Can we talk about the top West Side because that a second? ns know, i know, it’s simply not the very same these days. The comfy habitat of free Manhattan intelligentsia has been dismantled: the hedge funders have colonized the classic sixes, every various other storefront’s a bank and also Broadway is lousy through Starbucks. However the old neighborhood’s still gained some magic, as shown by Lily Koppel’s new book, “The Red leather Diary: Reclaiming a Life through the Pages of a lost Journal.” whereby else have the right to a young writer inherit a 75-year-old diary, left to rot in the storage room of a prewar building? and also in a plastic bag indigenous Zabar’s, yet?

One morning in October 2003, the staff at 98 Riverside journey cleared the end the materials of the cellar to increase the bicycle room — a disinterment that had items dating to the beforehand 20th century. Koppel, climate a society reporter because that The new York Times and a subletter in the building, began combing the uncovered trunks and also suitcases for buried treasure. Amongst the priceless detritus Koppel inherited — consisting of “an whole collection the handbags” — to be a diary retained by one of the building’s former residents, a teenage girl called Florence Wolfson.

“Not a single day to be skipped in the diary’s 5 years from 1929 to 1934,” Koppel writes. She establish she to be holding a map of a bygone era in Manhattan — one that came through the perfect guide. Florence Wolfson met friends for tea at Schrafft’s and also frequented the nightclub El Morocco; she window-shopped in ~ Bonwit Teller and Bergdorf’s, and also rode equines at the Claremont speak Academy. In short, she to be Marjorie Morningstar before Herman Wouk graduated from college.

On its own, the diary provides a dusty window into an extraordinary life. With her skillful reporting, well prose and also excellent eye for duration detail, Koppel has provided it a lover shine: especially since she miraculously regulated to track down — and befriend — Wolfson, that is now in she 90s. In “The Red animal leather Diary” Koppel’s fragile historical filigree moves follow me a tale told largely by the entries.




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At times, Wolfson evinces the insufferable superiority often linked with well-off teenage girls. However she leavens this through the rarer high quality of wide-ranging, interlocutor curiosity. “There’s so lot to perform — music, art, books, people,” Wolfson note in one entry. “Can one absorb that all?”

She is moved to joy and also tears by art, traipses v ease through affairs through both men and women, and also starts a literary salon in she parents’ apartment. After ~ graduating with a master’s in English indigenous Columbia University, the 21-year-old sets turn off on the Cunard White Star line for a “solo adventure” in Europe. No surprisingly, she has more than one. She soaks in art in Italy and cavorts v two Princeton boys in Monte Carlo. In England, a member of conference takes her to tea.

As revealed by she diary, Wolfson to be a young woman animated by an unusual sense of confidence, but additionally determined to fulfill her potential. “Everything appears trivial — specifically my own developments — what renders me great?” she to write in a minute of doubt. Koppel was attracted to Wolfson’s formidable moxie and also to the portrait of brand-new York that emerges in the diary’s pages, one “alive through writers, painters, playwrights and jazz.” through comparison, “my brand-new York appeared out that tune, ~ above its way to becoming a piece mall filled with Paris Hilton look-alikes,” Koppel writes.

Although Koppel never ever says this outright, the diary appears to adjust her perspective — and also her reporting. She researches with one 83-year-old Japanese painter and sensei, rummages with the Bouvier Beales’ attic in ~ Grey Gardens and also visits the last typewriter save in Manhattan.

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The trip leads Koppel right where she desires to be. In the end, “The Red animal leather Diary” is a story about not one but two lovable personalities — and the city that lugged them together.