Edmund White: City Boy

[White] says that he had had sex with a couple of hundred people before he was 16…[T]here was only one brief period, that between 1960 with the introduction of the birth control pill, and 1981, with the advent of a disease not yet named AIDS, when people were completely free to have sex where and with whom they chose.

Patti Smith: Just Kids

Just Kids is many things –– a cultural chronicle of the rock ‘n roll world of New York City in the late 60s and early 70s; a portrait of the artist –– as young woman, as young man; a series of exquisite illuminations; a handbook of saints; a heartbreaking love story. Most of all, perhaps, it is the spiritual autobiography of a cultural icon whose journey is far from over.

Maria Filice: Breaking Bread in L’Aquila

Breaking Bread is a beautiful book, carefully organized, handsomely printed, and lavishly illustrated (perhaps “illuminated” is a better word, given the contents and the presentation). Maria met her husband, the late Paul Piccone, in 1990 and in the ensuing years they often returned to Aquila, his birthplace in the Abruzzo, approximately 50 miles due east of Rome.

Martin Stannard: Muriel Spark – The Biography

Stannard gives us a Spark who personifies demonic energy and the Calvinist flintiness of the Scots. He tells us that she saw herself as “Lucrezia Borgia in trousers.” She let no one – editor, publicist, accountant – sell her out or tell her what to do…Publishers feared her, shrank from confrontation, and rarely asked her to go on publicity tours or give readings.

Virginia Woolf: Bloomsbury Writer

The cult of glamour has done more damage to Virginia Woolf than her most virulent critics. She has not herself to blame, even if the photos supply “evidence,” since she had to be forced or tricked into posing for most of them. Not herself to blame for her image being stamped on everything from tea cozies to mouse pads to pencil cases.

American Friends of France: Specialites de la Maison

The list of contributors, some names long forgotten, others alive in legend, is as eccentric and eclectic as the recipes themselves: Elizabeth Arden, Christian Dior, Charlie Chaplin, Clare Boothe Luce, Laurence Olivier, Katherine Hepburn, Salvador Dali, Tallulah Bankhead. It’s a real early twentieth century celebrity parade.Specialites is more than just a fun book to read. It is an historical document of some content and value giving a real sense of the state of American cuisine before World War II…

Bill Clegg: Portrait of an Addict as a Young Man

“It is never said, but it is clear that it is over, that our lives, bound together for so long, will now be lived apart. Everything that we were, the whole magical, horrible opera, is now over. We are only a table apart but we’re in different worlds. He seems less like a person and more like a fragment from a dream I once had, some nocturnal wonder I cannot revive after sleep, only remember.”

Selina Hastings: The Secret Lives of Somerset Maugham

He was an enigmatic figure, inscrutable as a Chinese sage, elegant as any titled gentleman entering his exclusive club in Mayfair, witty as only an assured, cosmopolitan man of the world could be, financially successful in terms nearly impossible to calculate today.

Beryl Bainbridge: 1932 – 2010

She lived a hard life – smoking incessantly and downing plenty of her favorite scotch. She was a party girl, the delight of other guests with her madcap behavior and outlandish stories. In her Victorian manse in Camden Town, a life-sized stuffed water buffalo greeted visitors in the foyer. In her bedroom, an imposing, life-sized male mannequin with a Hitler moustache dominated one corner…

Edward Lucie-Smith: The Glory of Angels

Edward Lucie-Smith’s The Glory of Angels is a sumptuous feast for the eye and spirit, a volume carefully researched, knowingly written, and elegantly illustrated, no illuminated. It’s an oversized (11” x 14”) production, a coffee-table book so beautiful that care must be taken that neither coffee nor any other beverage be spilled upon it.