The best-selling poet in America in the nineteen-thirties was also a newspaper columnist, a small-time actor, and a successful designer of Hawaii-themed dinnerware. His name was Don Blanding. He wore an oversized fedora and had a Clark Gable mustache, and he described himself as an "artist by nature, actor by instinct, poet by accident, vagabond by choice." He was born in Kingfisher, Oklahoma Territory, in 1894. In 1912, he saved the life of a six-year-old neighbor, Billie Cassin, who grew up to be the actress Joan Crawford. In 1915, he briefly shared an apartment in Chicago with the novelist and playwright Sherwood Anderson. For a few years in the nineteen-forties, he was married to the crayon heiress Dorothy Binney. He was famous for having no fixed address, but he kept turning up in certain favorite warm-weather locales, mainly in Florida, Hawaii, and California. He died in 1957, at the age of sixty-two. In 1986, the musician Jimmy Buffett borrowed the title of one of his poetry collections, Floridays, for a song (which he dedicated partly to Blanding) and an album.
So begins the new nonfiction of a New Yorker columnist whose name is not Susan Orlean. The hardcover pubs in May.
I close the book, raise my eyebrows. Ann says, full of regret, "I want to be a crayon heiress."
"The book is about home improvement," I tell everyone.
"Don Blanding," Jill corrects her.
Darin leans back from his monitor and calls out, "Oh, Oh!" We let him answer. "Something to do with Don Blanding's vagabond nature, no fixed address."
Across the office, up goes Farley's hand. Heads swivel. He informs us, "Joan Crawford's adopted son became a famous architect. 'Brentwood's Frank Lloyd Wright,' they called him. That's your connection."
Because black and white pin-ups of movie stars surround Farley's desk, he can be relied upon for this sort of trivia, whereas I wouldn't know a photo of Joan Crawford from Natalie Wood. Natalie Wood drowned or something, right?
But it turns out Farley made that up.
Update: Find the author and title.
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Books mentioned in this post
Dave is the author of Out of the Book, Volume 3: State by State