Other Writing

Articles & Essays

Music Man

Air Mail

With his nasty temper and squalid lifestyle, Beethoven was not an easy genius. Writing from the perspective of his lover, an author explores the appeal

I swore off difficult men after writing Robert Mapplethorpe’s biography. When my book was published 25 years ago, it elicited violent criticism from some of his friends. They felt I’d been too hard on the controversial photographer whose S&M pictures had created a firestorm in the early 90s. One bombarded me with profanities. Another threatened to kill me. My publisher wondered if I should hire an armed guard.
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Special Project: Rediscovering the “Moonlight” Sonata

American Classical Orchestra

In Celebration of Beethoven’s 250th Birthday

We asked two friends of ACO—pianist Petra Somlai and author Patricia Morrisroe —to collaborate on a video performance-and-writing project around Beethoven’s Sonata No. 14 in C# minor, better known as The “Moonlight” Sonata.

Here is Ms. Somlai’s nuanced and powerful performance, with text excerpts from The Woman in the Moonlight,Ms. Morrisroe’s new best-selling novel about The “Moonlight” Sonata’s dedicatee, the young Countess Julie Guicciardi. Below the video you’ll find Ms. Morrisroe’s engaging essay about their doomed love affair, the Sonata, and her reaction to hearing it, for the very first time, on fortepiano. read more…

The Black Violinist Who Inspired Beethoven

New York Times

Six months after Beethoven contemplated suicide, confessing his despair over his increasing deafness in the 1802 document known as the Heiligenstadt Testament, he was carousing in taverns with a charismatic new comrade, George Polgreen Bridgetower. This biracial violinist had recently arrived in Vienna, and inspired one of Beethoven’s most famous and passionate pieces, the “Kreutzer” Sonata.

Beethoven even dedicated the sonata to Bridgetower. But the irritable composer — who would later remove the dedication to Napoleon from his Third Symphony — eventually took it back.

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Meeting Beethoven at an Italian Restaurant on the Upper West Side

Lit Hub

I met Beethoven at an Italian restaurant on the Upper West Side of Manhattan. He was looking for patrons for his orchestra. I needed a muse. I was working on my first novel, The Woman in the Moonlight, about the deaf composer’s volatile love affair with Countess Julie Guicciardi. As a longtime journalist, I was accustomed to quoting living people, not inventing dialogue for dead ones. When a friend offered to introduce me to a conductor who specialized in instruments from Beethoven’s time, I thought, How perfect! Perhaps I could interview him and gain insight into a musician’s life. read more…

Author Patricia Morrisroe on Beethoven and the Bored Housewives of 1800s Vienna

Town & Country

By Norman Vanamee

The author and journalist Patricia Morrisroe decided on the subject of her new novel, The Woman in the Moonlight, while having lunch with an editor. “He mentioned that Beethoven had been in love with one of his piano students. I had no idea!” Morrisroe, a former contributing editor at New York magazine and frequent writer for numerous other publications, did what she has done her entire career when she learned something new: “I went home and started researching.”

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The Woman at the Heart of Beethoven’s ‘Moonlight’ Sonata

New York Times

Four years ago, I was having lunch with an editor who mentioned that Beethoven had fallen in love with one of his piano students. She was the woman to whom the great master had dedicated the “Moonlight” Sonata. The editor thought it would make a good novel. Was I interested?

I was intrigued, but intimidated. Wagner once described Beethoven as a “titan, wrestling with the gods.” Did I want to wrestle with a titan? I’d never written historical fiction, didn’t read German and knew nothing about early-19th-century Vienna. Though I’d studied piano for 12 years, my teacher thought Beethoven’s music was too “agitating” for someone with my “high-strung” temperament.
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Chateau Dior

Departures

The French designer created the most commanding silhouette of 20th-century fashion. Now the house where he found inspiration and respite has been masterfully refreshed and restored.

Handsome young men in straw hats and pristine aprons are tending Christian Dior’s garden. One flashes a photogenic smile as he clips the air with pruning shears.

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Romancing The Highlands

Departures

Bewitched by the cult TV costume drama Outlander, Patricia Morrisroe spends nine days driving through Scotland, in search of the breathtaking castles, mystical stones, and folklore that has made the show a smash.
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The Ecstasy and the Agony of Robert Mapplethorpe

Departures

Robert Mapplethorpe remained focused on his legacy even from his hospital bed, writing his signature over and over again until it was reduced to a blur. In another example, he turned the “e” at the end of his name into an arrow, as if aiming at a target he could still envision but could no longer reach.

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All I Want for Christmas is the Perfect Pair of PJs

Departures

With the holidays approaching, many women are making up their wish lists, noting the beautiful shearling coat they’d spotted in a store, or the Man Ray they’d wanted since Photography 101. They’re dreaming of exotic trips, diamond earrings, Hermès bags, and rare pieces of Chanel haute couture. As for me, I’m dreaming of the perfect pair of pajamas.

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The Sovereign State of Extravagance: London’s Mayfair

Departures

Mayfair, between Park Lane and Regent Street, with Bond Street running through, just might be the luxury capital of the world.

I’m looking for Berkeley Square, one of Mayfair’s most iconic locations, but there’s so much new construction I’m totally disoriented. Yellow cranes obscure the skyline. Scaffolding and tarps shroud buildings.

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Uniting a Mysterious Ring With Its Rightful Owner

Modern Love, New York Times

On my 25th wedding anniversary, I received a silver ring covered in diamonds via United Parcel Service. It came with a gift receipt but without a gift card. Oddly, the price tag was attached: $2,350, which, if calculated in cubic inches, was almost a bargain.

Shaped like an oval shield with a sapphire in the center, the ring was so gigantic it extended beyond the knuckle of my index finger.

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Me and My Mom, in 5 Pairs of Shoes

New York Magazine

It was the summer of ’61, Kennedy was in the White House, I was in church, and Hannah Howard was in a pair of white Mary Janes. Hannah was the prettiest girl in my school.  She had long platinum hair, bright blue eyes, and a Hollywood pedigree. Her mother was Priscilla Lane, who had starred in The Roaring Twenties, with James Cagney, and Arsenic and Old Lace, with Cary Grant.

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You Must Remember This…

Departures Magazine

For the past few years, I’ve bought practically everything online.  It’s easy convenience, and when I open the beautiful box with its multiple layers of tissue paper, I can pretend that a secret admirer has sent me a present.  Recently, though, I’ve been yearning for something more authentic.

 

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Nostalgia: Pleasure Principle

Vogue

A chance encounter with New York City society doyenne Nan Kempner led to Patricia Morrisroe’s education in the art of having fun.

Two summers ago, while strolling around Piazza San Marco, I passed by Missiaglia, the oldest jeweler in Venice.

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Another Voice Had Come Between Us

Modern Love, New York Times

ON a romantic trip through the English countryside, my husband fell in love with another woman. He met her at a car rental agency on the outskirts of London, where she arrived with the upgrade package.

Nervous about driving on the opposite side of the road, he was eager to pay for her escort services, and before I knew it, she was with me in the front seat.

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How Gucci Got Its Groove Back

Departures

Few gave Gucci a fighting chance when Tom Ford left in 2004. But out of the ashes rose creative director Frida Giannini, who has silenced the naysayers by striking a balance between flashy extravagance and understated elegance.

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Breaking Point

Vogue

Slender and at risk for Osteoporosis, Patricia Morrisroe began taking medicine daily. Now, ten years later, she wonders: did the drugs do more harm than good? No body would ever call me a daredevil—reading is my favorite pastime—but over the years I’ve tried skiing, surfing, gliding, and horse jumping, and once road a camel across a tiny swatch of the Sahara.

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Nostalgia: Swept Away

Vogue

Young and in love, Patricia Morrisroe moved into her boyfriend’s Sutton Place apartment only to have her visions of a romantic summer subsumed by a family drama.

When I was in a used-book store recently, I came across a photograph o a dark haired young woman floating underwater.  Dressed in a virginal white, arms out-stretched, she looked to me like a crucified mermaid.

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Nightmares Are Welcome Shocks

New York Times

When I was in second grade I saw “Frankenstein” with Boris Karloff on TV. I had nightmares about it for weeks – fitting, since Mary Shelley had modeled the monster after one she’d seen in her own nightmare. (She’d spent the evening exchanging ghost stories with her husband Percy Bysshe Shelley and Lord Byron.) After calling for my mother, I’d ask her to apply a cold washcloth to my eyelids. Why I seized on that remedy I’ll never know, but it probably had something to do with my belief that if I “woke up” my eyes, they’d stop seeing the scary images playing out in my brain. read more…

Wide Awake in Vegas

Huffington Post

Nobody sleeps in Las Vegas. I know that’s a gross generalization, but having spent nearly a week there for my new book Wide Awake: A Memoir of Insomnia, I came away with the distinct impression that Vegas, at least sleep-wise, was the Village of the Damned. Along with several hundred doctors, many of whom were constantly swilling coffee, I was there for a continuing medical education course entitled “Everything You Always Wanted to Know about Sleep Disorders.” What I wanted to know was how to alleviate the insomnia that had plagued me for most of my life. As a child, I’d always been a light sleeper, but as I grew older my sleep tended to split in two. Around 3 a.m., I’d routinely be confronted with a big yawning hole in the night. I longed to fill it with sleep. Instead, I packed it with waking thoughts, my mind taking me on an exhilarating, exhausting joy ride. read more…

Long Night’s Journey Into Sleep

New York Times

For my parents’ 50th wedding anniversary, our family went to Ireland to discover our roots and had the best sleep of our lives in a little town in County Sligo. Ten years later, we’re still talking about that incredible night. Forget the windblown scenery, the pink salmon, the monastic ruins and the wild swans at Coole. Forget my daredevil sister practically dangling off the Cliffs of Moher. “Remember that sleep,” we say, shaking our heads. “Wasn’t it just amazing?” read more…

The Place Where Dreams Are Made

wowOwow.com

Growing up in the House of Punk Sleep – “punk” was my mother’s favorite synonym for anything “weak” or “below par” – I shared a room with my middle sister, who’d wake me up every morning by bouncing on her mattress. It squeaked something awful. I’d shout, “Mummy, Mummy, she’s doing it again!”

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More Than Enough Hours in Every Day

New York Times

My mother-in-law, Dorothy, is showing me the red spiral notebook that’s almost as precious to her as my husband’s baby pictures. Inside, in Dorothy’s distinctive script, is a list of every book she has read since 2007. For some people waking up in the middle of the night is a terrible curse; unable to drift back to sleep, they’re confronted with a big gaping hole that represents hours of lost time.

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Vera Wang’s Fashion Empire

Departures

Vera Wang is staring at a model dressed in nothing but a transparent piece of black tulle and a pair of brightly colored panties. The model is shivering slightly but nobody seems to notice, least of all Wang, who is focused intently on the way the fabric floats over the young woman’s barely-there torso.

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Catherine’s Fun House

Departures Magazine

The palace was Catherine’s pleasure dome, where she and her paramour Grigory Orlov could entertain friends, play cards, and enjoy the White Nights.

It may be the most exquisite place in the world that few have ever seen. Catherine the Great’s Chinese Palace is a dazzling Rococo jewel box on the magnificent complex of Oranienbaum, one of the many summer residences of the Russian royals.

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A Thousand And One Sleepless Nights

New York Times

In Ernest Hemingway’s short story “Now I Lay Me,” Nick Adams, the writer’s alter ego, stays up at night listening to the silk worms feeding on mulberry leaves outside his army tent in Italy. During World War I, Hemingway had himself developed insomnia so severe that he was afraid to go to bed with the lights out.

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Vanishing Points

Travel & Leisure

MY GRANDMOTHER HAD lots of secrets. Even her entry into Ellis Island made for a good mystery. Somehow, en route from London in 1909, she lost her steamer trunk, arriving in the New World as metaphorically naked as Shakespeare’s shipwrecked Viola.

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Holiday on Ice

Departures Magazine

I am totally crazy about Christmas. That, coupled with my insomnia, usually resulted in A restless Christmas Eve. Keeping vigil at my bedroom window, opera glasses in hand, I’d stare at the sky searching for Santa’s sleigh. Clement C. Moore obviously didn’t have sleep psychology in mind when he wrote ’Twas the Night Before Christmas, for his wide-awake narrator actually sees St.

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Stephen Sprouse – The Punk Glamour God

New York Magazine

When Stephen Sprouse was working for Halston in the early seventies, he liked to tease the designer. “Okay, here we go,” he’d say. “Another shirtdress for the old ladies.” Sprouse loved Carnaby Street and miniskirts. He wanted to see women’s legs again, and pestered Halston constantly about it.

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The Demon Romantics

Vanity Fair

When a Cincinnati museum was charged with obscenity for showing Robert Mapplethorpe’s photographs, his name became synonymous with “deviant” art. In an excerpt from her biography, Patricia Morrisroe untangles the Gordian knot of Mapplethorpe’s work and his sexuality, and examines his relationship with punk-rock poet Patti Smith – a perverse mix of love, jealousy, and ambition…
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American Beauty

New York Magazine

People were actually weeping. Anita Gallo, former fashion·merchandising director of Altman’s, couldn’t control herself.  She kept on wiping away the tears with the knuckle of her index finger.

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The New Snobbery

New York Magazine

George Carroll Whipple III is running up and down the hallway of the Seventh Regiment Armory, hanging dozens of poster-size photographs of his friends.  “Isn’t this fun?” he asks, letting our a high-pitched giggle.

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Bess and the Mess

New York Magazine

Bess Myerson does not keep a near pocketbook. She’s dumping the contents of her purse onto a couch, and little scraps of paper-quotations she’s scribbled from books-are everywhere.

 

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Exodus

New York Magazine

When Becky London was growing up in Philadelphia, she dreamed of becoming an actress and moving to New York. “I wanted to have a place like Marlo Thomas had in That Girl,” says London, 27. “I knew I’d have to struggle, and that maybe I wouldn’t find my ‘dream’ apartment.

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AIDS: One Man’s Story

New York Magazine

“I could never think about my own death,” says Victor Bender, sitting in his apartment on a clear July afternoon.  “I wanted to live forever.  It was too unimaginable not to be breathing, tasting, smelling, hearing.

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Obsession

New York Magazine

“Gyuri had a terrible disease,” says a baldish man huddled over a corner table in the tiny Hungarian Café.  “It was eating him alive.  he was losing weight and his skin was getting paler and paler.  But his eyes, they were burning.”

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Restaurant Madness

New York Magazine

The customers are lined up on the street, waiting to get into the newest Italian restaurant on Third Avenue.  Those fortunate enough to reach the bar drink Bellinis, a concoction of champagne and peach juice, and exhale cigarette smoke onto the plates of paste on the tables below.

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Forever Single

New York Magazine

“Last night, I had a terrible dream. The weight of the world was on my shoulders, and it was pressing me into the ground. I screamed for help, but nobody came. When I woke up, I wanted somebody to hold me. But it was just like the dream.

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Portrait of a Lady

New York Magazine

The digital clock on top of the Apple Bank on West 73rd Street flashes 3 p.m.  At the side entrance of the Fairway Market, a dozen elderly women rummage through several shopping cards filled with day-old produce.

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