Monday, April 25, 2016

Jill Krementz covers Andrew Solomon's "Far & Away"

All travel has its advantages, Samuel Johnson wrote. If the passenger visits better countries, he may learn to improve his own, and if fortune carries him to worse, he may learn to enjoy it. I had started traveling out of curiosity, but I have come to believe in travel's political importance, that encouraging a nation's citizenry to travel may be as important as encouraging school attendance, environmental conservation, or national thrift.
— Andrew Solomon
Far & Away
Reporting from the Brink of Change:
Seven Continents, Twenty-Five Years

A Publication Party Honoring Andrew Solomon
April 26, 2016

Andrew with his skydiving instructor.
Up Up and Away.
Andrew Solomon is a generous genius. He has the ability to share his life — be it his lifelong serious battle with depression (The Noonday Demon) or his exploration of parenting children who are profoundly different and likely to be stigmatized (Far the Tree). He has written extensively about his life as a gay man, his marriage to John Habich, and the uniquely unconventional manner they have been able to father four children.

His latest book, Far and Away: Reporting from the Brink of Change: Seven Continents, Twenty Five Years, is a compilation of his essays around the globe — Russia, China, Antarctica, Romania, Libya and South Africa — to name only a few of his far flung destinations.

In his introduction, Andrew quotes his late mother telling him, "you should always travel as if you would return; if you thought you were making your sole visit anywhere, you would try to see everything and therefore wouldn't really see anything."

Andrew has followed his mother's advice and we are the beneficiaries of his intimate encounters, his laser-like insight into contemporary varied communities, and for his invariable wisdom about the people he has encountered.

It was a pleasure to celebrate the book's publication at a party held in the recently renovated Gottesman Hall at The New York Public Library.

John Habich and Andrew Solomon, who married in 2007.

John's silk jacket Andrew brought back from Myanmar, was designed by John Schneeman. Andrew's jacket was designed by Hardy Amies from silk purchased by Andrew in Shanghai from Chinese designer Han Feng.
Three out of four of John and Andrew's children: Blaine, George, and Oliver. Their fourth child Lucy was off on a school camping trip.
Andrew with his stepmother Sarah BIllinghurst and his father Howard Solomon. Ms. Billinghurst and Mr. Solomon hosted the party.
Music was provided by The Art String Quarter.
Andrew greeting Nancy Novogrod who as the former editor of Travel & Leisure assigned him to write stories from all over the world — Africa, China and Mozambique. Agent Andrew Wylie, who represents Andrew.
Nan Graham, Andrew's editor at Scribners.
Ariadne Calvo-Platero, Deeda Blair, and Cathy Graham. When the quartet played a Vienesse waltz, Paul Holdengräber and John Habich found their Dancing with the Stars inner selves.
The food, catered by Daniel Boulud, included oysters on the half shell and mini chocolate mousses.
Camille Massey is the founding executive Director of the Sorensen Center for International Peace and Justice.
Tony Marx, President of The New York Public Library. Diana and Roy Vagelos, retired CEO of Merck & Co. The couple is now very involved with both Columbia and Barnard.
Ebullient Author

Carrie Barratt, Deputy Director of the Met Museum (where Andrew is a trustee). Ms. Barratt is wearing vintage Gaultier.
Andrew, Bettina Zilkha, and Roy Vagelos listening as Tony Marx welcomes guests to the recently renovated Gottesmann Hall.

Andrew escorting his father to the podium.
"I am Howard Solomon, proud father of Andrew, and I thought I would share with you my perspective of Far and Away, which is perhaps a little different even from the author's perspective.

'Far and Away, in some ways, contrasts with Andrew's three great earlier books — The Noonday Demon, Far From the Tree, and A Stone Boat, his deeply personal remembrance of his mother. But it is also a continuation of these earlier books. Far and Away is about Andrew's travel experiences to so many different and exciting parts of the world, full of insights that are fascinating, sometimes wistful and profound. But it also is based on perceptions that are the essential subject matter of his earlier books. Andrew cannot write trivia; if Andrew were writing about crossing the George Washington Bridge, he would make the trip full of brilliant insights."

Andrew takes the stage: "There is no world view so dangerous as the world view of those who have not seen the world."

Bill Beekman and Hope Winthrop.
Nan Graham and Howard Solomon.
Two pharmaceutical giants: Howard Solomon and Roy Vagelos.

Jane Mendelsohn with her husband, filmmaker Nick Davis. Nick produced the video that was projected after Andrew's remarks showing Andrew on his round-the-world travel expeditions. Jane's latest novel, Burning Down The House, was recently published by Knopf.
Andrew's Agent Andrew Wylie and his Editor Nan Graham. Camille Massey and her longtime love, artist Gillie Holme.
Salman Rushdie and Joan Juliet Buck.

Salman's blurb on the dust jacket is worth noting:

"This is a beautiful book, inspired by love of 'away' and uncertainty about 'home,' a celebration of freedom which invaluably warns that freedom must sometimes be learned. Much more than 'travel writing,' it's a portrait of our world, made by someone who has been there."
Bettina Zilkha is a columnist for Forbes Magazine. Amy Fine Collins wearing Bibhu Mohapatra. Ms. Collins is perched on one of 20 French period style bergére chairs provided by the host and his event planner.
George Solomon time travelling on comfy cushions.

In addition to the 20 French period chairs, there were eight modern sofas scattered around the room. I love hosts who add these special touches when they entertain.

Tony Marx and Andrew Solomon. Overheard — Tony to Andrew: "Thanks for making the room look so beautiful. I hope you'll leave all the furniture."
Dan Buettner and Beatrix Ost. Mr. Buettner's bestselling Blue Zones books focus on the world's longest-lived peoples.

Ms. Ost, known for her sense of style, is the author of My Father's House: A Childhood in Wartime Bavaria.
John Habich and Ivana Lowell. Painter Cornelia Foss and her son Christopher Foss.
Jackie Roth, a real-estate agent with Douglas Elliman, is legally deaf but fluent in English as well as ASL. Jackie was among the subjects of Andrew's last book, Far From the Tree, in which she talked about her experience bridging the worlds of deafness and hearing.

Mary Krueger of Carmona Design. Mary planned the food, brought in all the furniture and filled 12 large urns with 10,000 peonies, gloriosa, poppies, viburnum and four different kinds of garden roses. She has designed all of Andrew's parties with flare and great taste. The best in the business.
The Art String Quartet before packing up their instruments and going home: Mikhail Kuchuk (violin), Stan Orlovsky (cello), Alexander Abayev (violin), and Boris Deviatov (viola).
Rema Parachini, the mother of one of George Solomon's first-grade friends. Guests were encouraged to bring home a few flowers from the bountiful bouquets. Roy and Diana Vagelos leaving with their party favors.
Happy Husbands at the end of a wonderful evening.

Text and photographs © by Jill Krementz: all rights reserved. Contact Jill Krementz here.