Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Laurie Colwin

Nan recently posted on More Home Cooking by Laurie Colwin, and that post reminded me how much I enjoy this author. With so many new books waiting patiently to be read, it's easy to forget the great reading pleasures of an author read and enjoyed many years ago. My first introduction to Laurie Colwin was her book Home Cooking. A couple of years ago, I read and posted my thoughts on Happy All the Time, which I repeat here. If you're at all enamoured of what I call "interior" books--books rich with descriptions of rooms, dishes, and pleasant vignettes--I urge you to pick up one of Ms. Colwin's reading escapes.

Happy All by Time by Laurie Colwin was essentially a book about nothing and everything, and I really enjoyed the experience of reading about Guido, Holly, Vincent and Misty—how they met, how they married, and how they lived and loved. This was also a book about interiors…like reading an issue of my all time favorite magazine Victoria (sadly, no longer published). Happily, since this post was originally written, Victoria has started publishing again!!

From the Publisher:
This delightful comedy of manners and morals is about romantic friendship, romantic marriage, and romantic love—about four people who are good hearted and sane, lucky and gifted, and who find one another. Knowing that happiness is an art form that requires energy, discipline, and talent, Guido, Holly, Vincent and Misty deal with jealousy, estrangement, and other perils involved in the search for love.

Regarding Guido’s first breakfast with Holly...
She liked to have tea on a tray and she was fond of unmatched china. The tray she brought to Guido held cups that bore forget-me-nots, a lily-of-the-valley sugar dish, a cream pitcher with red poppies, and a teapot covered with red roses and cornflowers. This tray, when set on the bed, contributed to Guido’s sensory overload. He was touched to think that this effort had been made on his behalf, but when he got to know Holly better he learned that she made up identical trays for herself when she studied.

Holly’s view of education...
When they first met, she [Holly] had been writing her master’s thesis on the subject of Chinese export porcelain. She had been encouraged to publish it. When the subject was brought up, she yawned and said she might some day. Education, she said, was something that enriched your life—not something you did things with.

Guido has to hire a secretary to replace the departed “porcelain-like beauty” who had been his uncle’s secretary. As a white-gloved Katharine Gibbs graduate, I had no trouble picturing Jane Motherwell’s replacement...
…Guido had hired a secretary. The two temporaries had made appointments and then failed to show up. Five candidates had called. One was an actress who said she would be frequently on the road; one was a young man who said he was writing a novel with the aid of a computer; one did not know how to type; another could type but would not answer telephones; and the last did not speak very much English. A person named Betty Helen Carnhoops won hands down. She was a square girl with piano legs, short efficient hair of no particular color, and green harlequin glasses that sprouted in each corner a gold rose with a rhinestone in the center. She typed ninety-five words a minute, took shorthand, and answered the phone in a brisk, businesslike manner. When Uncle Giancarlo eventually met her, he said, with a sigh: “How could you replace my beautiful tiger of wrath with such a horse of instruction? This is an office the gives money away for the purpose of making things beautiful and now it is made efficient by a cardboard box.”

Laurie Colwin died of a heart attack in 1992 at age 48. One
tribute to her says:
None of us had ever met Colwin except through her writing. But we felt as if we knew her from those stories. We knew that she liked animals and small children, quilts and pretty plates, family and friends, men who were good dancers and good kissers. We knew that she loved music, from classical greats like Boccherini and Brahms, to rock 'n' roll legends like the Everly Brothers and Jerry Lee Lewis. She knew all the words to the Crystals' "He's a Rebel." She loved to read, and to cook.

I think I would have enjoyed sharing a tea tray with Laurie Colwin.