And it's an expanding area of observation, and I'm fine with that.
Thanks to Net Galley and to Scribner for offering me a free copy of this memoir in exchange for an unbiased review.
I knew who Kenneth Tynan was before I read this book. Although well before my time, I do love theatre, I’ve lived many years in the UK and I’d heard of his reviews, his wit, and remembered having seen pictures of him, but didn’t know much about his life. I didn’t know anything about his first wife, American writer Elaine Dundy, or his daughter Tracy, and I must admit that I’m not a big clothes buff. Having said all that, I thoroughly enjoyed reading this book. The clothes give name to the chapters and form the backbone of the book, assisting the author in organising her memories. I guess we all have things we remember, music, movies, books, and they help bring to our mind momentous happenings in our lives. Why not clothes, especially when they were so meaningful to herself and the people she cared about?
Tracy Tynan’s life isn’t ordinary, whatever our definition of an ordinary life might be. Both her parents were popular, talented, brilliant and social butterflies. Their parties and events read like the who is who, first of London and then of the LA of the era. But they weren’t particularly gifted as parents. They seemed wrapped up on their own relationship, the people they knew and their careers. Their daughter was often an afterthought, and even when they tried to connect they weren’t very skilled at it. But the author is generous to a fault and makes an effort to be fair and not to dwell or overdramatise matters. She tries hard to understand and does not moan or complain, despite having lived through pretty harrowing experiences due to her parents’ rocky relationship and to their difficult behaviour. She is sympathetic towards other’s plights and never self-apologising, something extremely refreshing.
The book is full of anecdotes but despite the many famous people the writer has met through her life this is not a scandalous book trying to exploit her connections and throw dirt at others. She always has a good word to say, even about people or actors she had a hard time with, and I got the distinct impression that she subscribes to the idea that if you don’t have anything good to say, you shouldn’t say anything at all. It’s a book full of passion for clothes, for life, for her friends and family. It’s a touching and warm book although it avoids sentimentality, cheap thrills and pulling at heartstrings.
This first-person account is a beautifully written book (she seems to have inherited the writing talent from both her parents), a page turner, understated, and we get to feel as if we were reading the memoirs of a friend. The chapter about her daughter, who was born premature, reminded me of my goddaughter, who was born in similar circumstances, and it resonated especially with me. Her reflections about getting older, her experience of losing loved ones, and her more recent activity volunteering with homeless organisations and those looking after women victims of domestic violence made me realise I had more in common with this woman than I could have ever guessed when I started reading.
If anybody is worried about reading these memoirs because they aren’t familiar with the people involved or are not interested in clothes, don’t let that stop you. The book can be enjoyed by readers who know the era and many of the famous actors, writers, directors, clothes designers… who formed the social circle of Tracy Tynan’s family, but also by all those who have an interest and a passion that has accompanied them throughout their lives, who’ve survived complicated family lives, who love their friends and their families, and who don’t fear reinventing themselves once over again.
I’m not sure if the paper copies will have pictures. The Kindle review copy I was sent didn’t, but that did not diminish my enjoyment.
The end of summer is marked by the Film Festival and only when it ends the regular academic year starts. Or so it feels to me. I always treat September as a transition month, time to get used to early waking up and rushing around all day long. And it is a hard transition, made even more difficult by trying to fit into my new work schedule as many festival screenings as possible.
Yesterday was the last day of this year´s festival and it makes me nostalgic. I look back not only at the last week and all the wonderful films, but also at previous year’ films.
It always starts with juggling schedules. I sit with my timetable and with festival screenings’ timetable (released only one day before the tickets go for sale) and first mark all the films, all the hours that I could fit in with my work. Don’t get me wrong: not all of these films I want to see, but it’s better to eliminate the films that I have no way of seeing before reading any synopsis that could potentially break my heart or make me drop my job.
Once I figure that out, I make a list of the titles that I could potentially see and I start reading all the synopsis. If I have doubts, I look for trailers. The frustrating part is, not all the trailers are available: some of the films have their international premiers and don’t have all the promotional materials out yet. After about two or three hours, I have all the titles I really want and can see.
Unfortunately that´s not a happy end to making difficult choices: many of the screenings are at the same time. Last year I managed to see 17 films, this year only 14. The good news is, with time you get better at selecting what is worth seeing. I was wrong only about one film this year, while last September I made at least 4 doubtful choices.
So, the choice is made. You have your films carefully selected. You think you can relax and sleep well? Wrong! The very next morning the sale starts at 9 in the morning. And again you are faced with a choice: spend half night in a line and tremble that all the people that are in front of you are trying to buy tickets to YOUR screenings or you can sit in front of your computer and fight with the overloaded online sales system that constantly faces you with new bugs and challenges. I prefer my computer. If I am lucky (I was this year!) I start at 9.00 and at 9.15 I´m done. If I am not lucky (last year) I start at 9.00 and at 10.30 I still don´t have tickets. And the Sunday is done. You finally have the tickets, not always all you wanted, but at least the hunt is done. Exhausted you decide to sleep and forget about all that. You have 6 days till Friday: the first day of festival.
You see 3–4 films per day. Wake up at 5:30 and go to sleep at 2:00. Your coworkers worry if you might be sick. You are too tired to calm them down. All you can think about is the film you just have seen/will see. And your favorite author is coming the very next day.
But when he arrives you are at work. And you’ve already missed to many hours. Then at night your friend calls you and tells you in 5 minutes he will be out of the restaurant at the other side of the city. How the hell could you possibly get there in 5 minutes?? You couldn’t. At least you bought the ticket for the screening with presentation, so you can see him tomorrow. And so on… The week flies by and you are happy when it’s over. You promise yourself that the next year or you will take a week of at work, or you will just go to see 2–3 films. But 365 days later you don´t remember anymore all the weariness. So you spend 2–3 hours to set the timetables right, wake up at 8:30 on Sunday before the festival, fight with the computer sales system….
It´s still worth it. I promise!
All the pictures are done by me at the San Sebastian Film Festival.
Congratulations to “Room” this year’s TIFF People’s Choice Award winner based on the book by Emma Donoghue.