Entry 1

This seems an uneventful day to begin a “Diary” in that I have nothing planned except to continue our search for a new kitten, later, when my husband, John, gets home from work. San Francisco is at its most beautiful today. From my house on Telegraph Hill, I can see the Bay, Alcatraz, the Golden Gate Bridge with boats steaming under it, blue water, golden hills beyond in Marin County, Coit Tower at the top of my hill, and so on—all the tourist attractions. In prospect, a quiet day seems wonderful, a chance to enjoy all this, but in reality can bring on lassitude and irritation. Caution.

I should explain that I am trying to live without a car. I’m hoping to make a virtue of this, but it’s in part because I don’t have a car: We only have one because of not living here most of the year, and J. has taken it to the hospital, where he’s on duty even on Sunday.

I have decided that the automobile is, in large part, at the root of America’s problems, so I am also not driving on principle. But more of this anon. I am a novelist and critic, or that’s what I put in bios—in theory, sedentary occupations not requiring a car. If I had one, I’d go to my gym, which is not served by the bus today because it’s Sunday. My gym is walkable to, all downhill, but impossible to walk home from, or, rather, disagreeable, a climb of several hundred steps up the steep face of Telegraph Hill.

This is the second weekend of “my” movie, Le Divorce, really a movie directed by James Ivory, based on a novel I wrote; I am told that this is the weekend that decides whether the film has “legs.” Will it walk into many theaters or quietly recede? I think it will walk, as it’s lively and funny. I found it very interesting to see my characters rounded out and put into wonderful clothes, etc. I can see how this could have been a trauma if the filmmaker hadn’t got it right, but Merchant Ivory did get it mostly right, it seems to me.

One thing I do have to do today is continue signing separate pieces of paper that will become pages bound into copies of my new novel, which, like Le Divorce, is set in France. This one, called L’Affaire, is to come out at the end of September. I’m supposed to sign 3,000 of these pieces of paper, but I doubt if I will. The publisher said, “Do what you can.”

J. calls from the hospital to say he’s running late. I tell him to go to the animal shelter, Pets Unlimited, on his way home, as there won’t be time for us both to go before the “window” when we have to be here to receive the groceries, ordered via the Internet. (No car!) Yesterday he went to the SPCA and the SF city shelter.

Our kitten search is because our beloved cat, Walter, recently died at age 16, far too young in our view, after a year of chemotherapy for lymphoma. Walter was a fuzzy, long-haired,  blue-eyed, Siamese-looking fellow, and we have been hoping to find a kitten somewhat like him. Therefore we have seen hundreds of kittens, but mostly striped or black. Two who might have done were kept, after all, by their foster mothers.

Animal-lovers will be reassured to hear that there is an impressive network of dedicated people, mostly women, volunteering at the shelters, acting as foster parents to young kittens or just spending some time with older cats, petting them and chatting. The SF city animal shelter, the SPCA, the Berkeley Humane Society, the Milo Foundation, and others are “no-kill,” (not the happiest phrase, but a happy attitude), and they tell us that most of the kittens will find homes. The others get to live on in the shelter, with TV sets and toys. Advocates of homeless people find this very irritating; it is a big topic of civic discussion.

Today, J. comes home discouraged. He was drawn to a long-haired yellow cat, 1 year old, named Boris, but decided no, as we did want a kitten. The shelters name all the cats, which gives them added personality and charm: Winkie, Rocky, Karla. The names are winsome and farfetched, as are the histories. “Ludvig, heard crying from the wheel well of an abandoned car.” Perhaps I could volunteer to be resident novelist, offering to make up the stories.

J. waits for the groceries while I walk down the hill to the last day of the Oriental Antiquities sale on Grant Avenue, and also to a trunk sale at Lillith. At the first, I buy a red wooden Thai head that could stand on a bookshelf or mantle. Lillith is a brand of French clothes, very eccentric and comfortable, that I often buy. Today, a representative of the home store in Paris—Juana—is here and claims to recognize me from there. Quelle surprise, she says. (I live in Paris half the year and go to the sales there, too.) Today the Lillith ladies and customers are all drinking champagne, so I have a glass of champagne and (of course) buy something—a bluish mesh top I expect to wear constantly.

This Diary entry for Monday was published Tuesday morning.