Reading Matters

Two books: many pages on Sinatra

Two new books -- John Brady’s “Frank & Ava: In Love and War,” and James Kaplan’s “Sinatra: The Chairman,” offer up a lot of information – 1,271 pages in all.

Of Sinatra’s four wives, Ava Gardner -- born in 1922 seven miles east of Smithfield, N.C. – seems to most interest both biographers.

Kaplan writes: “She -- Ava -- was the ground tone of his life, his late-night obsession and midday day dream, the receptacle of all the uncertainty that his mother, Dolly, had instilled inhim. Wherever he was, whomever he was with, she was in the back of his mind, or the forefront. And all the success in the world was only a temporary solace to a mind as complex and fragile as his.”

Emotionally distant, arrogant, perfectionistic, hot-tempered with a lifelong aversion to funerals, Sinatra nevertheless exuded great charm and sex appeal. As did Ava, who was also self-indulgent and impulsive.

Brady sums up why Frank and Ava’s marriage didn’t last: “Each had a need to be free, and a profound resistance to being submerged and ultimately drowned in passion that made them feel trapped, owned, obligated, which prevented them from being free -- the very thing completely mitigated by love and marriage. It was the needing each other that they both loved and feared, that held them together and drove them apart.”