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The Beautiful Life by Edwin Gilbert
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The Beautiful Life

by Edwin Gilbert

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I first noticed this book in a small-town library in 1980. Anyone who was around for the "Swinging Sixties" would pick up on the reference in the title to the Beautiful People, whose antics were so faithfully chronicled by every newspaper and magazine of the time.

This witty, snarky book has it all: Mini-skirts and go-go boots. The glittering discotheques, pounding out the music of the Beatles and the Rolling Stones. Pop Art with its paintings of toilets and cans of cat food. Underground films made in seamy lofts that were raided by the police. Campy decorators expensively refurbishing lavish co-op apartments.

Some of the characters:

Rosemary Grovenour, a transplanted housewife from Connecticut who sees New York as her last chance to make a mark for herself and get the attention she craves.

Her husband, Grove, who works passionately to save New York's historic homes and landmark buildings from demolition, in a city that only wants newness and change. He's initially pleased at Rosie's success in New York society, but becomes increasingly dismayed at the shallowness of her pursuits.

Bobbsie-Ann Boggsen, for me the best character in the book. The "blonde Goddess of Pop", who maintains her status as leader of the In group by relentlessly striving to be at the front of every new trend, "by always Being-With-It". She befriends Rosemary but is unexpectedly knocked off her pedestal by a stunt Rosemary pulls at a party of the Beautiful People.

Favourite quote (by Bobbsie-Ann): "For you don't know - not yet - how it feels to be the number one pumpkin, the pet of the town, The Pet, and then wake up one morning to find you're no longer tall, but as low as the pooch who pees on your doorman's shoes!"

Another passage, describing Joan Saunders, a young woman who works as Bobbsie-Ann's PR representative: "Three years out of Mount Holyoke and looking the better for it, Joan is not pretty, her nose too sharp, the gray eyes too small; but she knows she gives the illusion of attractiveness, or at least the glossy personification of an Upper East Side wage slave. Wages. Joan's income this past year has been double that of her young husband, an avant-garde film maker. It is true that her work does keep her involved at the weirdest hours and cuts into the time she'd like to spend with her husband. But it can't be helped. You either swing or you don't. He agrees. Joan and her husband are a Package Deal. Pregnancy would kill it. She vows not to let this happen. When, now and then, she wavers, she only has to have lunch with one of her old classmates: an hour with one of those decidedly hung-up young wives from Wilton, Connecticut, and she comes away, her convictions reinforced."

I don't know how many times I've read The Beautiful Life, but I always get caught up in it, and it always entertains me. One of the treasures of my bookshelf. ( )
  booksandscones | Mar 29, 2015 |
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