Enduring literary magazine The Paris Review—established in 1953 by late Hamptonite Peter Matthiessen and Harold L. Humes with fellow late, great Hamptonite George Plimpton as its first editor—offered a rare look into the library at the fabled Grey Gardens on their website, theparisreview.org, last week.
In her excellent and unexpected story, “The Library at Grey Gardens,” Lesley M. M. Blume explains how she learned East Hampton’s Grey Gardens is for sale, quite possibly to be demolished for a more glitzy future construction, and decided this was a “now-or-never opportunity to get a firsthand glimpse of the place.” She pitched the story and was given access by current owner Sally Quinn, who in 1979 bought and completely restored the once crumbling, cat-infested ruin made famous by its eccentric previous owners, Edith Ewing Bouvier Beale and her daughter “Little Edie” Bouvier Beale, in Albert and David Maysles’ 1976 cult documentary Grey Gardens.
But instead of focusing on the home itself, Blume sharpened her scope to celebrate the books collected in the legendary residence’s library—many of which were salvaged from piles of detritus the Edies left behind. Along with handwritten notes and drawings inside their covers, the tomes reveal much about the women who owned them, including their high society breeding, schooling and interests (crossword puzzle, anyone?). Let’s also not forget that Quinn and her late husband Ben Bradlee, the Washington Post editor who helped break Watergate, have some interesting books of their own on Grey Gardens’ hallowed shelves.
Read Lesley M. M. Blume’s full story, “The Library at Grey Gardens,” including Annabelle Dunne’s photographs of the books, the home and other vestiges of the Beales’ and Bradlees’ lives at theparisreview.org.