A recent incident in my world tweaked a memory that prompted the following: You can’t judge a book by its weight. I have always been of the firm belief that a story is over when it is over. A well-told tale can be any length as long as it strikes the reader in such a way that when it is finished the reader has been touched. However, not everyone is capable of accepting the fact that a book can be enjoyed for the story contained and not the length/weight of said story. This concept tickles me, and calls to mind a true incident from my past.
Many years ago I owned a real estate brokerage company with thirty-three agents working under me. It was a time of laughter, camaraderie, and lots of “mothering” on my part.
Without going into the specifics that might give away identities, one of my young lady agents was doggedly romanced by an extremely rich client who was shopping for a waterfront estate. I shall call her Marni, just as I did when I slipped this incident in the first book in my Wendy Darlin comedy series: Wendy and the Lost Boys. (Most of my comedy adventures rely heavily on the wacky things that have popped up in my life—only the names are changed to protect the guilty.)
After a short whirlwind romance, “Charlie Hook” bought Marni a twenty-three-room estate in the Hamptons. Yup…he put it in her name before they were married; it was his gift to her. My little real estate agent became an instant multi-millionaire, and left her tiny tract home in St. Petersburg, Florida.
I had come to think of Marni as one of my little chickadees, and when she ran off into the sunset with THE Charlie Hook, I worried. After a few months of no contact, Marni called to update me on her good news. She invited me to join her in Manhattan while she shopped for art to line the walls of her new home. She would also be acquiring books to fill the sixty-five-feet long library of her first estate.
Busy as I was, it was an irresistible invitation, and so I jumped the next jet to New York. During the flight I compiled a long list of books I would recommend she purchase—admittedly they were my favorites, but I was certain she would enjoy them. A bit over two hours later, I was met by a chauffeured limousine and taken to Marni’s home in a nameless village in that haven of the rich and anonymous—the Hamptons.
A team of top interior designers was putting the finishing touches on the mansion, which could have easily been a younger cousin to Pemberley. I toured the palace with my friend admiring how cozy it was. (See excerpt)
Expecting to explore galleries and offer my opinions on Marni’s choices, I was sorely disappointed at the next day’s turn of events. We met with an art broker at his offices in a steel and glass building just off Madison Avenue. Before teatime, my former employee had purchased a selection of art from a catalogue without leaving her chair. Not once did we have the opportunity to savor each landscape or dwell on the finer features of a portrait as I had anticipated. I was bummed and stunned; but the most startling part of the entire shopping trip was that the least of the paintings she purchased was tagged at triple the value of her former residence. Bing! Bang! She had filled all twenty-three rooms with paintings worth almost half the value of all the real estate in St. Petersburg. Who was this person?
Following is an excerpt from Wendy and the Lost Boys, which describes the book-buying event.
I was following Marni around her twenty-three-room fortress, oohing and ahhing. New money needs an audience.
Our first stop was the library. It seemed as long as a football field. Our voices echoed from its empty shelves. “Can you imagine they used to keep a pool table and a trampoline in this gorgeous room?” Marni exclaimed. She touched the walnut walls and ran her hand along the top of the brocade chair by the entrance. “Some people have no class.”
We returned to the hall, walking on oriental rugs that cushioned our steps. Marni stopped at a set of heavy mahogany doors and lowered her voice. “This is Hook’s antiquities room. He’s a serious collector. We can’t go in there. It’s wired to go off if a flea walks in.” I followed her lead and tiptoed past the doors.
Hans, an ancient German man who doubled as their houseboy and gardener, entered the lobby carrying my suitcase.
“Let’s get you settled into your princess room,” Marni said. She led me up a Gone with the Wind staircase, down a hall, and into another wing of the house with Hans tailing us.
When we entered my room, I was overwhelmed to say the least. It was designed for a girlie girl not a grown woman. Treanna would love it. The centerpiece of the princess room was a pink, canopied bed with oodles of pillows and fluff. The polished wood floor had been hand-painted with trellises and rosebuds. White organdy curtains floated on the breeze and settled gently on the window seat.
“I hope you like it!” she chirped. “We want you to visit us a lot.”
What did that mean? I shuddered. Why were they so eager to fit me into their lives?
I heard the sound of a large motor and peeked out the window. Marni clambered over me. “They’re here!” she ran from the room calling over her shoulder, “Follow me! The books are here!”
Now what? I trailed along losing her at the staircases. Which one led to the front door?
When I finally found her, she was directing a team of men lowering a loading ramp onto the bricked entryway.
“It’s the books for the library!”
The van doors were open. I could see hundreds of packing boxes. As the men unloaded the first batch I caught glimpses of labels on the cartons. “Classics – Pastels – Pinks,” “Trash Reads – Upper Shelves,” “World Travels – Green –Lower Shelves.”
Marni hugged me, jumping up and down. “This is so much fun! The decorators will be here in a few minutes. I’m dying for you to meet them. They’re so precious.”
Feeling more than a little confused, I sat on the front steps next to a five-foot-tall marble gryphon to better watch the action and wait for the arrival of the precious decorators.
Hans helped the movers lay drop cloths from the truck to the library. The men began the parade of the books. They reminded me of a team of ants lugging goodies into an anthill. Halfway through the unloading, I heard the sound of an old-fashioned car horn. A banana-yellow roadster circa 1920s was tooling up the drive.
Two middle-aged men with sandy-blond hair waved to Marni. They leaned into the back seat in perfect synchronization each pulling out a huge notebook. Exiting the vintage vehicle, they looked as if they had stepped off the cover of an old copy of The New Yorker.
“This is Raymond,” Marni said. The taller of the two men presented his hand. He wore a coral-colored sport coat and tan slacks. He had bright blue eyes and a pencil-thin mustache.
“And this is Rolan.”
The shorter man was almost a clone of his larger partner, except he was wearing a tweed jacket in blends of coral and tan; it complemented his partner’s outfit. His eyes were a lighter shade of blue and he had no lip fuzz. Marni was right. They were precious.
“Darling,” Raymond said to Marni, “These are all the books we ordered for you.” He turned to Rolan, “How many pounds? Check the invoice.”
Rolan flipped his hand in the air. “Bother the invoice. We have enough literature to fill the shelved-wall of the library. Sixty-five feet by twenty feet, that was the order.”
“Sorry to dash, but we must supervise the placement. Starting at the fireplace and working to the windows, we’ll create a warm to cool color scheme. You are going to love it!” Rolan flicked Marni on her right shoulder. “See you in a bit!”
They were off to do their book colorizing. I grieved for the authors, current and deceased, whose books were now sold by weight and color, not content.
You can’t judge a book by its weight, but you can colorize them!
Do take a peek at this little book trailer recounting the five book series for my Wendy Darlin Comedy Mysteries
With love and laughter!