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Wednesday, April 30, 2014

More reading, great finds at the thrift store

Since finishing my last round of reading I embarked on a new phase to re-read some of the books that I have enjoyed but don't want to keep forever.  I made a trip to Savers in Anaheim; hardbound books are $1.99 and I found three that spoke to me.  Monster by John Gregory Dunne, Pentimento, one of Lillian Hellman's three memoirs, and the Sterile Cuckoo by John Nichols.  I have read several of Joan Didion's novels and John Gregory Dunne was her husband and the brother of Dominic Dunne whose writing I enjoy.  Monster chronicled the couple's days as screenwriters in Hollywood in the 80s, and particularly on a couple of movies that took years to make and a multitude of re-writes by them and others.  I then read "The Hemingway Women," which is one of the books I bought for background  on Hemingway and the literati in early Paris when working on my senior thesis at Chapman University.  Hemingway was married 4 times and this went into more detail about wives two through four than "The Paris Wife."  Talk about difficult to live with; just when his wives thought everything was grand, he spies a younger, more exciting woman and drops everything and everyone to pursue her.  The next book I finished was Pentimento, one of Lillian Hellmann's memoirs.  In addition to being a novelist, she was also a screenwriter and her life and those of some of the other women I have been reading about blended in New York (and Hollywood) in the first half of the 20th century.  I already had another of her memoirs, "Scoundrel Time," and read that next.  It chronicles her experience and those of friends and partner, Dashiell Hammett, during the time of the House of Unamerican Activities hearings (McCarthy era) and how it affected writers and screenwriters (and everyone in Hollywood).

I returned to "What Fresh Hell Is This? by Marion Meade, a biography of Dorothy Parker, which I had read some years ago.  A writer, screenwriter and member of the Algonquin Circle, Parker was acquaintances not only with Lillian Hellman but with Frances Marion, the subject of my next read, "Without Lying Down."  One of the most successful female (or any) screenwriter in Hollywood from silent movies to talkies, Frances Marion was friends with Douglas Fairbanks and Mary Pickford, Randolph Hearst and his girlfriend Marion Davies, F Scott Fitzgerald, Charlie Chaplin, etc.  Reading about this era in Hollywood, New York, and Europe and these personalities give you the impression that everyone knew everyone else in the business.  After reading A Separate Peace and Catcher In the Rye, two coming of age books about young men, I happened upon "The Sterile Cuckoo," which features a college romance between a prep school guy and a crazy girl.  I couldn't get Liza Minnelli out of my mind when reading about Pookie, the girl, from the movie that was made in the late 60's, and the dustcover of the novel is typical 60's graphics...There is a quote on the cover of Sterile Cuckoo by John Knowles, author of A Separate Peace, unbeknownst to me when I bought it, but that wraps it up neatly, "A hilarious, sad, up-to-date and all too true novel about the rough underside of a college love affair."  Sounds like Love Story without cancer, same era.

I found another pile of books while cleaning out my studio, so will attack those in the next few weeks to re-read and pass along to anyone interested in reading them, or the library or thrift store.  My husband is going to read To Kill A Mockingbird next, our taste in books is rather different, but  this is such a classic and he has never read it, that I think he'll enjoy it.

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