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


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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: 9780945167570
Publisher: British American Publishing, Limited
Publication date: 03/07/2015
Pages: 368
Product dimensions: 6.20(w) x 9.10(h) x 1.30(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 Duking 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 "Acapuico" 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 Readers 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 225

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 Orphanag 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


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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