Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Past Imperfect

Past Imperfect -- “Damian Baxter was a friend of mine at Cambridge. We met around the time when I was doing the Season at the end of the Sixties. I introduced him to some of the girls. They took him up, and we ran about together in London for a while….”
Nearly forty years later, the narrator hates Damian Baxter and would gladly forget their disastrous last encounter. But if it is pleasant to hear from an old friend, it is more interesting to hear from an old enemy, and so he accepts an invitation from the rich and dying Damian, who begs him to track down the past girlfriend whose anonymous letter claimed he had fathered a child during that ruinous debutante season.

The search takes the narrator back to the extraordinary world of swinging London, where aristocratic parents schemed to find suitable matches for their daughters while someone was putting hash in the brownies at a ball at Madame Tussaud’s. It was a time when everything seemed to be changing—and it was, but not always quite as expected.

Friday, September 25, 2009

The World in Vogue: People, Parties, Places

The World in Vogue: People, Parties, Places -- This one-of-a-kind book of 300 photographs of some of the most celebrated actors, artists, models, First Ladies, and social figures draws on stories that have appeared in the pages of Vogue over the past four decades, as well as photographs from those stories that have never been published. These trendsetters and newsmakers are captured by such famous photographers as Cecil Beaton, Jonathan Becker, Eric Boman, Horst P. Horst, Edward Steichen, Irving Penn, Richard Avedon, François Halard, Helmut Newton, Stephen Meisel, Snowdon, Toni Frissell, Bruce Weber, Herb Ritts, and Annie Leibovitz. Not only did these photographers take dazzling portraits—in studios or on location—that caught these iconic figures in classic, playful, or dramatic moments but they also documented their parties, weddings, houses, and gardens. Writers like Hamish Bowles, Paul Rudnick, Truman Capote, Francis Wyndham, Jeffrey Steingarten, Joan Juliet Buck, William Norwich, Gloria Steinem, Georgina Howell, Vicki Woods, Marina Rust, Michael Specter, and Jonathan Van Meter tell you the stories behind these figures and events.

Here are the glamorous weddings of Plum Sykes in Yorkshire, Lauren Davis in Cartagena, and Minnie Cushing in Newport; Truman Capote writing about cruising the Yugoslavian coast with Lee Radziwill, Luciana Pignatelli, and the Agnellis; gardens from East Hampton to Corfu designed by landscape architect Miranda Brooks; Inès de La Fressange’s apartment in Paris; Gloria Steinem reporting on the 540 masked partygoers at the Black and White Ball Truman Capote threw for Katharine Graham at the Plaza hotel; the gardens of Valentino’s seventeenth-centuryChâteau de Wideville, outside Paris; the designers, the best-dressed, and the stars at the annual Costume Institute party at the Metropolitan Museum; Mick Jagger and his family in Mustique; Jacqueline Kennedy and Michelle Obama; Kate Moss, Madonna, Angelina Jolie, Cate Blanchett, Ali MacGraw, Anjelica Huston, Nicole Kidman, Cher, Iman and David Bowie, Penélope Cruz, Charlotte Rampling, and many more.

Richly illustrated in black-and-white and color, The World in Vogue: People, Parties, Places is a stunning look at portraits, houses, gardens, and parties of celebrated figures from many worlds.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

We Used to Own the Bronx

We Used to Own the Bronx: Memoirs of a Former Debutante tells the story of a woman born into the proprieties of an East Coast dynasty who nevertheless leaves her world of privilege for a career as an investigative reporter. Recounting her upbringing, Eve Pell offers an inside look at the bizarre values and customs of the American aristocracy, from debutante balls and the belowstairs hierarchy of the servant class to the fanatical pursuit of blood sports and private men's clubs whose members were cared for like sultans. In the patriarchal world of the upper crust, girls were expected to flatter and defer to boys and men: her scholar-athlete sister was offered a racehorse if she would refuse to attend college. A parade of eccentrics populates the book, from the cockfighting stepfather who ran away from boarding school with a false beard and a stolen motorcycle to the Brahmin great-uncle who secretly organized the servants in Tuxedo Park to vote for Teddy Roosevelt.

But as she moved beyond the narrow world she was expected to inhabit, Pell encountered people and ideas that brought her into conflict with her past. Equally unconventional are the muckrakers and revolutionaries she met in the 1960s and 1970s, and her subsequent adventures and misadventures while working with radical activists to reform the California prison system. As Pell traces her absorbing journey from debutante to working mother, from the upper crust of the East Coast to the radical activists of the West, from a life of wealth and privilege to one of trying to make ends meet, she provides exceptional insight into the prickly and complex issues of social class in America.

Monday, September 21, 2009

The Coral Thief

The Coral Thief -- From Publishers Weekly: At once an engrossing historical, a love story about an unlikely passion and a novel of ideas that lucidly presents philosophical speculation about natural science, Stott's second novel (after Ghostwalk) is a powerful offering from an immensely talented writer. Narrated by young Englishman Daniel Connor, fresh out of medical school and traveling to a coveted research position in post-Napoleonic Paris in 1815, the novel begins with his realization that his scientific credentials, including a priceless coral specimen, have been stolen by the beautiful woman who sat next to him in the coach. She turns out to be Lucienne Bernard, a notorious thief being pursued by the chief of the Bureau de la Sûreté, Henri Jagot (based on a real figure and bound to make readers think of Javert). A cat and mouse game ensues, as Jagot tries to enlist Connor to trap Lucienne, but Connor falls deeply in love with the philosopher-thief and eventually makes a decision that might cost him his career, his freedom and his spiritual beliefs. Vividly atmospheric, propulsive and intricately plotted, this is a surefire page turner with literary heft and wide appeal.

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Dreaming in French

Dreaming in French -- Charlotte Sanders a precocious American girl growing up in Paris in the late 1970s, leads a charmed life. As students at an elite international school, she and her peers study in Paris's cafés and tabacs, see movies at the Cinémathèque, and experience the thrills and agonies of first love to the sounds of Serge Gainsbourg and Pink Floyd. Charlotte's father, a lawyer and quiet intellectual, devotes his spare time to Balzac and opera. Her sister, Lea, is a star equestrian. And her mother Astrid's passion for left-wing causes is equaled only by her fashion sense.

But this idyllic childhood is turned upside down when Astrid has an affair and the family is shattered. Leaving her sister in Paris, Charlotte follows her mother to New York. There, reduced circumstances and Astrid's unwillingness to face reality force Charlotte to quickly grow up. In the shadow of her glamorous and erratic mother, Charlotte has to negotiate her own path to womanhood, eventually living through her own unhappy love affair and returning to a Europe that has been reshaped by the downfall of Communism.

At once a coming-of-age story and a meditation on cultural identity, Dreaming in French is an enchanting portrayal of the challenges of adolescence and an honest account of one girl's discovery that where we come from makes us who we are.

Publishers Weekly: McAndrew's atmospheric second novel (after Going Topless) takes readers into the superficially glamorous lives of the expatriate Sanders family in late 1970s Paris. Fifteen-year-old Charlotte lives with her snobby older sister, "emotionally autistic" father and chic "though she was from Kentucky" mother, Astrid. Charlotte busies herself with the standard obsessions of adolescence: crushes, homework, power plays within her school's cliques. Her journey to adulthood begins as her parents' marriage-and her family-crumble when her mother's affair with a Polish dissident lands Astrid in jail. Forced to choose between her parents, Charlotte moves with Astrid to the punk scene of early '80s New York and works her way through the milestones of a young woman's life: high school, college, work. Slowly, she finds her place in the world while her family's capacity for reinvention leads its members to new and unexpected alliances. McAndrew's casual but assured depictions of life among the upper crust of Paris and New York ("those heavy-lidded women of indeterminable age") and wry voice ("one of those iconic Parisian addresses that only foreigners could afford"), make this coming-of-age novel a delectable treat.

Friday, September 18, 2009

High Tea

High Tea -- Magpie's Tearoom is a cozy haven in bustling L.A. — a place for luncheons, baby showers, or simply hanging out. Its owner, British expat Margaret Moore, relishes tradition...but between a frustrated chef preoccupied with her neglectful producer girlfriend and the tearoom's waitstaff — a talented but desperate TV star who hasn't acted since Detective Buck Love went off the air, and a twenty-something ingénue who'll do anything to get the part — her grandmother's scones begin to feel irrelevant.

When the critic from Tea Talk announces she is crossing the pond to visit, Margaret attempts to marshal her staff. But, being of the thespian variety, they all want to be doing something else. Yet despite the high personal drama at hand, the customers still demand their perfectly steeped tea and cucumber sandwiches....

As Margaret battles pilot season and produce-coordinator malfunctions, she begins to lose her will to L.A.

But can her L.A. neighborhood do without her tearoom?In this delightful debut novel with delicious recipes thrown in, Sandra Harper creates a hilarious world where Earl Grey and watercress make a meal, buttering the scones may get you scolded, and nobody does eggs anymore. Warm up the kettle and pull up a seat — you don't want to miss High Tea!

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

The Blonde Theory

The Blonde Theory -- From Publishers Weekly: In her follow-up to How to Sleep with a Movie Star, Harmel, a chick lit reviewer for morning television show The Daily Buzz, nails the formula: girl can't get guy, girl employs zany tactics, girl gets string of lame guys, girl learns about herself. Harper Roberts is a brilliant 35-year-old New York patent attorney who hasn't had a satisfying relationship in three years. So when her girlfriends dare her to test the "Blonde Theory" as fodder for a magazine article, Harper takes the bait and agrees to spend two weeks as not just a blonde (which she is), but as a ditsy blonde, complete with skimpy clothes and a stunted vocabulary. She quickly rounds up dates with men who think she is either a cheerleader or a bartender, and she also connects with Matt, a dreamy soap opera actor who knows the real Harper. Assuming he is as superficial as the men ditsy Harper is dating, smart Harper doesn't believe his attentions are genuine. In the meantime, she receives sage advice from her (cute) plumber. This book isn't a life-changer, but it is a nice time killer.

Monday, September 14, 2009

Cheerful Money

Cheerful Money: Me, My Family, and the Last Days of Wasp Splendor -- Tad Friend's family is nothing if not illustrious: his father was president of SwarthmoreCollege, and at Smith his mother came in second in a poetry contest judged by W.H. Auden--to Sylvia Plath. For centuries, Wasps like his ancestors dominated American life. But then, in the '60s, their fortunes began to fall. As a young man, Tad noticed that his family tree, for all its glories, was full of alcoholics, depressives, and reckless eccentrics. Yet his identity had already been shaped by the family's age-old traditions and expectations. Part memoir, part family history, and part cultural study of the long swoon of the American Wasp, Cheerful Money is a captivating examination of a cultural crack-up and a man trying to escape its wreckage.

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Prospect Park West

Prospect Park West - This one sounds so bad it looks good - pathetic city "sanctimommies."

I remember Amy Sohn when she was just a sex columnist for NY Magazine.

More on the book here.

Millie's Fling

He's the best thing that ever happened to her. He's also the worst. He's Millie's Fling.

From one of the premiere contemporary authors in the UK, here is a fun and romantic tale that proves the road to matchmaking hilarity is paved with good intentions.

Bestselling novelist Orla Hart owes her life to her friend Millie Brady, whose rotten boyfriend has just left her. So Orla invites Millie to Cornwall, where Millie looks forward to a summer without any dating whatsoever. But Orla envisions Millie as the heroine of her next novel and decides to find Millie the man of her dreams. Except the two women have drastically different ideas about what kind of guy that should be.

With Orla and Millie working at cross-purposes, and a dashing but bewildered hero stuck in the middle, the summer will turn out to be unforgettable for all concerned...

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Norman Parkinson: A Very British Glamour

Norman Parkinson: A Very British Glamour -- One of the great pioneers of fashion photography, Norman Parkinson is famous for his sense of style and glamour. Heralded as one of the true innovators in his field, he pushed the boundaries of the day by bringing the model out of the studio and onto the street. He set the model against unusual and daring backdrops, such as the gritty working-class districts of London, and was a seminal influence on subsequent generations of fashion photogaphers. Norman Parkinson: A Very British Glamour is a lavish portrait of Parkinson’s long career from the 1930s through the 1980s. In a unique collaboration with the Norman Parkinson archives in London, his iconic photographs for Vogue, Queen, and Harper’s Bazaar are reproduced alongside a trove of previously unpublished fashion work. The classics of Parkinson’s career are also shown here, providing the full breadth of his career. This exciting and definitive look into Parkinson’s illustrious legacy is sure to rank among the most important publications on fashion and photography.

Sunday, September 6, 2009

The Secret Wife of Louis XIV

The Secret Wife of Louis XIV: FranCoise d'Aubigne, Madame de Maintenon - The Marquise de Maintenon, mistress of Louis XIV, was born in a bleak French prison in 1635. Her father was a condemned traitor and murderer who seduced the warden’s daughter. Yet in her lifetime, Françoise d’Aubigné—armed with beauty, intellect, and shrewd judgment—managed to make her way from grimmest poverty to the center of power at Versailles, the most opulent and cutthroat court in all Europe.

This is the extraordinary story of Françoise’s progress from brilliant salonnière to governess for the king’s illegitimate children and, finally, to the delicate position of Louis’s secret wife and uncrowned queen. Louis, who as supreme sovereign believed he had entrée to any bed he chose, would remain in love with her for forty years. Bursting with the gossip of such witty contemporary chroniclers as Madame de Sévigné, this exactingly researched biography is a pinnacle of the form. In vibrant, shocking colors, it paints a portrait of France in the process of becoming itself, and Europe in an age of violent change.

Friday, September 4, 2009

Kids Books: Art for Baby

Art for Baby -- A collection of fascinating black-andwhite images created by some of the world’s leading modern artists. Each one has been specially selected to help babies begin to recognize pictures and connect with the world around them.

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

How to Be a Hepburn in a Hilton World

How to Be a Hepburn in a Hilton World: The Art of Living with Style, Class, and Grace -- In a society driven by celebutante news and myspace profiles, women of class, style and charm are hard to come by. The Audrey and Katharines of the world continue to lose their lustre as thongs, rehab and outrageous behaviour burn up the daily headlines. But, despite appearances, guys still want a girl they can take home to their mother, employers still like to see a tailored suit and peers still respect classy conduct. So is it possible to maintain old fashioned virtues in a modern world without looking like a starchy Amish grandma? Christy shows women how in this guide to glamorous style, professional success and true love...the classy way. Full of fun assignments, notable names and real-life examples, Christy offers a new look at seemingly 'old fashioned' advice. She covers diet, speech, work ethic, friends, relationships, manners, makeup and fashionable yet modest clothing, showing modern ladies how they can be beautiful, intelligent and fun while retaining values and morals.

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Social Lives

Social Lives - received a lukewarm review from Publishers Weekly but sounds like some mindless end of the summer beach reading!

The Gospel According to Coco Chanel

A modern look at the life of a legendary fashion icon—with practical life lessons for women of all ages.

Delving into the long, extraordinary life of renowned French fashion designer Coco Chanel, Karen Karbo has written a new kind of self-help book, exploring Chanel’s philosophy on a range of universal themes—from style to passion, from money and success to femininity and living life on your own terms.

Born in 1883 in a poorhouse in southern France, Chanel grew up to be the woman who not only gave us the little black dress and boxy jackets, but also bestowed upon women a chic freedom that helped usher them into the modern era. Elegant, opinionated, and passionate, she was the only fashion icon among TIME magazine’s 100 Most Influential People of the 20th Century.

The Gospel According to Coco Chanel: Life Lessons from the World's Most Elegant Woman is a captivating, offbeat look at style, celebrity, and self-invention—all held together with droll Chanel-style commentary and culled from an examination of Chanel’s difficult childhood and triumphant adulthood, passionate love affairs, and eccentricities.