Tuesday, January 24, 2006

The Making of the African Queen

It never ceases to amaze me how the best of finds usually come from the bargain bin. I was at SM Baguio last week, and was immediately drawn to Book Sale like a moth to a flame.

Find of the week: the late Katherine Hepburn's The Making of the African Queen; or How I went to Africa with Bogart, Bacall, and Huston and almost lost my mind.

It's really a diary of that very specific point in her life which Ms. Hepburn says she remembers with vivid detail. Reading the book, it's hard to dispute that. Moreover, it's written in a very conversational manner. It's almost as if one were listening to the actress' recollections at an after-dinner get-together. Or reading her blog (if they had blogs then).

I'm taking this book slow because it's a very thin volume and I want to make it last. So far I like what I'm reading, though I find some of the then-prevailing attitudes shocking. That's understandable, though: this was written at a different time, a different culture, and a different mindset. Despite that, it's consistently amusing.

A funny excerpt to show what I mean:
...I had been put into a room on the ground floor on the street -- a dark, dismal room where everyone could look in the window. The Bogarts were up on the top floor with a lovely porch looking down the river.

I nearly fainted with rage and frustration. Who the hell had arranged the rooms! Wasn't I as good as Bogie!...Then I found out that the accountant and auditor, who had been there for some time, had a lovely room next to the Bogarts. Without a wasted step, without a thought of them or their rights of possession, and certainly with not a word to either of them -- I walked into their room...threw everything into suitcases and demoted them to my room on the first floor.

Prima donna? To a certain extent. But remember, this was Hollywood in the 1950s. Also, Ms. Hepburn had just arrived after a long journey by plane and by raft. And she does sound mildly apologetic in later passages.

Overall, it's a fun read. And there are tons of fantastic black-and-white photographs to go along with it.

At P70, it was literally a steal.

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