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Pickle Me This

August 28, 2009


Must admit that fateful day that took Farrah and Michael had me rolling my eyes only, but it does seem a bit much that Wednesday saw the deaths of Ted Kennedy, Ellie Greenwich and Dominick Dunne, each of whom meant a lot to me. Kennedy by virtue of being a Kennedy alone, and there was a time in my life when I lapped up Kennedy bios like they were fiction (and they sort of were). I know Ted Kennedy was both a hero and a dastardly villain, but I’m most amazed by a story I once read alluding to about him having sex with a woman in a crowded restaurant. I could find no further details, but it’s the best story I’ve ever heard. As far as I know, Ellie Greenwich got up to no such thing, but her music has been part of the soundtrack to my life (“I met him at the candy store, he turned around and smiled at me. You get the picture?” “Yes, we see.”)

But since we’re talking literature here, let’s focus on Dominick Dunne. Which means we’re not talking literature with a capital L, but I loved his books. When we lived in Japan, we frequented Wantage Books, a used bookshop in Kobe. Wantage Books was an English bookshop, which was rare and wonderful, and we’d buy at least ten books per visit. (It’s odd to remember what a precious commodity readable books were then, and how easy it was to take them for granted again). It was at Wantage where I found Various Miracles, my favourite Carol Shields book, discovered Margaret Drabble, and bought up every Dominick Dunne novel in the store. Stuart and I were obsessed with them, and remember reading them on my train commutes to work, gripping mass-market paperbacks that fit perfectly into my purse. The Two Mrs. Grenvilles, and A Season in Purgatory (speaking of Kennedys), People Like Us, and besides, he was Joan Didion’s brother-in-law, so I felt better about the whole thing.

There was something about the foreigness of our every day surroundings that made Dunne’s novels like a tonic. American, and glamour, and scandal, and intrigue– we devoured it like the books were bad for us, and perhaps they were, but they satisfied. They were delicious. And then I remember, after a string of Dunne novels, reading something else finally and being confused when there was no fil*tio by page three. I’ve since adjusted back, but I’ll always remember how perfect his books were at the time.

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