Thanks to the no-electronics-after-9pm rule I’ve imposed (medium-successfully) on myself in an effort to drive insomnia out of my life, I’m getting a lot more reading done lately. And after converting to consuming pretty much all my books via an iPad, it’s been nice to return to the neighborhood bookstore and buy actual, physical books: it feels so familiar and right, like staring at an album cover while you were listening to a record used to. You know?
I’ll get to Grace Coddington’s memoir at some point—it sounds like too much gossipy good fun to pass up—but first up on my Fashion True Believers reading list is Diana Vreeland: Empress of Fashion. Vreeland’s grand pronouncements (“The bikini is the biggest thing since the atom bomb”) and her sharp, patrician features—combined a sense of hauteur so outsized that you can practically feel it coming at you in photographs—have helped create an almost cartoony prototype of the old school fashion editor. But she was a complicated character, driven and difficult and not necessarily on the fondest terms with the truth when it didn’t suit her. The less-pretty daughter of a very beautiful mother, she let her imagination lead her to a world of unstoppable beauty and surprise. That it’s all set against the backdrop of the New York publishing scene—and at a time where the only place a woman could advance to the top was a fashion title—makes it all that much more difficult to resist.
I’m finally getting around to reading Ellissa Schappell’s series of interconnected stories, Blueprints for Building Better Girls, which came out a while back. I loved Schappell’s first book, Use Me, and am falling for this one too: she writes with an edge and wit and commitment to the truth, but tempers the more achingly real moments with a deep affection for her characters. The collection’s second story, a portrait of a failing marriage in stroller-land Brooklyn, had me reading with my heart in my throat.
Also: Love Goes To Buildings on Fire, a history of the New York music scene from 1973 to 1977—a time that saw the intersection of disco and punk rock and the birth of hip hop. I’m not a big one for rock history books—they’re always either too academic or too hagiographic, but this one deals with the popular culture at large during that time—and what a crazy time it was, what with the city on the brink of bankruptcy, and crime running rampant in the streets rate—as well.
In addition to which: I’m considering Wild by Cheryl Strayed, about which the entire universe raves, but am still undecided. What do you guys think? Also, what’s on your list? What did you just read and love? Please do chime in.