BOOK PARTIES, OLD BOYFRIENDS AND GETTING THE LIFE YOU WANT
Thirteen years ago when I was trying to leave one life and find myself another my shrink asked me “What is the life you really want? If you could envision a world you think would really make you happy and where you belong, what would that world look like?”
Without missing a beat I said “I want to be happily married and living in that New York literary world, the one where everyone is in publishing or writes books and plays softball in the Hamptons. I want to go back to New York and have that be my world.”
Where that scenario came from I have no idea. I had never really thought so concretely about it before, nor had I ever really put all the specifics together. But it came spilling out and I instantly knew exactly what it looked like. It looked nothing like the life I was living in the Hollywood Hills, writing romantic comedies, unhappily married to a lawyer. Perhaps I had watched an A and E special on Nora Ephron the night before – who knows?
Aside from always reading books, my world was never really centered on them. The closest I came was having a boyfriend in my twenties named Ted Mooney (most everything in my life can be traced back to a boyfriend) who was and is a wonderful novelist and he once took me to a party where I met Oliver Sacks and Susan Sontag, and I was friends with David Reiff for a spell. When I was ten I had dinner with Claude Brown. I knew Ross McDonald while growing up. I was clearly not a long lost Mitford.
But this was the life I picked out of thin air or it picked me or I subconsciously knew it was where I belonged. And the one thing I did know was I could not spend the rest of my life discussing the weekend grosses at The Grill in Beverly Hills.
So flash forward six months, I am invited to a book party for a writer I did know James Salter (though sadly he was never my boyfriend, he was happily married by the time I met him) though his book Light Years is in my top ten favorites. Anyway, I was invited to my first big deal New York book party and knowing I wouldn’t know anyone I asked Ted to take me as I didn’t’ want to walk in alone, the comedy writer from LA, and be left standing a corner. Well that night, at that party I met Glenn Horowitz and within eight months we were living in a townhouse, giving book parties and spending our weekends with writers in the East End. So it proves something: if you want a change and are unhappy- visualize it even though it feels like a stretch.
We also go to a lot of other people’s book parties and last night was one of those oh – I hate the term – but it does apply in this case – real literati ones. It was hosted by Tina Brown and Harry Evans’ at their maisonette in honor of Willie Dalrymple.
Now here is something else amazing, long, long before I knew Willie I had read everything he’d ever written. I was the biggest Willie Dalrymple fan and there are many of us.
I love all of his work; my heart beats faster at some of the earlier things but perhaps because they were the first. Though I tore through White Mughuls and didn’t skip a page and loved all of it. Part of this has to do with his extraordinary talent and the fact I do love all things Indian.
But when White Mughals came out, I got a call one day from a woman I know named Mike Peters and she asked me if I would like to co-host a party with Madhur Jaffrey in honor of Willie Dalrymple? How long do you think it took me to say yes to that suggestion? And that was the beginning of our friendship with Willie. Our book party was one of about fourteen given for Willie when that book arrived on these shores. By the end of Willie’s ten day stay, Glenn could recite entire passages of the book as we had heard Willie read it so many times.
Though we then went on to spend many memorable evenings with he and his wife Olive in their farmhouse outside of Delhi, and he introduced me to Sufi music. And you haven’t’ lived until you have had Willie give you a private tour of his Old Delhi; all the things I had read in his books, one day came alive as he took us around the Delhi he has been writing about for years. There is not a stone or engraving or tomb the man doesn’t know about and no one is more eloquent or passionate in describing them, either on the page or in person.
There have been several events this week in honor of his new book Nine Lives ~ In Search of Modern India. We had to miss a few as we were away, but last night was the big New York fete at the Evans’.
It was pretty perfect and it was all those things one expects oh – shit here it is again – literati parties to be. I really do hate that word, but it works.
They have a lovely garden – it was packed with writers and all the people you might imagine it would be packed with. Willie is traveling with a group of musicians from India and they wandered the garden and the dining room playing (I didn’t listen to where they were from) – I was too busy talking. But they added to the magic of it all.
What makes any book party for me is if Sonny Mehta happens to be there. I am completely, totally a huge Sonny Mehta groupie. I have always thought and continue to think Sonny Mehta is the most divine man in New York. If you asked me who I could sit next to at any dinner I would pick Sonny.
I thought this when I first met him which was actually before I slid into my present life. Several years before I met Glenn, I went the Mehta’s apartment with another old boyfriend of mine (I told you all roads lead to old boyfriends)– this one was Indian and he took me to Gita and Sonny’s for a drink; it was all too fabulous, the apartment, them all the books and the wine. That drinks evening at the Mehta’s, might have started my whole I want to be a part of this world mind set. I want to live in a New York with a really smart, literary man, and have endless books and nice art and be surrounded by people who do extraoridianary things with their minds.
So now whenever I see Sonny at a party I pretty much just corner him. He has no choice, I just elbow my way up to him and make it point to talk to him for as long as he can tolerate me.
And then inevitably when we are on the way home I say to Glenn you know who the most divine man in New York is? And he will respond without looking up from his blackberry – “I know ~ Sonny Mehta.”
So I guess the moral of the story is – the next time your shrink asks you what you really want from your life be very honest and specific and if you are ever lucky enough to be in the same room as Sonny Mehta – just go talk to him. Oh and buy Willie’s book – it’s bound to be good – Wilie wrote it and Sonny published it.