Thursday, August 21, 2008

LIVING WELL IS...

I become so engrossed in whichever book I'm reading that it begins to seep into my life. Maybe I should read a book where the main character never procrastinates, isn't lazy, drinks only herbal tea and exercises five times a week. I would never bond with that character though.

At the moment I'm reading Tender Is The Night. Between that and my usual bedtime reading of D.V. my imagination keeps running away to the 1920s. The main characters, Dick and Nicole Diver are based on Gerald and Sara Murphy, friends of Fitzgerald (and Picasso, Hemingway, Dorothy Parker etc etc). Weirdly, I had tried and failed to read Everybody Was So Young by Amanda Vaill, the biography of the Murphys which has the largest number of glowing reviews on Amazon I've ever seen. I couldn't get into it and gave it away, but I now realise that was because I hadn't read Tender Is The Night.

In the novel they are painted as fairly frivolous types - although I'm only half way through I feel the portrayal of them contains more than a touch of envy. The Murphys helped the artists they were friends with and apparently invented the French Riviera as a fashionable place to go - convincing the Hotel du Cap to stay open during the summer months. You might think that they were just rich jetsetters, there for the party and the talent that rubbed off from their famous artist friends. But there is so much more to their story - which is where Living Well Is The Best Revenge comes in. Yet another book, written by Calvin Tomkins, it shows the Murphys as crucial to the American expat scene of the 1920s - 30s in both the south of France and Paris. Far from being leeches, they were the core of it. Their way of life seems to have been their art. It also shows that those with apparently perfect, charmed lives are not immune to tragedy. I have a suspicion that anyone brought up in the US who has any interest in art or literature would know all about the Murphys already; but I can't wait to finish Tender Is The Night and start reading this book.

I don't know about revenge, but living well (and that particular era) interests me very much. I feel the thread of it from my grandparents and from older friends of my parents: a G & T before going out, holding doors open, dressing for dinner, that kind of thing. Coincidentally my friend/neighbour and I have been talking about instigating a regular cocktail hour around here (note to self: buy Noilly Prat - also known as Oily Prat). Also, the wearing of lipstick/heels for no particular reason is on the agenda. I'm sure everyone will think we're a bit mad - and I'm not saying that a bit of lipstick and a few martinis makes us experts on the art of living well. But it's funny that the book uses that word revenge. Is revenge a response to envy? My response to envy at living well is closer to disappointment and mostly incomprehension. I suppose it goes back to things I've posted about before - like this. All you can really do is let others live their lives as they do (The Murphys were known to live wonderfully on less money than the Fitzgeralds who lived badly on a fortune) and get on with living/creating yours.

12 comments:

Bombay Beauty said...

Now this is a program I can get on board with! I think living well is essential, and it does not mean always luxury and indulgence, though these play a part. I've recently begun, for the first time since I left home, eating at least 3 courses (albeit mini-courses) at dinner along with a glass of wine, when I'm at home. Nothing extravagant here, but just trying to dignify what could otherwise easily become a TV dinner.

I went to my favourite cocktail bar in NY a week ago, very much an old school place where people wear jackets (though ties are now optional), and the singer at the piano takes requests, where the nuts are plump and served in silver bowls... I requested "I did it my way..." and naturally the singer knew it...

(Pardon me... I've got to board my yacht...)

BB

mes petits secrets said...

i love all your book suggestions! i'm always looking for anything to read involving paris.

thanks!
http://www.mespetitssecrets.blogspot.com/

mes petits secrets said...

what is this cocktail bar bombay? I've been searching for a fancy piano bar in nyc for the longest time!

Lola Is Beauty said...

BB: yes, thinking about luxury - things like freshly squeezed orange juice and seafood are things I consider luxurious because they take a bit of time and effort - you probably have them all the time on your yacht - prepared by your many servants...I do love the line "where the nuts are plump and served in silver bowls" - sorry. Am English. Toilet humour.

mps: me too!

Le Club du Style said...

This makes me think of a photograph of my grandma that was taken at the seaside in the 30's= everyone looks so groomed, glamorous and chic- and these were not super rich Americans, just regular middle-class French people.
ps : Love your concept of the "false economy"!
LCDS

Shay said...

This book is a longtime fave of mine as well!

Anonymous said...

Loveee Fitzgerald!!! But I do believe living a fabulous life when you can...pour qui non? ;)
nancy

Lola Is Beauty said...

oh I love him too...but it's weird to read this book knowing a bit about the people the characters are based on. You can tell where the seams are of him basing it on his own life or someone else's.

Anonymous said...

fyi-- when you begin a club/religion/cult based on your tenets/philosophy, I am SO in!! You speak my truth, baby.

Although, I hope you don't force me to go all Martin Luther on your ass if I subsitute red wine for cocktails . . .

bisous, bp

Juliet said...

I hadn' therd of them before (dont blame me, I don't live in US), but it sounds interesting.

juliet xxx

Kate said...

I very much agree with all what you say about living well. It's the small things which make the difference, like freshly squeezed orange juice or the perfect cappucino at a nice italian bar.

I've also read the linked post about your luxurious day with The Coat and very much like your mantra "At the end nobody will thank you for not living your life". And while I'm about to "steal" it for myself (just to have something to hold against critical voices in my head), it occured to me that maybe it would also make a fine tag line for your blog?

Note to BB: There's a curios coincidence in that since a few weeks I've also gone back to nicely arraged three course dinners for myself in the evenings - for exactly the same reason as you. :-)

cassie said...

conincidently I finished tender is the night a few days ago and adored it!
going to start the great gatsby tonight which I hope will live up to tender.

I think living well is a mindset, its all about enjoying yourself...and entirely possible to achieve without spending a fortune....