Florence is a seventy-five year-old feminist icon, writer, public speaker, truth-teller, New Yorker, curmudgeon. While there was much about Florence that would make me hesitate to welcome her into my circle of friends, I truly loved her honesty. On one outing with her granddaughter, there was an incident in a Duane Reade, the ubiquitous pharmacy chain in Manhattan. When I read it, I mentally cheered, “Good for you, Florence, you’re right!” I won’t describe it in detail for those readers who haven’t read the book yet, but it was something that could happen anywhere, and does, more frequently than it probably should. Most of us, myself included, allow our advantage to be taken in public places in order to avoid confrontation. Suffice to say, Florence Gordon never shies away from confrontation. For me, that was the charm of this book. I experienced vicarious pleasure every time Florence was true to herself. At one point I wondered, “If Florence were a friend of mine, would I survive one of her frank assessments of my behavior, character, or whatever else she chose to comment upon? Would her observation be so hurtful that I’d withdraw into a paralyzing depression, or would I recognize the truth of her remarks, suck it up, and grow from the experience?” I’ve decided that it’s just too scary a scenario to ponder. But then, I’m safe because Florence, while vivid, is just a fictional character.
Bruce Morton has crafted a fully-realized, uniquely interesting character in Florence. In addition, while not a comic book in the laugh-out-loud vein, his writing is witty and enormously entertaining. Hopefully, this out-of-context example will sufficiently illustrate my point. To appease her ex-husband, Saul, who had been bugging her about getting together, she planned a lunch with him, but on a day when she had an already scheduled doctor’s appointment, so she could get them both out of the way at once. Joining him at the table in the coffee shop where he was already seated, she made the following observation:
“Saul looked unhealthy-but he always looked unhealthy these days. He was wearing a white shirt and a dark sport jacket-everything was clean and respectable-yet somehow he had the air of a man who was going to seed. He was the kind of person who doesn’t smell bad, as far as you can tell, but who looks like he smells bad.”
The beauty of the writing is that all these weeks later as I write this entry, I remember so many details, that I could have written a classic middle school summary without ever needing to refer back to the book. But thankfully, I have spared you that, and instead recommend this book with unreserved enthusiasm.
After a panel discussion at Town Hall on the “Revolutions of 1989” on its 20th anniversary, Florence, who had been on the panel, joined two old friends, her daughter-in-law and granddaughter, all of whom had attended the discussion, at a restaurant. After the four adults tucked into a second pitcher of sangria, the talk turned to the amount of time people spend on their devices. It was during this discussion that Florence made her point in a typical Florence move. The sangria recipe here, celebrates and commemorates that moment in the restaurant.
1 L bottle of Carlo Rossi sangria jug wine
1 C brandy
⅓ C Triple Sec
1 C orange juice
slices of orange, lemon, lime, apple and peach
Mix all ingredients and refrigerate overnight. To serve, pour into a tall glass with plenty of ice anf float ginger ale on top.