What It Is: 10/19/09

What I’m reading: I finished Moby Dick last week, and got swept up in George, Being George, an oral history of George Plimpton, over the weekend. Reading the section on Plimpton’s divorce from his first wife, I felt really sad for his kids. I went to college with his oldest daughter, but don’t recall having any interaction with her during our time at Hampshire. When I finished that chapter, I thought, “Man, I hope she has kids and they give her a big hug today.” Outside of that, the book’s very entertaining. The scenes at the Paris Review offices sound like they were wonderful, although I’m guessing that, had I submitted a resume back in my post-college days, my name would’ve triggered a lack of a callback. (Not that Plimpton was anti-semitic, so much as, um, well, it just sounds like there weren’t many Jews (or black people) working at the Review, is all I’m saying.) Midway through the book, it occurred to me that Plimpton was “Fitzgerald who wanted to be Hemingway.” I thought this was a pretty good insight until I reached the last quarter of the book, where I learned that Plimpton had in the 1990’s adapted Fitzergald and Hemingway’s correspondence into a dramatic dialogue that he performed with Norman Mailer and Mailer’s wife Norris Church (who played Zelda). So I’m no genius. Anyway, it’s a really fantastic book, despite the sadness of the closing years of Plimpton’s life, where it became clear that his devotion to the social sphere had taken its toll on his body (and was part of his inability to be a good husband). Here’s the only passage that I dog-eared:

JAMES SCOTT LINVILLE: The only time I saw George nervous was when he was about to interview Andy Warhol for the magazine. There was something in Warhol’s voice, which had always been so flat, almost inhuman-seeming, but here . . . well, I thought: My God, he really wants George to like him. I realized he’d have had to have been hurt by the Edie book years before, and here he was talking to him. And George, George clearly did not like him, but he was fascinated by him. I suddenly realized these two guys had in some sense studied each other, for decades, how the other fashioned himself in the media — George of course with his effortlessness, the patrician thing, and Warhol . . . well, whatever he was. It was clear they had each paid attention to how the other had moved through some grid of public awareness.

It’s a topic I’d love to spend time writing about, trying to understand these two representative figures and how they shaped our ideas of celebrity. But I’m too busy watching the Balloon Boy story unfold. (Just kidding; I laughed about the story when it first began and devoted zero time to it after that.)

What I’m listening to: Nothing specific; just letting the iPod shuffle away.

What I’m watching: Adventureland (meh), the Yankees (yay!).

What I’m drinking: Not a thing till I’m over this cold.

What Rufus is up to: Wearing his coat when we go out for walks, and making friends at our local dry cleaner. I was a little nervous when the proprietor said, “Greyhounds are very valuable in Korea!” but he didn’t make any comment about how tasty their haunches are, so yay.

Where I’m going: Probably down to suburban Philadelphia, to deliver a TV. Don’t ask. Also have a get-together with a bunch of pals at Peter Luger in Brooklyn on Thursday evening.

What I’m happy about: That my wife’s pal Kate delivered her baby! Welcome, Charlotte!

What I’m sad about: Getting snow on Thursday. And being sick for basically two straight weeks. Grr.

What I’m worried about: Pettitte will have That One Inning this afternoon in Anaheim. You Yankee fans know what I’m talking about.

What I’m pondering: When NJ diners began getting liquor licenses. Was it around the same time they got rid of their jukeboxes?

One Reply to “What It Is: 10/19/09”

  1. Via one of my pals on Facebook:

    Very interesting insights into Plimpton. I had a chance to get to know him, toward the later end of his life. He would come into the White Horse Tavern, where I would join my Village friends of all ages and education levels. Some of them were and are very well read and everyone is and was quite enthusiastic about their specific political thoughts. I was and am, considered the youth in this group. as the ages are now well into their 60’s and 70’s. Classic West Villagers, lifers, so to speak.

    Plimpton would enter the bar, sit quietly and order a beer. Time would go by, everyone knew who he was but did not care. He would gingerly chime in on various subjects from sports to politics to business or current literature, offer a helping hand at the Times crossword being done communally at the bar. He would always come in when it was quiet, only a few of us gathering for our weekend lunches.

    He seemed shy, out of place but wanting to be in place. He was certainly far more well versed at most of the topics discussed but he held back and stumbled on points. We were just a bunch of Village idiots and here was the Paper Lion, seemingly nervous about being near the people who’s interests he wrote about… Perhaps it was his desire to simply listen to these sons of dockworkers of an era gone by but he would engage from time to time as well… He struck me as a nervous sort, on edge and timid.

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