04 July 2011


Everyone that visits this page often enough knows I love to read. My interests are varied- along with the return to a Wilkie Collins novel, a biography about Nancy Astor, and an ongoing read of Diana Cooper's autobiography- I just read George Synder's ON WINGS OF AFFECTION- otherwise christened by me as The Adventures of Sam Pam & Didier.
It is not to be missed. The story clips from Hollywood hotspots to Sam's cozy place looking out over the city.
It moves. It sings.

The players "Speak the speech... trippingly on the tongue:"

"Pam," I began cautiously.  "these packages you say are coming to Didier from Marseilles -- 
did you "see" them or "learn" of them in a vision perhaps?"

"No," she replied curtly, leafing through a particularly interesting article on the servants quarters and extensive kitchens at Petworth, which you will recall is the stately home of the Wyndham family who -- sorry, I digress.  I resumed my careful line of inquiry.

"You did not learn of these deliveries in some kind of psychic message from beyond?"


"But your "extrasensory" "powers of divination"
nevertheless lead you to 
"know" that "bad men" are somehow connected to these parcels."

"Stop clawing the air, you look like an old cat," she answered in reference to my air quotes.
-excerpt from the book

After a reading, I've sent the book off with my brother to New York for the week-though I have asked for its return. I am clearing off a spot on the shelves for all George Snyder's books . I had to get in touch with the author! I've been reading his blog 1904- since I took up this habit several years ago. 1904 is just about the most unique blog out there anywhere. George graciously filled me in on the book-

PGT- George, I do love the book! Is there any George Snyder in On Wing's of Affection's Sam Finch?

I do hope so.  You are very kind, and yes, Sam and I resemble one another.  Sam, however, is a tiny bit younger and goes to the gym considerably more than I do, because after all he had to get in shape to be in the novel whereas I had to stay home to write it and consequently I did not get out nearly as much.  

"I met the most interesting man," she announced.  "A friend of yours in that club you belong to."  She nodded discreetly across the room, and my blood ran cold.

"Dear god in heaven," I blurted out.  "It's C.V.A.  I can't believe his parole officer let him come here."


You could hear the sound of cheap china smashing as I broke the man's anonymity, but it was too late.  "Countless Vain Attempts," I explained, "to Behave like a Gentleman.  Now please tell me he didn't touch you.
-excerpt from the book

PGT- Sam Finch is so endearing. Even in his most humiliating moments, his most perilous- he manages to keep his dignity and humor. Seeing as how Sam really gets into terrible trouble-how does he manage?
What are his best qualities? His worst?

Poor Sam, he does get himself into a real pickle now and again.  Luckily he has an amazing capacity for denial and self-deception which is so useful when you find yourself truly exposed.
His best qualities are his intelligence and innate good taste and desire to please; his worst traits, alas, are a result of the best -- his intelligence and good taste make him difficult to please, and he has a terrible time settling for anything but the best.  And of course his desire to please means he simply works too hard at everything, and by the way this latter is just the sort of bad quality you want to emphasize if you are ever asked in a job interview and it is a favorite question, so just say that you work too hard and care too much.  Just in case.  It's one of those attractive defects employers appreciate. 

PGT- “It’s always cheaper to be nice,” advises Sam Finch in On Wings of Affection, but sometimes it’s the last thing you feel like.
Is Sam too nice?
Is that possible?

Sam certainly worries about being too nice, although I'm not sure it's really possible to ever be in the long run, unless of course you are Mother Theresa, but then, she never looked as though she would be especially nice did she? In any case, however, like pretty, nice is as nice does.  Which is more than you can say about Mean.  Mean goes to the bone.  Mean has an aura even when mean isn't trying to be mean.  I'm afraid the truth though is that Sam isn't quite as nice as he'd like you to think.

PGT- "Mean to the bone", while something of that is in the book, Have you ever encountered pure evil? As you say we have all run into the evil decorator-so exclude the profession IF you can...

I'm not sure about pure evil, most of the time what you get is more something of a mixture, but the point about evil to keep in mind is that Evil doesn't know it is. The best sort of villains at any rate are those who believe what they're doing is right, or just, or practical. Patricia Highsmith's Tom Ripley, for instance.

PGT- There are more Sam, Pam and Didier adventures to come.
How many books are in the series?
Do you have the next completed and if so-when is the next fix coming?
Any provocative hints you can offer up?

There are at least 7 in the series so far, based on what I like to think of as the 7 critical natural elements: Earth, Air, Wind, Fire, Water, Time, and Art.  "On Wings" is as you know all about the air and birds.  
Book Two tackles the earth and is consequently all about Gardens and landscape.  
Book Three will plumb the depths of the sea.  And so forth.  As one would expect, however, there are overlapping themes and leit motifs.  
Book One is devoted to that universal experience we've all encountered, the evil decorator.  
Book Two has to do with the unscrupulous landscape architect. 
Book Three, the very mysterious man with a yacht.  
After the 7 elements I shall work my way through the Table of Elements, as I believe someone's already doing the alphabet.  

PS: At the end of the day, as Iris Murdoch says, a novel is about love. 

Which is really what all the Sam Pam and Didier books will be about.  Love. And murder and hijinks.  Not necessarily in that order.

PGT- Besides your work on the book series-and your blog 1904- as if that were not enough-what else are you doing?

Besides my books and blog I am working on an article or two about this and that but I also have a day job which involves looking after things for someone else.  You might call it being an office manager; I call it being a valet de chambre.  But it keeps me busy and out of trouble and actually I am far more productive now than when I had time to spend all day writing.  You can't spend all day writing, trust me.  The professionals will tell you this.  2 or 3 hours tops.  The rest of the time you may be thinking about writing, but you are doing other things.

painting by Paul Cadmus- Jerry, 1931

PGT- Why the title 1904?

Because at first you need an excuse. 
Because Ulysses takes place on June 16, 1904. 
Because whenever you look for meaning and patterns in life you generally find something interesting.

PGT- Where did you grow up? Does some of Sam, no pun intended- still reside in his own small town Ohio?
Is it simple human decency?

the author as early good will ambassador to Bangkok, Thailand

Not surprisingly, much of Sam's formative years were spent in Ohio, like me.  And along the shores of Lake Erie, which is one of the Great Lakes, but not to be fair one of the great ones -- Superior is great; ditto Michigan and Huron or so I've heard.  Erie is the shallowest, alas, a trait Sam sometimes feels he shares with it.  Not to give too much away, but Sam returns to his roots in Book Two, and in a curious series of events Didier and Pam will wind up in Ohio too.  As you might imagine, mayhem ensues.  I'm not sure whether it's quite what I'd call the part of Ohio that still resides in Sam simple human decency, but I can tell you that the Midwestern work ethic has served him well and makes people from the Midwest highly sought after in California. Not balking at a day's work for a day's pay has distinguished many a good-hearted if slightly naive Ohioan from their co-workers, until they know better.

 photograph by Bruce Weber

Pam sighed.  "Give me your shirt," she said to Didier, indicating the item of clothing soaked by the champagne she'd sprayed on him in her ire.

Didier objected.  What would our guests in the sitting room think, waiting no doubt with growing concern at our absence, if he should appear shirtless, sans chemise, as it were.

"Oh please," observed Pam drily.  "Like they haven't seen you without your clothes on."  

The young man hesitated as he considered whether to argue the point.
-excerpt from the book

 PGT- I admit I hardly ever read anything that I don't immediately start casting the novel for the big screen. Care to "CAST" Sam-Pam-Didier?

I was talking to a casting director just the other day & I said: " A young and handsome and very fit David Hyde Pierce type for Sam, a sixteen year old American version of Catherine Deneuve for Pam, and a very young Jean-Paul Belmond or Jean-Pierre Leaud (Antonion Doinil in the Truffaut films for Didier.)  But when I watch Breathless, I think Didier and Pam are Jean -Paul and Jean Seberg, and yes my film references are very very old fashioned.

a scene from Breathless

PGT- I don't know IF he can act  George- but here is your DIDIER.

 actor Alex Pettyfer-mphotograph from Vanity Fair.

If it all comes to fruition- Call me, I can be in Hollywood in 48 hours!
Don't start googling Alex Pettyfer-it will take you to that place Sam went somewhere in Hollywood looking for Didier.

Alex Pettyfer  &  Chloe Moretz, as Pam.

LOL, as Pam would say, or rather text!  
Alex would be a very fine Didier, and we could certainly work with him very closely if he needed help.  
I will rely on you to make the arrangements when the time comes.

PGT- As to casting & your film references being very old fashioned- What does that say about Hollywood? Or maybe what does that say about  the last time you went to the movies?

The last movie I went to was the Theatre Live film performance of The Cherry Orchard with Zoe Wanamaker, this past Thursday night, and okay that's theater, so maybe it doesn't quite count. Before that it would have been ' I AM LOVE' with Tilda Swinton and I saw that several times because it was Heaven, so I am not opposed to new movies, it's just the going out to the movies that is the difficult part because it involves planning and driving and other people.  That is not Hollywood's fault.  Luckily for me there is Netflix. Hollywood tries very hard to give the public whatever they want.  Being over the age of twelve I am hardly the primary target audience, but even so there is a very great deal to choose from and as Sam has observed, every day beautiful young people are arriving here, each of them with a head-shot and a dream, so there's no shortage of actors. 

Ah, this biz called show...

PGT- Much of  On Wings of Affection satirizes Hollywood. Can you explain what it is about living in LA that makes the Sams there crazy? What took You there?

Sam and I both, as it turns out, came out to L.A. in relationships.  The full of account of Sam's will be revealed in later installments but his experience is not dissimilar to mine.  At a critical and one might even say vulnerable point in my life, someone asked me to move to sunny California, and as no one had asked me to go anywhere for a while, I said yes and even offered to split the cost of the U-Haul truck.  We drove from one coast to the other, and as I recall it was about Denver when I realized I might have made a mistake, but I stayed in the relationship for a year to be polite.  
Luckily I also came for the weather, which has not disappointed. 
The crazy has to do with Hollywood being a company town.  The company is the business called show.  Just as the business in Washington, D.C. is the business called government.  In this respect they are the same place.  Both Hollywood and Washington are about selling illusion which they call the American dream to Americans.  Both Hollywood and Washington tend not to think very highly of Americans, however.  The difference is, Washington keeps trying to tell Americans that what it is giving them is good for them, whereas Hollywood will give Americans anything they want, whether it's good or bad.

PGT- What are Your recent reads?

Midsummer Night in the Workhouse, a collection from Persephone Press of the stories of Diana Athill. And the artist Edmund de Waal's memoir, The Hare with Amber Eyes, Chatto and Windus.  Both divine.

PGT- Your all time Favorite Book for its sense of place?

Brideshead Revisited. 
It is a love story for a house and a place and time that are all gone.

PGT- What is your Security Blanket Book?

Almost anything by Iris Murdoch.  A Word Child, or A Fairly Honourable Defeat, or Henry and Cato are three favorites.

PGT- What is the seminal book in your field or passion- that you would recommend to young would be(s)?

I have many passions, but I always come back to fiction.  And for fiction, women writers are the best.  You almost can't go wrong with any of them, but if I were to pick then: Barbara Pym, Muriel Spark, Nancy Mitford, Iris Murdoch, Elizabeth Bowen, George Eliot, Sylvia Townsend Warner, Molly Keane, and then after them, the boys: Angus Wilson, Evelyn Waugh, Wodehouse, Benson and poor old Henry James.

PGT- Your Latest Obsession? & why?

Danish pop music.  I don't think Danish pop music has gotten anywhere near the kind of attention it deserves. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pArLmSakOYI
 I rest my case.

PGT- Gosh- George, I would hate to think Burhan G and frineds are the Danish Milli Vanilli-Do you think they really sing too?
I can't be objective about them. I can't understand a word they're singing, and yet I feel they are singing directly to me.

George Snyder references Nancy Mitford's work and as she said to her sisters-
"Are you shrieking ?" 
Yes, George, I am!
Honestly, dear readers You will be too- On Wings of Affection is a romp of the highest order.

I can't wait for the next installment-what can I say but- Armistead Maupin's Tales of the City comes to mind.
I rest my case.

get a copy of George's ON WINGS OF AFFECTION here
 photograph cover of ON WINGS OF AFFECTION by Rodolfo Martinez

a 1904 post of The Defenestration of Didier, an excerpt from the novel.

all photographs are the author's unless noted-do not use without the permission of George Snyder



  1. Whoooooooosh! Fabulous posting.

  2. A fabulous interview.
    __The Devoted Classicist

  3. I do other things than read but...Hare With Amber Eyes is marvelous. Dominique Browning just mentioned it and loved it. http://www.slowlovelife.com/2011/06/reading-in-which-our-heroine-dives-into_23.html

  4. Laurent, John- all praise to the wit of George!

    Penny- it is a great read.

    Lucindaville- of course you cook! next best thing. pgt

  5. This is such a fabulous interview! Once again you lead the way. I have ordered this book, cannot WAIT to read.Having said this, I confess although I love everything you do, I found a different copy of the book and prefer the cover; http://www.blurb.com/bookstore/detail/1960300. I suppose sometimes I am just superficial.........
    By the by, my next book has just been mentioned in another post today-"The Hare With The Amber Eyes.

  6. Rapt. Start to finish, I never breathed in or out. Going back now for another go.

  7. Fascinating. Reminds me of the Alexandria Quartet, by Durrell.

  8. i'm looking forward to reading it, patricia. thanks for the lovely interview and images.

  9. What a great interview!! Please note that I will volunteer to help with anything having to do with the eventual movie. Off to buy George's book. And, then listen to some Danish pop. Brilliant. ; )

  10. carol, I always love doing interviews-especially about books! I have a number of them coming this summer so stay tuned. I saw that book cover too-a good choice as well.

  11. FLo, George is a full of wit! I laughed throughout the book and at his answers here as well.

    LPC--again I will check that out. so many books so little time.

  12. Maison21- you will love it!

    Barbara- thanks and I will add you to the gofer list, George will have no lack of hands to help out. & do obsess over the Danes- hypnotic.

  13. there was a party- and at William Randolph Hearst's two-story, customized suite at the historic Los Altos apartment house near Hancock Park- No less



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