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FPP#14: No Fixed Address

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.

Georgie makes a face. "What does Don Ho have to do with bloody home improvement?"

"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.

[Turn back to last week's First Paragraph Preview, or skip straight to its author and title.]

Update: Find the author and title.

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Dave interviews authors for Powell's. He created our Out of the Book film series. He likes cats and dogs.

Books mentioned in this post

Dave is the author of Out of the Book, Volume 3: State by State

3 Responses to "FPP#14: No Fixed Address"

    Aalto Drinker April 25th, 2006 at 9:09 pm

    I have no idea what the connection to home improvement might be, but I'm impressed by how much information is packed into the opening. A whole book in that vein would be impossible to digest (something like eating chocolate mousse three meals a day and for snacks in between; you'd soon get tired and very, very fat), but that first bite gave me cocktail party conversation for the weekend. That's more than I can say for any number of books I've forced myself to finish.

    pop!goes April 25th, 2006 at 9:16 pm

    Sure sounds like Susan Orlean.

    triumphthewondercat April 26th, 2006 at 9:48 pm

    Oh, that Farley.

    Dave-- last time (last week, whatever, FPP13), you said that you don't read at work. already we've caught you reading. which is it? do you read at work, or do you not read at work? does reading aloud not count?

    PS. It kind of does sound like Susan Orlean.

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