It was a brilliant summer day, the temperature climbing into the 80s. Entering the dining room of Café Boulud, I wondered if the air conditioning was working. It wasn’t cool enough for me, but then few New York City restaurants are. Having lived off-and-on in Florida for fifteen years, I can vouch for southern expertise in turning an overheated dining room into a chilly igloo, at the flick of a thermostat. And doing so night after night.Read More
One of the seldom-mentioned pleasures of being a published author is meeting other published authors. And the day I had lunch with the convivial Sande Boritz Berger, author of The Sweetness, an award-winning memoir of guilt and survival, was no exception.
Where should we go?
It’s gotta’ be French!Read More
Publishing a book is a marathon, not a sprint! Or so we writers hear regularly. Patience is not only a virtue, but a necessity. Now, with the one-year anniversary Of Veronica’s Grave coming up May 9th it’s time to take stock.Read More
"Cézanne and I” (Cézanne et moi) tells the story of the troubled friendship between the French Post-Impressionist painter Paul Cézanne and the French writer Émile Zola.
When we first meet the young Zola, he is a poor boy catching birds so he and his mother will have something to eat for dinner. Cézanne, on the other hand, comes from a privileged background and contends not with poverty, but with bullying by an austere and imposing father.
The boys bond during a schoolyard scuffle in which the hotheaded Cézanne comes to the aid of the more prudent and placid Zola, sparing him a wicked bruising. From this day forward, their lives will be entwined, notwithstanding the divergent paths each will follow to glory.
The biopic traces their friendship from early school days to nights of debauchery and eventually to a reversal in social standing. All of which takes its toll, turning them from friends and co-conspirators to rivals—each anxious for the approval of the art salons, the galleries, the dealers and the ‘leading lights’ of their day.
Cézanne, sickened by the success of the Impressionist painters, forges ahead trying to capture an elusive vision—to find a way forward from nineteenth century painting to what we know as modern art. His early efforts meet with disdain in a world still captivated by the works of the Impressionists.
Although Zola comes to his friend’s defense, his words do not suffice to heal Cézanne’s wounded pride. The arguments and jealousies increase, in part because Zola, after the publication of a few novels, has become a wealthy man.
Write What You Know!
Eventfully they have a falling out over Zola's “L’Oeuvre,” a fictionalized depiction of Cézanne’s life that shows him as a loser, a failed painter. Cézanne, a wild man, accuses him of plagiarizing their lives. In Zola’s defense, writers are told repeatedly: Write What You Know! Zola did. When the book with its depictions of the bohemian lifestyle in Paris met with great acclaim, Cézanne accused Zola of 'selling out,' of siding with the bourgeoisie.
The Women Who Loved Them
The truth is that both men were anxious to succeed and insecure about their art. Adding more misery to the tumultuous relationship is that Zola weds Camille, a woman who had previously been the lover of Cézanne. When she tells Cézanne, a misogynist boor, that the happiest day of her life was when she stopped loving him, I cheered. Of course, Zola, too, would later betray her by having an affair with a buxom young girl who enters his household as a seamstress and stays long enough to bear him two children.
Years later, Cézanne, against his family’s wishes, would live for many years with a woman made famous by his paintings of 'Madame Cezanne,' if a woman his family regarded as beneath them socially. He would only marry her after she bears him a son and he wants to protect his son’s patrimony.
Spoiler Alert: The Ending
The most affecting scene comes toward the end of the film when Zola takes his mistress, Jeanne, and their children back to the village where he and Cézanne grew up and where Cézanne is still living. An approving crowd gathers to see and hear the renowned writer. Meanwhile, Cézanne, receiving word that Zola has come to town, lays down his brushes and races to the town square, where he hovers at the edge of the crowd—able to see Zola, but not saying a word. That left me dewy-eyed.
Two Paths to Glory
Of course, in both cases, history has the last word. Émile Zola courageously took on much of the French establishment, penning the newspaper article ‘J’Accuse,’ which led to the exoneration of the falsely-accused Alfred Dreyfus and to nominations for the Nobel Prize for Literature in both 1901 and 1902. And Paul Cezanne, too, succeeded beyond all expectations. Art historians widely regard his seminal paintings as the foundation for what will be the transition from nineteenth century painting to twentieth century modern art.
In a Nutshell
Unlike some reviewers, I loved this period piece, a lush walk through French history and the French countryside. But then I’m a pushover for studies of ‘genius’ and for films that transport me to exotic places—Aix-en-Provence—and former times. That these two geniuses, temperamentally 180 degrees apart, should have met and befriended one another seems improbable, and yet it happened. And the world is richer for it—if not the women who loved them and lived with them.
C'est tout pour cette semaine ...Until we meet again, remember…caring is sharing! I’ll have the coffee waiting next Sunday…
PS: A week ago, in Portland, Oregon, Veronica's Grave took the Silver Medal at the prestigious IPBA Benjamin Franklin Award for Memoir 2017. Yay!
Another astonishing piece of news is that Harper-Collins Canada has bought the foreign rights for Veronica's Grave and is bringing out the memoir under a new title in June 2017. Woo!
Wishing you a Happy Easter and a Good Passover. May springtime, with its promise of renewal, brighten your days and lighten your hearts.
Throughout the nineteenth century, the ‘fairground’ —loosely translated as the ‘sideshow’ of the traveling circuses of the day—was a popular theme with the press and artists alike.
Anchoring an exhibition of 100 related works on this theme at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, is a masterpiece of the museum’s collection, the sublime Circus Sideshow (Parade de cirque) painted in 1887-88 by Georges Seurat (1859-1891).Read More
On St Patrick’s Day, where better to celebrate than at Balthazar, the lively French brasserie in SOHO owned by the restaurateur Kevin McNally.
For twenty years, Balthazar has been packing in the crowds from 7:30 in the morning until 1:00 in the morning, a mind-boggling accomplishment. But what accounts for the on-going popularity in this restaurant-fickle city?Read More
There's great news this week, but let me start with a fantastic sale. It's hard to believe, but on May 9th Veronica's Grave: A Daughter's Memoir will be celebrating its First Birthday.
To honor all books published by She Writes Press in Spring 2016, the publisher is running a one week sale of those books. Starting now. There are 36 books to choose from, and each can be downloaded for pennies! To be exact for 99 cents each.
If you're feeling reflective, there are a number of memoirs to check out. If you're looking for historical fiction or a riveting mystery, you will find them on the list. All you need do is click hereRead More
Hello, Guys and Gals!
Thank you so much for all the birthday wishes! It was an amazing day filled with greeting cards, email cards, flowers (even my local florist sent flowers!), phone calls, and emails from relatives and friends all over the country. Many of whom have been celebrating with me for a lifetime.
And, of course, there were messages from Facebook friend, who have entered my life more recently, bringing with them richness and warmth. I’m grateful for everyone who made the day special. Especially for my husband who wined me and dined me at the fabulous candlelit Le Coucou.Read More
Happy Valentine’s Day!
So many of you have read Veronica’s Grave, and I’m grateful for your support—for the outpouring of kind words and, of course, for the glowing reviews you've posted on various platforms.
Now, in this month of love, Amazon has sent me a 'Valentine’ I’d like to share with you...
On a snowy day in January, a writer-friend with a new book to sell, Romalyn Tlighman from California, was in New York for a conference at the Hilton. Romalyn's book, To The Stars Through Difficulties, is a fascinating look at the development of the public library system in Kansas in the early twentieth century under the influence of Andrew Carnegie. Now available on pre-order on Amazon, it will likewise be available at book stores nationwide in April.
We met for lunch at what Zagat calls 'a perennial favorite,' the Trattoria Dell’Arte, on Seventh Avenue. Seated at a table with a view of the street, it was magical watching New Yorkers and visitors slipping and sliding on the slick pavements, while across the street, Carnegie Hall, named after the great American philanthropist Andrew Carnegie, loomed as unperturbed as ever. For Romalyn, there was a special connnection.
By the way, you can tell the native New Yorkers when it snows by the umbrellas they carry! Whereas hardy Nordic types, don their woolen skis caps with colorful patterns and tuck their chins deeper into their lambskin collars.
Close by us that day was a table of five, enjoying themselves immensely, apologizing for the glee, explaining they were up from Texas where it never snows. Their enthusiasm was infectious. As it it, cloudy days, rainy days, grey days, and snowy days are my favorites; I never take them for granted. Still, it was lovely listening to the gusto they brought to the lunch-hour white-out, which, if making the city less discernible, was likewise making it even more enjoyable. In short, it was an enchanted day.
So, when it snowed this week, with great sheets of white whipping in from the north, I donned my knee-high Hunter boots and my plush soft Hunter socks, to walk in the snow and enjoy that snowy day magic all over again. Time was of the essence, I knew, as it doesn’t take long for a coverlet of white to turn into a slushy grey mound at a crosswalk.
And it didn't take long before I decided the wind was too nippy, that I needed a respite. A snowed-in blackboard on a sidewalk caught my eye: If the brussel sprout soup didn't do it for me, the quiche sounded about right. Ducking inside a neighborhood charmer, Demarchelier on East 86th Street, near Madison, I found all in readiness. Snow or no snow. Including the soft lighting, which I have always appreciated. You can see for yourself the results: a challenging book, a soft, full-boded pinot noir, and a quiche Lorraine. Take a look at that crusty bread, what's not to like! And there's madame, totaling up the bill...
Have you a snowy day favorite place where you like to linger long? Drop a line and tell me about it. Hope to see you next week when I'll have the coffee ready...
On my last three trips to Paris, I’ve chosen to stay in the Marais, not because of its international clientele, lovely art galleries, and trendy boutiques, but for the glimpses it offers of the history of Paris, dating to the 13th century.
Opening the Travel section of today’s New York Times (Sunday, February 5, 2017), I was delighted to find “My Paris: Seduced by the Past,” by Liz Alderman, the Paris-based chief European business correspondent for The New York Times. Liz has lived in the Marais for fifteen years, and, as you might expect, her choices are personal, well-informed, and dear to her heart. Read on!Read More
I did not want to pass up this opportunity to, once again, wish you good luck and fortune in the new year. But since the Chinese New Year is something my dear friend Diana Paul knows more about than I do, I am forwarding her insights on what we can expect in the Year of the Rooster.Read More
When art critics released their best exhibitions for 2016, "Valentin de Boulogne: Beyond Caravaggio" rose to the top of the most discerning lists. As the show at the Metropolitan Museum of Art will be closing January 16, time is running short. So, drop everything, run right over. If that's not possible, then read on for a fresh look at an old master. And Valentin de Boulogne is an "old master," if one we may not have heard of until now.Read More
If you’ve been following this newsletter for a while, you may recall some of the marvelous French restaurants that have come our way this year. And it wasn't all that hard to find them, as French cooking is undergoing something of a renaissance in New York. And while the competition was strong, the standout was Le Coucou, where our dining experiences have been memorable in every way.Read More
Bonjour mes amis!
The current exhibit at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, "Max Beckmann in New York," was a breath of fresh air, as well as a chance to revisit an old friend. The focus is on 25 paintings he did between 1920-1948 that would enter New York collections and 14 other paintings done during the sixteen months he and his wife lived in New York (1949-1950).Read More
New York: The fifth annual BEVERLY HILLS INTERNATIONAL 2016 AWARDS® has recognized Veronica’s Grave: A Daughter’s Memoir by Barbara Bracht Donsky as a 2016 FINALIST in the category of memoir.
The competition, with thousands of entries, is judged by experts from all aspects of the book industry, including publishers, writers, editors, book cover designers and professional copywriters. They select the award winners based on overall excellence.
After months in the works, this week finds us doing the final edits of the audio-book of Veronica’s Grave: A Daughter’s Memoir. The Audible version, narrated by Leslie S. Miller, will be released shortly on Amazon, iTunes and through other nationwide outlets.
Listening last week to Leslie’s reading of my memoir was a joy! I became so carried away, that it was as if I was listening to someone else’s story. So, who is this enchantress?Read More
After dipping a madeleine in a cup of verbena-infused tea, Proust’s boyhood memories played out before his very eyes. After a few more sips and a few more dips, he transformed his entire life — all that he knew about history, cultural mores, social privilege, art, science, and human nature—into what is arguably the greatest novel of the 20th century. If not a memoir, it’s an autobiographical treatise in the guise of a novel. Dipping the madeleine proved an antidote to the much-dreaded writer’s block.Read More
Hello Guys and Gals!
Francophiles keep popping up in my life, the latest being Roni Beth Tower with a fabulous new memoir out this month. Miracle at Midlife: A Transatlantic Romance chronicles a two year courtship between a divorced American attorney living on a converted barge in Paris and a clinical research psychologist working from her home in Connecticut.
Naturally, when Francophiles get together we love nothing better than to talk about all things French. And although it's true that every country has its own customs and rituals, it seems that the French have a unique way of throwing a bachelor party for a young man about to be married. I hope you will find it as entertaining as I did!Read More