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Recommendations

In unison. Photo: JH.
Wednesday, June 13, 2012. Rainy days in New York. If not raining, then often cloudy, all of which means cooler weather; much preferred to the summer heat and humidity that will come our way sooner or later.

Quieter on the social calendar too, but not entirely for this is New York after all.  Also, feeling under the weather – a creeping-up-on-me cold or sinus condition – I was frankly too tired to go much. And so I missed a “Cocktails and Conversation” hosted by Brooke Neidich  and Dr. Harold Koplewicz at Paola’s restaurant on Madison and 92nd Street. Dr. Koplewicz, who is the President and Founder (along with Mrs. Neidich) spoke on the Institute’s progress and what they are doing that is important to every young family.

Tahitian pearl, fresh water pearl, carved yellow sapphire leaf, carved pink and green tourmaline snail and Diamond earrings, from Christopher Walling.
The Child Mind Institute is dedicated to transforming the mental health care of children everywhere – a big undertaking being  made by the undaunted. They are committed to finding more effective treatments for childhood psychiatric and learning disorders, building the science of healthy brain development, and empowering children and their families with the information they need to get help, have hope and find answers. To learn more, visit childmind.org.

At the same hour, down on East 65th Street, my friend Christopher Walling was showing new collection of his jewelry designs  “to celebrate summer” at Baby Jane Holzer’s house. For all those girls looking for something beautifully spectacular for those chic dinners on summer nights in Nantucket, Aspen, or Southampton (and all the other Hamptons).

Me, feeling the way I did, I forsook all and kept a long standing date with a couple of old friends for an early dinner.

One of our loyal NYSD readers who knows how much I covet books and saw the piece I did last week on the Hollander Landscape design book which I recommended as a gift for dear old Dad on Father’s Day, asked if I had any other recommendations. Do I ever.

Of course, I’m a compulsive book-shopper, and when people ask me what I’d like for a gift (on Christmas or birthdays, for example), I always pipe up: “A Book!” so I had to pare it down some. But there are only four more days left before the big day.

Yesterday afternoon I stopped by Archivia for a book glutton’s look at what I’d love to get (if I were a father and don’t already have it), and so here are the recommendations:

“Alnwick Castle; The Home of the Duke and Duchess of Northumberland” by James McDonald.  I’ve loved castles since I was a kid and never lost the fascination. This is a beautiful book, a look-see, and amazing considering that a young family/heir still occupies it.

Alnwick (pronounced ann-ick) is a medieval castle located in Northumberland, England’s most northern county, set by the River Aln on the edge of Alnwick town and a land of ancient market towns, golden beaches, moorland, and the remains of Hadrian's Wall. Capability Brown was its landscape architect in the 18th century and it has been the home of the Northumberland dukes (Percy is the family name) for more than 700 years. It is one of the largest inhabited castles in Britain, was used as 'Hogwarts' in the first two Harry Potter movies, in case it looks familiar. visited by Hundreds of thousands of people visit every summer, although very few until now have seen the private rooms.

McDonald was given great access to both castle and family archives, so the reader gets a grand tour. Then there’s the family history – compelling for those us who like history (I already own the book). The author goes behind the scenes to talk to those who help make the castle function as a home for a modern family. He also visits both the amazing garden and the surrounding Hulne park. The focus is the story of Jane Northumberland, who since becoming Duchess in 1995, who has remade the private side of the castle, and has renovated the state rooms, blending English country house style with its existing Italianate grandeur. Illustrated with archive pictures and more than 200 new photographs, the book is a sumptuous look as well as a revealing portrait of a great castle with a magnificent recent restoration.

Then if Dad is an art collector or an aspiring one, or even just a dedicated spectator, there’s “A Curator’s Quest, Building the Museum of Modern Art’s Painting and Sculpture Collection, 1967 - 1988” by William Rubin and with introduction by Richard Oldenburg.”

Rubin is the distinguished curator, critic, collector, art historian, and teacher who was a force for more than two decades at MoMA from the late 60s through the 1980s. It’s the story of the professional life of a pioneering curator who built the Modern's unparalleled collection, and a history of MoMA itself during that key period.

Also: “Avedon Murals and Portraits.” The name Richard Avedon is about the influence in the course of photography in the decades following the 1960s and early 1970s. There are four monumental photographic murals (reproduced in large gatefolds) and many related portraits, including Andy Warhol’s Factory, with Viva and Candy Darling; as well as Abbie Hoffman and the Chicago Seven; Allen Ginsberg’s family, friends, and fellow artists; and the U.S. Mission Council in Saigon including searing portraits of victims of the Vietnam War.

The book also contains images of archival material, including the photographer’s diaries, correspondence, and contact prints. Major essays explore his incursions into the history and spirit of these tumultuous years. Very thorough,.

Another choice: “Passage to Power; The Years of Lyndon Johnson” by Robert Caro: If Dad’s a serious reader of contemporary 20th century history, he won’t be able to resist Carol’s  4th volume of his stupendous biography of LBJ.  I got a taste of it a few weeks ago when a part was serialized in the New Yorker and I couldn’t stop reading until finished.

Then for those political mavens and serious historians, there’s Quintus Tullius Cicero’s “HOW TO WIN AN ELECTION; An Ancient Guide for Modern Politicians” an ancient Roman guide for campaigning that reads like tomorrow's headlines. In 64 BC when the author’s idealist brother, Marcus Cicero, Rome's greatest orator, ran for consul (the highest office in the Republic), practical brother Quintus decided he needed some no-nonsense advice.

What follows are timeless bits of political wisdom, from the importance of promising everything to everybody and reminding voters about the sexual scandals of your opponents to being a chameleon, putting on a good show for the masses, and constantly surrounding yourself with rabid supporters.

A little-known classic in the spirit of Machiavelli's “Prince,” “How to Win….” should be required reading for politicians and everyone who watches them manipulate their way into office.

Now if Dear Old Dad much prefers to get away from it all and take off into a novel, there’s Chris Buckley’s “THEY EAT PUPPIES, DON'T THEY?” about a Washington lobbyist “Bird” McIntyre attempts to gain congressional approval for a top-secret weapons system, and teams up with sexy, outspoken neo-con Angel Templeton to pit the American public against the Chinese. When he fails to find a good reason to slander the nation, he and Angel put the Washington media machine to work spreading a rumor that the Chinese secret service is working to assassinate the Dalai Lama.

As things unravel abroad, Bird and Angel's lie comes dangerously close to reality. And as their relationship rises to a new level, so do mounting tensions between the United States and China.

Or, there’s Alan Furst’s MISSION TO PARIS: A novel” which takes place in Paris in 1938. Furst, who’s often praised as the best spy novelist ever, has written a novel that’s hard for aficionados of the genre to put down. There are beautifully drawn scenes of romance and intimacy, and a story alive with extraordinary characters: the Hollywood movie star Fredrick Stahl, in Paris to make a film,  German Baroness von Reschke, a famous hostess deeply involved in clandestine Nazi operations; assassins Herbert and Lothar; the Russian film actress and spy Olga Orlova; the Hungarian diplomat and spy, Count Janos Polanyi; along with the French cast of Stahl’s movie, German film producers, and the women in movie star’s life, the socialite Kiki de Saint-Ange and the émigré Renate Steiner. 

At the center is the city of Paris, its alleys and bistros, hotels grand and anonymous, and the Parisians, living every night as though it was their last. Furst brings to life both a dark time in history and the passion of the human hearts that fought to survive it.

And if your Pop has a natural bent towards the kitchen and gastronomic fervor, there’s the ultimate: “RIPE A Cook in the Orchard” by Nigel Slater. Mr. Slater, who is Britain’s foremost foodwriter  returns to the garden in this sequel to “Tender,” his acclaimed volume on vegetables. With a focus on fruit, “Ripe” is a cookbook, a primer on produce and gardening, and an affectionate ode to the inspiration behind the book --- Slater’s forty-foot backyard garden in London. Delicate prose interwoven with delicious recipes and lavishly photographed.

There are more than 300 delectable dishes--both sweet and savory--such as Apricot and Pistachio Crumble, Baked Rhubarb with Blueberries, and Crisp Pork Belly with Sweet Peach Salsa. The author has a personal, almost confessional approach to his appetites and gustatory experiences, and presents them in a masterful book that will guide your dad from garden to kitchen, and back again, even without ever leaving his easy chair on this Big Day.

And one last special, very special, beautifully photographed, bound and encased “RUCCI,” the autobiography of America’s greatest contemporary couturier Ralph Rucci. You might think Mom, not Dad would be most interested in a story of a fashion designer’s life, as I did before I got the book – which is soon to be a collector’s item because of its fascinating construction and content, but Ralph Rucci tells his life story in photographs. He’s a man whose life is his work, his home in his work and his genius is detailed handsomely in this amazing volume. How does a photographic book become autobiography? Only Ralph Rucci the master of the visual can explain. And rather than explain, he shows us. It’s a treasure and a keeper.

Okay, there are lots of other books I saw yesterday at my favorite local book emporium, but the aforementioned are all no-brainers when it comes to thought, beauty, sensitivity and giving your Pop some quiet moments to enjoy, reflect and consider in peace. See for yourself, and give him a Happy Father’s Day to keep and remember. All can be found today at Archivia, 993 Lexington Avenue between 72nd and 71st. 212-570-9565.
 

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© 2013 David Patrick Columbia & Jeffrey Hirsch/NewYorkSocialDiary.com