Tuesday, January 26, 2016

"The Swans of Fifth Avenue"

Melanie Benjamin is New York Times bestselling author of The Aviator's Wife. Her new book, The Swans of Fifth Avenue is the #1 Indie Next Pick for February.

Benjamin applied the Page 69 Test to The Swans of Fifth Avenue and reported the following:
The Swans of Fifth Avenue is about Truman Capote’s relationship with Babe Paley, one of the leading Manhattan socialites of the 1950s and 1960s, and her fellow “swans,” as he called them, these beautiful, privileged but ultimately lonely ladies who lunch. It was a relationship that began when everyone was young and beautiful, including Capote, and it ended twenty-years later when Truman betrayed their trust and love by writing a short story in which he divulged all their secrets. They never spoke to him again, and it particularly shattered Babe, the envied but wounded wife of CBS founder William S. Paley. Truman was her “True Heart,” her best friend; most people felt she was the one person in his life he may have truly loved. His betrayal sent them both on a downward spiral; Babe died of lung cancer only a couple of years after the story was published, and Truman became the bloated, drug-and-alcohol addicted caricature we most remember.

Page 69 of The Swans of Fifth Avenue is a good representation of the beginning of Truman’s relationship with the swans. Truman and his friends are having lunch at Le Pavillon, one of their favorite places to be seen. Truman has instigated a little game, seemingly harmless on the surface but one of the swans, Slim Keith, has already detected the deviltry behind Truman’s fun. And it will be this deviltry that becomes more and more evident, until he betrays them all in his short story, "La Côte Basque 1965."
Truman was fun, so much fun—God, who else would show up at Kenneth’s while she was getting her hair done with the unpublished memoirs of a Paris gigolo and read them aloud to her in his most resonant voice while she was helplessly trapped by the hair dryer?—but there was always a dark undercurrent gurgling at his feet, threatening to suck under those who got to close.

“Now, I’m going to call out a name, and I want you each to hold up the appropriate card. Let’s start with something easy. Marilyn Monroe—a darling girl and a dear friend of mine, but oh, what a mess she is! Do you know”—he lowered his voice to a whisper—“that while she was married to DiMaggio, she was terrified of his mother? The most beautiful woman in the world, according to some—not me, though”—and once again, Truman squeezed Babe’s hand beneath the table—“spending her days in the kitchen trying to make spaghetti sauce just like Mama DiMaggio used to make?”

“No,” C.Z. squealed. “No! Are you serious?” And then she held up her Nose Job card, and Truman put his finger to his own nose, and they both giggled.

They leaned in to hear more gossip about the Hollywood star, whom no one would ever have invited into their homes, but in whom they were all voraciously interested, anyway.
Learn more about the book and author at Melanie Benjamin's website.

The Page 69 Test: Alice I Have Been.

The Page 69 Test: The Autobiography of Mrs. Tom Thumb.

My Book, The Movie: The Autobiography of Mrs. Tom Thumb.

The Page 69 Test: The Aviator's Wife.

--Marshal Zeringue