Saturday, February 26, 2011

Franklin and Eleanor: An Extraordinary Marriage

I saw this new book, by Hazel Rowley, while I was in New York, but just bought it on Kindle last month. I've long been fascinated by Eleanor, who accomplished so much in an era when women were decidedly limited in what they were "allowed" to do by society at large.

Theirs was a fascinating marriage, seemingly built on a real love and affection for each other, not to mention an abiding respect for each other's opinions. That's not to say it was an easy marriage by any account. She had to contend with Franklin's overbearing and overprotective mother, who paid the bills and who was present for much of their marriage.

They both had to deal with Franklin's polio and resulting paralysis, which threatened everything - his life, his ability to earn a living, his political ambitions. It is amazing to think, in this era of cell phone cameras and instant access on the Internet, that the vast majority of the country had no idea that FDR was even disabled, let alone paralyzed to the point that he couldn't walk without leg braces and assistance. The family asked the press to keep it quiet, and, out of respect, they did. Such a thing would NEVER happen these days.

Both Franklin and Eleanor had multiple affairs; Franklin kicking things off with one that almost ended the marriage. Even after his paralysis, Franklin had emotional, if not physical, affairs with several women, including one, Missy LeHand, who lived and traveled with the family. Eleanor seemed to accept that this was a part of her husband's character.

She also had long-term relationships with both men and women. There's no record on whether they were more than emotional, but she traveled and lived with women who were known lesbians. She also had a close relationship with one of her bodyguards and did not react well when he decided to marry.

Both Franklin and Eleanor seemed to need more than they could get out of the marriage, as loving as it may have been.

She was truly distraught when Franklin died, and even more heartbroken when she found out that his former mistress, the one who almost caused them to get divorced, was with Franklin when he died. Even more heartbreaking was the realization that many people know Franklin had rekindled the relationship and they had hidden it from her.

I was impressed with how much Eleanor accomplished on her own, separate from her husband. She was a remarkable woman in her own right.

The Downhill Lie

I generally like Cark Hiaassen's novels. They're good beach and airplane reads - light, fluffy and funny. I've never read any of his non-fiction before, but I decided to give this book a try after hearing him talk about it on "Wait, Wait Don't Tell Me."

It's about his return to golfing after a 30-year break. A natural-born golfer, Hiaasen is not. His days on golf courses are filled with shanked drives, lost balls, alligators, and sunken golf carts.

I am not a golf fan, have never played golf, and know nothing about golf, but I still laughed out loud repeatedly reading Hiaasen's accounts of his adventures.

Next up, I think I'm going to read his book about Disney World.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

My poor neglected book blog

I'm embarrassed that I haven't updated this poor blog since May. It's not because I haven't been reading, because I have been. I just haven't been able to find the time to sit down and write about the books. If you read my other blog, The Days are Just Packed, you'll know why.

But I'm going to try to be better about writing over here, too.

I've just finished a slew of books including some P. G. Wodehouse "Bertie and Jeeves" collections; a new biography of Franklin and Eleanor Roosevelt, which was fascinating; a book by a former FBI hostage negotiator called Stalling for Time that made me want to start a new career as a negotiator; and two books by Mary Roach - Packing for Mars and Spook.

Right now I'm in the middle of Edmund Morris's third volume about Theodore Roosevelt, and I'm loving it. I'm also reading a biography about Frank Lloyd Wright, which is interested but slow going because I keep stopping to look at pictures of the houses and buildings online. The book could use some more photos. I'm also reading a biography of Cleopatra, but I'm having a hard time staying focussed on it. So little is really known about her, and there are so few contemporary records of her life and words, that much of the book seems like pure speculation.

What else is there? Oh yes, I read Dan Brown's latest pulp during my trip to New York City in November. It was perfect airplane reading.

I also read The New Yorker cover to cover each week, and I now get the Christian Science Monitor every week. And I think there have been a few books I've abandoned along the way, like The Help. I just couldn't get into it.

More updates soon, I promise.