lovely miss june, emily arth, is fancy free
Around the World in Eighty Days is a book Emily Arth has read. And it's a book she has lived. OK, it took her more than 80 days to see the world, but she did it, nonetheless: Japan, the Philippines, Hong Kong, Indonesia, Mexico, Germany, Czechoslovakia, Saipan, France, Hungary, Switzerland, Haiti and Kenya are only some of the fantasy lands she has visited. The daughter of a man who has held jobs all over the world, Emily had ample opportunity to travel -- and she grabbed every chance. She has explored places as disparate as Bali ("an island paradise"), Salzburg, Austria ("I went there for the music"), and Nairobi, Kenya ("It's so different, it's like everything in Out of Africa and more. It's one of my favorite places").
Globe-trotting has made Emily versatile, open-minded and eager to learn more about other cultures and other times. She reads constantly. But don't imagine it's all light-hearted fare. We encountered her at breakfast one morning during a visit to Chicago engrossed in Doctor Faustus by Thomas Mann. Also on her night table: The Idiot, by Dostoievsky. "I'm on a classics binge," she admits. "I wouldn't call myself cerebral, really, but intellectual things do appeal to me." Who says beauty precludes brains? Occasionally, Emily's books clash with her treks. "I was reading James Clavell's novel 'Shogun' on the subway in Tokyo and the Japanese were very disapproving. They said that 'Shogun' should not be considered true Japanese history. I don't know whether or not any of them had even read the book." She laughs.
What else tops her reading list? Cookbooks. At one time, Emily's ambition was to be a cordon bleu chef, but now she's content to have quiet dinner parties with menus that include vichyssoise, saddle of veal stuffed with spinach pâté and raspberry tarts. "I can't draw, I can't write short stories, I can't compose music, but I am a creative cook. Eventually, I'll develop my own recipes." She's happiest when preparing an intimate dinner. "Cooking , for me, is a labor of love."
Another love is music, a passion inherited from Emily's mother, who was an opera singer before she married. Emily was only 16 when she was accepted at Oberlin College as a piano student. However, hours and hours of solitude at the keyboard didn't suit her style. "I'm far too social to bury myself in a practice room for years on end, and I really didn't want to give my life to the piano. There are too many other things I want to do."
Photography by Richard Fegley