Saturday, March 09, 2002

One of the most entertaining episodes in The Nanny Diaries, which I praised here earlier, takes place in a house in Nantucket, where the mistress of "Mr. X," the philandering husband, keeps telephoning and "Mrs. X", fully aware of who's calling and what's been going on, simply picks up the phone and then hangs it up without answering until the calls finally cease. As life and art often keep close company, in recent days I've found myself wondering whether a similar scene mayn't have been enacted not so long ago in another Nantucket vacation house, that of GE Chairman and apparent stud-muffin interviewee Jack Welch. As we used to say on Wall Street, a closed mouth gathers no feet, an apothegm that also applies to zippers.
A number of 'blog watchers have weighed in on the subject of what high-tech has done to golf. Worth repeating is an observation made by a columnist in (I think) GolfWeek: the new technology has helped the pros while really not doing all that much for us golfers-in-the-street or ordinary players, and that is just exactly the reverse of how it ought to be!

Friday, March 08, 2002

I'm not a particularly great admirer of Peggy Noonan's column ( but her piece this morning raises a number of points worth thinking about. Do go online and read it.

Thursday, March 07, 2002

Saw Profiev's War & Peace last night at the Met. Noisiest night I can recall spending in the big House. Part One is delightful, close-focused about relationships. Grounds for joy and optimism at the intermission. Part Two, however, feels longer than three Gotterdammerungs laid end to end. Consists of alternating odes to "Mother Russia" - this act was written post the German invasion of the USSR in 1941 - and chorus lines of nancy-boys dressed up like Mr. Nutcracker goosestepping stage right and stage left, with lashings now and then of Napoleon outside Moscow doing a convincing impersonation of someone who bought Enron at the top. Seldom less than a hundred people onstage. I was reminded that the great Russian pianist Richter refers in his notebooks to W&P as a chamber opera. It might play more effectively that way, although not in NY which continues to equate noise with merit.

Remember when Ronald reagan cribbed a line from "The Bridges at Toko-Ri" (or maybe it was "Sayonara" - it was one of those Korea fly-boy epics of the late '50s) and remarked "Where do we get such people." It's a line that leaps to mind everytime I clock on, and I do, religiously, every morning, to David Patrick Columbia's It's a site I cannot recommend highly enough for those wishing to understand what sort of people Gibbon had in mind when writing "Decline and Fall...." I pray you: don't miss it!

Went to a new musical the other night. In previews, so can't name names, but all involved are famous and at the top of their respective theatrical niches. Like the team (Weill, Ogden Nash, Perelman etc.) that cobbled together One Touch of Venus back in the forties. A fascinating evening. Every single scene, line, casting decision, tune etc. is just about 15% off the mark so nothing really works. The show isn't good, but it'll work commercially because the hired help like Liz Smith will puff it. I do yearn for the days when "gossip," so to speak, was what people didn't want printed about themselves, rather than what they pay people to cajole pussycat, repeat-after-me "gossip columnists" to echo.

Tuesday, March 05, 2002

Apropos of Doris Kearns Goodwin, don't miss Washington Post columnist Jonathan Yardley's take. It's available today on, the most bookmarkable site on the Web. (Sorry not to provide a proper link. I'll start doing that when Ellis teaches me how.)

Monday, March 04, 2002

When it comes to certain people, I'm as echt schadenfreudlich as the next curmudgeon. I'm rather enjoying Doris Kearns Goodwin's present discomfiture, but nothing has lit up my shriveled little heart as brightly as the revelation that the unspeakable James Cramer of TheStreet.Com was executing the old insider triple-play: (1) learn about an upcoming brokerage house investment upgrade or downgrade; (2) take a position in the security in question; (3) tip off the mouths at CNBC and sell into the market spike that inevitably followed the story being broken.
It's all in a book by former Cramer colleague, Nicholas Maier (check out Robert Lenzner's and Victoria Murphy's 03/01/02 filing on But what makes this especially delightful is that this "investment technique" is colloquially known as "Pump and Dump." Which happens to be exactly the phrase Cramer chose to clobber Enron with in his New York magazine column a couple of weeks ago. Takes one to know one, I guess.
A couple of years ago, there was published a truly, deeply repellent book called BRIGHT YOUNG THINGS. A pictorial account of rich (mainly through inheritance) young New York people, written and photographed by two of their contemporaries whose participation in this revolting venture was an outright repudiation of their upbringing, the book gave many reasons for disliking it. Not least in its aggressive violation of the tenet that if you call attention to your advantages loudly and egregiously enough, it will occur to others - with a vehemence in direct inverse proportion to the degree that those advantages have been honestly come by - to separate you from those advantages. Bad as it was, BRIGHT YOUNG THINGS did leave this reader burning with the question, "What will become of these ghastly people?"
Well, now - thanks to a wonderfully, intelligent satiric novel called THE NANNY DIARIIES - we know. They grew up to become "Mrs. X."
Do get this book. It reeks with class and brains: which is no surprise, since one of the co-authors is the daughter of one of my old friends, Peter Kraus, a bookman for the ages (Ursus Books).
NOTE: If you want to chat about any of this stuff, or yell at me, or whatever, my e-mail address for 'blog purposes is
I have many, many more books than I shall ever be able to read 'ere the Great Librarian comes to take away my card. But then I have always viewed my library as an exercise in applied serendipity, a matter of "might read" rather than "will read" or "must read." This past weekend, catching up on the latest New York Review Of Books, without which (the same applies to Washington Post Book World and Los Angeles Times Book Review but emphatically not to our own local broadsheet) civilized life would be even less attainable than it is in the era of the Davos Conference and L'il Kim, I read William Weaver on Silone. I've never read Silone, but I remember Bread and Wine on my father's bookshelves, so I logged on to Amazon and ordered a one-volume paperback edition of the Fontamara trilogy published by the invaluable Steerforth Press, also largely responsible for backing Tim Page and putting Dawn Powell back in the forefront of our awareness of "New York" writers, where she should be. In his piece, Weaver mentions that Iris Origo wrote about Silone in her A Need to Testify. I'd read her Ruth Draper profile in that book, but not the Silone, so I read that, and then, by golly, I re-read Origo on Draper. (If you don't have the Ruth Draper CDs edited and published by Susan Mulcahy and available at, you are unfit to read this 'blog further and should return to the Web to seek out something by - oh - say Kurt Andersen, that sort of thing). When I finished Origo-Draper, I picked up the short stories of Graham Greene, which I've been reading as an antidote to DeLillo-style fiction, but Italy was on my mind, and I remembered Shirley Hazzard had done a short book about her encounters with Greene on Capri (indeed that is the title) and hunted it down on my shelf of books about Italy, a run that begins with Herbert Kubly's unforgettable 1955 An American in Italy which was my cicerone when I took my first tentative steps on to the pier at Genoa that very same year. Anyway, Shirley's book is a marvel: wise, wordly, ever so shrewd. She makes the heart ache with recollection of a world in which talent still rated higher than publicity in the scheme of things that matter.

I took your cue and bought the Curzon discs,** performances I well
remember. The two with Britten were staples of the Orpheus recommends. We
sold hundreds of those. It is still, hands down, the finest performance of
the 20th concerto, finding grandeur and fierceness beyond others, and
preserving the tenderness. The spot where the trumpets enter in the coda of
the final movement, when Mozart turns the whole thing into the triumph of D
major after all that fretful minor key, still raises the goose bumps..
Doral raised my interest level. That's more like it. Hootie Johnson, with
whom I should not like to have lunch, wants to limit equipment at Augusta.
They should all hits their tee balls with Byron's old spoon. I am guessing
that the lawnmower and the modern ball with the thin cover are the biggest
culprits, though titanium is part of it. What should never be limited are
Tiger's smiles while he plays and while he humbles his interviewers. The new
Nike driver has arrived and it is a mighty fine looking stick, I can tell
you. I'll get to hit one through the air fairly soon and will report on the
capacities of "forged" titanium. Already, I can feel improvements coming
owing to the sessions at the gym.

** I had recommended to re-release on Decca "Legends" of a budget 2-CD set of the great English pianist Clifford Curzon playing 5 Mozart piano concerti.

Sunday, March 03, 2002

My friend John Ellis writes wonderfully about all the things that really matter: golf, biz, politics, fools - and does so with the passion of relative youth and the wisdom of experience. I urge you to check out and bookmark his 'blog:
Last night Peggy & I saw the second program of Mark Morris' current season at BAM (Brooklyn Academy of Music). I'm not a big dance nut, although Morris is on his way to converting me. His new major piece, "V," set to Schumann's Op. 44 Piano Quintet, is just wonderful! Morris effectively writes gestural lyrics to the musical settings he employs. The music points up the movement, the movement points up the music - all in the most enriching, exciting symbiosis imaginable. If he comes your way, see him! (Note: to family members: I'll pay for the tickets.)