The Unbearable Banishment: You haven't changed a bit

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

You haven't changed a bit

Edit: I was dissatisfied with the quality of the Bergdorf window pics so I replaced them with better ones and included a few detailed shots. Quality control!

Not long ago, I reread Lolita. When I first read it in my 20s, I found it to be a well-written, comedic romp across America. Now that I have an 11 year old daughter, I didn't think it was so goddamn funny. Mostly, I was mortified that I once laughed at it. At a recent appearance by author Zadie Smith, I related that story to her and asked if she was a "one-and-done" kind of reader or if she revisited books from her youth. She said it's important to reread books from time to time. She teaches the same titles in her class each semester (she's a Lit professor at NYU) and gets something new out of them each time. They're completely different stories when you're older. For her, a subsequent reading of Middlemarch revealed Dorthea to be a bit of a whiner!

I've been putting off rereading To Kill a Mockingbird for decades. Long-time readers know that if it weren't for that book, I wouldn't be the man I am today. I wouldn't be typing these words and probably never would have lived in New York City. I'd be something more tragic and sad. I once wrote as much to Harper Lee and she immediately responded with a heartfelt note of thanks. I didn't want to reread Mockingbird because I was afraid that, over the decades, I had blown it up to mythical proportions in my mind's eye. What if it wasn't all I remembered it being? What if it was merely good and not life changing? Wouldn't that degrade an important memory? That can happen, you know.

I finally pulled it off my shelf last week. I got 18 pages in and Scout said this:
...I never loved to read. One does not love breathing.
Look, I don't know about you guys, but that really floored me. I sat there in my idiot silence and read those lines over and over again. What a relief. I might write another note to Ms. Lee.

*     *     *

We decorated our Christmas tree over the weekend. Look where 6-Year Old Daughter hung my Shakespeare ornament:

Everybody sing!

William the red-cock playwright
Had a very shiny...okay that's enough of that.

*     *     *

Here's another holiday snapshot for you. This is the elegant Peninsula Hotel. It's a neo-Italian renaissance tower that was built in 1905 on 5th Avenue and 55th Street.

To me, these decorations are quietly stated. Wait 'till you see what else is on 5th Avenue. Some of it isn't very quiet. Or elegant.

*     *     *

Here are a couple of holiday windows at Bergdorf Goodman. Strangely, they have nothing whatsoever to do with the holiday. The theme is jazz-era/art deco and while lacking in ho-ho-ho-ness, they're pretty impressive, just the same. You should click on these and blow them up. They're interesting. This first one should appeal to the white-plumed fetishist in your life.

This beauty has a bizarre Tim Burton quality to it. Best of all is her pinched, Kewpie doll face. I wonder what they're selling? It can't be the clothing.

This one is the best of the bunch. A high society jazz band. The display was mounted up against the wall so that your view is looking down on them. Pretty brilliant. When I lived in downtown Brooklyn, I had a kitchen floor that looked just like that.


Blogger Ms Scarlet said...

You met Zadie Smith?! Blimey, White Teeth is one of my most favourite books, and is due for re-reading. She is brilliant.

December 11, 2012 at 9:56 AM  
Blogger Gorilla Bananas said...

To Kill a Mockingbird saved you from tragedy and sadness? Man, you ought to read a happy story, it might make you euphoric. Your Shakespeare is well hung, but the dollface is most bewitching.

December 11, 2012 at 9:58 AM  
Blogger The Unbearable Banishment said...

Every author promoting a new book traipses through Manhattan for a reading/signing. I've met 'em all. My understanding is that they hate it, but it's obligatory. Please. If I published a book and someone asked me to sign it, I'd sign it, pump their hand and thank them profusely and then buy them a steak dinner. You're right about White Teeth. It's an extraordinary read.

December 11, 2012 at 10:02 AM  
Blogger The Unbearable Banishment said...

If it's euphoria I was after, I wouldn't have settled in NYC. Your "well-hung" comment was pretty obvious. But I can't pitch it over the plate and not expect you to swing and aim for the fence.

December 11, 2012 at 10:04 AM  
Blogger Unknown said...

If Shakespeare's neck had been stretched a few years since we would all have been spared the extremely feeble 'Merry Wives of Windsor'.

What a pile of pure shite.

December 11, 2012 at 1:11 PM  
Blogger The Unbearable Banishment said...

Excellent point, but I wish I could write something HALF as shitty (shitey?) as Merry Wives. I'd be content birthing a half-baked play like that from my typer.

December 11, 2012 at 1:25 PM  
Blogger OldLady Of The Hills said...

Love all these pictures...! Was the Peninsula once The St. Regis?? Or am I in the wrong block? Whatever---the display is very very Elegant! It's funny, the BG Windows, at least in those first two pictures, have a feeling of "holiday" about them, to me....Very Beautiful!
Ahhhhh, "To Kill A Mockingbird"....such a Wonderful Genius of a book. So very touching in every respect. I hope you do write Harper Lee again...! I LOVE, Love, Love, that quote!

December 11, 2012 at 2:56 PM  
Blogger The Unbearable Banishment said...

The Peninsula and the St. Regis are across 5th Avenue from one another on 55th St. Well done, you! Did you ever see the Old King Cole mural above the bar in the St. Regis painted by Maxfield Parish? Stunning.

December 11, 2012 at 3:15 PM  
Blogger Kono said...

I've always gone back and re-read things, i've read the Rosy Crucifixion three times and have found a differnt book to be my favorite each time, thinking about starting it again soon, i've read all of Celine's work multiple times and always find something new, same with Cormac McCarthy, Bukowski, Nelson Algren (Golden Arm 4 times plus other multiple times) of course sometimes you re-read and wonder what you found so earth shaking, i still love Ray Carver but i don't think i'm so enamored of him as i used to be, still there is value in reading things again, this i believe...

December 11, 2012 at 5:04 PM  
Anonymous daisyfae said...

i first read Kurt Vonnegut, Jr. when i was a teen. thought him clever and snarky as i devoured his works through my college years. started re-reading him as an adult? and i cried. a lot. totally different experiences.

pinched doll-face? looks like Bernadette Peters to me...

December 11, 2012 at 6:13 PM  
Anonymous paulo1 said...

I suspect that when your daughter is less vulnerable and you as a consequence are slightly less protective ( say in twenty years ) you may see Nabokov in the old light. Or maybe not. I'm speaking as a father of three girls, the youngest of whom ( whom? ) is pushing seventeen, and I know full well how powerful the primal instict to protect is.

December 11, 2012 at 7:24 PM  
Blogger The Unbearable Banishment said...

I've been rereading Bukowski for ages. That stuff still works for me. But every time I start a book, I usually think there are too many titles I haven't read to spend any time on books I've already ticked off my list.

December 11, 2012 at 9:04 PM  
Blogger The Unbearable Banishment said...

Vonnegut is the guy everyone reads in college. He kind of fell off my radar years ago but I still have a ton of respect for him. I heard him speak at Case Western Reserve in the 80s. He said universities ruin writers. They are taught to conform and are stripped of their voice.

December 11, 2012 at 9:08 PM  
Blogger The Unbearable Banishment said...

Please don't tell me what it's like to have a 17 year old daughter. I wouldn't want you to spoil all the cool surprises that are in store for me. That goes for you, too, Daisy.

December 11, 2012 at 9:11 PM  
Blogger savannah said...

EUREKA!!!! Seriously, UB, I had this vague memory of that mural, but until I read this I swear, I could not remember where I saw it or if I even did! Thank You! xox (It was a long time ago, probably my first visit to NYC.)

December 11, 2012 at 9:32 PM  
Blogger savannah said...

I think it's time for me to re-read To Kill A Mockingbird. Love the windows. I think the last one would have had me captivated for quite a while! xoxo

December 11, 2012 at 9:34 PM  
Blogger The Unbearable Banishment said...

That mural had fallen into faded disrepair but the St. Regis had it restored just this past year. The colors are back to vibrant and bright. I love Maxfield Parish.

December 11, 2012 at 9:48 PM  
Blogger The Unbearable Banishment said...

It's killing me that I can't really capture how cool these windows look. I took pics in the daytime, which was a mistake, so I went back at night, re-shot and then re-posted them. They're better but still lacking the umph.

December 11, 2012 at 9:51 PM  
Blogger Vagabonde said...

I did click on your photos – they look great enlarged. I miss these types of windows here during the holiday season – we only have “malls” around here, so no windows.
I have not read to Kill a Mockingbird yet, but my husband has the book – I’ll put it on my reading list. I was trying to re-read my old French books – went through Colette and now maybe Camus (no, I am not going alphabetically.) While in Nice, France, in October I found “La Confession d’un enfant du siècle” (confession of a child of the century) by Alfred de Musset. It is the only novel he wrote (in 1836 when he was 26.) It sounds interesting – slightly biographical – talking about his affair with George Sand.

December 11, 2012 at 10:27 PM  
Blogger Twisted Scottish Bastard said...

The female models look like inflatable sex-dolls. What exactly are they selling?

December 11, 2012 at 11:27 PM  
Blogger dinahmow said...

I must be about due to have another crack at Salinger...then again, if I've never "got" him before, why bother.
Re-read Mockingbird when the anniversary edition came out and I still liked it.
Did I send you a link to the letters of Vonnegut?
And , just to lighten up a little, I'd like to be the woman draped across the grand piano.

December 12, 2012 at 12:03 AM  
Blogger nuttycow said...

What a fantastic quote - sums me up to a tee.

I am scared to admit it but I've never read Mockingbird. I might have to dig it out and make it a Christmas read.

December 12, 2012 at 5:52 AM  
Blogger The Unbearable Banishment said...

I wish I could fly everyone here to look at these windows. They're like a sculpture exhibit. And there's no real product tie-in. It's refreshing.

I don't know if To Kill a Mockingbird will have the same effect on you but for me, it was the right book at the right time. Reading French must be great but that would increase my "to read" list exponentially!

December 12, 2012 at 7:01 AM  
Blogger The Unbearable Banishment said...

Man, I don't have any idea what they're selling. Whatever it is, I'm pretty sure I can't afford it. And thanks for putting the sex doll image in my head. That's all I see now.

December 12, 2012 at 7:02 AM  
Blogger The Unbearable Banishment said...

You did, indeed, send the Vonnegut letters link. It was great! Easily as entertaining as his fiction.

I'd like to date the woman draped across the grand piano. I'm probably too old for her. And too married.

December 12, 2012 at 7:04 AM  
Blogger The Unbearable Banishment said...

Hello, nutty! It's really nice to see you. Happy holidays! Are you traveling?

Well, the book worked for me, that's all I can say. Might work for you, too. Worth a look, I'd say.

December 12, 2012 at 7:06 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I can never bring myself to read books more than once. It's something about how your mind dreams stuff up based on who you are at the time. I don't want to have one vision of a book, then have it completely change later on and maybe not be as good.
Love the windows, you are reminding me to get into the city soon

December 13, 2012 at 3:13 AM  
Blogger OldLady Of The Hills said...

I DID see that Mural---So very many many years ago, it had to be in the Mid 1950's---I had forgotten it. We used to go to The Maisonette Room at the St. Regis to see some great great talent, and sometimes we would stop in the King Cole if we were early for our reservation...! The Maisonette was a Beautiful room....Does it still exist? Probably not. So many of those truly wonderful special Rooms fell out of favor for some reason. The Persian Room was another GREAT Hotel Show Room. I actually have a picture or two from one of those visits---The Camera Lady would come around and take pictures of your table and right after the show ended, the pictures would be ready and she would bring them around to the table....They were certainly reasonable enough, and a lovely way to remember the evening...! Another time...very civilized and beautiful! Dinner and a Show in a lovely Room....MARVELOUS!

December 13, 2012 at 4:38 AM  
Blogger Please Don't Eat With Your Mouth Open said...

I love that Harper Lee blog post so much. It's brilliant. Just shared the monkeys out of it again on Twitter. The power of words eh?

I read To Kill a Mockingbird this year for the first time and couldn't put it down. I'm currently re-reading a lot of classics and books I sped through at school or uni without really appreciating properly or reading for pleasure - you definitely pick up on something different every time.

December 13, 2012 at 5:22 AM  
Blogger The Unbearable Banishment said...

After reading two or three new books that didn't do a damn thing for me, I need to reaffirm my faith in literature by rereading something from my past that I know I'm going to enjoy. They don't call them classics for nothing.

Yes...get into the city and post some photos. We can do an east coast/west coast tag team cage match.

December 13, 2012 at 7:00 AM  
Blogger The Unbearable Banishment said...

First nuttycow and now Jo. It's nice to see you guys around the holidays. I'm re-purposing the hell out of that Harper Lee post.

Sometimes I think I read books too soon and am not ready for them. You need some miles on your treads before you can appreciate what some authors are trying to do.

December 13, 2012 at 7:04 AM  
Blogger The Unbearable Banishment said...

Thank you for gracing my comment section with that fantastic memory. You MUST post that pic! If you don't want to go public with it, at the very least, can you email it to me? I will check on the Maisonette room on my lunch hour. The cabaret room at The Regency where Bobby Short used to play on Park and 61st is set to close. It's their own damn fault. It's so bloody expensive to go that nobody can afford it! They've priced themselves out of existence.

December 13, 2012 at 9:20 AM  
Blogger Pat said...

So glad Ms Lee didn't let you down.
The photo are stunning even tho' when I clicked to come back I lost thepage. Worth it tho'.

December 13, 2012 at 12:07 PM  
Blogger The Unbearable Banishment said...

Imagine my relief! The book meant everything to me and I didn't want to have imagined it was as good as it is. Sorry about the linking trouble. You broke the internet!

December 13, 2012 at 12:23 PM  
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