd myths vs the truth. She digs deep and interviews dozens of family, friends and peers (the list is impressive and nearly all are dead now), giving Arbus a full biography that she deserves; if you've admired her photographs don't skip this fantastic book.

76.  I've only read two Raymond Carver books (impressive, right?) the first is of course the story What We Talk About When We Talk About Love and the second is All of Us: Collected Poems, which I purchased about ten years ago at a garage sale for twenty five cents (she was asking fifty cents per book, but let's just say I'm a pretty savvy book dealer and knew I could get it for half that. Plus it was chewed up a bit on the corner and smelled faintly of wet dog). I fell in love with this book immediately and purchased a less disgusting copy later the same week. Be different, read Carvers stories some other time, buy this 400 plus page tome. Carver loved poetry, he loved being a poet, and he would think you were really swell if you bought this in his memory. Don't be cheap, pay full price.

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