I’ve been listening to Jamie Bernstein read her book, Famous Father Girl: A Memoir of Growing Up Bernstein. Much of it is set in the Park Avenue apartment where she lived with her father, Leonard Bernstein. When she mentioned the address, I thought, “Hmm, that sounds familiar.” Then I realized it’s the address where my wife, Kristine, spends many of her days working. I’ve also been reading the novel The Goldfinch, much of which also takes places in another Park Avenue apartment.
And it occurred to me that, though they all are on Park Avenue, I have three different maps of Park Avenue in my mind, overlayed as if they were transparencies.
One is the Park Avenue of my personal experience. Having visited Kristine at her workplace, I have entered that building through its entrance on a side street, ascended in an elevator and been a guest in one of the more elegant apartments I have encountered.
Another is the Park Avenue of independent reality. This is the Park Avenue the existence of which is confirmed by history and journalism and documentaries like Park Avenue: Money, Power and the American Dream [which you can see online at http://www.pbs.org/independentlens/films/park-avenue/]. This is a place that would exist without my awareness or experience of it. And, reading Bernstein’s book, I am aware that many of the stories she expertly relates of her celebrated family occurred within a building I’ve visited.
And then there is the Park Avenue that is the setting for so much fiction. Being a location synonymous with wealth and privilege, it is understandable that many fiction writers and dramatists have placed many of their wealthy characters there. Donna Tartt’s Pulitzer Prize-winning novel is the latest book I’ve encountered that has peopled that real place with fictional characters.
Just a thought I’ve stumbled over …