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ChatChat - Claudia Cragg

Feb 6, 2020

(At the end of this interview, Cleo Z. reads Mary Oliver's poem, 'I Worried'. To learn more or contact Cleo Z., please DM @claudiacragg)

Claudia Cragg @claudiacragg speaks here with #MichaelKorda about his new book, #Passing. It is a legendary editor's unflinching love song about his radiant wife, #MargaretMogford, and her battle with cancer. 

Born in London, Michael Korda is the son of English actress Gertrude Musgrove, and the Hungarian artist and film production designer Vincent Korda. He is the nephew of film magnate Sir Alexander Korda and brother Zoltan Korda, both film directors.Korda grew up in England but received part of his education in France where his father had worked with film director Marcel Pagnol

Michael Korda is Editor-in-Chief Emeritus for Simon & Schuster where he ruled for 48 years. Among the many books Korda has written personally are Charmed Lives, the story of his father and his two uncles, and the novel Queenie, which is a roman à clef about his aunt, actress Merle Oberon, which was later adapted into a television miniseries. His mother, Gertrude Musgrove was an actress known for The Scarlet Pimpernel (1934), The Fugitive (1939) and The Girl from Maxim's (1933). Korda said he felt that Charmed Lives was the book he was born to write, "as if I had been observing and storing up memories with just that purpose in mind for years. 

But it was a warm April in Pleasant Valley when Margaret Korda, normally a fearless horsewoman, dropped her horsewhip while she was riding. Such a mild slip was easy to ignore, but when other troubling symptoms accumulated, she confided to her husband, "Michael, I think something serious is wrong with me." 

Within a few rapid weeks, the fiercely independent, former fashion model was diagnosed with brain cancer, while Michael, once reliant on her steeliness, became her caregiver, deciphering bewildering medical reports and packing her beloved toiletries for the hospital. 

An operation performed by a renowned surgeon allowed Margaret to ride her favorite competition horse Logan go Bragh a few more times, but Margaret's tumors quickly returned - leaving her to grapple with the reality of impending death. In rapturous prose, Korda, a modern-day Orpheus, braids her heroic story with heartrending details of their final year together. 

Passing, a tender memoir, is a testament to the transcendent possibilities of love.