Sunday, May 03, 2009

The Whitney Woman

The Whitney Women and the Museum they Made is by the granddaughter of Gertrude Vanderbilt Whitney, Flora Miller Biddle.

I'm not able to finish the book, for now, at least. Biddle's writing is uneven and the book has a chaotic organization that's driving me a bit crazy. The first part is about the elder Whitney's childhood - a sort of unbearable poor-little-rich-girl story interspersed with how the art word has changed so much that you could hardly run a museum they way they did back in the glory days. Yes, a whole new team of wealth and privilege has come in - it breaks the heart, it really does.

Here's a passage:
...our parents were neither pretentious nor ostentatious. They gave us few material things, except for what we needed to learn what they deemed important - horses, shotguns, tennis racquets, classic books, fishing rods, bicycles - but even these came only for Christmas or birthdays. Our monthly allowances were minuscule. Movie houses and movies were rarely allowed (too germ-filled and exciting, respectively) - no candy either, and, once in a very great while, an ice cream cone. Our lives were protected, monitored, and structured. We had no fabricated entertainment. We learned early to amuse ourselves.

I might come back to this book later, because I'd like to learn more about how the museum was started, but, alas, it's not a page-turner. I definitely wouldn't suggest it for casual reading.

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