"Linda Ronstadt says of Ann Savoy
, 'One time she came to visit me in Tucson and she brought me a box of rice that had a beautiful illustration on it that was so pretty. When she came back from Russia, she brought a box of tea like they have in the supermarket, but it had a beautiful design on it. She has a jeweler’s eye for beautiful things.' "
(I'm playing a game of relate and justify with myself. Why did that paragraph immediately remind me of the candy tin that Christopher Isherwood had -- it was an unimposing little box, the kind that ends up holding pincushions and spools of thread in a linen closet -- there was some kind of dutch countryside painting on the lid -- and I learned much later that he had carried it with him for years, it stayed with him during the pre-Nazi years in Berlin and made its way with him to China, and then to the U.S. as the world was about to become engulfed in 1939. And there it sat unobtrusively on a side table when I first saw it, decades after.
And that memory made me go find some Isherwood to remind me why I admired his writing so much. An effortless task on my part, as Isherwood can still say things to current readers:
"Am I afraid of being bombed? Of course. Everybody is. But within reason. I know I certainly wouldn't leave Los Angeles if the Japanese were to attack it tomorrow. No, it isn't that. ... If I fear anything, I fear the atmosphere of the war, the power which it gives to all the things I hate -- the newspapers, the politicians, the puritans, the scoutmasters, the middle-aged merciless spinsters. I fear the way I might behave, if I were exposed to this atmosphere. I shrink from the duty of opposition. I am afraid I should be reduced to a chattering enraged monkey, screaming back hate at their hate."
Isherwood wrote this in his diary on January 20, 1940)