BOOKS BOOKS BOOKS: ANOTHER SIDE OF PARADISE

DA5EE453-9663-4402-A1C2-E0133D1F4C60

I happen to be a big fan of F. Scott Fitzgerald and, as you know, I am also a big fan of fiction based on reality….so, of course, I was drawn to this novel.  I was not disappointed.  Truly an enjoyable read. The author, Sally Koslow, has used our protagonist, gossip columnist, Sheilah Graham’s, diaries, memoirs, interviews and letters to tell this story of their love affair.

A07B829E-FC03-449D-9FAF-6760A0629E2C

The beginning of the book explores Graham’s childhood (reads like a Dickens novel, but worse) her time in England, her journey to the States and her transformation into a writer. Fascinating stuff, to say the least. She was a rival to Hedda Hopper and Louella Parsons, all competing to get the scoop on the newest who was “seen with whom”!  Her meeting with Fitzgerald, whose writing career wasin decline and who is trying to eke out a living writing scripts for movies in the ‘30’s, not to much success, is Kismet. His alcoholism is definitely a contributing factor to his writing slump. This affliction also contributes to the ups, major, and downs, also major, of this star crossed affair. While Sheilah (Fitzgerald always misspells her name, Shielah, similar to a gentleman friend of mine, Nina…done to annoy, or just don’t know or care, I wonder….).

67ED5A00-B0A6-42D1-8105-5D8CAD08FCA8

Of course, Zelda and Scottie are always a huge part of the scenario, divorce is not in the picture and Scottie is at Vassar so not a frequent visitor. The love between Fitzgerald and Graham is intense, heaven when he is sober, tragic when he is drunk. He writes his last, unfinished, some consider his best work, The Last Tycoon, 1940 just before his death based on his Hollywood years and his time with Sheilah.

3C7D30F0-15E8-4407-8A91-2B0543E225B1

I must admit I want to reread all his work as well as hers, especially Beloved Infidel, 1959, which I read when it was first published.

CF0AC832-9E08-450E-A23E-37AACFCC05E0

 

I think you will enjoy their story, I know I did.  As usual, I recommend you support your local bookseller, mine is The Book Stall in Winnetka, Illinois

                  This post is generously supported by an anonymous sponsor. 

Advertisements

BOOKS BOOKS BOOKS: I’LL EAT WHEN I’M DEAD

imageWhen I first read this title I thought what……….then I read it was part of a quote from the Fashion Icon, Daphne Guinness, “If I eat, I can’t work. I’ll eat when I’m Dead.”

The story begins with the death of one of the fashion magazine RAGE stylists, Hillary Whitney, who is found dead in a locked conference room of the magazine’s headquarters in New York.  It is ruled that she died as a side effect of the pressure of being thin (not the case!)  Our protagonist, Catherine (Cat) Ono, Hillary’s best friend and co-worker at RAGE, doesn’t believe this to be true.  Like any good mystery in the States or the UK, our heroine becomes “involved” with a detective, in this cases NYPD Detective Mark Hutton.  Along with her colleague, Bess Bonner, Cat sets out to find the truth to Hillary’s death.  We are taken through the often told tale of the seedy side of the fashion business (I’ll give my opinion on that in a bit), party girls (and guys), sex, drugs and rock and roll.  Nothing new here.  It gets interesting when we start hearing about drug induced creams and lotions and the billion dollar cosmetic industry and how all this ties together.  Of course, as in The Devil Wears Prada, everyone is stunning, tiny, ambitious and extremely well dressed, accessorized, coiffed and made-up in the latest whatevers!!! I’m not going to go into the plot as it does a few turns, nothing terribly mysterious but a fun ride none the less.

Some reviews I have read thought it was a satire, perhaps, but I found it to be exploitive. As you know, I have worked in the fashion industry my entire life, am I saying these things don’t happen, of course not, but what I must say is that with all the models I have worked with (and I have shared many of their stories with you…) they were naturally thin, still are (I was among them, not thin anymore, nor was I a model!!!) and didn’t starve themselves to death (actually one did have anorexia, many years ago, we didn’t know what it was then, and tragically, she did pass away) and I never had any compliments from visiting designers on having models who could not fit the sample clothes.  Now let’s talk drugs…yes, I had a couple of models who I knew did drugs, did they do this in front of me, no, of course not, but did talk openly about it and never came “stoned” to a show (or was I being naive!!) A lot of drinking goes on in the novel and a lot of late night parties….of course, that was part of the club scene, but again, not to the point of interfering in their work with me. I find it very frustrating that all novels about the world of fashion always makes it out to be a sleazy business…I would say on the contrary. This one has the young women trying to make it in NYC while the older women are fighting to stay in control, again we have heard this before.  Is the industry competitive, yes, is it exciting, yes, is it always looking for the new idea, yes, is it fast paced, yes, do you need ambition, yes…it is all of those things and so much more.  Fashion is a huge industry, employing millions and pumps billions into the economy.  I’m not wearing blinders and am well aware that there are sweatshops that MUST be eliminated, that wages aren’t equal all over the world, or in the US, again this MUST be stopped, that there are unethical people in the business and, unfortunately, most businesses.

Would I suggest you read it, sure, why not….  In the end, I would say, I expected more from the premise, our author, Barbara Bourland, is already working on a sequel, Maniacs, will I read it, you bet I will!

 

PS TODAY  IS THE ANNIVERSARY OF MY BLOG….8 MONTHS AND COUNTING!!!!!

 

PROFILE: FLEUR COWLES

imageFleur Cowles, as I remember her, pictured at home.

Today’s Profile is a bit different from my other Monday posts.  The person I am profiling did not fill out my usual questionnaire but rather it will be a reflection of an artist, a unique creator whose vision took us to a wonderful world of her imagination, that incredible person was Fleur Cowles.  I had the extraordinary experience of meeting and working with her many years ago when she visited Saks Fifth Avenue Chicago’s Gift Shop to introduce her book, An Artist’s Journey.

image

As usual, as with all our visits, I spent the day (or more) with her and had the opportunity to learn more about her fascinating career so these recollections will have to pull my memory back in time (this was long before the days of instant iPhone technology of photos, videos and recording conversations, more the pity!!!) Why, you might ask, am I doing this post today.  I was reading one of my favorite lifestyle magazines, The World of Interiors current issue and was literally drooling over photos of interiors when I caught my breath I wanted to see whose home it was…it was Fleur Cowles and it was perfection!

I had first become aware of Ms. Cowles many, many years before our encounter in the Store.  It all began at the beginning of the 1950’s when my Father started collecting Flair Magazine. It was a publication like no other then or now and only existed for one year.  It was so expensive to produce that her husband, who was the publisher, pulled the plug, much to the regret of all the followers of the magazine.  Each month was themed and had a cut away cover to allow you to “peek” inside.  As a young girl who as obsessed with fashion and the creative process I was fascinated with each issue, but I think my favorite was the Rose issue which Ms. Cowles insisted be scented (mind you this was long before the scent strip came into being!)  Of course, the painting was by Fleur.

imageIsn’t it glorious….the bouquet is cut away to reveal the charming portrait!

Not only was the art enticing (from Ms. Cowles but also Dali, Dubuffet, etc. etc……) but the stories were written by all the authors and critics of the day, all personal friends of the Cowles.  Not to carry this story too far, several years after my Father had passed away we had a flood, our hot water heater exploded, no one was hurt but the water damage destroyed all my yearbooks, all my childhood dolls, all manner of memorabilia and ALL of Daddy’s art magazine collections and on and on.  All the Flairs were gone!  I have since started collecting them again.  I have four of the thirteen published as well as the yearbook.  But that is the fun of collecting and why I always adore my monthly Randolph Street Market, www.randolphstreetmarket.com, visits (Saturday and Sunday, May 27 and 28 from 10 to 5, the first outdoor Market of the season, yay!!!!) I may come across one or two treasures that might be a Flair I don’t have!

image

imageOne of my favorite covers.

Don’t always just look at book vendors at RSM, I think the Flairs I have found there have been with vendors who have multiple collections (remember the Printer’s Row Lit Fest is approaching as well as the annual Newberry Library Book Fair, you can fill in your magazine and book collections there as well!!!!)

image

My copy of the Flair Annual, I have also found this at Randolph Street Market and given it to a couple of my friends who appreciate the unique!

My next experience with her was with the publication of her book Tiger Flower, which I fell in love with.  My assistant at the time was a superb artist, actually trained in the Fashion Design Department at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago, and she copied the cover for me to needlepoint.  The rendering is exactly the same as the Cowles painting and I think my needlework did it justice.  It is hidden away in storage so I couldn’t get it out to show you, you will have to take my word for it, sorry!

imageIt is a charming story and the art, amazing!

My most recent acquisition was given to me last Christmas by a dear friend….who knows my love for flowers and for Fleur Cowles (mad for her artwork)…a perfect present!

image

Now for the story of our meeting….I had just gotten back from a trip to London, by now you know I am a major Anglophile, and Ms. Cowles was intrigued by my love of England.  We were discussing the places I had visited, I adore all Museums so that became our main topic.  She told me that the BBC had asked her to be filmed for a series they were doing on British notables favorite places (as I recall in London) and she chose The British Museum.  The hairs went up on the back of my neck and I told her my story of my first visit to the museum.  I have long been an admirer of Egyptology, Chicago, as you know, has a long history with Egypt excavations and has many artifacts at The Field Museum as well as one of my favorite museums, The Oriental Institute.  I have visited them countless times and also was fortunate to see the Tutankhamun Exhibit when it visited Chicago, exquisite! Now back to the British Museum….on my visit I took myself directly to the Egypt wing and went from room to room, when I entered one of the very large galleries that housed many mummies, I sensed something very uncomfortable, I really couldn’t then nor now explain the feeling but it was one of extreme sadness, a feeling of trespass, if you will.  I immediately left the room and the Museum and it took me many years to return on one of my visits to the UK.  So what you say…well as I was relating this to Ms. Cowles, she looked at me in a very strange way and told me that was wing she wanted to be filmed in and when they got to that exact room, she felt the same sensation I had had.  She asked the guards if there was anything strange about that gallery and they said they felt it as well and the guard dogs would never cross the threshold!  I guess I do believe in the problem of disturbed spirits at least I did in that room and actually felt a bit better knowing I wasn’t alone!

Ms. Cowles lived a very long life, she died at 101 years of age, after creating beauty that we can treasure to this day…lucky us and very lucky me that I had the opportunity to visit with one of my Father’s and my idols.

imageFleur Cowles in her Studio.

imageAnother view of the Studio now that is what inspiration should look like!  All photos from Pinterest, photo credits unknown.

www.randolphsteetmarket.com

www.printersrowlitfest.org

www.newberry.org/newberry-book-fair