You haven’t changed a bit

EDIT: I was dissatisfied with the Bergdorf window pics so I replaced them with better ones and included a few detailed shots. Quality control!

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Not long ago, I reread Lolita. When I first read it in my 20s, I found it to be a well-written, comedic romp across America. Now that I have an 11 year old daughter, I didn’t think it was so goddamn funny. Mostly, I was mortified that I once laughed at it. At a recent appearance by author Zadie Smith, I related that story to her and asked if she was a “one-and-done” kind of reader or if she revisited books from her youth. She said it’s important to reread books from time to time. She teaches the same titles in her class each semester (she’s a Lit professor at NYU) and gets something new out of them each time. For her, a subsequent reading of Middlemarch revealed Dorthea to be a bit of a whiner!

I’ve been putting off rereading To Kill a Mockingbird for decades. Long-time readers know that if it weren’t for that book, I wouldn’t be the man I am today. I wouldn’t be typing these words and probably never would have lived in New York City. I’d be something more tragic and sad. I once wrote as much to Harper Lee and she immediately responded with a heartfelt note of thanks. I didn’t want to reread Mockingbird because I was afraid that, over the decades, I had blown it up to mythical proportions in my mind’s eye. What if it wasn’t all I remembered it being? What if it was merely good and not life changing? Wouldn’t that degrade an important memory? That can happen, you know.

I finally pulled it off my shelf last week. I got 18 pages in and Scout said this:

…I never loved to read. One does not love breathing.

Look, I don’t know about you guys, but that really floored me. I sat there with a big, stupid grin on my face and read those lines over and over again. What a relief. I might write another note to Ms. Lee.

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We decorated our Christmas tree over the weekend. Look where 6-Year Old Daughter hung my Shakespeare ornament:

singws 1Everybody sing!

William the red-cock playwright
Had a very shiny…okay that’s enough of that.

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Here are a couple of holiday windows at Bergdorf Goodman. Strangely, they have nothing whatsoever to do with the holiday. The theme is jazz-era/art deco and while lacking in ho-ho-ho-ness, they’re pretty impressive, just the same. You should click on these and blow them up. They’re interesting. This first one should appeal to the white-plumed fetishist in your life.

bg 3

8photo 2These are best of the bunch. A high society, all-girl jazz band. It’s like a Robert Palmer video from 1929. The display was mounted up against the wall so that your view is looking down on them. Pretty brilliant. When I lived in downtown Brooklyn, I had a kitchen floor that looked just like that.

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35 thoughts on “You haven’t changed a bit

    • Every author promoting a new book traipses through Manhattan for a reading/signing. I’ve met ’em all. My understanding is that they hate it, but it’s obligatory. Please. If I published a book and someone asked me to sign it, I’d sign it, pump their hand and thank them profusely and then buy them a steak dinner. You’re right about White Teeth. It’s an extraordinary read.

  1. Love all these pictures…! Was the Peninsula once The St. Regis?? Or am I in the wrong block? Whatever—the display is very very Elegant! It’s funny, the BG Windows, at least in those first two pictures, have a feeling of “holiday” about them, to me….Very Beautiful!Ahhhhh, “To Kill A Mockingbird”….such a Wonderful Genius of a book. So very touching in every respect. I hope you do write Harper Lee again…! I LOVE, Love, Love, that quote!

    • EUREKA!!!! Seriously, UB, I had this vague memory of that mural, but until I read this I swear, I could not remember where I saw it or if I even did! Thank You! xox (It was a long time ago, probably my first visit to NYC.)

    • I DID see that Mural—So very many many years ago, it had to be in the Mid 1950’s—I had forgotten it. We used to go to The Maisonette Room at the St. Regis to see some great great talent, and sometimes we would stop in the King Cole if we were early for our reservation…! The Maisonette was a Beautiful room….Does it still exist? Probably not. So many of those truly wonderful special Rooms fell out of favor for some reason. The Persian Room was another GREAT Hotel Show Room. I actually have a picture or two from one of those visits—The Camera Lady would come around and take pictures of your table and right after the show ended, the pictures would be ready and she would bring them around to the table….They were certainly reasonable enough, and a lovely way to remember the evening…! Another time…very civilized and beautiful! Dinner and a Show in a lovely Room….MARVELOUS!

    • Thank you for gracing my comment section with that fantastic memory. You MUST post that pic! If you don’t want to go public with it, at the very least, can you email it to me? I will check on the Maisonette room on my lunch hour. The cabaret room at The Regency where Bobby Short used to play on Park and 61st is set to close. It’s their own damn fault. It’s so bloody expensive to go that nobody can afford it! They’ve priced themselves out of existence.

  2. I’ve always gone back and re-read things, i’ve read the Rosy Crucifixion three times and have found a differnt book to be my favorite each time, thinking about starting it again soon, i’ve read all of Celine’s work multiple times and always find something new, same with Cormac McCarthy, Bukowski, Nelson Algren (Golden Arm 4 times plus other multiple times) of course sometimes you re-read and wonder what you found so earth shaking, i still love Ray Carver but i don’t think i’m so enamored of him as i used to be, still there is value in reading things again, this i believe…

  3. i first read Kurt Vonnegut, Jr. when i was a teen. thought him clever and snarky as i devoured his works through my college years. started re-reading him as an adult? and i cried. a lot. totally different experiences.pinched doll-face? looks like Bernadette Peters to me…

    • Vonnegut is the guy everyone reads in college. He kind of fell off my radar years ago but I still have a ton of respect for him. I heard him speak at Case Western Reserve in the 80s. He said universities ruin writers. They are taught to conform and are stripped of their voice.

  4. I suspect that when your daughter is less vulnerable and you as a consequence are slightly less protective ( say in twenty years ) you may see Nabokov in the old light. Or maybe not. I’m speaking as a father of three girls, the youngest of whom ( whom? ) is pushing seventeen, and I know full well how powerful the primal instict to protect is.

  5. I did click on your photos – they look great enlarged. I miss these types of windows here during the holiday season – we only have “malls” around here, so no windows. I have not read to Kill a Mockingbird yet, but my husband has the book – I’ll put it on my reading list. I was trying to re-read my old French books – went through Colette and now maybe Camus (no, I am not going alphabetically.) While in Nice, France, in October I found “La Confession d’un enfant du siècle” (confession of a child of the century) by Alfred de Musset. It is the only novel he wrote (in 1836 when he was 26.) It sounds interesting – slightly biographical – talking about his affair with George Sand.

    • I wish I could fly everyone here to look at these windows. They’re like a sculpture exhibit. And there’s no real product tie-in. It’s refreshing. I don’t know if To Kill a Mockingbird will have the same effect on you but for me, it was the right book at the right time. Reading French must be great but that would increase my “to read” list exponentially!

  6. I must be about due to have another crack at Salinger…then again, if I’ve never “got” him before, why bother.Re-read Mockingbird when the anniversary edition came out and I still liked it.Did I send you a link to the letters of Vonnegut?And , just to lighten up a little, I’d like to be the woman draped across the grand piano.

  7. I can never bring myself to read books more than once. It’s something about how your mind dreams stuff up based on who you are at the time. I don’t want to have one vision of a book, then have it completely change later on and maybe not be as good. Love the windows, you are reminding me to get into the city soon

    • After reading two or three new books that didn’t do a damn thing for me, I need to reaffirm my faith in literature by rereading something from my past that I know I’m going to enjoy. They don’t call them classics for nothing.Yes…get into the city and post some photos. We can do an east coast/west coast tag team cage match.

  8. I love that Harper Lee blog post so much. It’s brilliant. Just shared the monkeys out of it again on Twitter. The power of words eh?I read To Kill a Mockingbird this year for the first time and couldn’t put it down. I’m currently re-reading a lot of classics and books I sped through at school or uni without really appreciating properly or reading for pleasure – you definitely pick up on something different every time.

    • First nuttycow and now Jo. It’s nice to see you guys around the holidays. I’m re-purposing the hell out of that Harper Lee post.Sometimes I think I read books too soon and am not ready for them. You need some miles on your treads before you can appreciate what some authors are trying to do.

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