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!
Never come across her before Richard, sounds fascinating – ta!
It was. I glad I came across the book on a list of forgotten books on the BBC website.
Good review of a very interesting book. I started working in Midtown in 1966 (for two years) and I remember what it was like then very well, although I never went to the restaurants she names, which I believe are long gone now. It really was a different world, with men still wearing hats and everyone more or less “dressed” in a way that is no longer true.
I went to work in the Village in June of 1970 and the parts set there were very familiar too – lower Fifth Avenue (I worked on Fifth Avenue and Twelfth Street), Washington Square, etc.
As Bill Crider would say, I miss the old days.
Thanks, Jeff, I know you enjoyed it too. This should be more widely read!
Have not heard of this. I’d probably have to be in a very particular mood to read this one.
I get that, Charles, with non-fiction, my head has to be in the right place. It helped with this one that I was reading The New Yorker at and after the time these would have appeared, so I had a “feel” for the kind of short pieces in this book.
This does sound very good, Richard. I was never in New York City but I would enjoy reading about that time.