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APRIL 7, 2008
For Christopher Benfey's review of 'Dictation, A Quartet' by Cynthia Ozick. Shown here: Henry James dictating to a typist
It's taken me a while to post since getting back from New York; a heavy workload and a heavier cold have kept me away. Traveling light (as anyone who saw me two days running will testify, I barely had a change of clothes) I didn't bring a camera so you'll have to take my word for it that I was ever there.

The best I can do by way of visuals is a couple of recent illos one for Nicholas Blechman at the NY Times Book Review, one for (who else) SooJin Buzelli at Plansponsor.

In contrast to my previous trips to NY where I've always been ensconced in midtown, this time I stayed downtown in Tribeca. My hosts for the four nights were the estimable Roman Milisic, his wife MaryJo and their cute as a button/ sweary as a stevedore daughter, Giovanna. I owe them a bunch for their bounty (I went through two rolls, arf), their good company, their inflatable bed, and their English muffins (note to all those thinking of playing host to an Englander: it's all we will eat). Mind, they did give me this stinking cold too so I think really we're quits.

I filled my days with plenty of traipsing, seeing various ADs (thank you Nicholas Blechman, Dave Bamundo, Chrissy Dunleavy, Max Bode, et al) and trying to get all the items on the Herculean shopping list I'd been issued by my wife.

I didn't manage to notch up anything terribly cultural. Unless you count trips to Clinton Hill to visit the family Wacksman. And I know I do. But I think I'm wont to get hung up on genuflecting at temples of high culture when just hanging out and being somewhere new is experience enough.

Drawger kingpin Dave F organised a meet on the Tursday night and all in attendance were impeccably behaved. It was a real pleasure to meet Robert Hunt, Dave Bamundo, Tim O'B, SKron, Edel, Thomas Fuchs, Yuko, David Goldin, Wax, Ellen Weinstein, Laura Tallardy, Rich Goldberg, Hal Mayforth. Have I missed anyone out or shoehorned-in anyone who wasn't really there?

The SoI awards was the following evening and Steve W was my prom date. A perfect gent he was too. Through a martini haze I recall meeting John Dykes, Felix Sockwell, the amazing Buzellis (I make them sound like a circus act) Randy Enos, Dale Stephanos, Joe Ciardello, Patrick JB Flynn, Man Mountain Brian Stauffer, Scott Bakal, Peter de Seve. Call me a simpering fool but they all seemed like good people.

Chump that I am, I hadn't prepared a speech and so whilst other award recipients spoke with authority and/ or wit, I most likely mumbled charmlessly. Thankfully, drink has helped airbrush the speech and in my recollection of events I was a regular Oscar Wilde, commanding the podium and captivating the room with my warmth and a ready stock of anecdotes.

And before I knew it I was being driven from Manhattan, bundled blindfold into an unmarked plane and disgorged back to England (it's how your State Department rolls these days).

In some ways New York didn't seem quite so exotic to me as it has done in the past (I told Roman that catching sight of the NY skyline on the cab ride in hadn't given me the thrill it had on previous occasions. He sniffily retorted, 'So what does the Bournemouth skyline look like, then?'). But the City also felt more comfortable and familiar, despite not having been there for 9 years. I'm looking forward to having an excuse to visit again.
Plansponsor piece about a dodgy wedding (or a widow's pension plan that was declared invalid after the marriage was found to be a sham. Or something along those lines)
First round of roughs. The AD, SooJin suggested something that combined the two themes I'd gone for (wedding cakes, skating on thin ice)
Topical: Editorial