18 January, 2011

Katharine Graham and Apple Pie

I am in the middle of Chapter 5 of Katharine Graham's autobiography, Personal History. Young Katharine is in college at the University of Chicago, after two uninspiring years at Vassar. Katharine, nee Meyer, grew up in a family that was wealthy beyond my wildest dreams, but her life was a mixture of luxury and sad neglect by her parents. Dad was always busy making money/helping with the gov't and Mother was always doing something more interesting than raising children. Mother also was completely self-involved, and Dad was unable to express any kind of emotion to his children. It all sounds sad and sterile, but it's also driving me crazy that Katharine has reached 20 without having any practical skills. She doesn't know how to shop or "dress herself" to look nice, in a time when this was important for a woman. She doesn't know how to cook, clean, or do her own laundry.  I understand that she never had to do these things for herself, but when she realized she needed the skills, why didn't she get someone to teach her? She even admits that because of her mother's attitudes she is snobbish and ready to look down on people who aren't as smart as she is. Well Kate, I'm sure some people who realized you didn't know how to wash a sweater thought you weren't that bright.

The book is well written and interesting so far. I need to push on through because I have several books stacking up behind it.

I met a friend from the Bibelot days tonight at B&N, the ex-Bibelot. Good conversation! Much laughter! She also bought a copy of my favorite funny book, Handling Sin, to read after she finishes RE-reading Moby Dick. I can't tell you how impressed I am, I've never finished Moby Dick once, much less re-read it. If you need a book that will make you laugh and lift your spirits, you need to read Handling Sin, the story of Raleigh Whittier Hayes, a thoughtful, rational man who lives an orderly life, with a place for everything, and everything in its place, right up until the day he receives a fortune cookie that tells him that his life is fixin' to go to pieces. And oh how it does, in ways that are completely unexpected and completely hilarious.

Sometimes I hesitate to recommend books, because tastes are so individual, but I know of about 11 people I've either recommended it to or given it to, and every one of them enjoyed it. If you don't think Handling Sin is funny, I regret to tell you that you may be dead. Or you lack a sense of the absurd, which may be worse than being dead.

Sarah made Thomas and me an apple pie. We had a slice each, and I can hear that pie all the way from the kitchen. It's singing a sweet cinnamon song, something about I Am Pie, Don't You Want More? I am resisting, but it's difficult.


  1. I just went and read a summary of Handling Sin, and I vaguely remember reading it. Obviously, it didn't have the life-changing effect on me that it did on you. The absolutely, laugh-out-loud funniest book that I have ever read is A Walk in the Woods by Bill Bryson. A true story of Bill and a friend hiking the Appalachian Trail (really). That phrase will never mean the same anymore. Kind of like you can't use the word "gay" to describe joyful and happy.

  2. Bill Bryson is one of my reliable go-to authors when I want to laugh. His "Neither Here Nor There" accompanied us all over Europe, and I would read sections of it out loud to Thomas on the train, weeping with laughter. I'm sure many French people wondered why I got giggly every time I went to cross a street!