Thursday, September 4, 2008

A Life of Privilege, Mostly by Gardner Botsford

The library book group will be discussing A Life of Privilege, Mostly by Gardner Botsford at its next meeting (Friday, September 5, at 10:30 a.m.) Gardner grew up wealthy and well-connected in New York in the 20s and 30s, the stepson of Raoul Fleischmann (as in Fleischmann's yeast); Harpo Marx was a friend of his mother's. Botsford served in France during World War II, and his memories of those years are one of the most amusing parts of the book. After the war, he was first a Talk of the Town reporter and then an editor at the New Yorker for 40 years.

To get a feel for A Life of Privilege, Mostly, you can read the New York Times review here, which begins with Botsford's story of having the Germans surrender the city of Carlsbad to him. I disagree with the scathing review that appeared in Entertainment Weekly, but see for yourself.

Compare this book with the other memoir we read this year, Shadow Man by Mary Gordon. How is it different? Which did you like better?

Did the light tone of A Life of Privilege, Mostly amuse you, or did it get on your nerves?

Which of Gardner's stories was the most memorable to you? Did you learn anything interesting from this book?

What did Gardner Botsford seem to leave out when he told the story of his life? Why do you think he chose to do that? (Hint: here's his obituary.)

Would you ever consider writing your memoirs, even if it were just for your family? Do you think you could rely on your memory for the truth?

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