Wednesday, June 28, 2006

Summertime, and the reading is sleazy

Well not sleazy, exactly. More like trite.

Book-of-the-Day Club
In a disturbing trend that could eventually lead me down the thong-strewn path to Danielle Steele (if that happens, kill me), I now allow myself to read chick lit during the summer. My brain deserves a holiday, even if my body is strapped to this ergonomically questionable chair and mercilessly whipped by the demands of my clients.

So I did something I haven't done in a long time last night. I read a whole paperback, cover to cover, and didn't go to sleep until the sun came up. Those all-night reading frenzies were so fun when I was in university and had summers off. Now--> Such a bad idea. Woke up this morning to husband and dog standing over me scratching their heads, wondering why coffee was not brewing/pellets were not in bowl. I fell back asleep to the hot damp breath of the dog as he exhaled impatiently in my face.

The novel: The Nanny Diaries. The writing of this chick lit novel was as Veuve Cliquot to the Baby Duck of The Devil Wears Prada. It was funnier, more sensitive, etcetera. But the ending was so disappointing that I had to stop myself from yelling 'For this I stay awake til five in the morning?!!!!' The ending of Devil was so much better. I won't give Nanny away, but here's my point: if I'm reading chick lit, I want my baser urges satisfied. I don't want 'graciousness' or 'moral fibre'. I want 'revenge' and 'triumph' and 'vicarious shopping sprees.' If I want moral fibre, I'll re-read Jane Eyre, for God's sake.

Speaking of governesses, The Nanny Diaries is also being made into a film, starring Scarlett Johanssen. Not sure when it's scheduled for release.

Speaking of films, tee-minus-two days and counting until TDWP opens in theatres here. Which leads me once again to the topic of Anna Wintour.

Hoods are SO Fourteenth Century
Dante's Inferno opens with the main character, er...Dante, encountering a hooded figure in a dark wood who ultimately takes Dante on an all-expenses paid tour of the Circles of Hell. Is this hooded figure Lucifer? Is he an angel from Heaven? The point is, when I think of Anna Wintour, I think of the Circles of Hell. And Lucifer. And torment.

But why? I've read her unauthorized biography by Jerry Oppenheimer. Seems like a good solid read until you clue into the utter absence of fact and the over-abundance of speculation. I've read the gossip on Gawker etcetera. I've kept track of the whole PETA blood-on-clothing-throwing-dead-racoon-on-plate-tossing thing. And of course, I've read TDWP. But could these plentiful, intelligent, experienced, and diverse sources all saying she's evil really mean that she's actually evil? I'll leave that call to greater wardrobe budgets than mine.

What's interesting is the role she plays in popular culture. Have you read Vogue lately? It should come wrapped in fatigue-green fabric with red sickle-and stars silkscreened onto it. It's dictatorial. It tells me that I must buy $700 shoes. $700 shoes are the norm. Everyone owns multiple pairs of $700 shoes. It tells me What's Hot This Season. Every month. I've been to NYC, where Vogue is published, and I can verify that they don't have 12 seasons. Just 4.

I know you're thinking, duh, it's a fashion magazine, what do you expect? But that's it. It's not really a fashion magazine. There are very few styling tips, not much advice about dressing. Just page after page of rich women telling me to be sure to pack my Gucci bikini in my Balenciaga bikini-carrier before jetting off to the Cote d'Azur for the summer.

In fact, there is no advice in Vogue anymore. There is just dictation. And articles on which designers are hot this month, and which $400/person restaurants are hot this month, and what culturally sensitive book I should read this month, and what film I should see this month (offered only in New York and Bora Bora), and which new gallery opening I should attend this month, and which diet I should be on this month. And about 500 pages of advertising. And overseeing this large advertisement for her hand-picked designers-of-the-month is Wintour.

I think Wintour is doing her publication a disservice by basically reducing her audience to filthy-rich New York socialites like herself. The popularization of the magazine is really waning. She doesn't even try to appeal to regular people anymore.

Stars would probably sell their souls if they thought it would get them a Vogue cover. I mean, even Oprah--queen of self-esteem--reportedly lost, I dunno, 30 pounds or something because Wintour demanded it as a condition of Oprah's Vogue cover several years ago. So in a sense, Wintour clutches my friend Ann-imal put it...twigs and berries of Hollywood. That's a lot of freaking power.

I guess the real issue for me is the idea that art can be so conflated with style and fashion. Ironically, Wintour takes the tone that art/culture/fashion are art-forms, when really her magazine treats them as trends.

Vogue started from a good place, where it allowed women to climb out of their homogeneous cubbyholes and be exposed to the raw materials of culture. Now, in my humble opinion, it just kind of cheapens culture by making it trendy, which essentially puts an expiry date on it.

Also, I don't like being told what to do--although I do love real insider advice.

I actually stopped buing Vogue a while ago. I do think Anna Wintour has an amazing gift for spotting value in unknown creative talent. But that's the problem too--she spots their 'value'.

So anyhow, I now read Harper's Bazaar because they are much more openly focused on style, fashion, etc. They don't have pretences to being arbiters of modern culture. And there are always lots of great foreign style mags. Interestingly, French Vogue has a much less dictatorial outlook than Wintour's realm. But you have to read French, of course.

On tonight's reading list: Sophie Kinsella's The Undomestic Goddess.


Blogger Ann-imal said...

The only problem with Harper's Bazaar is that they will have nekkid pictures of Britney Spears and her (poor) little boy on the cover and in the pages this month... She does, however, sport a thong at one point.

So, the conundrum is this: do you continue to be dictated by Lucifer or do you look at white trash porn? Oh the decisions!

12:59 PM  
Blogger whyioughtta said...

Good point.

That IS a conundrum...

4:52 PM  
Blogger jackp said...

porn? go on...

6:13 PM  
Blogger Moose said...

I have never been able to read Vogue. I'll flip through the pretty pictures if I see the magazine lying around somewhere. That's about it.

8:21 PM  
Blogger Moose said...

I'm all about the sleazy reading though. Loved Sophie Kinsella's shopaholic series. A brain vacation for $14 or the price of a library fine - now that's solid value.

Unlike the $700 shoes. (Though I admit to coveting a few pairs of those.)

8:22 PM  
Blogger whyioughtta said...

I dig your economics.

(And I agree--the $700 shoes are always drool-worthy. Sigh...Laboutin...)

p.s. I'm at that stage that happens in every Kinsella novel where I'm officially irritated by the main character's inability to stop lying. Gotta get over the hump...

6:49 AM  
Blogger angrycandy said...

i tried to get through elle and vanity fair on my camping trip this weekend. oh, by the way, late eighties, early nineties goth are back in. like, they didn't even try to redo it or anything, the only thing slightly different is the hair is a little less spiky/poofy. it's black and chainy and rubber bracelety and lacey and cinchy and pointy booty (oh, my poor square feet) and all that stuff. i'm not ready for the long black trenchcoat again..ugh..oh well, maladjusted highschool boys will be happy they are now verging on being in style.....anyway i couldn't seem to stick with the mags (i got tired of the blanched white "i'm so skinny and oh, yeah, my paleness is supposed to indicate that i'm also kinda dead" models draped in various "i've just been strangled" or "please come strangle me" poses)and since i couldn't find a trashy beach book that rode that oh so fine line of being easy to read while also being readable, (i bought jane urquart's latest instead as there wasn't much else on offer at the drugstore other than the "p is for pointy murder object" in dripping bloody,jagged font on the cover type of read) i didn't quite get as much beach read time as i would've liked. oh well. someone let me know if they find something. i prefer intelligent murder mysteries along the lines of pd james or dorothy sayers for my summer brainless reading...

4:53 PM  

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