Sunday, May 19, 2013

The Woman Upstairs by Claire Messud

If you're looking for a book you won't be able to put down, try this one.  It's intelligent, thoughtful and meticulously crafted, and poses some difficult questions about friendship and ambition.  Read my review here:

Thursday, May 16, 2013


fountain in Gramercy Park

As guests at the Gramercy Park Hotel this weekend, we were told we had access to the private park itself.  We had only to ask for the key.  Then we could wander the exclusive gravel paths that Edith Wharton herself might once have wandered, and we could look at the grass upon which JFK had chased squirrels as a child.  The squirrels in the park, we had read, were plumper and happier than any other squirrels in the city.

So after breakfast we assembled in the lobby and asked the receptionist if we might have the key.  Sadly, it could not be found.  But we were told we could wait, and wait we did, reading the paper and watching the fire.  And the longer our wait, the weightier our longing.

At last, half an hour before our scheduled checkout time, the key was miraculously found.  And our party of five was escorted ceremoniously across the street by a doorman, who unlocked the gate and ushered us inside.

"When do you want me to come and get you?" he asked.  We looked at each other - and decided fifteen minutes.  And so he locked the gate and we watched him walk away, and we realized we had now become prisoners of this little park, free to walk the gravel paths and enjoy the beautiful trees. To experience life from the inside at last.

The park was lovely.  The azaleas were in bloom.  We noted with delight an urn of flowers across the grass.

We turned a corner and came upon a spectacular plantation birdhouse.  "Look at the birdhouse!" we cried.  What city bird would not want to take up residence in there!

birdhouse behind Elliot, or Elliot in front of birdhouse

The path wended through the middle of the square, and we found ourselves facing a fountain. "Oh, it's very Edith Wharton," Alice sighed.

"Look at this tree!" It was rather like one of the trees in our back garden, back in Northern Virginia.  Just beautiful.

Further along the path, we came across a wonderful Calder sculpture.

After completing our circuit, we sat, predictably enough, on a bench. We looked at the sky. We checked the time.  We wondered when the doorman was going to let us out.  We looked through the gate.  Where was he?  The view of the square on the other side of the park looked so very inviting.

No dogs were allowed in Gramercy Park. And some of the grass was a little bit scrappy.  Also we didn't hear very much birdsong.

At last the doorman returned. He unlocked the gate.  We all exchanged smiles. How happy we were to have been captive in this garden.  How happy we were to be released.