The Pink Suit: a novel. By Nicole Mary Kelby

The Pink Suit by Nicole Mary Kelby brings us back to the days when people were talking about grassy knolls, conspiracies in Dallas, and the days that led up to the loss of the USA’s 35th president. The story is told from the perspective of an Irish seamstress living in a New York boutique, creating the knockoff dresses that allowed Jackie Kennedy to wear French style with an American label. Seamstress Kate and her sweetheart, Patrick, are wonderful, and the story talks about what happens when an immigrants desire to live in the American dream is stood on its head. This book was a real treasure to read, and overshadowed the other books I picked up at the library. The owners of the dress boutique are well-drawn, slightly comic characters. The immigrant neighborhood where Kate lives is lovingly described, as are her family. Kate is a made up character, but you feel like you’re with her, fussing about making hundreds of fabric feathers for one patron or figuring out how to get the president’s wife’s body double away from the paparazzi.

Things I learned (because I’m too young to have seen original footage, and our television was black-and-white anyway): the dress worn by Jackie was pink, not blue. There was quite a shifty world of knockoffs that were done in America with the permission of the French fashion houses, as well as sometimes outright stolen designs. Pictures of Jacqueline Kennedy through the years are available here, through a slideshow at the Cut.

Book Festivals

After finding out I missed the Brooklyn, NY Book Festival last weekend, I’ve been looking at others around the USA.

I missed the Library of Congress Book Festival earlier in the year, but they post videos from it are here. They also have downloadable former book festival posters, (my favorite book poster from it here). You might like the one with dragons better.

Here are some other upcoming book festivals:

Funding cuts have sadly affected some book festivals. Others just seem to be poorly advertised. A lot of the ones I wished to go to were so early in the year that I’m still reading my Christmas gifts, or they’re places too far away like Miami, Chicago, California, or London, UK and Edinburgh in Scotland. A book festival, no matter how small and quirky (see April Fool’s Day International Edible Books Festival), is still a lovely place to meet authors, to find out about new books, and to find others who speak your language (or are up for a long, pleasant debate).

Oh say can you see

Fireworks over Baltimore, Star Spangled Banner 200 years

Yes… we did. We went to a local park, stood out in a field in the dark, and watched as the fireworks display went off in Baltimore’s Inner Harbor, as well as right by the fort (there were 5 places where fireworks were being set off in the Chesapeake). It looked like the War of 1812 was starting all over again. But last weekend was the celebration for Francis Scott Key’s famous words after the famous bombardment of Fort McHenry. The fireworks included a spectacular set of fireworks that made up the image of our flag in the sky.

Hurrah for 200 years! Music and video still live on a local news station here. (BTW: if I ever get the chance of seeing Guy Fawkes day in the UK, I will snap photos and be very excited.)

911 Memorial, Jersey City, NJ

My Internet (and I think everyone else’s Internet) was down most of last week. But I still want to post a picture of the Empty Sky (9/11) Memorial that is in Liberty State Park. So much to see there, with the Statue of Liberty in the distance, and NYC in front of you. But the memorial creates an amazing portal into the past. Clean lines, framing what isn’t there anymore.

Empty Sky memorial, close up

Empty Sky memorial, close up

Names are etched on the inside walls, there is a berm/hill on either side. And while very plain, it reflects the sky, it reflects the mood of the day, it isn’t static.

Several brides were having their photos taken at the park, with the beautiful skyline behind them (or in front of the area where immigrants first stood on the US mainland after being on Ellis Island). There’s still damage to the park from Superstorm Sandy, but the park continues on, providing a unique frame for the story of immigrants, tragedy, and rebirth that defines who we think we are here in the 50 States.

On a less somber note, if you’re ever wondering if there’s a place to eat with a view of the New York skyline, try out Liberty House Restaurant. Good food, lovely views. Well worth getting reservations on a summer day when you can sit outdoors and watch the sailboats in the river.

Visiting a Rathaus in the rain

Fountain in the interior courtyard of Hamburg's Rathaus -- look at all that rain!

Fountain in the interior courtyard of Hamburg’s Rathaus — look at all that rain!

When in Europe, sometimes the weather isn’t picture postcard perfect. I’ve seen rain, snow, and shockingly hot weather (if you’re somewhere that normally doesn’t need air conditioning). When in Hamburg, it rained. So we went out anyway, and enjoyed looking at statues — to the left is a detail of the Hygieia-fountain [it honors victims of a cholera epidemic] in the interior courtyard of the Hamburg Rathaus. Continue reading ‘Visiting a Rathaus in the rain’

Perfect Labor Day, with lots of mental rest

Today was beautiful:

We walked over to see a movie at the corner theatre (Ghostbusters), ate pizza out with friends, then talked with them about the summer while eating plum cake (that I made last night).

The weather outside was foul — humid, steamy, and filled with ragweed pollen. Much better to have a little neighborly kaffeeklatsch in the living room to discuss trips we’ve had, or vacations others are planning. Oh, and Ghostbusters was a total blast, and held up surprisingly well although kids today would never believe a musician could live in a penthouse in NYC. 

So, anyone catch any good movies at the end of the summer season? I’ll probably go back to see Helen Mirren’s latest, but if there’s a film from the UK coming my way that I shouldn’t miss, please let me know so I can watch for it.

Hope everyone had a good labor day, and spent a few moments at least remembering why we have this holiday and remember: look for the union label (am I showing my age maybe?).

Becoming a power broker – Alice

After the war [WWI], Alice Roosevelt Longworth would evolve into a Washington statesman. Not limited by a constituency as were elected politicians, she could go anywhere, talk with anyone. Her power came to be greater than any lobbyist’s or social maven because her home was the place to be, to see and be seen, to spill secrets, to meet people, and to broker deals that could not be made in Congress. Alice’s drawing room became a required stop on the path to political prominence.” Stacey A. Cordery, Alice: Alice Roosevelt Longworth, from White House Princess to Washington Power Broker.

Still an interesting read, as Alice’s life takes some pretty amazing twists and turns. Acerbic, witty, a fine hostess, and yet not infallible. Interested in politics until her dying days — and the story is fascinating enough that someone like me (who hates current politics and political ads) could find the rise and fall of different politicians as Alice shows that she never quite got over being a wild child. It was interesting to see how Alice evolved into someone who talked to anyone (Nixon, the Robert Kennedy and JFK, Truman), or who could stridently campaign against a relative (FDR), but still let her only daughter play with his children in the White House. Honestly, she wouldn’t have been easy to live with, but she would never have been boring. So now, for balance, I suppose I should find a good biography of Eleanor Roosevelt.


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Fireworks over Baltimore, Star Spangled Banner 200 years





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