JANET, MY MOTHER, AND ME by William Murray


A Memoir of Growing Up with Janet Flanner and Natalia Danesi Murray
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A thoughtful portrait of two forceful, talented women, their lives while together and apart, and their enormous impact on the life and career of the author. Murray, a longtime New Yorker staff writer and author of the Shifty Lou Anderson racetrack mysteries (A Fine Italian Hand, 1996, etc.), was 14 in 1940 when his mother, Natalia, then 38, began a lifelong love affair with Flanner, ten years her senior. He describes Flanner, who became a sort of surrogate father, as a “wonderfully genial eagle” and a “benevolent angel” who provided counsel, guidance, and support; his mother, “an explosive force of nature,” was both his greatest friend and most dangerous antagonist. Although Murray opens his account with Flanner’s death in 1978 and then shifts back to the 1940 meeting, the narrative is basically chronological, interweaving their life stories and his own. Both Murray and his mother, who was born in Rome, lived at various times in Italy as well as the US; Flanner, whose New Yorker column, “Letter from Paris,” established her as a brilliant journalist, spent most of her time in France, moving to New York to live with Natalia only in 1975, after she retired. The extended separation of the two women, though for a time the source of unhappiness, also nurtured and sustained the love affair, Murray thinks. Keenly appreciative of Flanner’s writing, he lingers over her work and over her relationship with the New Yorker editors, as he does his own efforts to find his voice as a writer and his New Yorker experiences. By comparison, his mother’s career in publishing gets short shrift. Natalia Murray, who wrote a more guarded account of her relationship with Flanner in Darlinghissima (1985), would probably be disconcerted by this one; to Flanner’s many admirers it will be both revealing and gratifying. (8 pages b&w photos)

Pub Date: Feb. 1st, 2000
ISBN: 0-684-80966-4
Page count: 224pp
Publisher: Simon & Schuster
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1st, 2000


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