As Long As I Live is a fun read. Joan Crofton and Craig Lamont both have a sense of humor.
She choked back a laugh as she thought of the shimmering rubbers left, as it were, outside the door of this temple of advertising. How could she be so flippant when this interview meant so much to her?
Joan wants so much to be taken seriously as an artist that she gets herself into sticky situations. We’ve all been there, stuck between competing desires.
She stole a glance in the direction of her rubbers. The toes coyly peeked from beneath the seat where she had left them. Could she retrieve those glittering belongings in her present aloof and disdainful mood? She could not.
What makes it fun is that Craig Lamont is unfazed:
“At this moment something tells me that we’ve met not only once, but twice before,”
he says, the evening after Joan has hit him full in the face with a pan of hot scones (my inspiration for making them–the baking, not the throwing). The incident was pure accident. The scones were burning, and she pitched them out the back door, unaware that Craig was on his knees composing an artistic welcome in fresh eggs on the stoop. It’s hard to remain haughty when one may have maimed a perfect innocent, and Joan’s pose crumbles.
Joan carefully, very carefully, replaced the crystal glass of tomato juice she had lifted from the silver tray the butler held. Had he seen her hand shake? A cold tide of horror poured through her veins and chilled her blood…
Her eyes wide, terrified, questioned him. There was a wicked gleam in his as he demanded in a low voice; “Now do you believe we have met–twice, fire-eater?”
The details of Joan Crofton’s career came easily as Emilie wrote. Her son Selden was a commercial artist and worked for an ad agency.
Perched on a high stool before her drawing table with its cargo of T squares, rulers, brushes, pencils and paints, she made a start. She sketched a radio sending forth zig-zag lines and clear-cut letters. “Old stuff,” she told herself and commenced again.
Emilie used the opportunity to tease her art-director son a little.
Joan was aware that the girl took in every detail of her tailored blue suit, the sheer blouse… “You’ve got what it takes. Art directors like ’em good-looking even if they can’t draw.”
This is only the second book in which the girl has two parents. A reader commented on how often there was only a father in the story, and As Long As I Live gained two parents, happily married, two best companions.
“Patty and I started out with the conviction that marriage is a high adventure, not an obstacle race. We haven’t changed our belief, though we’ve had some tough, grueling experiences along an often times rough and rocky road. However, we’ve pulled through. We still think this is a great old world and look forward to the future with a tingling sense of more adventure to come.”
There is also a sister. Vivian leaves for Hollywood and writes back about seeing movie stars. These were bona fide details supplied by Emilie’s sister-in-law, Minnie Baker. After Robert’s death, Minnie moved to be near her son, Mel Baker, a screenwriter. She lived at the glamorous Château Élysée with a Who’s Who of Hollywood: Bette Davis, Errol Flynn, Edward G. Robinson, Carole Lombard, Humphrey Bogart, Clark Gable, Ginger Rogers, Ed Sullivan, Gracie Allen and George Burns, Lillian Gish, Katharine Hepburn, George Gershwin, and Cary Grant.
“Last week I moved to this hotel—note the impressive letter-head—because I learned that many of the movies live here—that’s what the actors and actresses are called out here—what you see on the screen is a picture. Each time I go up or down in the lift I see one or two. It’s thrilling.”
Most of As Long As I Live takes place in and near Boston, and Emilie wrote vivid descriptions of the State House, Boston Public Library, and the Boston Athenaeum, where she wrote. It’s no wonder I imprinted on the city and felt a start of recognition when first I visited.
“The [Athenaeum] drips culture. Shelf after shelf of books, floors of them. Rows upon rows of plaster busts. Whiteness. Stillness. Flowers on all the service desks, bowls of them. A portion of Washington’s library. Sun streaming in at long plant-filled windows. Iron-railed balconies from which one looks down on the peace of the old Granary Burying Ground with pigeons flitting round its slate head-stones.”“Go on. I am rediscovering Boston through your eyes.”
As Long As I Live may also be the iChing of Emilie Loring novels; she wrote so many of her credos for living into it.
“No more birthdays’ should be every person’s slogan—after fifty.”
“One might just as well pour a potion of poison through one’s veins as to let anger sweep through one.”
“Don’t spoil today by what you may have to meet in the future and remember that today is yesterday’s tomorrow.”
“Life is kaleidoscopic, isn’t it? One never knows when the pattern will shift.”
“Things will straighten out. Things have a marvelous, unbelievable way of straightening out.”
Even after multiple readings, when the setting, plot line, and philosophy of As Long As I Live are entirely familiar, its dialogues still sparkle. By turns witty, heartfelt, and romantically magnetic, they are so good that I’ve sometimes skimmed the narrative and just re-read the conversations, wishing myself into them. Combined with thoughts so real that they feel like mind-reading, I suspend all disbelief. Open the cover, and I’m there.
Next up: Today is Yours