Tuesday, January 7, 2014

The social calendar is mainly empty

A lone taxi on Friday night. The snow is no more as of Monday night. Photo: Jeff Hirsch.
Tuesday, January 7, 2014. The snow’s gone. It was overcast but not very cold – 49/50 – yesterday in New York. Then late afternoon the cold began to move in; still overcast. By mid-evening there were strong icy winds blowing off the river, and the weather man predicted single digit temps.

The New Year has begun but the social calendar is mainly empty until later in the month. A friend reminded me the other day that January’s always the doldrums (in the Northeast with the grey skies and arctic temperatures). A lot of those who can, leave for the warmer climes.

Fine by me (I’m not going anywhere). Plus, like the kid who has an excuse to stay home from school (sniffles), I have a bit of excuse myself (which I’m using with myself). I was going to write about it at the end of last week but JH, my editor took one look at my tale and said: “even Hemingway couldn’t make this interesting.”
The party's over ...
The story: This past New Year’s Eve day I awoke in the morning with sharp gas pains in my intestine. After going through the personal litany of fears (appendix, etc.), I looked it up on Google (“sharp pain, lower left intestine) and it came back with  “diverticulitis.” I knew enough to get myself to the Lisa Perry Emergency Room at New York Hospital down the road a piece.

They treated me very well, ct-scanned and confirmed the diagnosis and six hours later I was released with a bottle of antibiotics just before the bell tolled midnight (and the New Year). It wrecked my New Year’s Eve totally, of course, but who cares, pain’s gone, and I’m still here.

Nothing-on-the-calendar is a two-sided coin for this writer who ideally wishes to deliver a column four or five days a week. A little bit of under-the-weather is a great excuse for no ideas. Nevertheless, getting one out remains the compulsive obsession that drives me in the first place. People are kind enough to ask me how I feel? I feel fine.

Yesterday I went to lunch at Swifty’s with Jean Hanff Korelitz. Before I go any further: Jean, as you may or may not know, is an author. Her novel “Admission” was made into a film released last March starring Tina Fey and Paul Rudd. She has a new novel coming out next month, “You Should Have Known” about a marriage counselor married to a pediatric oncologist at a major cancer hospital, who writes a book by that aforementioned title and discovers her own perfect life with Doctor Right is a mirage.
Paul Muldoon and Jean Hanff Korelitz in their new New York apartment on Riverside Drive. Photo credit: New York Times, Horiko Masuike.
Jean and I were introduced by our distinguished mutual friend Jesse Kornbluth who sent me an email saying something like “You gotta meet this girl, she loves the NYSD and she’s got a great idea.”  There may be some hyperbole garnishing Jesse’s enthusiasm but he never wastes anyone’s time, so when Jean contacted me (she beat me to it), we made this lunch date.

On the first Monday after New Year’s at Swifty’s it’s not exactly bustling. You could almost feel you’re the only one left in town. But it’s nice because it’s quiet and the food’s good. However, this was a  “blind date” since neither of us had ever laid eyes on the other.

I had seen a picture of Jean in the New York Times a couple of weeks ago. She and her husband, the Irish poet Paul Muldoon appeared in an article in the Real Estate Section of the Sunday Times on December 19th, with some photos of their new New York apartment.
Karen Croner, Tina Fey, and Jean Hanff Korelitz on the set of Admission.
The Korelitz-Muldoons had recently moved to a rental apartment on Riverside Drive from a big old house in Princeton. They did this because their young son is attending Fieldston where his mother went when she was a kid. (She’s a Dartmouth grad also .)

I remember seeing the article and reading it although I didn’t connect the woman in the Times with the woman I was about to have lunch with.

Well, it was easy. This is the thing about New York: you can sit down at table with someone you’ve never met before and immediately start learning about each other. Instantly. Jean grew up on the Upper East Side Her father is a gastroenterologist who practices out of Lenox Hill Hospital. Her mother is a therapist (she told her mother the new novel is not about her — I wonder…). She has an older sister.

She and Mr. Muldoon, who is a Pulitzer Prize winning poet, have been living well in Princeton where he holds seminars on poetry (I’m not exactly correct on this fact). They moved to this apartment on the Upper West Side so her son could go to Fieldston. Her daughter is downtown at NYU.
Jean Hanff Korelitz reading from Admission.
That led to discussing books and people and Truman Capote and the Cushing Sisters and eventually led to my telling her about myself, my background, etc.

Finally after a couple hours of this (time flying by) I asked Jean why she wanted to have lunch with me (Jesse had told me and I had forgotten). She had an idea having to do with Books and Book Reading Groups.

I’ve never belonged to a Book Reading Group but they are very popular here in New York. I know people who’ve been meeting for more than 20 years to discuss The Book they are reading. I once sat in on a Book Reading Group discussing John O’Hara’s “Appointment in Samarra,” because I have been an O’Hara fan all my life, and it was very interesting.

Fran Lebowitz happened to be a guest of the group. She said something about O’Hara that describes his place in American literature most succinctly and why I’ve always been drawn to him: (the quote is from memory and may not be exact) – “John O’Hara is the real Scott Fitzgerald of the American century because he wrote about the same decades and about all the classes of that era.”

When Jean Korelitz was living in Princeton, for the past twelve years, she’d run a  “Meet the Author” book group there which she loved. Every month, the author of that month’s selection (novel, memoir, biography or non-fiction work) would attend the meeting with its 25 members in her living room.

The author would explain how his or her book came into being, what twists and turns it encountered along the way, and how its creation had changed its creator.

The conversations that followed were enriched by the author’s thoughts and words. They were funny, sad, surprising and for some, deeply illuminating for others. People walked away from the meetings with a sense of a deepened understanding of writing in general, and that month’s selection in particular. And, they also got a signed copy of the book.

Jean could see that the author’s attendance changed the experience for the group members. People attending came away  enhanced, even in some ways transformed.
All of this led, along with her new life in the city of her birth, to an idea: A service called “Book The Writer.  Here’s her card and the  other side of the card which lists some of the writers here in New York who have agreed to appear at book group meetings.  Will they travel? I don’t know; you’ll have to ask.

The website is up: www.bookthewriter.com. Email address is info@bookthewriter.com. Check it out.
Meanwhile, all you Francophiles out there, and even though who have the palette for it, tomorrow night, Wednesday, January 8th, at 6:30 pm, the French Institute Alliance Francaise (FIAF) and Eric Bedoucha, Executive Pastry chef and Partner of Financier Patisserie, are ringing in la nouvelle annee with a Galette des Rois Celebration.

La Galette des Rois (which literally means “The flat pastry cake of the Kings”) is a cake celebrating the Epiphany. It is traditionally sold and consumed a few days before and after the holiday. Hidden inside is a figurine (la feve) which can represent anything from a car to a cartoon character. The person who finds it in their slice is crowned King for the day and will have to provide the next year’s Galette.

The event will take place at FIAF’s Le Skyroom, 22 East 60th Street (between Park and Madison). Admission is $25 for members and $30 for non-members. For tickets: fiaf.org or 212-355-6160. King for a Day; you never know ...

Contact DPC here.