Meanwhile, #2 son is reading — or is supposed to be reading — The Grapes of Wrath, A Separate Peace, The Jungle, stuff like that. Yesterday, when I was chivvying him about getting started, he said that 90% of the kids who did the assignment would do it in the last week. Why do kids think that this sort of argument could ever be persuasive?
Knit the Classics votes for books. This is probably not a good idea, at least for me, because I voted for My Antonia and Wide Sargasso Sea and was really quite excited about the prospect of reading those books with the KTC girls. Instead, we are reading Passage to India, which I do not want to read, and Lolita, which I reread quite recently and do not want to read again. The voting process just bred discontent for me.
I don’t want to read the book for my real-world book club either — The Namesake — though La Bella tells me that I will love it.
One of the things I like about Book Club is that I end up reading things I would not have chosen for myself. Nonetheless, I am feeling a little bit like #2 son, having been given an unpleasant reading list for the summer. Good thing I have plenty of trashy novels around.
A customer was saying in dismay that she had just been reading trash. “Like what?” I asked, hoping for some good recommendations. She didn’t want to tell. “She should be reading about curriculum!” said the new girl. “Half and half,” said I. She left with an enormous book about encouraging literacy in early childhood. ‘It’s all or nothing for me,” she said.
Yes, well, since I am in the mood to criticize books, let me offer you a comparative critique of a couple of books. You may know, perhaps from reading the sewing blogs, that there are two TV programs called “What Not to Wear,” and that both of them have books out. In the unlikely event that you were contemplating which one you should read, I am here to help. Thanks to frugalreader, I have read both.
The British book is called What Not to Wear. I assume it was written first and got the title. It is organized according to “figure flaws.” You can flip directly to your short neck, flat chest, or thick waist and read an introduction which explains why this flaw is so egregious.
There are “worst” and “best” pictures showing what a woman with stubby legs (you and I might say “long-waisted”) should wear. All the pictures are modeled by the authors. Thus we get to see a size 4 woman pretending that she has a “disproportionately vast bum” and her size 6 friend trying to look as though she has fat arms.
The “worst” pictures naturally have to be shot in bad light, with poor posture and hangdog expressions. Sometimes the other woman is there, staring disapprovingly at the offending body part. Then for the “best” picture the model pulls back her shoulders and smiles.
While I found the photos convincing when it came to the unattractiveness of shapeless sack tops and too-tight knit pants, the message you really come away with is “Don’t grimace, and make friends with your cameraman.”
The American book, Dress Your Best, is organized by body type, including both the fashionable ones and the unfashionable ones. There is recognition that a muscular man or a long-legged woman might benefit from advice on fit and clothing, even if they do not have any “figure flaws” — and that a small-bosomed woman might not think that is a flaw.
The models are men and women who actually are short, or pear-shaped, or what have you. They are not shown in miserable-looking befores, but in a leotard or boxers, and then in well-chosen clothing. They look better in their new gear, but they looked well and happy before, too, so the effect is more convincing.
The American book also has a visual dictionary of terms like “kitten heel” and “ruching,” and a listing of what a basic wardrobe should contain (I do not aspire to owning that much clothing, but this could be handy for my job-hunting daughter or for those who have a closet full of clothes and nothing to wear).
So as books qua books, the American one is clearly superior. What about the usefulness of the advice? To the extent that the American book gives advice about figure flaws, it is saying much the same things as the British one. So if figuring out how to buy clothes that fit properly or choosing age-appropriate clothes for your work environment are not issues and you really just want to obsess about your thick ankles, you could go with the British one.
Since I am working very slowly toward the goal of being a chic old lady (I figure it may take me two or three decades, so I am starting now), the American book is the more useful of the two for me.
And of course I am going to reread Wide Sargasso Sea and My Antonia.