Cruising with Kate: A Parvenu in Xanadu

Cruising with Kate: A Parvenu in Xanadu

by Bernard F. Conners
Cruising with Kate: A Parvenu in Xanadu

Cruising with Kate: A Parvenu in Xanadu

by Bernard F. Conners

Paperback(2nd ed.)

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Buckle up and enjoy a rollicking ride with Bernard and "Cool Kate," his unflappable wife, on a memorable trip behind the scenes at diverse places such as corporate boardrooms, The Paris Review, and the FBI, with jaunts to Hollywood and the Hamptons and points in between. Watch for the bold-faced names as you rove through Manhattan, from the staid and proper 21 Club to dining with the stars at Elaine's. Marvel at the challenges confronting Bernard as publisher of The Paris Review, while mixing with New York's literati, including Norman Mailer, Truman Capote, Gore Vidal, and George Plimpton. Shiver with Bernard's "Butterflies" as he struggles to balance his day job surveilling top hoods under the watchful eye of J. Edgar Hoover with his nighttime frolics as an arriviste among Manhattan's haute monde. Hang on as Bernard authors and publishes best-selling books while negotiating with Hollywood auteurs and producing award-winning films. Feel his uncertainty during the dreaded author tours as he appears on the Today Show and the BBC. Follow the insecure Bernard's nouveau riche climb up New York's social ladder from a tiny two-room penthouse to the board of a Fifth Avenue residence and—finally—to a lavish upstate Xanadu. Be forewarned, however, this trip is not for the faint of heart. Those offended by Truman Capote-esque revelations about the high and mighty, by tawdry gossip, or by jolting faux pas may want to avoid the trip! For the daring, however—those ready for a whimsical fling—fasten your seatbelt and prepare for a rag-to-riches literary joyride with A Parvenu in Xanadu.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780945167075
Publisher: British American Publishing, Limited
Publication date: 05/12/2022
Edition description: 2nd ed.
Pages: 368
Product dimensions: 6.05(w) x 9.01(h) x 0.98(d)

About the Author

Bernard F. Conners, former publisher of The Paris Review, has had a distinguished career in government, business, publishing, and film. He is the best-selling author of Dancehall, Tailspin, The Hampton Sisters, and Don't Embarrass the Bureau. Mr. Conners lives in Loudonville, New York.

Table of Contents

Part I - 1 1. Meeting God - 2 2. Sex with Amelia - 11 3. Confessional Jitters - 15 4. Butterflies and Smoking Machos - 20 5. Jews and WASPs - 24 Part II - 27 6. Self-Pity - 28 7. Ducking it Out with Windmills - 33 8. Troopship - 37 9. Waltzing in the Alps - 40 10. George Plimpton - 45 11. General Jitters - 51 Part III - 55 12. Steeplejack - 56 13. Cool Kate - 60 14. Cooler Mother-in-Law - 66 15. Quarterback No More - 68 16. G-Man versus Army Officer - 75 Part IV - 77 17. Introduction to J. Edgar - 78 18. Through the Looking Glass - 84 19. Underwater at "Acapulco" - 92 20. Close Call - 95 21. Chicago Nights with Cementhead - 102 Part V - 109 22. Big Leagues - 110 23. Riptide - 116 24. Newlyweds - 122 25. Unarmed in Harlem - 127 26. The Tragedy of Julius and Ethel - 131 27. Disorganized Crime - 136 Part VI - 141 28. Coast Guard Rescue - 142 29. Payne Whitney Yacht - 148 30. DeWitt and Lila Wallace of Reader's Digest - 151 31. High Winds to Hillsdale - 154 Part VII -159 32. Wrath of the Righteous - 160 33. Scribner's Acceptance and Rejection - 163 34. Publication and Reaction - 167 35. Today Show - 178 36. Minor League Football - 184 37. Al Capp Cabal - 187 38. Hoover's Reaction - 195 39. Writing Ethics - 199 Part VIII - 205 40. Saving The Paris Review - 206 41. Shoot-Out at The Paris Review - 216 42. The Hampton Sisters 43. "Delectation and Delight" with Donald Fine - 234 44. Boldfaced Names - 247 Part IX - 251 45. In Xanadu a Parvenu - 252 46. Fireworks with Plimpton - 260 47. Self-Publishing versus the Orphanage - 264 48. Slighted in Southampton - 267 Part X - 271 49. Social Climbing - 272 50. British American Entertainment - 278 51. The Honeymooners - 287 52. The Hermeneutic Principle - 292 53. Kate as Prison Guard - 296 54. Death of George - 299 55. Requiem for a Writer - 307   Acknowledgments - 317 About the Author - 318 Index - 319   Photographs follow pages 118 and 230  


This is an easy-going, oblique, abbreviated autobiography—you could call it a casual memoir, but Bernard (Bernie, Bern) Conners does recapitulate the entire range of his life, from his first, pre-grammar-school sex, on through 2014 when at 88 he was an established best-selling novelist, a film producer, a soft-drink magnate, a real estate mogul with a book-publishing branch built into his company, and also the publisher, for two decades, of The Paris Review, which became the most prestigious literary magazine in America. He and the late George Plimpton, one of The Review's founders and its longtime editor, met when they were in the army in Italy and stayed lifelong friends and literary allies.

Bernie is tough on himself in these pages. He talks of his perpetual "butterflies" of anxiety over almost everything he ever did—he labels himself as one of the "nouveau riche" (the subtitle of this book is A Parvenu in Xanadu.). But then there's that check that his mother-in-law wrote for him, doubtlessly influenced by her daughter Katie, Bern's college and most enduringly impressive girlfriend, and whom he credits with all his successes in life, a pretty, savvy woman who by hustling her mother for that check pushed Bernie seriously into the business world where he deftly accumulated a fortune that is right up there with the nest eggs of major movie stars.

There's a relaxed quality to Bernie's attitude toward himself in this book; his prose often sounds like his conversation—I've known him for maybe forty years—but there's also something new to me: his equivocation about life, his "Yes, and then again, no." He talks of his cowardly behavior at certain moments, but then he recounts his Golden Gloves championships, the raves in the press about his quarter-and-half-backing performances in high school and college, which earned him an invitation to try out with the Chicago Bears; and also—during his nine-year career as an FBI agent—his single-handed rescue of a drowning man in a raging sea, and his unarmed (he had only a fellow-agent's empty pistol) capture of a holdup man in a dark alley, drew commendations for his courage, fortitude and valor from J. Edgar Hoover—all these are hardly cowardly achievements.

I've always called him Bernie, sometimes Bern, but in this book his narrator (himself), treats his protagonist (himself) as someone who reeks of formalism, and throughout he has called himself Bernard. But neither Bernie nor Bernard is really serious about being formalistic, for the book is full of jokes that he tells on himself. Bernard quotes a friend of his sister who mocked him for his short stature in high school by greeting him with "Bernard Conners! You get smaller every time I see you."

Bernie recounts Bernard's conflicting behavior and careers throughout the book, and he quotes an appraisal of himself by one of his prep school (Albany Academy) teachers, who suggested that he was "an introvert pretending to be an extrovert" — "this…but then again that." What Bernard doesn't seem to acknowledge, but I believe Bernie knows in his deepest self, is that such equivocation is not unusual, but really par for most writers, who can love their own work, but also flagellate themselves about it, and about much else as well.

What Bernie has produced—while switching between careers as a mogul and a novelist—is a substantial body of work in his chosen idioms: the novel, true crime, the thriller, the non-fiction novel. The books have been well-received, some of them best-sellers, and he's won prizes for his work. Bernard puts it this way: "Although his literary prizes were modest, Bernard courted the favor of more accomplished authors. It was his friendship with George Plimpton that had the most influence on his writing career." And that friendship led to his being the financial salvation for many years of Plimpton's Paris Review, the best literary magazine on the planet. The Review's Writers-at-Work interview series began in 1953 with an E.M. Forster interview. I tuned in when they did Hemingway in 1958 (interviewed by George Plimpton), and it was a magical, invaluable series, singular in its early days. What it gave me, and a lot of other writers, was rare access to the arcane and myriad ways that the great writers wrote fiction. Writing his novels and keeping The Paris Review alive, were notable achievements by Bernard/Bern/Bernie, and not a cause for melancholy. But at book's end here is Bernard on his aging self: "…the later years seem to catch him without warning. Suddenly he found himself an aging author struggling to be heard, a requiem of rustling dead leaves in the wasteland of old age."

I disagree with the perspective "…requiem of dead leaves…in the wasteland." I think somebody should send a message to Bernard that he's too tough on Bernie.

—William Kennedy

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