Although I didn’t see her face, I knew that the woman in the coloring chair was beautiful. It wasn’t just because she had long, lush, gorgeous hair, but because she was tearing out a page of WWD, where she had eyed another beautiful woman with long hair. And beautiful women look at beautiful women.
“Can I see?” I asked. And then she turned in the chair and I saw a Vogue model, circa 1976, sans huge hat and cigarette holder. But she was still beautiful, sitting there having her hair colored and pointing to the woman in the ad with the big sunglasses and the thick brown hair, saying: “that’s not Jackie Kennedy but it looks like Jackie Kennedy. I’ve always loved that look.”
And then she told me that not only was Jackie Kennedy beautiful but she was a nice person. She knew this because she sat across from Jackie Kennedy’s chair at Kenneth’s in the city, which is where Jackie had her hair done when Jackie had her hair done. The beautiful woman in the coloring chair had worked for Glamour and Vogue for 25 years, and if we were still in NYC and one of us had been Nora Ephron then one of us might have discovered that her husband was having an affair…. But we neither of us were Nora, and this was not NY, and Jackie was dead.
Nora Ephron is writing about just this generation of women, who lived and worked and counted in NYC, and who are now oldish, or dead. Nora Ephron is not dead. But she is forgetting things, and what she remembers is not obvious. She remembers going to an anti-Vietnam protest but not getting to it because she spent the weekend in the hotel room having sex, she remembers trying to find the New York Post building, and getting lost on the George Washington Bridge, and not deciding to get a divorce, and not going to the front during the 1973 war in Israel, and not knowing anything, and believing in print. She remembers consciousness-raising meetings in the 60s and 70s with women who took themselves much too seriously, and she remembers writing scripts that she thought were funny that weren’t funny enough.
I am reading three books, disrespectfully, carelessly, unthinkingly.
After finishing The Girl Who Kicked A Hornet’s Nest I decided that there was nothing more to read. Nothing else to read. Nothing to satisfy the specific hunger for more Girl. Nothing to rejoin the amorous journalist and the girl. What a pity. Out of all those beautiful, lithe, mythically wise women the journalist ends up with a weight lifter. Disappointing. Like all men, really.
Maybe it wasn’t really Larsson who wrote the whole thing. Maybe it was his girlfriend. Which would explain why the rest of the world is reading “Men Who Hate Women” and Americans, fat, hypocritical and prudish are reading about hornet’s nests. But now we have run out of hornets nests. What remains?
Something named “The Assassins of Athens” which rhymes, ridiculously. We stopped after three rich schoolboys bragged to a homicide inspector about the routine they routinely used to pick upgirls at bars which they were not old enough to drink in…..
The second begins with a Jewish wedding and progresses intellectually to a classic old fashioned domination of a good Jewish girl from Scarsdale by a cold English cad. She loves it. Then the plot turns limp and the Englishmen confesses his impotence, and the book dooms itself to the whining chic lit bin.
A mature, stubborn wealthy widow gathers up a group of brittle, neurotic or lonely girlfriends to help her daughter succeed as a journalist for one of the lesser entertainment magazines. The helpful project helps the girls in turn. A Red Hat Club imitation, without the charm.
Quiet, patient, relentless intelligence spills over the pages of this story about a girl geek, a journalist, a news magazine devoted to the critique of corrupt Swedish institutions, and an odd assemblage of Stockholm’s thugs, bureaucrats, intellectuals, and cops. None are verbose. Men and women think. Thinking happens without talk, without sounds, without annunciation. It is sometimes signaled by cigarettes. Sometimes by a walk. Much goes unsaid, and unshared.
All the good guys use Macs. Some of them smoke. The geek uses a powerbook, the journalist a Mac ibook, the magazine editor an Airbook. The geekgirl (Salander) is skinny, occasionally violent, abnormally intelligent, obsessively private. She does not emote; she enjoys: mathematics, sex, hacking. She has lesbian girlfriends, bank accounts in the Canary Islands, lawyers in Gibraltar, and a local accountant. She buys a 2.5 million kroner flat with a view and decorates it in one day of shopping in Ikea, for a total of 97,000 kroner.
In the yard a piece of shiny scrap metal from a nuclear power plant is waiting for Roy to see it. But Roy is reading a not yet published New York Times obituary:
Roy Valois a sculptor whose large works are displayed in many public spaces around the United States and in several prominent museums, died today at INSERT. He was INSERT. The cause was INSERT according to INSERT. The self taught Mr. Valois worked almost exclusively with recovered materials, usually scrap metal but he was “no primitive” according to Kurt Palmeteer …. Roy Valois was born in the western Maine town of N. Grafton on TO COME. He went to local schools where he excelled at sports, eventually entering the University of Maine on a hockey scholarship. But it was while working at a summer job that involved welding and other metalwork that Mr. Valois found his true calling…. It was also at Georgetown that he met his wife Delia Stern, an economist later employed by the United Nations. She died in an airplane crash off Venezuela in TO COME…
Delia is also the name of the sculpture that occupies the center of his house, and reminds his next ex-girlfriend that he is still, in some sense, married. The obituary is wrong about his wife, he tells the journalist at the NY Times. Delia worked for the Hobbes Institute, not the U.N. The journalist is killed the next day.
And Roy himself is not well. He has a cough. His nose bleeds. His arm breaks. A doctor tells him that he has asbestos-caused cancer: . After his treatment in a Fung-Shui designed office, a man in a wheelchair, his age, but skeletal, is wheeled out or wheeled in by a nurse. Roy doesn’t want to be anywhere near the man in the wheelchair, because from the point of view of the unconscious anywhere near = anywhere like. And Roy scales his way through the world more or less unconscious, feeling his way around like a hockey player or a hydraulic excavator.
Roy has shovel fulls of partial information. From Dr. Choo. From his now dead wife. From the past. And we imagine that Roy will piece together something like the truth out of what remains. Scrap metal, memory, curiosity.