mardi 28 juillet 2009

The never ending fascination for Chanel

More than thirty years after her death in 1971, Coco Chanel remains one of the most fascinating figures in fashion history. There remains an abiding interest in her. Proof being that, just this year alone two new movies on her life were released and a new biography is coming out in September. Before the new biography however, Pushkin press, has published for the first time in English, Paul Morand’s L’allure de Chanel”. I'd read the book as soon as the publisher released a copy and now I'm happy to announce that you can now get your copy from the RWB!

The book was born from the interviews conducted by Paul Morand at the end of WWII when Chanel invited him to visit her in St. Moritz. Strangely enough, the notes were all put away in a drawer and only came to light after Chanel’s death. Lucky for us that the notes came to light when they did! The interviews are separated into different chapters where we have Chanel dishing on her great love affair with Boy Capel, her relationship with Diaghilev and Misia Sert and her often acerbic though still relevant views on work, money, fashion and women. Just consider some of her views:

“Money is probably an accursed thing, but does not our entire civilization derive from a moral concept based on evil? …Money is not attractive, its convenient. Money adds to the decorative pleasures of life but its not life.”

“Expensive jewelry does not improve the woman who wears it any more than costly fabrics woven with precious materials do; if she looks plain, she will remain so.”

Particularly pertinent in our couture obsessed days…

“….And there’s no more art of couture. Couture is a technique, a job, a business…It may be that there is an awareness of art, which is already a great deal, that it excites artists that it accompanies them in their cars, on the path to glory; that a bonnet with ribbons should be immortalized in an Ingres drawing, or a hat in a Renoir, so much the better but it’s an accident; its as if a dragonfly had mistaken Monet’s Waterlilies for the real thing and had alighted there.”

These interviews paint a fascinating picture of this woman. She was a strong woman, sometimes harsh, fiercely hardworking and always determined. Maybe because I’d just read about the Veuve Clicquot (see review under Book Reviews), but there are certainly parallels in their determination to run their respective businesses as they both saw fit. Despite such portraiture there is still an enigma about Chanel. It doesn’t help that she often gave contradicting information. Neither does this book deal with questions regarding her involvement with the Nazis during the war. I guess this was one topic that she didn’t want to talk about and it remains to be seen whether the new biography will tackle the matter. On verra!

lundi 27 juillet 2009

A number of authors have been passing through RWB lately. And while I don't always have my camera with me to record their presence, I did manage a few photos. Darin Strauss, author of More Than It Hurts You, Chang and Eng and The Real McCoy stopped by with his family to browse our shelves.

And yet another was Dr. Shireen Lewis, author of Race Culture and Identity. She is also the founder of SisterMentors, an organization that promotes education among women and girls of color.

Better late than never

Some long delayed photos from the great night we had with David Francis, who read from his new book Stray Dog Winter. It was a cool and convivial evening, full of friends and well wishers. Hopefully it won't be too long before David graces us with his presence again!

jeudi 2 juillet 2009

Here's to Eiffel

This year, Paris' beloved Eiffel Tower is celebrating its 120th birthday! It thus seemed fitting to do a reading with an author whose newest book is on that very subject. Dr. Jill Jonnes' book is an erudite and well written book on the Eiffel Tower and the year of its magical unveiling. For fans of the Eiffel or for those who want to know more about it, this book is a must read. Reading this book makes one realize what an engineering feat was wrought by Gustave Eiffel. After reading the book, you'll certainly look at it through newly appreciative eyes. But aside from the Tower, the book also goes into great lengths to describe all the historic figures for whom the year 1889 was so memorable. I especially loved the book's description of how Buffalo Bill, Annie Oakley and the Wild West show captured the Parisians.

We all had a great time at the reading. It was our own way of celebrating the Eiffel Tower's 120th!

David Francis and T.E. Carhart, great authors who were at the reading

Mingling with some of our guests and friends