Graydon Carter on Nelson Aldrich on George Plimpton

- November 15th, 2008

George Plimpton 1963 Cocktail Party Vanity Fair Editor Graydon Carter writes in this weekend's New York TImes Book Review about a new biography of George Plimpton, George, Being George: George Plimpton’s Life as Told, Admired, Deplored, and Envied by 200 Friends, Relatives, Lovers, Acquaintances, Rivals — and a Few Unappreciative Observers edited by Nelson W. Aldrich, Jr. Carter's review is accompanied by the photo on the left, a cocktail party at Plimpton's place in 1963. (Plimpton is in the lower left). I am, like Carter, “someone who grew up in the Canadian provinces” and, perhaps again like Carter, I was pulled into the profession I'm in part because I thought it would be cool one day to hang out at such a swishy cocktail party like the one in the picture. But I'm sure I also wished to live the kind of life and meet the kind of people Plimpton did:

As literary lives go, Plimpton’s was a doozy. Well born, well bred, the father of four, a witness to the great, the good and the gifted, he epitomized the ideal of the life well lived. He sparred with prize­fighters and competed against the best tennis, football, hockey and baseball players in the world, and along the way he helped create a new form of “participatory journalism.” He palled around with Norman Mailer, Gore Vidal and William Styron, and drank with Ernest Hemingway and Kenneth Tynan in Havana just after Castro’s revolution. He also edited and nursed that durable and amazing literary quarterly, The Paris Review, which published superb fiction and poetry and featured author interviews that remain essential reading for anyone interested in the unteachable art of writing. For someone like me, who grew up in the Canadian provinces, Plimpton was, like Bennett Cerf before him, the public face of the New York intellectual: tweedy, eclectic and with a plummy accent he himself described as “Eastern seaboard cosmopolitan.”

There are no doubt young Plimptophiles who don’t know about his friendship with Muhammad Ali (who used to call him “Kennedy” because he looked like one), or that he was at the side of his Harvard classmate and real Kennedy, Robert F., when he was shot and killed in the kitchen passageway of the old Ambassador Hotel in Los Angeles 40 years ago. George was not only on a private plane with Bobby when he decided to run for president, he helped wrestle Sirhan Sirhan to the floor moments after the shooting.

He loved having well-born beauties around — I mean, who doesn’t? — but he was no snob. He could talk to anybody . . .

Categories: A few great lines ...

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1 comment

  1. Anonymous says:

    Those who like Graydon Carter's style may enjoy watching him being interviewed by Charlie Rose here:
    http://www.charlierose.com/view/interview/9262

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