Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Spring Revel

Passing schoolchildren. 2:30 PM. Photo: JH.
Wednesday, April 4, 2012. Another beautiful Spring day in New York.

Today we welcome Liz Smith to the New York Social Diary. I’ve been a fan of Liz’s since before I knew her name – when she wrote the Cholly Knickerbocker column for Igor Cassini’s byline in the old New York Journal-American.

She was my inspiration for a column since I started writing the Diary almost two decades ago in Quest magazine. The factor of inspiration: her seemingly unlimited knowledge about New York life in terms of Broadway, culture, and society, as well as a strong connection to Hollywood; and her approach to the subject. She’s canny and smart, but she’s nice. She sheds a bright and good light on people and their work. She’s not naïve but she’s not armed with attitude either. She’s been very generous to me and JH in promoting our work on the NYSD. So we are very honored to have the pleasure of her contribution. Welcome aboard, Liz!!
East 83rd Street looking west from East End Avenue.
And more pear trees on the Upper West Side.
Yesterday in New York. I went down to Le Cirque where Diana Feldman and Topsy Taylor hosted a small birthday lunch for our friend Charlotte Ford. Charlotte’s sister Anne, and her daughter Elena were also on hand.

I hadn’t got over to Le Cirque in awhile, and rarely at lunch. Big crowd and with many lingering. I had the Smoked Salmon and Le Cirque salad which is one of the best in town. When it came time for the cake, Sirio sent over five different choices. Anne had just finished telling me about a lecture she heard about sugar and how you shouldn’t. Shouldn’t what? Shouldn’t eat it.

Charlotte Ford, Topsy Taylor, and Diana Feldman.
This point of view is not new but always alarming, as is any dietary news when it comes to what you like to eat. Anne is one of those people who has never had a big yen for sugar. Neither had Topsy. I don’t know about Elena who had to go back to work before they arrived at table, but Charlotte, Diana and I went at it.

Elena Ford, who lives in Detroit and works for Ford Motor, was in town for the Auto Show and her mother’s birthday. Today is the big preview for the press for the Show, over at the Javits Center. If you’ve never been, don’t miss it. Like sugar, the romance of the auto starts pulsating in your psyche and your tour the exhibition, and you wish you owned “one of those.” Ford is unveiling a new Lincoln at the Show.

Le Cirque’s founder/owner, Sirio Maccioni is celebrating a birthday tomorrow (April 5th). I know Sirio’s already sailed past eighty, but I don’t know which number this one is. I also know it doesn’t matter to him: word is that he’s opening another restaurant in the next few months in the Pierre. More details on that coming soon.
A nostalgic reminder at Paris Review's annual “Spring Revel." The tables' center pieces were old pre-electric typewriters. This one is an Olivetti, circa 1960.
Last night at Cipriani 42nd Street, The Paris Review held its annual “Spring Revel.”  This is a big party and very special New York. All those writers and editors and publishers and agents and fans wining and dining en masse. There were several hundred in the hall but it still seemed cozy. It might be because it’s a very “expressive” crowd. Conversations abounding. All ages and types, from the business-suited and the Marian-the-Librarian editor, to the hipsters, the social lions, the lawyers and their girlfriends, boyfriends, and spouses of every stripe. Many friends and familiar faces. Many prominent authors who would miss anything but this.

It’s a fund-raiser, and this year they raised a record amount – whatever that is, I don’t know. A band called the Slavic Soul Society from somewhere out in Dixieland played with an oom-pah pah and horns. Very good background music for hundreds of talkers libating and glad to be there. Cocktails started at 7 and ended about 8:30 when everyone was finally at his or her table, if not sitting.
The crowd last night, from one end of the Cipriani 42nd Street hall to the other, with the Slavic Soul Society performing on stage.
Then came the awards. This is basically the program. No performances (save the SSS), no dancing. Just the Cipriani dinner which you’d probably send back if it were served in the restaurant (they’re ready for a fresh menu over there, including the rolls).

The Paris Review was founded – in Paris – in 1953 by Tom Guinzburg, Harold L. Humes, Peter Matthiessen, and George Plimpton. Mr. Matthiessen was there last night taking it all in, enjoying the camaraderie. William Styron wrote the letter to the reader in the front of the first edition, explaining their mission. “The Paris Review hopes to emphasize creative work – fiction and poetry – not to the exclusion of criticism ... but putting it pretty much where it belongs, i.e., somewhere near the back of the book. I think The Paris Review should welcome these people into its pages: the good writers and good poets, the non-drumbeaters and the non-axe-grinders. So long as they’re good.” (Rose Styron was present last night also.)

Since then, the Review  has first published many well known writers and poets, as well as many works that have since been anthologized. So they’ve succeeded, but more than that, almost sixty years later, their numbers are growing and are now the highest they’ve ever been.
Cecile David-Weill, Betty Kramer, and Caroline Weber. Gayfryd Steinberg and Sarah Simms Rosenthal.
Joanie McDonell and Jesse Kornbluth. Erica Jong with Toni and James Goodale.
Last night they presented the Plimpton Prize for Fiction ($10,000) to Amie Barrodale, with Mona Simpson (first published in TPR) presenting. The Terry Southern Prize for Humor ($5000) was awarded to Adam Wilson, presented in absentia by David Cross who recorded it on his wife’s iPhone which she held up to the mike and played for the audience. It was very funny, all about how he didn’t think humorous books were funny, etc. Mr. Wilson then accepted the award acknowledging the shortcomings of his work and himself, evoking more laughter.

Then Chris Hughes, the new editor of The New Republic toasted Robert Silvers, the co-founder of the New York Review of Books (with the late Barbara Epstein).  Mr. Silvers  was then presented the Hadada Award which is presented annually to a “distinguished member of the writing community who has made a strong and unique contribution to literature.”  The Hadada, incidentally is a large bird (Hadeda) found in South Africa which has a “distinctively loud and recognizable haa-haa-haa-de-dah that is often heard when the birds are flying or are startled, hence the name.” I think Plimpton came up with it for this award.
Writer/Humorist Adam Wilson accepting his Terry Southern Prize for Humor. Zadie Smith introducing Robert Silvers.
Robert Silvers recounting his beginnings with the then new Paris Review. The Paris Review's editor Lorin Stein.
Mr. Silvers, if you did not know, is one of the lions of the international literary community, and deservedly. The New York Review of Books which is published twice a month (and once a month in summer) is my favorite periodical. I’ve been a subscriber since its early days in the 1960s and it remains the one magazine that I want to read as soon as I see it in my mailbox. It’s a literary magazine whose edit centers mainly on books and authors. But for me it has the pertinence of a weekly news magazine in its editorial focus. You learn and you think as you read, not to mention the pleasure of good writers.
A good old Underwood, the prize of an executive secretary and her assistant.
An early Smith-Corona, which was one of the major typewriter manufacturers. The first typewriter I ever owned was a Smith-Corona portable.
I never heard of this one, but it's a good portable, probably circa 1955.
Last night in his acceptance, Robert Silvers told us how it all began for him when he was a young man working for NATO in Paris. One day at a leisure moment, he came upon The Paris Review. So impressed, he paid a call on George Plimpton with whom he became a (lifelong) friend. In time he became a managing editor. Returning to New York, in the early 1960s when the city’s papers were struck, he and Mrs. Epstein started the NYRB. It has prospered ever since and has great influence on writers as well as publishers, as well as public opinion.

Last night the man acknowledged the many people who have contributed and influenced his career as an editor/publisher. The audience was rapt as he recounted the story of the path he took. Respect and admiration filled the room. All that New York energy set still to listen. Pleasure very personal and yet shared by all.
The Paris Review Print Series was born in 1964. This was a new one by artist Donald Baechler, 2012, Limited edition, $3,000. In 1964, a gift from Drue Heinz enabled The Paris Review to commission a series of prints by major contemporary artists. Among the ealry contributors were Andy Warhol, Robert Rauschenberg, Helen Frankenthaler and Robert Motherwell. Later contributors included Louise Bourgeois, Ed Ruscha, William Bailey. Many of the original prints are still available for purchase. to inquire visit or call 212-343-1333.

Photographs by DPC.

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