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.

7 comments:

Nan said...

Gosh, I'm glad you posted this again, Marcia! If you saw my first LC report on Home Cooking, I mentioned your review and gave a link, but it wasn't there anymore. I'd wanted to read it again when I read the book.

http://lettersfromahillfarm.blogspot.com/2007/04/book-reporthome-cooking.html

I'm going to go in and change the link so if anyone ever happens to go back and read it, they can also find your review. Thanks again so much for posting it again.

Nan said...

Gosh, Marcia, I left a comment here several days ago, and it hasn't appeared. I'm sorry. One of the things I said is that I changed the link on my 'book report' of Home Cooking because your original Happy All The Time wasn't there. Now if anyone ever happened to go back and read it, they could link to this post. I wanted to say that just today, Sunday the 15th, I have started HATT. And I thank you!

Marcia said...

Nan~I apologize for being so tardy in publishing your first comment. Last week was one of those weeks when work took over and then, come the weekend, I avoided all contact with the computer. I'm glad you are enjoying HATT. I loved picturing in my mind all the tea trays that Holly would have put together!

Nan said...

I'm just glad it wasn't me. Sometimes comments do just disappear. I wonder who reads them. I am so enjoying the book. Funny, I wasn't sure I would but I should have known better. Her fiction writing voice is the same as her nonfiction writing voice. I love the clear, crisp sentences. And oh my God, guess what my word verification word spells - vinces! Vincent Cardworthy lives! Isn't that just amazing.

Les said...

Ah, this sounds like just my kind of book. And the author sounds like one who will join the list of favorite female writers I posted about in today's book review. I have Home Cooking in my stacks and plan to read it ASAP. I also plan to buy a copy of Happy All the Time so I can have something else by Colwin to look forward to. Thank you, Marcia and Nan!

debnance said...

I wanted to read Colwin so much that I seem to have acquired two copies of Happy All the Time. Must read this one soon.

Marcia said...

Deb~ Colwin is just such a comfort to read--a very welcome interlude in our sometimes too hectic lives. I'll look forward to seeing your comments!