A favourite pastime with a certain species of cultivated New Yorker – ‘obsession’ is probably a more correct word – is that of referring to well-known figures by their first names so as to ensure that a little of their glamour will rub off on you through the implied intimacy. ‘Have you seen David’s show?’, ‘Luciano just butchered the cabaletta’, ‘Vidhya isn’t speaking to Ved these days but Susan told Saul that Norman’ etc etc.
Such harmless vulgarity grows more rampant in inverse proportion to the number of occasions on which you and the famous have actually met. Resistant as I am to the lure of celebrity, I have not yet started referring to the author of The Group as Mary, though I may as well admit that my one meeting with her, a twenty minutes’ worth of Christmas cocktail chat in a Florentine villa, made an indelible impression.
It was her feet that clinched it for me. She wasn’t especially coruscating in her conversation, choosing instead to radiate the sort of relaxed self-assurance which derives from knowing that prosperity and adulation will always protect you from having to beg or starve. Her husband sat silently in the middle