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OP: How to Do It

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by Elsa Maxwell

Little, Brown and Company, 1957. Hardcover. Very Good in jacket. Second printing.

During the 1940s and ‘50s, Elsa Maxwell (1883–1963) was, in addition to a gossip columnist, a renowned professional hostess. And in that, she was in a league of her own. 

Maxwell, born in Keokuk, Iowa, threw extravagant parties, hosting celebrities of any and all kinds. Not too uppity, though; we’re talking about Clark Gable, Joan Fontaine, Sam Goldwyn, Maria Callas, Cole Porter (a close friend who mentioned her in several songs), and Noel Coward. Not to mention a good sprinkling of figures from the international set: the Duchess of Windsor (of course) and Ali Khan, along with big money (Stavros Niarchos, who generously lent her his yacht), and a fair share of minor nobility (Countess Mimi Pecci-Blini); among many others. 

Maxwell’s ability to drop names is simply breathtaking as she recounts her own parties (claiming more than 2000 of them) and the parties of others that she attendedtoo many to numberwhere she crossed paths with a mass of other big names, all of whom appear in the index of her book. 

How to Do It is mainly a reading book, with lots of hints, tips, and instructions in such star-studded chapters as “The Perfect Hostessand Others,” “Men as Hosts,” and “This Can Kill a Party.” It is so gossipy and outrageous as to be a total page-turner.

And, of course, there is the food, which Maxwell calls the heart of the party. She supplies about a hundred recipes gathered, she says, from the great hosts of glorious festive events. Among the “contributors”: Clare Boothe Luce, Mrs. T. Reed [Diana] Vreeland, Claudette Colbert, Alfred Lunt, Rosalind Russell. The names fill the air like confetti.

The book, published by Little, Brown in 1957, is a Very Good hardcover second printing. It is clean and unmarked. The dust jacket, now in mylar, is in Very Good condition with some discoloration and wear about the edges. A closed tear on the rear was previously repaired with tape on the inside of the jacket.

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