Madison Avenue Maxi. By Elke Gazzara. Carroll & Graf/Da Capo. $22.
The History of Swimming. By Kim Powers. Carroll & Graf/Da Capo. $15.95.
Memoirs can range from the lighthearted to the extremely intense and depressing. These books may not be quite at those two extremes, but they are pretty close. Madison Avenue Maxi is a mostly cute, photo-packed story, written by former fashion model Elke Gazzara (wife of film actor Ben Gazzara), about the pet dachshund the couple reluctantly adopted when their daughter no longer wanted her. Two jet-setters who are not dog lovers seem an unlikely pair to be the owners of Maxi, but they quickly adapt to her – and she to them. The book is filled with tales of red-carpet walks, museum visits and black-tie dinners (including one with Prince Albert of Monaco), to which Maxi adds her inimitable presence. Madison Avenue Maxi is kept from complete frivolity by the story of the growing bond between dog and humans, and by the genuineness of Maxi’s and Elke Gazzara’s responses when Ben requires treatment for cancer and repeatedly asks Elke for Maxi (“my brain was always looking for a way to sneak her into the intensive care unit”). By and large, though, the book is good-hearted celebrity fluff: “Max had an exciting trip to take with our friend Nancy Merill to her home in Rheinbeck with her two bichon frise, which are slightly smaller but twice as furry as Maxi. Actually they look like little powder puffs.” And not all the attempts at seriousness work: “In addition to the human victims of 9/11, I wondered how many barking heroes were made martyrs on that fateful morning.” The book is mostly for people who, in addition to loving dogs, like hearing anecdotes of celebrity life, such as the Gazzaras’ disappointment that Maxi cannot come to Sweden, which means that Ben will go there while Elke and Maxi “wait for you in Umbria,” and besides, “Lauren Bacall also has a little dog and cannot bring hers either.”
The world of The History of Swimming, first published in 2006 and now available in paperback, is a very different one, even though it too is largely centered on