For years now, Nick Hornby has been writing a monthly column for Believer magazine in which he chronicles his reading and book buying life. These columns have been republished in what is now four collections. In the most recent of these, More Baths, Less Talking, Hornby expresses his delight in coming upon the following passage in Stefan Kanfer’s biography Ball of Fire: The Tumultuous Life and Comic Art of Lucille Ball:
Almost every Saturday night ended with a furious argument about [Ball's and Desi Arnaz's] intentions and infidelities . . . It happened that two of the town’s greatest magpies witnessed many of the quarrels. F. Scott Fitgerald and his inamorota, columnist Sheila Graham, used to watch the spats from Fitzgerald’s balcony.
I have to admit that I share Hornby’s reaction to the passage. It’s hard to imagine the star of I Love Lucy and the author of The Great Gatsby inhabiting the same universe, let alone being in shouting distance from each other, and yet at one time their paths crossed.
If Hornby was pleased just to read a few sentences about a near encounter between Lucille Ball and F. Scott Fitzgerald, one can only imagine his joyful reaction to the new book Hello Goodbye Hello: A Circle of 101 Remarkable Meetings by Craig Brown. As the book’s subtitle proclaims, Hello Goodbye Hello tells the stories of 101 encounters between famous people from all walks of life, although with an emphasis British personalities and on the worlds of politics and entertainment. To add to the cleverness, each story is told in precisely 1,001 words and the stories form a complete daisy chain in which, for instance, Mark Twain meets Helen Keller who meets Martha Graham who meets Madonna who meets Michael Jackson and on and on 101 times. Some of these encounters are well known (Elvis and Richard Nixon), others came as a complete surprise to me (J.D. Salinger and Ernest Hemingway). I can’t say any encounter in the book was quite as surprising as Ball and Fitzgerald, although Groucho Marx’s meeting with T.S. Eliot and Marilyn Monroe’s with Frank Lloyd Wright come close. Still, if you love reading anecdotes about famous people meeting other famous people, you won’t find a more enjoyable book than Hello Goodbye Hello.
Posted by steven | Posted under Books