It’s the day after Christmas. It’s Christmas break. In case you didn’t catch that.
All is good with my children, so far. They’re 13 and 14, so entertaining themselves is something they should be pretty good at, especially with all their new ‘toys’ and electronics.
But there is one kid that is causing a bit of a problem. My husband.
He had surgery last week, and is home recovering. He’s doing great, and there in lies the problem.
He’s so bored. And he doesn’t do bored well.
He can’t work. He can’t lift. And he can’t drive: painkillers. So he’s wandering our normal size house looking for things to do.
But he can’t do much. Because he’s recovering.
So, just as our kids are old enough to deal with themselves, I have a bored adult with ADHD wandering the house. Highly caffeinated.
It’s all wonderful, because he’s feeling better, and that’s the best thing in the world. But it’s may be a difficult couple of weeks, for
me him. Hopefully he finds some good movies to watch and some good TV to catch up on.
He deserves time off. He works really hard and this year has been difficult. I just wish he wasn’t so limited in what he can do.
Okay, let’s get on to the first stop on my 2017 Favorite Reads. From January, 2017, the wonderful Lillian Boxfish Takes a Walk by Kathleen Rooney.
BOOK TITLE: Lillian Boxfish Takes a Walk
BOOK AUTHOR: Kathleen Rooney
PUBLISHER: St. Martin's Press
January 17th 2017
GENRES: Contemporary Fiction, Historical Fiction, Literary Fiction, Women's Fiction
CHECK IT OUT AT: Goodreads
It’s the last day of 1984, and 85-year-old Lillian Boxfish is about to take a walk.
As she traverses a grittier Manhattan, a city anxious after an attack by a still-at-large subway vigilante, she encounters bartenders, bodega clerks, chauffeurs, security guards, bohemians, criminals, children, parents, and parents-to-be—in surprising moments of generosity and grace. While she strolls, Lillian recalls a long and eventful life that included a brief reign as the highest-paid advertising woman in America—a career cut short by marriage, motherhood, divorce, and a breakdown.
A love letter to city life—however shiny or sleazy—Lillian Boxfish Takes a Walk by Kathleen Rooney paints a portrait of a remarkable woman across the canvas of a changing America: from the Jazz Age to the onset of the AIDS epidemic; the Great Depression to the birth of hip-hop.
Repost from my review published February 15, 2017
I love Lillian Boxfish. I LOVE her. She is the grandmother I want around right now (I loved both my grandmothers, but they’re both sadly gone). I love her as much as I love Jessica Fletcher (Read about my “Murder, She Wrote” OBSESSION).
Lillian Boxfish Takes a Walk drew me from the very start. Lillian hooked me. Her walk around mid 1980’s Manhattan had me racking my brain — I moved to New York in 1989, so a lot of the construction she talks about was just finishing. And the whole Bernie Goetz/Subway Vigilante thing? I remember that, from the national news (although it was still a thing when I lived there).
Lillian takes everyone she meets on her walk at face value, creating a connection with everyone of them. This is a lesson in life — find something you have in common with everyone, even those trying to hurt you. We’re all human, and we all want the world to see the best in us. And CIVILITY, such a wonderful thing. We all need more of it (especially on social media, especially in today’s highly political world). Lillian takes civility as her watchword, but not just for civility’s sake. To her, it makes the world a better, more reasonable place.
“. . . but I say civility because I believe that good manners are essential to the preservation of humanity — one’s own and others’ — but only to the extent that civility is honest and reasonable, not merely the mindless handmaiden of propriety.”
So, in creating connections and using civility, Lillian makes friends and helps those she meets in little and big ways.
But Kathleen Rooney also uses the ineradicable Lillian to show us Manhattan in its 1980’s unseemliness. Lillian’s walk is a pageant of New York City’s history and grandeur, from The Jazz Age to the beginning of rap and hip hop (which Lillian, as a poet and a lover of language, really liked, at least The Sugarhill Gang and “Rapper’s Delight”), from prohibition to the beginning of Donald Trump.
Lillian is lovely in her ability to look at every facet of The City and her life with realism. She doesn’t shy away from the bad or the ugly, knowing that there is beauty there, as well. I like to think she knows that you can’t have beauty without ugly, you can’t have the good without the bad.
Knowing that, Lillian (though the wonderful Kathleen Rooney) faces her own bout with true depression, presenting it in all its ugly sadness. Through Lillian, we see that even those that seem immune can fall into deep depression, a hole from which they cannot be pulled without serious professional intervention. Rooney delves into this with forthrightness and realism: exposing readers to the shame that shadowed depression and mental illness in the past, but presenting it with the frankness it needs and deserves.
Lillian was an artist, one that found a way to use words and language to sell the American dream (and R.H. Macy’s products), but also to describe the world around her in poetry. She was down-to-earth and humble about her gift, but also knew it drove her forward and improved her life. She used her gifts to make a living, creating an exceptional life in the process.
Kathleen Rooney styled Lillian Boxfish on a real person — Margaret Fishback, who was quite a bit like Lillian in profession and accomplishments. As Rooney says of her high school friend who discovered Fishback in the archives at Duke:
” Angela. . .quickly realized that Fishback was a figure –a poet, a protofeminist, a successful career woman, and a mother — who would appeal to me as a poet, a feminist, and a professional myself.”
And, after reading through Fishback’s works, Rooney confessed:
“I instantly felt a deep connection to Fishback — an affinity for her writing both of ads and of poems, and her overall sensibility — though she’d been dead since the mid-1980’s. I knew that I wanted to do something to bring her story and those of others like her (this whole forgotten generation of pre-Mad Men advertising women) into the light.”
Rooney is very clear, though: Lillian Boxfish is not a biography of Margaret Fishback, although the poems and ads in the book written by Lillian were Margaret’s creations (she’s used them with permission from her estate and Margaret’s son). In reading between the lines, I have to think that she used Margaret’s professional career for Lillian, but created Lillian’s life from her imagination. Or at least that’s what I think–so take that for what it’s worth.
Anyway, Lillian Boxfish is wonderful. She’s pure New York, and her life is a 20th Century life of a remarkable woman. There were many women like her, before the word feminism was uttered, women who did it all because it was what they wanted, or needed, to do.
Seriously, run out and get Lillian Boxfish Takes a Walk. It will make a trip to NYC seem necessary. In fact, I think we should all take Lillian Boxfish walking tours on our next visit! Yes, it’s 10 miles. But, if Lillian can do it, so can we–right?!