Nearly 40 years ago, Ms. Allen landed on this island, and in this house, on assignment from Life magazine to profile Mr. Feiffer, who had written the screenplay for âPopeye,â the Robert Altman film, out in 1980. She was 25 and Mr. Feiffer 52, and when he asked her to dinner, Ms. Allen, hewing to the journalistâs code of ethics, waited until after the piece was published to say yes. (Chronically self-effacing, Ms. Allen was also mystified as to why Mr. Feiffer might have been interested in her.)
When they married three years later, Mr. Feifferâs island posse â Lillian Hellman, John Hersey, Mrs. Graham, among others â mostly welcomed Ms. Allen, despite the age difference, though Ms. Hellman, Ms. Allen said, took some time to thaw. âJules was one of the men she flirted with and whose wives she had no interest in,â Ms. Allen said. âShe would invite him for dinner, but not me. Sheâd say, âI donât have enough chairs.ââ
It was Mrs. Grahamâs habit to invite Ms. Allen and Mr. Feiffer to one lunch and one dinner each summer, events that Ms. Allen looked forward to, for the very rich and very formal French food that other island women would make fun of, and Mrs. Grahamâs Old World hostess touches, like the gleaming silver cigarette cups on the dinner tables.
âShe was wonderful to women,â Ms. Allen said of Mrs. Graham. âShe always asked, âHow are you doing? How are your children?â She was interested in the life of women. I think she had a feeling from her years of being a wife that she wanted you to feel seen.â
There was the alcoholic who visited their house almost daily. It turned out he…