Lily Koppel

In 1929, Florence Wolfson received a red leather diary for her 14th birthday. She wrote in it daily for the next five years. After languishing for decades in a storage trunk on the Upper West Side, New York Times journalist Lily Koppel discovered the volume—actually recovered from a dumpster!—in 2003, then dove right into the girl’s innermost secrets. What she found was that Wolfson was nothing like the staid stereotype one might have imagined a young woman in 1930s New York would be. Instead, in The Red Leather Diary: Reclaiming a Life Through the Pages of a Lost Journal (Harper, $23.95), the reader is immersed in the colorful ambitions of an aspiring writer who served as the editor-in-chief of Hunter College’s literary magazine, went horseback riding in Central Park, studied piano and art, and mingled with Lionel Trilling, Mark Van Doren, and Delmore Schwartz as a grad student at Columbia. (She also had a lesbian crush and kissed her first boy during those Depression years.) Koppel unearthed many of these details from Wolfson herself, whom she located alive, at 90, and interviewed for her 2006 Times account. In the book, Koppel weaves among the journal entries a fuller narrative of Wolfson’s long, eventful life—and adds her own thoughts and nostalgia for a time she, and most of her readers, couldn’t have known firsthand. My prediction: Expect the story-within-a-story movie, not unlike The Hours, featuring two ambitious, artistic young women of different eras, to drop in 2010. University Book Store, 4326 University Way N.E., 634-3400, www.bookstore.washington.edu. Free. 7 p.m. (Also: Elliott Bay, 2 p.m. Sat., Sept. 13.) KARLA STARR

Sept. 12-13, 7 p.m.; Sat., Sept. 13, 2 p.m., 2008

 
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