Wednesday, November 5, 2014

Autumn Escape

Looking northwest across the Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis Reservoir. 2:00 PM.. Photo:JH.
Wednesday, November 5, 2014. Sunny, fair Autumn days at the beginning of the week here in New York.

Election day, yesterday afternoon, I went over to Orsay to have lunch with Hermes Mallea and Carey Maloney, partners in M Group, an architectural and interior design firm here in the City.

Both men are very active in community cultural business as well as their business. Carey, who is an interior designer, published a book called “Stuff” two years ago. It’s a good looking coffee table sized book that is an “interactive guide to collecting, decorating with, and learning about, wonderful and unusual things.” I am not a collector (except accidentally of books and minutiae – just this side of a hoarder). So when I looked through Carey’s book when it came out, I could only think that although I wasn’t one of those who had an eye and a curiosity about these “things,” I know there are a lot of you out there, millions maybe, who are. For you it’s a treasure.

Top: Hermes Mallea and Carey Maloney. Above: Hermes's latest, Escape. Click to order.
Hermes, who is an architect, did a book a couple of years ago called “Great Houses of Havana; a Century of Cuban Style” (Monacelli Press). Hermes is Cuban although he grew up in this country. Americans of the past two , almost three, generations know Cuba only in terms of Castro. But Havana is the oldest city in the Western Hemisphere, created less than a hundred years after Columbus, in the mid-16th century.

It was a rich city of commerce entirely borne of the Spanish culture, the gateway to the developing countries of Latin America as well as the North American cities and settlements. Its grandees were rich and sophisticated and in their prosperity, they expanded their cultural heritage to this fertile, resource-rich island. That legacy endured right up to the middle of the 20th century when Fidel Castro took over. Hermes’ “Great Houses ...” is a tribute to that heritage as well as an introduction to the future.

His new book, “Escape: The Heyday of Caribbean Glamour” – which I hadn’t planned to talk about right now because I’ve only looked at it but not read it – is about the whole Caribbean and its history.

The world knows it now as one of the great, longtime destinations of the 20th century, populated firstly by the rich and famous American and European and followed by the rest of as a kind of getaway in paradise. But Hermes takes us back to the beginning and tells us how it morphed into the tropical paradise and resort destination with its great estates, beach parties, costume balls. It is, in essence, a history of luxurious living. But more on this in another Diary.

This past Monday night was the big social event of the week: The New York Public Library’s Library Lions 2014 Gala. They honored (as Library Lions) Margaret Atwood, Dave Eggers, Kazuo Ishiguro, Robert Silvers, and Anna Deavere Smith.

The dinner is held in the library’s mains branch, the Stephen A. Schwarzman building at 42nd Street and Fifth Avenue.
The main entrance of the Stephen A. Schwarzman Building of the New York Public Library on Monday night with lights greeting the guests for the Library Lions dinner.
The program is traditional. There is a cocktail reception in Astor Hall, the three story high main entrance gallery. The invitation called for 7 o’clock but they were still arriving after 8 PM. At the end of cocktail hour people usually moved to the Rose Main Reading Room except there was an accident in this majestic public space that David Monn and Gayfryd Steinberg have usually turned into a fantastic wonderland. Their work is always the substitute for “entertainment” at this dinner. So this year, the “Awards” part of the evening which precedes the dinner, was held also in the Astor Hall.
Guests in the Astor Hall listening to Library President Anthony Marx's opening address.
It is “A” List philanthropy in New York in present day New York, like the Central Park Conservancy, the Metropolitan Opera, the New York Philharmonic, Carnegie Hall, and it is co-chaired by a group who produce results that make the difference. This year the dinner raised $2.4 million, with 415 guests in attendance.

The co-chairs for the evening were: Mr. and Mrs. Oscar de la Renta, HRH Princess Firyal, Mr. and Mrs. Donald Marron, Mr. Bayo Ogunlesi and Dr. Amelia Ogunlesi, Mr. and Mrs. John Paulson, Mr. and Mrs. Stephen A. Schwarzman, Mr. James S. Tisch and The Honorable Merryl H. Tisch, Mr. and Mrs. Edgar Wachenheim III and Mrs. John L. Weinberg.  As the world knows, Oscar de la Renta died two weeks ago at his home in Kent, Connecticut. Anthony Marx in opening the evening spoke of the late designer and his and his wife’s contribution to the Library, and announced the evening honored him.
Anthony Marx presenting this year's Library Lions to the guests. The following are images I took of videos of interviews with the awardees.
Anna Deavere Smith, actress, playwright, author and professor.
Robert B. Silvers, editor of the New York Review of Books. Mr. Silvers and the late Barbara Epstein founded the semi-monthly magazine with publisher A. Whitney Ellsworth and writer Elizabeth Hardwick. The magazine's birth in 1963 was a result of the then current New York printers' strike when six daily newspapers had to suspend publication. It was during that time that Elizabeth Hardwick and her husband Robert Lowell, and Barbara Epstein and her husband Jason Epstein, then a vice president of Random House, grasped the moment to start a new "book review" magazine. To edit, they turned to Mr. Silvers who had been an editor of the Paris Review and Harper's magazine. On my birthday in 1964, a friend of mine gave me a subscription. In the 50 years since, it remains the one publication that I feel compelled to open as soon as it arrives, and I've never been disappointed for what it offers which is what the Library offers: a learning experience.
I've never seen Margaret Atwood before -- on screen or in person. She is a woman who has an insatiable appetite for information and learning. She is a lady of the internet, reading all kinds of sites for insight, information and curiosity satisfaction. (Naturally when I heard this, I wondered if she read the NYSD. I never found out.) She has a common sense, down-home quality that enhances both her wisdom and her humorous sense of irony.
Dave Eggers talks about his work and life in San Francisco and his relationship to the library.
Kazuo Ishiguro, author of "Remains of the Day," among his novels, talked about learning, the library and his education and upbringing that left him with an English accent and a powerful sense of contemporary aristocracy among other British phenomena. He recalled with amusement how people, seeing he was Asian, couldn't understand why he sounded so British.
The Library Lions of 2014 -- top row: Robert B. Silvers, Anna Deavere Smith; bottom row: Kazuo Ishiguro, Dave Eggers, and Margaret Atwood.
A closeup of the medals: Silvers, Ishiguro, Eggers, Atwood, President Marx, and Anna Deavere Smith.
The late Brooke Astor who was also a writer and a reader, was a major proponent in the Library’s development in the last quarter of the last century. It was her presence and influence that gathered many new philanthropic offerings that are still active today, as well as stimulating interest in promoting the use of the Library’s vast and priceless collections – which are available to any and all who come to the Library in their work or curiosity to learn. Its Board of Trustees number 60 including the Chairman Neil Rudenstine and two Vice-Chairmen – Evan Chester and Abby S. Milstein.

In his opening remarks, Mr. Marx spoke of the “unprecedented numbers of students (in New York) who haven’t had access to after-school activities, delivering enriching experiences that include customized homework help and skill-building through one-on-one and group tutoring in reading, writing, math, and other subjects.”  As computer literacy continues to grow, they are increasing and improving technology training and expanding online access for the one-third of all New Yorkers who lack an internet connection at home. Mr. Marx also pointed out that the Library is visited by 20 million people a year, more than any other institution or sports team in New York. It is a living testament to the joy of learning, and its necessity to our future.
Astor Hall right after the award ceremony is over.
The hall, taken from the grand staircase of the guests dispensing for the stairs and the elevators to their dinner places on the second and third floors. And then at the end of the evening as guests were leaving and/or gathering in the Hall for the authors' booksignings (books came in the goodie bags).
Clockwise from above left:

Margaret Atwood signing.

Kazuo Ishiguro signing the paperback copy of his famous "Remains of the Day."

Anna Deavere Smith signing her "Twilight; Los Angeles 1992."
The long table set on the gallery of the second floor balcony.
The Edna Barnes Salomon Room on the third floor awaiting the guests.
The McGraw Rotunda on the third floor.
Anthony Appiah, Sandy Rose, and Bud Trillin. Robert B. Silvers and Princess Firyal of Jordan.
Howard Dodson, Carol Alexander, and Khalil and Stephanie Muhammad.
Nana Smith and James Milliken. Rikki and NYC Police Commissioner Bill Bratton.
Khalil Muhammad with Karen and Philip Berry.
Jared Kushner and Ivanka Trump. Binky Urban and Esther Fein.
Hilary Ross Geary and Christy Ferer.
Tony Marx, Tom Wolfe, and Ray Kelly.
Andrew and Zibby Right with Lisa Blau.
Renee Fleming. Chris and Beth Kojima.
Abby and Howard Milstein.
Kathy Rayner and Joan Hardy Clark in conversation with DPC.
Merryl Tisch, Iris Weinshal, and Abby Millstein.
Dave Eggers talking to the master Tom Wolfe.
Tony Marx, Howard and Abby Milstein, and Sila Calderon.
Adam and Mehmaz Bartos with Senator Schumer.
Ben Brantley and Louise Grunwald.
Tom Wolfe, Lynn Nesbit, and Princess Firyal.
Brendan and Catherine Shanahan, Debra and Dan Alpert, Dom and Anna Maida, Sally Klingenstein Martell, Monique Millane, and Curtis ter Kuile.
Michael Shnayerson and Gayfryd Steinberg.
Tony Marx, Sue Wachenheim, Joanne Matthews, Ed Wachenheim, and Norman Matthews.
Jssseye Norman.

Contact DPC here.