21 June 2016

In Gratitude

Jenny Diski died April 28, 2016.  When told of her impending demise she made jokes. In 2014 she was diagnosed with terminal cancer. She felt:

"Embarrassment at first, to the exclusion of all other feelings."

That September she wrote in the London Review of Books:

"Under no circumstances is anyone to say that I lost a battle with cancer, or that I bore it bravely. I am not fighting, losing, winning or bearing." 

She would end her life writing.  She had, after all, written most of her life.  She had read numerous "cancer memoirs" and asserted:

"There are no novel responses possible."

And yet, in true Diski style, she wondered whose cancer book would sell the most copies.

After the initial shock, Diski tells the story of her chaotic early life, leading her to be taken in by literary giant, Doris Lessing.   Diski had been at school with Lessing's son, Peter.  They were not close, but when Diski was expelled, he implored his mother to take her in and she was quite intelligent.

Diski was almost literally dumped on Lessing's front steps.  It was not a match made in heaven. Lessing was not in the least "motherly" and Diski was uncomfortable in this new setting.  Diski says:

"Gratitude was half of what I felt. The other half was fury and resentment..."

As a cancer patient, Diski was ideal.  She was already  anti-social, preferring to spend time in her bed or on the sofa, like some consumptive Victorian victim.  She wrote:

"I have the metabolism of a sloth."

The chemo leaves the normally slim Diski, heavy.  She fears what is going to happen her. She is honest. She is funny. She is panicked. She is a writer. She will be missed.

14 June 2016

Tweeting From Beyond

So I got sick and had to take antibiotics for nearly two weeks, and I hated it.  It made me puny and sickly, not to mention it was sweltering.  But all is well, about two more days before I can have a tall gin and tonic.  In the mean time...

I recently followed and was followed back on Twitter by Vita Sackville-West.  Let me say it is hard enough for me to work, write, keep up two blog, Lucindaville and Cookbook Of The Day, Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest, and Twitter.  So to find out that Vita Sackville-West is able to tweet beyond the grave makes me feel woefully inadequate.

Vita Sackville-West is one of those people I would put on that list of 10-people-you-could-have-dinner-with. Bloomsbury is like Harry Potter for grown-ups.  We wait for each new book, we scrutinize the movies, we relish any peripheral new reference.  There was a wave of new Bloomsbury attention recently.

The venerable BBC is unveiling a new drama, Life in Squares.  It will look at the early life and career of the Bloomsbury gang, focusing on the orbit of Vanessa and Virginia Stephen. It is chocked full of British talent. That is James Norton (Grantchester and Happy Valley) in the center as Duncan Grant. In anticipation of the new series, The Guardian has published their list of the 10 best Bloomsbury moments.

In addition, The Guardian, has gone out and hunted down any last surviving soul that might have known some of the Bloomsbury set.  At 100, Anne Olivier Bell is the widow of Quentin Bell, Vanessa Bell's son and the very first biographer of Virginia Woolf.

I am so ready.  Now ask yourself, why is there no Bloomsbury theme park?  Think about it...replicas of Sissinghurst and Charleston, of Omega workshop and Hogarth Press, tea rooms with Vanessa Bell pottery, and of course a bookshop. 

02 June 2016

Little Gloria

Since I have been decidedly deaf, and not much of conversationalist, I have been catching up on taped shows on the DVR.  One of the documentaries I watch recently was Nothing Left Unsaid about Gloria Vanderbilt and Anderson Cooper.  I enjoyed it, but it did seem like there may have been some thing unsaid.  But I trust Gloria and Anderson are fine.

What it did remind me of was Gloria's mother who would, I guess, be Big Gloria. In the documentary, Gloria said she was made to have daughters and she would have named her first daughter, Gloria.  Alas, she had four sons.

The first Gloria Vanderbilt began life as a Morgan and as a twin. Gloria and Thelma Morgan were known collectively as "The Magnificent Morgans."  They were the offspring of Harry Hays Morgan, an American diplomat and his Chilean-born wife, Louise Valdivieso.  It was Louise, testifying while clutching her crucifix, who may have been the final nail in Big Gloria custody coffin, when she testified to the wild and largely invented nature of Big Gloria's lifestyle.  

In 1958, The Magnificent Morgans collaborated on a memoir, Double Exposure.  The sisters spilled the beans on the good , the bad, and the ugly, not to mention the the loved,  the lost, and the licentious.

 The Kirkus Review wrote:
Written with good taste, but sparing no detail no matter how unorthodox, this autobiography of two women is a biography of an age, an age of fantastic extravagance and rigid form, an age in which the various episodes unfolded here seem probable for all their bizarre and melodramatic overtones. Superbly entertaining.
 Nearly 60 years later, it remains superbly entertaining.

While this book is one of those highly collectible tomes, growing increasingly expensive in a nice dust jacket, you can give it a read on the Internet Archive here.
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