This author first came to my attention through Chirp, the website that sells reduced price audiobooks without having to subscribe or pay any monthly fee. His Book, Mrs. Queen Takes the Train, intrigued me. (BTW, the audiobook is currently on sale on Chirp for $3.99) I thoroughly enjoyed this book about The Queen escaping for a day from her Royal duties to travel by train to Scotland to visit her former yacht, Britannia. And about the various loyal household members who set off to find her. Beautifully read by Simon Prebble, it’s more of a warm meander through this other world than a fast-paced thriller. I would have been happy to meander even longer. You can read the rest of my review here. His other books, both novels and nonfiction, look equally fascinating. His last book was Reading Jackie, about how she revealed herself through the books she edited and published, and the follow-up volume, Jackie Stories, is due out on May 1. I wanted to know where these books were written. Talk about an inspiring locale!
I write most days at the Boston Athenaeum. This is a picture of the library’s top floor. The Athenaeum was founded in 1807 before public libraries existed. A group of subscribers clubbed together to share the high cost of buying books. Today it still feels a little like a club, except that anyone can join. The annual cost is less than belonging to a gym. You can also go in on a day pass.
I like getting out of the house to write. If I stay home, I fix myself a cup of tea, or look at myself in the mirror, or take a nap. If I’m in a library surrounded by other people who are working, I feel some peer pressure to do the same.
At the Athenaeum cellphones are not allowed except in limited areas. I love that feeling of being cut off from the modern world. I also love the architecture, which expresses the importance of books, learning, writing, and reflection. Like Oscar Wilde, who said he tried every day to live up to his blue china, I try not to embarrass the Athenaeum. (I’m sure he doesn’t! GC)
I love other grand things too, including the Queen of England, and America’s stand-in queen, Jacqueline Onassis. I’ve written up several interviews I did for a book on Jackie in publishing ten years ago. These are friends and colleagues who knew Jackie well. I’ve always thought you can know someone better by looking at a collection of their books. This is an attempt to know Jackie better by looking at a collection of her friends. It’s the story of what it was like to sit down, however briefly, in the midst of Jackie’s world.