More from NY: The So Blue Marble by Dorothy B Hughes


published 1940



So Blue Marble 7




[Clothes descriptions from throughout the book]


…For his sake she undressed in the bathroom, and put on her white satin pyjamas and her white tweed man-like dressing gown.



So Blue Marble 2


…Ann, lovely, correct, masseused, in Mainbocher because of Her Royal Highness, sherry satin with something white shocking it. Arthur, knife-pleated in tails. The twins, uniform of tails. Missy in pale lemon chiffon, Alix of course, color of her hair. You wouldn't think it becoming but it was; everyone in the room looking at her. Griselda in black sheer, daring cut, startling, her own model.


So Blue Marble 1


…She undressed, showered, put on pyjamas with green tadpoles cavorting in pattern, tied back her hair with an old pink ribbon and daubed an icy cream on her face.

…She found pajamas, dark paisley, blueish, greenish. She undressed in the bathroom, rolled up sleeves and legs, came back to the bed and leaned on it. The men ignored her.


So Blue Marble 5So Blue Marble 6


…Ann was so perfect, in black as was always most of smart New York, her gloves white as April orchards. Ann always wore white gloves. She had height and the right face. [...] She was perfection. There was art in the removing of her gloves, lifting the menu. There was art in everything Ann did with her hands. It was too bad she was irritating.

…[Missy’s] hair was the colour of the lemon ice Ann had spooned at lunch, maybe a shade darker, but not much. It was cut off square as a Dutch doll's banged over dark arrow brows, square against pink cheeks. She wore a dark skullcap, like a Cardinal, on the back of her head. It was so far back, she looked hatless. Her mink coat was the darkest, the finest, Griselda had ever seen, even in movie star land. It was long and shawled, and beneath it you could see the exquisite frock, black with a touch of lemon ice at the throat.


So Blue Marble 3

…He was looking towards the entrance. She raised her eyes. Missy was there, Missy in white satin fringed from the waist in shining crystal leaves, nothing above the waist but a wisp, a strap, crystal leaves wreathing her pale lemon hair.

…She looked like a little boy in the half light, a dark cap on her head, dark knickerbockers and shirt, even long dark stockings, boys' oxfords. She was smoking one of her little cigarettes.

…[Movie heartthrob] Jasper was taste embellished with elegance. White pajamas of such heavy satin they hung like velvet, black rough wool lounging coat lined in rosy fur. His black curly hair was brushed to sheen. There were Russian boots of soft white kidskin on his feet. But this wasn't to allure his guest. He had to maintain his glamour to hotel servitors, more, he had had nothing to do since eight o'clock but make himself beautiful.


So Blue Marble 4


commentary: One more book set (mostly) in New York.

The review phrase that kept forming itself in my head was ‘bonkers but with fabulous clothes and quite an atmosphere’, so I was very glad when I checked back to the email of blogfriend Nathalie Morris, who recommended the book to me ages ago, to find that that is exactly what she thought too.

The So Blue Marble has some of the best clothes descriptions I’ve come across, and also one of the weirdest plots. Our heroine Griselda – filmstar turned designer – is visiting New York, living the high life and meeting up with both her strange sisters. One is a desperate housewife – rich, judgemental and unhappy. The other should be a teenage schoolgirl, but has turned into something much more grownup: she provokes thoughts of the little sister Carmen in Raymond Chandler’s The Big Sleep, published the year before.

There are the cold, vicious twins, Danny and David, identical except that one is dark and one is blond. They are plainly up to no good though some find them superficially charming. There is Griselda’s absent ex-husband - she is staying in his apartment, and making friends with the guy next-door. And there is the mythical marble: it has ‘left a trail of bloodshed and violence across continents and through centuries’ and is the key to great riches, in some mysterious and not-really-explained way. It is the most complete McGuffin.

There is New York society life, a trip out to a country cottage, yet more filmstars, and a lot of death and destruction. It is a very noir book in a very upmarket setting, with some very worthless people.

Naturally, I loved every dynamite moment.

And am very grateful to Natalie for pointing me in the right direction - the list above is actually the one she sent me: she had me at ‘sherry satin with something white shocking it’.

The woman in satin pajamas is blog favourite Louise Brooks, and is from 1929, but having found the picture I couldn’t not use it…

Other pics from Kristine’s photostream and the NYPL collection of fashion for the 1940s Worlds Fair





























Comments

  1. Oh, those are lovely clothes descriptions, Moira! I can why that alone was appealing to you! I do like t he New York setting, too, and I can see what you mean by 'an atmosphere.' Hmm.....The characters may not be - erm - very nice, but it sounds like an interesting look at that aspect of New York society.

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    1. It's a very unusual book, Margot, and yet it has many great aspects of a noir classic. I am glad I read it.

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  2. "...he had had nothing to do since eight o'clock but make himself beautiful."

    Nice to have some equal opportunity vanity for a change.

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  3. Hughes' "The Blackbirder" has some great clothing descriptions as well.

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    1. Thanks - I'm getting good suggestions for other books by her, and certainly want to read more of them.

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  4. I had heard that this book had a very weird plot, but I haven't gotten to reading it yet. The first book I read by Hughes -- The Davidian Report also had great clothing descriptions. I can't remember about Ride the Pink Horse, but it probably does also.

    I did not notice that was Louise Brooks on the couch, I was paying more attention to the clothing. Glen loves Louise Brooks.

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    1. I definitely have to read more by her! I read Pink Horse years ago, but like you I don't remember much about it.
      Louise Brooks is one of my all-time favourites, so beautiful, I can just gaze at her. And a very interesting person too...

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    2. Yes, Louise Brooks is a fascinating person with an interesting life of highs and lows. Coincidentally, just this morning I was editing my Pinterest blogs on actors etc. in order to cull my Louise Brooks pics into a separate folder. She deserves one.

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    3. If anyone does then Louise Brooks does!

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