A love letter to city life, however shiny or sleazy, Lillian Boxfish Takes a Walk by Kathleen Rooney paints a portrait of a remarkable woman across the canvas of a changing America: from the Jazz Age to the onset of the AIDS epidemic; the Great Depression to the birth of hip-hop.
It's the last day of 1984, and 85-year-old Lillian Boxfish is about to take a walk.
As she traverses a grittier Manhattan, a city anxious after an attack by a still-at-large subway vigilante, she encounters bartenders, bodega clerks, chauffeurs, security guards, bohemians, criminals, children, parents, and parents-to-be - in surprising moments of generosity and grace. While she strolls, Lillian recalls a long and eventful life that included a brief reign as the highest-paid advertising woman in America - a career cut short by marriage, motherhood, divorce, and a breakdown.
The Road of Anthracite
There once was a girl named Phoebe Snow. She wore only white and held tight to a violet corsage, an emblem of modesty. She was not retiring, though, and her life spun out as a series of journeys through mountain tunnels carved from poetry. I never saw her doing anything besides boarding, riding, or disembarking a train, immaculate always, captivating conductors, enchanting other passengers.
No, there wasn't. She was just an advertisement: the poster girl for the Delaware, Lackawanna, and Western Railroad. Her unsoilable Antarctic-colored clothes were proof that the line's anthracite-powered locomotives were clean-burning, trulyunlike their sooty and outfit-despoiling competitors:
Her laundry bill for fluff and frill
Miss Phoebe finds is nearly nil.
It's always light, though gowns of white,
Are worn on Road of Anthracite.
* * *
I was five years old when I first laid eyes on her, on a postcard sent me by my ...
Feminist, intelligent, independent, creative, authentic, a woman attempting to balance career and family during a time when it was next to impossible. Lilian is a woman you want to be, hope to be, dare to be, her rawness, brutal honesty and ownership are mesmerizing.
(Reviewed by BookBrowse First Impression Reviewers).
Full Review (642 words).
The titular character of Lillian Boxfish Takes a Walk is modeled after real-life ad copywriter and poet, Margaret Fishback.
In a detailed biography of Fishback at the Poetry Foundation, Lillian Boxfish author Kathleen Rooney offers us a fascinating glimpse of a woman who was far ahead of her time, taking to print to declare that she didn't need a husband to support her. Starting out as a school teacher, Fishback took on a job at the lower rungs of copywriting at the prestigious department store R. H. Macy's (today referred to simply as Macy's) but quickly rose through the ranks, eventually becoming chief copywriter. She was a highly paid woman in the advertising world of the 1930s, a time when the Great Depression firmly had its ...
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