this is the 230th in my series of forgotten or seldom read books
The Long-Winded Lady, Notes from the New Yorker by Maeve Brennan, 1969, 1998 non-fiction, collection of essays.
I grew up in the country, and the closest I ever got to living in the city was the suburbs, with the exception of a single year in the MacArthur Park area of Los Angeles.
That was in the mid-Sixties, about the time these pieces were written, and the area of L.A. I was in was safe, the park nice. You could sit on benches and watch children sail little boats on the lake, and watch the ducks swim and preen. I was going to art college and had a small apartment. My energy was focused on classes, not so much on the city I was in.
But Maeve Brennan knew her city, New York City, and sees it with clear vision. She describes it beautifully in The Long-Winded Lady, notes from The New Yorker. She observes, and comments on what she sees. People on the sidewalk, in restaurants, conversations she hears or overhears. She has a feel for the streets themselves, their nature and personality; dreary, light, dreaming, weary, overshadowed by the towering skyscrapers that dwarf them and the smaller buildings on them.
This book is a collection of pieces printed in The New Yorker magazine in the”Talk of the Town” column, each preceded with the notation that “We have received a letter from the long-winded lady…” The pieces appeared mostly in the Sixties, and are so very insightful into life in New York City at the time that they are like portraits. Appearing in a weekly magazine, and only once every couple of month or more, they were both entertaining and thought-provoking.
In the places she lived, mostly in one or two areas of the city, she describes her rooms, the view from her windows, the feelings of the places she lives. When she goes out for a meal, or just coffee on a frigid morning, she encounters the world with the eyes of a writer, a painter with words, and in these short pieces she shares her vision, thoughts, feelings. It’s really very fascinating. Highly recommended!