I seldom travel without a book, but I love going through other people’s bookshelves when I travel and picking something to read. Once, at the home of the Internet’s Most Brilliant Mind, I was given a galley of a new Groucho Marx bio. When I visited L. and M. in their Houston home, I always plucked Marjorie Morningstar from the shelf. (This was before I got my own copy.) And at my parents’ beach house, it was always great fun to dive into the trashy books they kept on hand for beach-reading — Kitty Kelley’s biography of Elizabeth Taylor and Walk on Glass, a rather earnest soaper about a female rock star.
My parents’ beach house became their house-house and the books contained therein had to be thinned, quite naturally. The trashy ones didn’t make the cut. So, last night, staying with them because I had attended the Maryland Library Association meeting in a nearby town, I went through their shelves, looking for the perfect just-before-sleep read. (An old favorite, something that can be read in fragments.)
I found a 1968 copy of My Sister Eileen, with cover art that had been revamped to reflect the era. Oh, how I love that book. I made it through “No Tears, No Good,” her terrific essay about going to the movies and “Chickie Has a Baby,” about newspaper serials.
I could gush on an on and on about McKenney. I’ve said for years that I’d like to write her biography, although it’s apparently a far sadder story than even her straight-forward memoir, Love Story, indicates. (Love Story includes Eileen’s death in a car accident, just days before the Broadway debut of My Sister Eileen.)
My sister and I read McKenney because her books were in the Pratt. Ditto, Jean Kerr. And the two marvelous books, “Mama Made Minks,” and “My Sister Goldie.” This past year, while writing about a furrier, I went back to the Pratt to find “My Sister Goldie” — and it was still there! Oh, bless those wonderful stacks, and the librarians who don’t begrudge those of us who request things from them.