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Dorian Gray in the Bronx

Hi. Things are moving along quickly in the back-to-school world. I’ve been renting a nice one bedroom apartment from the famous hat-maker, Sue Carrolan. It’s in a safe building in a very interesting part of the Bronx.  Remember “the Kingdom by the Sea” in Poe’s “Annabel Lee?”  Well, it was the Bronx he was talking about, before the buildings and millions of people grew around his tiny cottage where his beautiful Annabel’s life was stolen away from him by jealous angels.

Anyway, I don’t see the sea from my apartment, which would be nice, because it is hot as hell here with 90 percent humidity today.  But one thing I like about the Bronx, that they didn’t do in my old neighborhood on the Upper West Side, is that the kids open the fire hydrants during the day. I took off my sandals yesterday and splashed around with them in the fresh cool water – and had a lovely day.  There are no Starbucks up here, but the street vendors sell fresh mangoes, strawberries and sweet iced coconut with a smile. Almost everything in the little grocery stores and restaurant cafes is relatively affordable.

The only downside of the Bronx is, of course, the night. That’s when the underbelly is most alive.  I’ve already had some close calls and don’t intend to make myself vulnerable anymore – so I have to plan it better next time as my commute to campus takes over an hour by various levels of subway routes.  Besides that, and missing my animals and friends from home, I’m doing very well.

Owl Farm and the animals are being cared for by two responsible and talented journalists: Andrew Travers, who worked for Doug Brinkley for five years and who now keeps the police blotter and writes various other stories for the Aspen Daily News, and Jonathan Bastian, who grew up in Woody Creek (he’s the son of Hunter’s dear friend and neighbor, Ed Bastian), who is a sportswriter —
yes, just like Hunter, who started his own career as a sportswriter for the Eglin Air Force Base newspaper.

I’ll be resuming my book tour in October after an appearance next Thursday in Washington, D.C. All of October’s will be at various campuses and independent bookstores around the country. I adjusted my current class schedule accordingly: I’m only taking a few, but very interesting, classes, includingEnglish Lit (Criticism) and History of American Culture. Two of them are seminars, which I’m excited about.

Peter or I will keep you posted as to the book signing schedule. The book is doing well and I’m quite pleased with the reception from readers. Very positive. But of course some people will hate me for it.  I even got my first nasty review the other day. It was so below the belt, I almost felt flattered.

Anyway, I have been caught up in reading (for the first time) “The Picture of Dorian Gray." I couldn’t help but post a passage from it for you. It’s almost as if Oscar Wilde anticipated the creation of “Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas.”

Lord Henry is the wise and beautifully wicked character who first makes Dorian Gray aware of his own youth thus methodically unravelling all sorts of latent passions and desires and sins in the boy.  At one point, Lord Henry gives Dorian a book to read, which changes Dorian’s life forever… and is described thus:


   It was  a novel without a plot, and with only one character, being indeed, simply a psychological study of a certain young Parisian, who spent his life trying to realize in the nineteenth century all the passions and modes of thought that belonged to every century except his own, and to sum up, as it were, in himself the various moods through which the world-spirit had ever passed, loving for their mere artificiality those renunciations that men have unwisely called virtue, as much as those natural rebellions that wise men still call sin.  The style in which it was written was that curious jeweled style, vivid and obscure at once, full of argot and of archaisms, of technical expressions and of elaborate paraphrases, that characterizes the work of some of the finest artists of the French school of Symbolistes.  There were in it metaphors as monstrous as orchids, and as subtle in colour.  The life of the senses was described in the terms of mystical philosophy.  One hardly knew at times whether one was reading the spiritual ecstasies of some mediaeval saint or the morbid confessions of a modern sinner…

Oscar Wilde “The Picture of Dorian Gray”


Yep, HST ineed. Okay, I’m signing off for now. It’s finally cooling down with fans and curtains blowing.

Until next time, your friend, eating the sweet Bronx coconut,

Anita Thompson


p.s. remember last year about this time I bumped into a Columbia poster vendor and stopped in my tracks because they had put a Gigantic picture of "F&L in Vegas" front and center of the poster sale?  This year, the image that popped out at me was of an old Champagne advertisement with a picture of Grace Kelley (before she married the Prince) in a gorgeous black dress behind a sleek champagne glass. L’INSTANT TAITTINGER is all it says next to the seductive look of her face through the delicate bubbles of the glass.  I bought a copy for $10 b/c that poster brings me fond memories of a romantic time I once had talking about that very poster …magnifique!

Then, I hopped in a cab to see a lecture given by my beloved Doug Brinkley on the 50th anniversay of "On the Road" in the East Village at Cooper Union.  Doug is a damn good lecturer, so, if you’re a student at Rice University, and reading this, sign up for ANY of his classes! He and I went out for a NY pizza after and had a nice talk.  He was later going to visit our friend Sean Penn Premier his new film in Canada.  All is well in the world.

 p.p.s.(morning update)  the "novel without a plot" that so corrupts Dorian is, in fact, a supremely decadent French work that our dear friend and editor Shelby Sadler, and writer Robert Chalmers started their doctoral dissertations about: "A Rebours" by Joris-Karl Huysmans.  After reading my blog entry, Shelby wrote to me this morning saying that it is so unfathomably bizarre that hardly anyone has ever bothered to read, much less understand it. Hunter did in fact read the copy that Shelby gave to him (many years after he finsihed Vegas, of course), and admitted it was so incredibly disturbing that he could barely finish it — but did.  Yes, all is well in the world indeed.






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