Cousin Bunny Meets Nichols and May

The bad news is that the Whately Antiquarian Book Center is closing. I can’t tell you how many hours of enjoyment I have had from the hundreds of books I purchased there.

The good news is they’re offering a lot of excellent bargains. Almost all the books are a dollar or two, even the ones that somebody put in plastic bags. Normally any book in a plastic bag is way overpriced.

One of my bargains for a buck was The Sixties by my grandmother’s cousin, Edmund Wilson, known in the family as Cousin Bunny. He went to Princeton with F. Scott Fitzgerald and my grandmother’s brother Sandy, who later went insane.

Wilson is a witty old grump who is surprisingly candid about his sex life, in and out of marriage, and about his opinions or everyone and everything. And he knew everyone who was anyone.

Two of his close friends were Mike Nichols and Elaine May, the famous comedy team. Check out this famous bit at the Emmy Awards, complete with an appearance by Richard Nixon.

Nichols and May were hugely successful as a comedy team, and Mike Nichols went on to become a director, first on Broadway (Barefoot in the Park, The Odd Couple) and then in Hollywood (Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf, The Graduate, Catch-22, Silkwood, The Birdcage, and many others).

Cousin Bunny writes, “Sylvia Marlowe says that teams like Nichols and May are likely to get into a professional relationship in which it is impossible for them either to marry one another or seriously to marry anyone else.” And he noted that Nichols’ girlfriends always looked just like Elaine.

When Nichols told Cousin Bunny that Elaine was getting married, Cousin Bunny said to tell her “I was sorry not to be young enough to fall in love with her and ruin my life.”

Then I got a real surprise. Wilson writes, “Esther [my grandmother] came to see us in Cambridge with Bob Hartshorne [my father] and his wife and children — a baby who had to be put away upstairs.” That baby would have to be my brother Charles.