Autumn: Arts & Letters


While most publish summer reads, I hew towards autumn and winter for literary sustenance or what I think of as “cozy” reads since in most parts of the world the weather provides its own sweet accompaniment. I ask you — what is more pleasurable than idling in a big overstuffed chair or reclining like the king’s favored odalisque on a long luxuriant chaise with a log smoldering in the fireplace, a mug of warmth tempered with a dash of spirited fortitude and a tumultuous wind billowing through the rafters sending the last of the season’s dying leaves skyward.

Readers often talk of the ‘guilty pleasures’ of reading, bemoaning its addictive qualities that seemingly prevent you from living a life, any life, including your own. I have lost whole days following another’s tale of woe and/or wonderment and am the better for it, although our culture of achievement can, oftentimes, admonish for the simple joys of reading for reading’s sake. But evidence mounts that all is changing.

I just learned, for example, NPR now has a feature called My Guilty Pleasure, where writers are free to talk about the books they love without ridicule or embarrassment. Case in point: Real Men Read (And Love) Stephenie Meyer’s ‘Twilight’ series. Authors are interviewed not only about books they have written but about what they like to read for their own pleasure. It’s eye opening. Especially to discover they like to read the same things we do.

My choices are combed from everywhere. Other blogs I read, reviews I scan in newspapers, topics of interest I’m drawn to from posts I create here. There is no theme as my tastes in books are as eclectic as my interests in life. I can readily enjoy a well written memoir like Manhattan Memoir by Mary Cantwell to a Gothic classic, The Woman in White by Wilkie Collins to the impressively researched Capote: A Biography by Gerald Clarke. When it comes to literary pursuits, I’m easily captivated; “A cheap date,” my beloved might say.

Maybe you’ll find something here to spend a little time with in the days and weeks ahead or, if you’re of a mind, maybe you’d like to suggest a few discoveries of your own.


The Private World of Yves St. Laurent and Pierre Berge
Robert Murphy and Ivan Terestchenko
Vendome Press, 2009


The Letters of Noel Coward
Noel Coward, Edited: Barry Day
Vintage, 2009


Mad World: Evelyn Waugh and the Secrets of Brideshead
Paula Byrne
Harper, 2010


Memories of Montparnasse
John Glassco
NYRB Classics, 2007


The Beautiful Fall:
Fashion, Genius and Glorious Excess in 1970s Paris

Alicia Drake
Back Bay Books, 2007


A Short Walk from Harrods (Autobiography)
Dirk Bogarde
Viking, 1995


Lucile: London, Paris, New York and Chicago
Valerie D. Mendes
V&A Publishing, 2009


La Foce: A Garden and Landscape in Tuscany
Origo, Olin, Hunt and Livingston
University of Pennsylvania Press, 2001


A Day with Picasso
Billy Kluver
MIT Press, 1999


In This House of Brede
Rumer Goddin and Phyllis Tickle
Loyola Press, 2005


Down and Out in Paris and London
George Orwell
Mariner, 1972


Memoirs of a Bastard Angel
Harold Norse


The Worlds of Lincoln Kerstein
Martin Duberman
Northwestern University Press, 2008


The Marchesa Casati
Scot D. Ryersson and Michael Orlando Yaccarino
Abrams, 2009


Clouds: The Biography of a Country House
Dr. Caroline Dackers
Yale University Press, 1993


Stormy Weather: The Life of Lena Horne
James Gavin
Atria, 2009



~ by eaesthete on 09/21/09.

8 Responses to “Autumn: Arts & Letters”

  1. This is such an inviting collection -I have read Down and Out in Paris and London, which was very good indeed. Otherwise, these are inviting adventures. Reading is one of my greatest and most private pleasures…

  2. Just today, I was chastised for not having read Waugh’s Brideshead (unbelievable, you say). It is time! Thank you for the inspiration….

  3. Kindle and Facebook and MAD MEN aside, there is still no greater indulgence than a great book. I have made a promise to myself to re-prioritize and carve out time to lose myself in words and dreams; I love the feel of an actual book, the texture of pages with ink. MEMOIRS OF A BASTARD ANGEL leaps off the page to me. Such an irresistible title.

  4. Who are you? What a comprehensive and illuminating list. Maybe we just share the same love of history, place and colorful characters, but this lineup could have been written by me.

    I might add The Bolter. Just finished it — fabulous. And I’m looking forward to The World in Vogue: People, Parties, Places.

    • Two great additions. Thank you!

      I, too, loved The Bolter. Idina Sackville is eminently quotable
      and I’m sure to be referencing her often. The World in Vogue looks quite good as well.

  5. I’m in the thick of “The Moon’s a Balloon” by David Niven. I bet his cocktail conversation was better than the lines he was often given. (Forget who said that about him.)

    Would love to read “Mad World” and “Down and Out…” Will get around to them one day. Given the way and nature of my work, concentrating on reading a single work (without jumping around the rabbit holes of the internet) is becoming increasingly more difficult. Reading, relishing reading, I find to be good discipline.

    • Oh E –

      I love David Niven! Thank you for reminding me of that book. It’s wonderful!
      I read it years ago, but would love to go another round on it. He was the greatest
      of guys. I believe he was a very good friend of Dominick Dunne’s at one time.
      (Dunne was VP of Four Star Productions, which was owned by Niven, Dick Powell,
      and Charles Boyer). For some reason, it stays in my mind that when
      Dunne’s marriage ended in divorce, I remember reading that Niven
      (like the good friend he was) helped him through it.

      On another note, I know what you mean about jumping around the
      “rabbit holes.” I’m having the same problem focusing on reading.
      Could it be a conspiracy to dumb us down or perhaps increase sales for
      ADD medication?

  6. May I add The Elegance of the Hedgehog by Muriel Barbery and her earlier work Gourmet Rhapsody… and, bon appetit!

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