Picks and Pans Review: Now
updated 10/24/1994 AT 01:00 AM EDT
•originally published 10/24/1994 AT 01:00 AM EDT
Imagine you are stuck in an airport with Lauren Bacall. No flights are taking off because of bad weather, so the star of screen and stage starts chatting with you—discussing her work, her children, her travels and her (lack of a) love life. Take away the airport and the bad weather and this is exactly what reading Now feels like.
Bacall, 69, has already written an autobiography, By Myself, published in 1978. Although she updates readers on her life since then, Now is not exactly a sequel. It's a monologue, the kind you'd hear when there are hours to kill or pages to fill. Bacall meanders: tacking back and forth through time, interrupting one anecdote to tell another. In the midst of recounting the demise of Blenheim, her beloved cavalier King Charles spaniel, she talks about her oldest child, Steve, and his problems with being the only son of the late great Humphrey Bogart.
In a chapter on friends, she starts with Mildred Jaffe, the wife of the agent Sam, then discusses Laurence Olivier and moves on to Lee and Ira Gershwin, who provide a segue, of sorts, into her feelings for Leonard Bernstein. (Feelings are Bacall's subject—there's very little gossip.) Later in the book she writes about buying a summerhouse—then describes her ambivalence over this purchase at such length that the reader wants to raze the place long before it's sold.
Bacall's style can be breathy: On the death of friends, she writes, "Endings. How I hate them, how painful they are." Though she gushes over many of her directors and costars, she doesn't dish much about their foibles. Only the very personal sections of Now are engrossing—especially the account at the end of the book of her daughter Leslie Bogart's recent wedding. During the ceremony, Bacall can't stop thinking about Bogie, her first husband. As she reflects on her life, both past and present, and the enduring sense of loss that Bogie's death represents, Now becomes terribly poignant. (Knopf, $23)