Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Spring Break at the Hotel Chelsea

Mark Twain. O. Henry. Tennessee Williams. Arthur Miller. Simone de Beauvoir. Bob Dylan. Joni Mitchell. Janis Joplin. Leonard Cohen. Jane Fonda. Uma Thurman. Stanley Kubrick. Frida Kahlo. Countless writers, musicians, actors, directors, and artists have lived or stayed in NY's historic Hotel Chelsea. With such an artistic legacy, I felt privileged and honored to spend a week at this elegant, spacious, bohemian hotel ("boho") for spring break.

Taken from the living room balcony outside of our suite (the "C" in Chelsea wasn't visible from this angle), this photo features the hotel sign and street fair below.


Colorful, contemporary art brightens the lobby and lines the stairways of the Chelsea Hotel. Taking the stairs was like walking through art galleries.


I found this picture along the stairway. It's by one of my favorite contemporary artists, Niki de Saint-Phalle, who's known internationally for her large mosaic sculptures (pictured below is part of Southern California's Queen Califia's Magical Circle).


By now you may be thinking, isn't this a blog about books, not art? Don't worry, I'm getting to the books now. Truth be told, it was hard to settle down and read in NY. I saw my family and we were out a lot--we went to the theater to see three shows, West Side Story, Guys and Dolls (with Oliver Platt), and Accent on Youth (with David Hyde Pierce, and which features metaplaywriting). Most of my reading took place in flight, which is always the best way to make time fly by. I was able to finish two books on my To-Be-Read list.

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This Armenian memorial is in Emerson, NJ, and relates to one of the books I finished over spring break, The Road From Home: A True Story of Courage, Survival, and Hope by David Kherdian, the true story of a young girl's escape from the Armenian genocide. Published in 1979, this book about a young Armenian girl, Vernon Dumehjian Kherdian, has won several awards including a Newbery Honor Award. It's an important book because it preserves memories and records history, and will help future generations remember the extermination of the Armenians.  I found that once I started reading this book, I couldn't stop.  David Kherdian tells his mother's story as Vernon's life goes from idyllic to horrifying very quickly because of this devastating holocaust, but her will to survive is strong.  I recommend this young adult book to older readers, too, who have an interest in historical stories which depict extraordinary strength, spirit, and courage.

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"My size makes me speak slowly and move slowly, and it's also paradoxically enabled me to slip through cracks no one in Aberdeen would think possible."
~ The Little Giant of Aberdeen County, Tiffany Baker


Another book I read and enjoyed, mostly at very high altitudes, was The Little Giant of Aberdeen County, published in 2009, the first novel by Tiffany Baker. I'd seen this book in the NY Times Book Review a few months ago and vowed to read it, because one of my favorite books is Stones from the River by Ursula Hegi, which happens to be about the life of a German dwarf (a zwerg), Trudi Montag, who helps Jews escape the holocaust. I thought that I might also enjoy a book about a giant (or giantess). Perhaps this is a tenuous connection, but the book proved to be a good choice. The Little Giant of Aberdeen County is a beautiful, memorable debut by Tiffany Baker, the story of a very large young girl who must learn to live with her unexpected, monstrous size. Truly Plaice, the heroine and narrator of this story, is born large and keeps on growing bigger, in a small town where she's often mocked due to her appearance, whereas her older sister, Serena Jane, is a normal-sized, eye-catching beauty. When Serena Jane suddenly disappears, leaving behind a husband and young son, Truly's life changes and she grows in new and unexpected ways. This grand novel is about inner and outer beauty, finding your place in the world, love and friendship, medicine and magic, life and death. I was captivated by this original book from start to finish, and look forward to reading more by this author.

5 comments:

  1. The Little Giant is slowly going higher and higher up my TBR mountain...

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  2. I always enjoy finding out what you've been reading. Both books sound like fascinating reads. I'll add them to my "to read" list. And it was fun to find out how you spent spring break. I've never been to New York City, but want to. :)

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  3. Thank you, Mee and Christie, for stopping by and posting a comment!

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  4. You can stay in touch with the famed chelsea hotel by visiting www.chelseahotelblog.com

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  5. Thanks for leaving a link to the Hotel Chelsea blog.

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