Sassy Living Below the Mason-Dixon Line

Category Archive

The following is a list of all entries from the literature category.

Elizabeth Linley Sheridan

I have embarked on an exciting new creative project!  It involves my great-great grandmother Sarah Sheridan Ward.  She was a prose writer and poet in the 1800s, and researching her has been so much fun.  I am amazed at how many writers are on my family tree, beginning with Sarah’s cousin, Richard Brinsley Sheridan.  He was famous for founding London’s Drury Lane Theatre and writing the English comedy, The School for Scandal.  His wife, Elizabeth Linley was even more extraordinary.




She was born in 1754, one of seven children of the harpsichordist and composer Thomas Linley.   At the age of twelve, Lady Linley was already singing at Covent Garden, and her success was so great that her father could buy a substantial house in Bath, England with her earnings.  Thomas Gainsborough was so besotted with her that he painted her at least four times, and The Honourable Sheridan eloped with Lady Linley to Calais, France.

That’s why I love the holidays (and being a writer) — being thankful for family you didn’t know you had, and feeling kinship with them as an artist.  Here are several of Gainsborough’s paintings of Mrs. Richard Brinsley Sheridan.  The above portrait hangs in Washington’s National Gallery of Art, directly opposite Napoleon and just round the corner from George Washington!








Katherine Anne Porter.  Theodore Roethke.  John O’Hara.  These literary giants in one place?  FLAIR.  Fleur Cowles masterminded the short-lived magazine dedicated to fashion, decor and art, with special contributions from emerging literati.  She did go through a number of husbands until she settled on Gardner Cowles, publisher of LOOK Magazine, who indulged her super-sized ambitions of  a magazine that combined the fancy bouillabaisse of VOGUE, TOWN & COUNTRY, HOLIDAY, etc.  Although it folded after only a year (after losing millions), FLAIR’s creativity and quality is still admired today.

Like most artists, I am obsessed with this magazine, and I was elated to find a copy for twenty-five cents at a local thrift shop.  (I am in no athletic condition to do backflips, but seriously considered trying.)  The May 1950 issue is themed with roses.  FLAIR was touted as including cutouts and pop-ups made of expensive paper stock and pieces from soon-to-be discovered writers.  No disappointment here!  Take a look…

The Lives She Lived: Rosamond Bernier

And, still does.  Rosamond Bernier has always managed to be in the right place at the right time.   Recalling her spectacular luck, Ms. Bernier, now 95,  has penned a memoir, Some of My Lives, A Scrapbook Memoir.    Remarkable is the one word description.  While on a summer break in Mexico, after her sophomore year at Sarah Lawrence, she met Aaron Copland, then a broke pianist and aspiring composer.  Gertrude Stein advised her on art.  Leornard Bernstein was a lifelong friend.  You get the gist.

As a writer for American and French Vogue, Ms. Bernier went on a quest to learn more about Marcel Proust, interviewing many of his friends,  and she approached Henri Matisse and Pablo Picasso for articles.  When a scoop regarding Picasso’s work in Antibes or Venice wasn’t given the proper recognition by Vogue, she and her second husband launched a monthly arts magazine, L’OEil.  (The re-invention of her life was a VERY Sarah Lawrence thing to do — then and now). .

Picasso gave her another scoop to jump-start the new publication by telling her there were a number of early paintings at his family’s home in Spain.  Since he had vowed to not return to his homeland while Francisco Franco was in power, Ms.  Bernier had pictures taken of his work without him.  LIFE Magazine published the pictures and the new magazine was launched.  A mainstay of the International Best Dress List, Ms. Bernier seems to effortlessly float through her life with elegance and grace.


The book is terrific, but I promise you will be interested in learning more.  A contributing editor to Vogue for many years, she was recently profiled, and last year she talked about her apartment’s black walls and how she added pink and blue to warm up the dark hue.  LOVE it.

In Theatres NOW: Books!

For the long-form fiction crowd, movies adapted from books have cast a large shadow already this year.  The Descendants  won a Golden Globe earlier this week, and the book is now a bestseller.  Author Kaui Hemmings gives meaning to a family struggling with impending loss.  Her genius is writing comedy and tragedy, sometimes in the same sentence.   I am a big fan of her short story collection (which the novel is based on), House of Thieves.

And, in We Bought a Zoo, author Benjamin Mee showers the pages with the healing power of animals over a grieving family.  The hopefulness despite a huge tragedy is beautifully scripted.  Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close is a riveting story (by a debut author) of one child’s journey after his father dies on 9-11.  You will need a truck load of tissues, but the writing is great.  The Girl with a Dragon Tattoo’s popular fiction series seems to have resonated with both book lovers and movie goers.   

Coming soon is Finding Flynn based on Nick Flynn’s first memoir, Another Bullshit Night in Suck City.   A poet and Sarah Lawrence professor, Mr. Flynn has a poet’s economy with words and spare storytelling, with impressive results.

Wow, isn’t 2012 off to a great start?  Wonderful entertainment and fabulous reads.  Enjoy!

The Art of the Southern Storyteller

Do you remember when Ladies Home Journal, Redbook, Glamour, et al, featured short stories?  Mother would skip all the articles on child raising and casserole making to read to me.  I didn’t always understand the layered characters or narrative but it definitely fueled my love of the written word.   Wouldn’t it be a better world if good writing and good stories were still considered in vogue instead of news about the Kardashian family?

There’s a wonderful online journal, The Cortland Review, where writing, and stories are still high art.

TCR has been around since 1997, and it features mostly poetry, with some personal essay and fiction each issue.  Why am I bringing this up?  Well, my short piece, “Because” is being  featured and it’s online, NOW.

I hope you will check it out, and let me know what you think.  TCR is really dedicated to artists, which, for those of us who are writing, is a beautiful thing!

Poetry. Passion. Power. And, OPERA!

“I have always imagined that  paradise will be some kind of library.”
Jorge Luis Borges

Isn’t that the truth?!  You know what I love?  When one art forms connects you to another.

I was reading Australia Vogue Living this weekend, and there was a wonderful piece on the dazzling Alvear Palace Hotel in Buenos Aires.  (Rumor has it that former First Lady Eva Peron and Poet Jorge Borges would meet there for tea or drinks).  The author claimed to be hearing strains of the magnificent opera Evita as she  traveled around the city!  Sprinkled throughout the text were excerpts from Borges’ poetry.  He is also well-known for magical realism in fiction such as the book Labyrinths, in which he imagines a library filled with every book written, not yet written and every word in between.  While this isn’t a genre that normally appeals to me, I ‘ve decided to give his work another look after this article.

Can you imagine living in the ultra glamorous Buenos Aires during the time these two Argentine cultural icons were in residence?

Great Beach Reads!

What’s on your list?  Or, as we say in the south, “what’s in your beach bag?”  (I always find this funny, since even if folks know your summer plans don’t include the beach, you still get asked!).  I am a HUGE Laura Lippman fan (or should I say, fangirl?).  Laura has really given the mystery genre a big lift, and I think she is one of the most exciting and prolific writers today.  Most of her stories are set in Baltimore, so there is a southern flair to the locales.

In this book, the narrative takes flight when a letter arrives from the protagonist’s former kidnapper.  What does he want?  Lots. And, that is where the story really starts moving.  You will not be able to put this down!

I fell in love with Joyce Maynard’s work when she taught in the Sarah Lawrence Summer Writer’s Program several years ago.  Her memoir, At Home in the World, really rocks.  I literally read it in one very long night!  Her storytelling capabilities are unparalleled.  The Good Daughters is told in alternating voices from two “birthday sisters” as they make their way from the 1950s to the present.  Joyce knows about family relationships, and, in this book, she explores fully the ties of home and family.


Thanks to my darling friend Sharyn at Harper Collins for sending these books to me to review.

Southern Linens that Reflect Place; Palm Beach Poetry Festival

When I was in graduate school at Sarah Lawrence, I wrote about how “place” can  mean a state of mind or memory or the past or the present and so on.  In other words, not just the physical place.  This is especially true in the south.  Our “things”  have special meaning.  What some folks might see as just a table cloth, southerners see as a springboard to a memory or recollection or story.  I pulled out three of my mother’s  cloths today,  and I wanted to share them with you.

The pumpkin cloth!  My absolute favorite, and maybe a little hard to see because it is so faded.  Mother would bring it out late September and cover our kitchen table.  She would place a big clear bowl of candy corn in the middle.  Even though that cloth is from the 1930s and was her mother’s, it looks modern today.  The line drawings of pumpkins have a whimsical look that evoke Lu Lu Dk!

linen blog post008

My dad loved the farm house cloth.  I figure it was because he was a country boy born in Mineral, VA.  The charming abstract animals, trees and scarecrow family look hand-screened.  The muted colors give the cloth a bit of a French flavor.

linen blog post012

linen blog part 2001

The roman style table cloth was a find during a shopping trip to Alexandria, VA when I lived in Washington.  The great cinnamon color has become a favorite of mine in my own decorating.

linen blog post011

My Richmond friend, Elizabeth McGill, who is creative in every way, gave me this pot of annuals for my spring birthday.  The plants are bright and still going  strong so I added two sunflowers to give the arrangement a fall feel.  And, you know what?  I bought the  new plants at the Dollar Store!  That’s a lot of punch for $2.00.linen blog part 2002Those table cloths remind me of the many meals  around our large pine kitchen table.  The other image they evoke is the spoken word.  My mother loved poetry, (her grandmother was a poet) so she was always quoting her verses.  We are so lucky to have the opportunity to attend readings, and one of the best southern locations is the Annual Palm Beach Poetry Festival (  Originally organized by Sarah Lawrence graduate Miles Coon, the festival is in its sixth year.  The 2010 programt will feature workshops with some of the most celebrated poets living today.  They include:  Tom Lux, Stephen Dobyns, Carolyn Forche and Mary Cornish.  It’s in January, and applications are due soon for the workshops, so check the website for  details.  Also, for those in the Palm Beach area, there are many readings open to the public.

Be sure to subscribe to Sassy Living so it can delivered (FREE) to your email.  Also, once you subscribe, you will need to check your email for the feedburner announcement asking to you click and verify.

Have a great week and thanks for reading…