There wasn’t any book flapping at the Union League Club’s Annual Book Fair — even the big-name authors performed their autographing tasks all on their own — but there was plenty of lip flapping. There was something so mystically gratifying about seeing those mega-selling doyennes Mary Higgins Clark and Linda Fairstein gabbing with each other beside their tables, and something so mystifying about the 10-deep crowd that constantly enveloped wraith-like Ann Coulter at hers. Dava Sobel was there, and Jennifer Egan, and a couple dozen other literary luminaries, in this incredibly luxurious setting, a very far cry from the corner Barnes & Noble.
Glass cases line some of the walls, containing all manner of ancient tin soldiers.
About those soldiers. The club dates back to 1863, when it was formed to support the Union, hence the name, and its first president was the grandfather of Edith Minturn, my subject in Love, Fiercely. A person who probably shouldn’t have done so told me I could find Robert Minturn’s portrait up on the 4th floor, in the President’s Room. So up I went, after dinner, brownie-to-go wrapped sloppily in a paper napkin, and followed the winding old narrow hallways to a room with a brass plaque on the door and smoke wisking out the door jamb. Hello? I asked, entering gingerly. I could barely see the people there, the cigar smoke was so thick. They seemed shocked to see me, but not unpleasantly so, and directed me to the portrait in its gilt frame on the near wall. Liberal, altruistic, sensitive eyes — the man that fathered the man that fathered the woman I wrote about. He was known for caring about the disenfranchised.
The man I shared my book-selling table with had a following among the club’s more neanderthal members, who kept on bellyaching about how now with the election past they were ready to move to New Zealand. Neither Robert Minturn nor myself had much patience for this sort of talk. Turns out the author, Herb London, has a daughter who was profiled in The New York Times today — Stacey London of What Not to Wear. Did you ever imagine she’d end up being a style guru? I asked him. He shook his head. She was a philosophy major, he said, baffled.