George, Being George

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  • Format: Trade Paper
  • Copyright: 2009-10-27
  • Publisher: Random House Trade Paperbacks
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Norman Mailer said that George Plimpton was the best-loved man in New York. For more than fifty years, his friends made a circle whose circumference was vast and whose center was a fashionable tenement on New York's East Seventy-second street. Taxi drivers, hearing his address, would ask, "Isn't that George Plimpton's place?" George was always giving parties for his friends. It was one of the ways this generous man gave back. This book is the party that was George's lifeand it's a big oneattended by scores of people, including Peter Matthiessen, Robert Silvers, Jean Stein, William Styron, Maggie Paley, Gay Talese, Calvin Trillin, and Gore Vidal, as well as lesser-known intimates and acquaintances, each with candid and compelling stories to tell about George Plimpton and childhood rebellion, adult indiscretions, literary tastes, ego trips, loyalties and jealousies, riches and drugs, and embracing life no matter the consequences. InGeorge, Being Georgepeople feel free to say what guests say at parties when the subject of the conversation isn't around anymore. Some even prove the adage that no best-loved man goes unpunished. Together, they provide a complete portrait of George Plimpton. They talk about his life: its privileged beginnings, its wild and triumphant middle, its brave, sad end. They say that George was a man of many parts: "the last gentleman"; founder and first editor of one of our best literary magazines,The Paris Review;the graceful writer who brought the New Journalism to sports in bestsellers such asPaper Lion, Bogey Man, andOut of My League; and Everyman's proxy boxer, trapeze artist, stand-up comic, Western movie villain, andPlayboycenterfold photographer. And one of the brave men who wrestled Sirhan Sirhan, the armed assassin of his friend Bobby Kennedy, to the ground. A Plimpton party was full of intelligent, funny, articulate people. So is this one. Many try hard to understand George, and some (not always the ones you would expect) are brilliant at it. Here is social life as it's actually lived by New York's elites. The only important difference between a party at George's and this book is that no one here is drunk. They just talk about being drunk. George's last years were awesome, truly so. His greatest gift was to be a blessing to othersnot all, sadlyand that gift ended only with his death. But his parties, if this is one, need never end at all. From the Hardcover edition.

Author Biography

Nelson W. Aldrich, Jr. is a freelance writer and editor. Formerly Paris editor of The Paris Review, a senior editor at Harper’s Magazine, and a reporter for The Boston Globe, he is a frequent contributor to such publications as The Atlantic, Harper’s, The Nation, New England Monthly, and Vogue. He is the author of George, Being George.

Table of Contents

Prologue: A Plausible Metaphorp. 3
George's Storied Backgroundp. 9
Sightings of George At School: 1934-1952p. 35
Creation Myths of The Paris Review: 1952-1955p. 83
Mounting Celebrity: 1955-1963p. 131
George Agog: 1963-1973p. 189
Puss and Mister Puss: 1973-1983p. 255
George is George to the End: 1983-2003p. 301
Epilogue: Blessed George, Who Could Blessp. 369
Editor's Note: How this Book was Madep. 377
Notes on Contributorsp. 383
Books by George Plimptonp. 409
Indexp. 410
Table of Contents provided by Ingram. All Rights Reserved.


George's Storied Background

George talked about his family background endlessly. The whole family, his mother especially, had an extraordinary knowledge of the glories of their past generations. As his wife, I heard all the stories many times. One story George loved was “Pull up your bowels, sir!” which is what General Adelbert Ames, “the Boy General,” used to say when reviewing the men of the 20th Maine. It was George’s way of saying, “Get a grip!” —SARAH DUDLEY PLIMPTON

SARAH GAY PLIMPTON Our mother may have looked down on Daddy a bit. It wasn’t his fault, of course, but Daddy wasn’t an Ames.

 TIMOTHY DICKINSON It is something to be an Ames in New England. The Ameses have been around, making themselves felt, for a substantial time in that part of the world. But the fact that the two prominent Ames families in George’s family tree were called the “Maine Ameses,” for their non- Boston origins, and the “shovel Ameses,” for the homely origins of their wealth . . . well, that tells you something about their position in the New England hierarchy. It’s not like being a Winthrop, a Cabot, a Forbes, a Lowell, a Saltonstall, or a Lawrence—to be one of the families whom one is never surprised, no matter how questionable their manners, to see in the Somerset Club. I guess George embraced that New England identity, with the Ameses carrying the Plimptons—socially, so to speak. But it was, as I say, not thatfinalNew England eminence, which features no more than a dozen families. 

PHOEBE LEGERE I don’t know how George and I got into a discussion about genealogy—at Elaine’s!—but we were talking about how both of our mothers are in the Mayflower Society. At Society meetings, you know, they read off the names of theMayflowerpassengers, and when the name of your ancestor comes up, you stand. So I asked George, “From whom are you descended?” He said, “I don’t know, but my mother stands up five or six times.” I just loved that. 

OAKES PLIMPTON Adelbert Ames, our great- grandfather, was the hero in our family tree. He was the youngest general in the Civil War, a Medal of Honor winner, and the officer who trained and commanded the 20th Maine at Gettysburg, in fact throughout the war. Afterwards, under Reconstruction, in the South, he became governor, then senator, then governor again of Mississippi. He married Blanche Butler during this time, a daughter of another famous general, Benjamin Butler, who was a Radical Republican congressman from Lowell, Massachusetts. Adelbert and Blanche Ames had a daughter—also named Blanche—and she married a shovel Ames, Oakes Ames. Grandfather was a serious Harvard professor of botany who was the son and nephew of Oliver and Oakes Ames of the Credit Mobilier scandal. Grandma and Grandpa Ames lived in Boston and in North Easton, Massachusetts, where they built this big stone house on the shovel Ames family estate, near the factory. They had four children, one of them our mother, Pauline, who married our father, Francis T. P. Plimpton, and they had four children: George, “T.P.,” me, and Sarah, in that order. 

JOAN AMES I never knew our great- grandmother Blanche Butler, Adelbert’s wife, but she must have been a remarkable woman. She and Adelbert wrote hundreds of wonderful letters to each other. Before their wedding, she warned him, “I have not the least intention of making that promise,” meaning the vow of obedience. In another letter to Adelbert, who

Excerpted from George, Being George: George Plimpton's Life as Told, Admired, Deplored, and Envied by 200 Friends, Relatives, Lovers, Acquaintances, Rivals--and a Few Unappreciative Observers
All rights reserved by the original copyright owners. Excerpts are provided for display purposes only and may not be reproduced, reprinted or distributed without the written permission of the publisher.

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