Saturday, 21 December 2013

Winter reading

If you are in a mood for reading during Christmas holidays then here are my "Winter" suggestions.

Smilla's Sense of Snow, I have already talked about this book here. The story is not without bumps. However, you  will plunge into silence masterfully created by Hoeg, you will perceive snow as a special kind of silence, you will fall in love with snow, Winter and Smilla.

You may find my impressions about the book  hereDo you like frightful and bewitching mystery? Like a hypnotic melody of fakir’s flute? Here is your book. Why did I chose the book? The main protagonist is called Vida Winter.

Coco Chanel: The Legend and the Life Why Coco Chanel? Because according to the color analysis Coco Chanel belongs to Winter type (color analysis is the process of determining the colors that best suit an individual's natural coloring. There are a wide variety of approaches to analyzing personal coloring. The most well-known is "seasonal" color analysis, which places individual coloring into four general categories: Winter, Spring, Summer and Autumn.)

Thursday, 21 November 2013

Hans Christian Andersen "The Snow Queen"

We are accustomed to the fact that in fairy tales it is usually knights who save princesses. 

Opposite happens such as in the tale called "Snow Queen" by Hans Christian Andersen. Here Kay represents death. The broken pieces of the magic glass lulled him. He likes regular geometric shapes in which there is no life, he finds roses ugly, his heart grows cold. 

Gerda is love itself , she goes unarmed around the world to save Kay.

Every person has Kay and Gerda inside himself/herself. The question is "Who is stronger?"

"But can you give little Gerda nothing to take which will endue her with power over the whole?", asked 
the Lapland Reindeer the witch.

"I can give her no more power than what she has already. Don't you see how great it is? Don't you see how
men and animals are forced to serve her; how well she gets through the world barefoot? 

She must not hear of her power from us; that power lies in her heart, because she is a sweet and innocent
child! If she cannot get to the Snow Queen by herself, and rid little Kay of the glass, we cannot help her", the witch replied.

As I said earlier we have both Kay and Gerda inside ourselves. Often when we see a worm-eaten apple we prefer to it a smooth, refined, full of insecticide fruit from the supermarket. Remember our pathologic fear of microbes, the French regular gardens etc? In fact, we have a lot from Kay.

Is your Gerda strong enough? Mine is hesitant and fragile. 

I wish your Gerda always saves your Kay. This beautiful fairy tale will help you.:)

Wednesday, 4 September 2013

Gabriel Garcia Marquez "Love in the time of cholera"

Where did the summer go? Do you happen to know?

"Love in the Time of Cholera" is one of the best I've read this summer. The plot is reminiscent of the Great Gatsby. The formula is simple: (He) Florentino Ariza is poor. Fermina Daza, the love of his life, marries the most enviable groom of the city, a Doctor, Juvenal Urbino.

If the Great Gatsby reaches his dream in American way, that is, he tries to become richer than the husband of his dream-woman, Florentino Ariza walks to his goal in Colombian way. What is this Colombian way? You will learn if you read the brilliant Marquez.

Symptoms of love are similar to the symptoms of cholera and it is easy to take one for the other, especially in the beginning. Why cholera and love go through the novel as a dotted line? I did not dive into deep meditation on this. Wikipedia explains it well (Love as an emotional and physical disease). Maybe Fermina Daza wrongly diagnosed her feelings when marrying the Doctor. Two men are antipodes - one is the rational, the most respected man, an active struggler against cholera in his hometown, the other one is a knight of love, far from being “comme il faut” though.

The charming part of the novel is Colombia, sweltering, humid and dangerous country where mules wander through the mountain passes, malicious parrots hide in huge trees and old steamers creep on the rivers hiding lovers under the cholera flag.

Wednesday, 3 July 2013

Kohle Yohannan "VALENTINA American Couture and the Cult of Celebrity"

"No matter in what milieu, a woman should never look clumsy. When she is working, even in the kitchen, she must be dressed in what is suited just for this, created just for this. It can have as much chic, on its own terms, as what she wears to dinner - and she should feel just as gay and charming in it. The woman who imagines she can become chic suddenly at six o'clock by getting all dressed up for the evening- to this I say no. Chic is something that must be with her all day, all the time. It does not matter how frugal her wardrobe is, if it is planned, if everything in it expresses a reality of what her life is, and its occupations, then she will never look clumsy. This is the only elegance." 


"Stepping out of limousine in front of a bustling Manhattan supper club one evening in the 1940s, Valentina and George Schlee approached the cordoned-off front door with Noel Coward, Marlene Dietrich, John Galliher, and Clifton Webb in tow, filing past a gathering group of tourists who had stopped to catch a glimpse of the glamorous nightspot and equally glamorous clientele. Visibly stymied, a child in the crowd pointed and giggled at what must have been one of Valentina's more outlandish getups - a gaffe that her well-meaning, but embarrassed mother attempted to back pedal away from by saying approvingly that no doubt the lovely lady was "dressed for theater"

Bemused, Valentina stopped, then turned dramatically to face the on-looking crowd, and replied, with a bow,

"Madam, I am theater..."

With this, she raised one carefully groomed eyebrow, then turned back to the charmed laughter of her companions and the now-applauding crowd and disappeared into the club."

Valentina Sanina  Schlee and her husband, George Schlee, Russian émigrés, moved to New York in 1920s. Valentina opened up an atelier and later a high couture house, which became very successful. Valentina dressed the preeminent women of style of her day. Harold Koda noted rightly that Valentina understood the conflicting desires of women to stand out, while appearing to blend in.

She constructed a lot of outfits based on nuns' images: "I thought them the most beautiful women I had ever seen. The memory has remained to color everything I have ever done..."

Saturday, 22 June 2013

Agatha Christie "An Autobiography"

Agatha Christie talks as if she embroiders - she picks up thoroughly a thread, sometimes adorning her work by pearls of wisdom.
I found interesting her thoughts about women.  
Agatha Christie says that with the passage of time the situation of women has definitely changed for the worse. Women behaved foolishly - they began to yell, they were allowed to operate on an equal basis with men. Men  jumped gladly at the idea. Why to defend  wives? What's wrong if she would defend herself? If she wants it, she is welcome!
Agatha finds extremely frustrating that at the beginning women declared themselves wisely as the weaker sex, now they are caught up in a situation of primitive women  working all day in the fields, marching for miles in search of camel thorns suitable for fuel. Poor women marched with heavy household goods on their heads, while their brilliant males pranced proudly in front, free of baggage except deadly weapons to protect their women.
You have to do justice to the women of the Victorian era, Agatha says. Women of that epoque kept men in such order. Fragile, delicate, sensitive, Victorian's women were constantly in need of protection and care. Were they humiliated, crushed or had a slave lifestyle? The memories of Agatha Christie tell her something different. All friends of her  Grandma were very joyful, stubborn in their desires, self-willed, extremely well-read and well-informed about everything, they achieved success in all endeavors. They  admired incredibly their men. In daily life, women were doing everything they wanted, while pretending to fully recognize the superiority of men so that  their husbands do not lose face.

What else did I find interesting in the biography of Agatha? A lot of things. Her descriptions of how they dressed, of course. Her sartorial problems with a bathing suit and her collar a la Peter Pan. Glimpses of post-Victorian upbringing, such as Agatha's dialog with her Nanny:
- Remember, the Queen of Spain has no legs.
- And what does she have, Nanny?
- Limbs, my dear. You have to call them like that , hands and legs are limbs.

As noted rightly by Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, her autobiography is"the history of a unique upbringing in a time long gone. It’s a portrait of a childhood and young womanhood that vanished with World War I.”

I liked very much Agatha's principle of not coming back to the places that are associated with very special memories. Never go back to the places where you were happy. As long as you do not do that, everything remains alive in your memory. If you find yourself there again, everything will not be the same and it will destroy your miracle.

I remembered Agatha's dialogue with a lady in the train.
"- Honey, - the lady said - never give in to the stomach. If there is something wrong, tell yourself: "Who is the boss here - me or my stomach?"
- But what can you do with it, really?
- Any stomach can be re-educated. Little by little. No matter what it is for. For example, I have endured badly eggs. Or I got quite ill from toasts with cheese. I started with a coffee spoon of soft-boiled eggs two or three times a week, then cooked them a little longer, and so on. And now I can eat as many eggs as I want. Same with toas

If you like descriptions of traveling you will find curious things on how people traveled hundred years ago, descriptions of Isfahan, Baghdad, Baku and many other places that Agatha saw. 

It is a good summer reading.

Saturday, 1 June 2013

Milorad Pavic "The Inner Side of the Wind, or The Novel of Hero and Leander"

Do you like paintings by Marc Chagall?

Milorad Pavic is Marc Chagall in words. Both are geniuses.

The Inner Side of the Wind, or The Novel of Hero and Leander:

" dreams there is no past tense. Everything there reminds of something not experienced yet, some strange tomorrow, which started in advance. It reminds a down payment, taken from a future life, a future that happens thanks to the fact that the sleeper (isolated in the future tense) avoided the inevitable 'now'" 
"The future has one big advantage: in reality it looks always as you did not imagine it."

Last Love in Constantinople, A Tarot novel for divination:

 "You people do not know how to measure your days. You only measure their length and say that the day lasts 24 hours. And your days have sometimes more depth than length and this depth can be up to a month or even a year of the length of days."

Thursday, 23 May 2013

Roger Vadim "Bardot, Deneuve, Fonda. My life with the three most beautiful women in the world"

Remember the post about Brigiet Jones of the sixties?

Today I would like to talk again about the sixties when a  film-maker, Roger Vadim,  met a girl called also Brigitte, the one who while walking in Nice met Winston Churchill and told him:

"`When I was eight years old and heard you on the radio, you frightened me,' said Brigitte, `But now you seem rather cute, considering you're a legend.'

Cute' was not a word people normally used to describe Churchill to his face! The great orator remained speechless..."

Divorce is not always a bad thing. Otherwise Roger Vadim would not have discovered Katherine Deneuve who at the time they met was only seventeen years old.  Roger Vadim says modestly he played a role of a catalyst in the lives of Brigitte and Katherine. Both women became later national symbols of France and had a great influence on the world, you may find full description of their regalia and activities in Wikipedia.

Jane Fonda, with whom Roger Vadim shared  several happy years, brought, like Bardot and Deneuve, a lot of  new things to the world. However Roger Vadim did not love her for what made her famous.

I must say the story of Roger Vadim "Bardot, Deneuve, Fonda, my life with the three most beautiful women in the world" is imbued by the mood of the sixties, this wonderful period of paradise that people permitted themselves.

More interesting things about beauty in my blog
Notes about styling :)

Sunday, 12 May 2013

Barbara De Angelis "Secrets About Life Every Woman Should Know: Ten Principles for Total Emotional and Spiritual Fulfillment "

If you find Kastaneda too dramatic and you think the methods he offers are not applicable to your busy life, you may try Barbara de Angelis "Secrets About Life Every Woman Should Know". 

It is Kastaneda or Hawaiian shamans packed and explained to modern women who do not want to be bothered with extravagances such as Daoism, I mean those many women who have usual life problems like a broken heart, children, job etc.

The book is a bit long - Barbara belongs to a "chewing" type. Maybe being long and sentimental is something typical for an American. I can't judge, but I have this impression. Elizabeth Gilbert is also a "chewing" type. Sometimes I think American editors ask their authors to bring bricks with no less than 500 000 words, so the authors have to chew. Why shorter novels are not in fashion? Why not to announce, just like in Vogue - "This year is the year of short stories, mini is back again"! Have you noticed how heavy children books became?

Back to Barbara. In fact, being a "chewing" type is being analytical. I, unfortunately, also belong to this type. Instead of writing something creative like "Brigitte Jones" and make people smile, a "chewing" type would rather chew and provide people with an "understanding".

Did you know that love can be explained? Barbara gives one of THE BEST explanations of love, no sarcasm here. In fact if you have no money and time to fly to India's ashrams or you do not want to pay psychologist's fees, the cheapest and, in my opinion, the best solution, is Barbara's book. She walks you through her life, she is very sincere and very helpful.

Wednesday, 1 May 2013

Diana Vreeland "DV"

Many books about fashion history are boring.
They are dead statements of facts like old encyclopedias.  Do not you think so?

To learn about 20th century's fashion history in the least boring way is to read Diana Vreeland's autobiography. 

What an inspiring life!

It is an autobiography above all. However her life was connected so closely to style and beauty that you also learn a lot about fashion and style. She starts with Diyagilev, she speaks a little bit about Queen Mary and the royal family, few paragraphs about Coco Chanel, few pages on Japan, one chapter about colors and a lot about France and US. She met a lot of interesting people and she makes you look at them from a different angle. 

She shares her passion for beauty and teaches  you not to be afraid of being different.

Here are few quotes from the book.

"Conde Nast was a very extraordinary man, of such a standard. He had a vision. He decided to raise the commercial standards of the American woman. Why, he decided, shouldn't they have the best-looking clothes? He gave them Vogue. The best looking houses? House & Garden. And don't forget Vanity Fair! Why, Conde decided shouldn't American women know about writers, entertainers, painters - that Picasso was painting extraordinary paintings, that a man named Proust was writing an extraordinary book? Why shouldn't they know... about Josephine Baker?"


"Most people haven't got a point of view; they need to have it given to them - and what's more, they expect it from you. I had this most curious thing happen - it must have been about 1966 or'67. I published this big fashion slogan: THIS IS THE YEAR OF DO-IT-YOURSELF.

Wednesday, 17 April 2013

Ameera Al Hakawati "Desperate in Dubai"

I have already talked about women in Turkey of 16th century (harem), French queen and Russian empressof 18th century, Chinese women of 19th century, Mexican women at the turn of 20th century and many others. Today is Dubai of the 21st century.

My friend, who has been working in Dubai for several years, wanted to write a post about living and working in Dubai. She kept saying: "Dubai is a vicious city, the world of double standards." After some time, she advised the book "Desperate in Dubai" by Ameera Al Hakawati saying that the book conveys the mood

I have been several times in the city, unreal, like a mirage in deserts, where the smell of money is felt like anywhere else, and some of my unspoken assumptions were found in the book. This story  will open slightly  abayas'  veil.

The main characters of the book are four women: The Lady Luxe, the daughter of a powerful man (it was her line in the novel that captured me the most - Lady Luxe is rebellious, playing with death and leading a double play), Leila, a girl from Lebanon, lonely and desperate for a rich husband, Nadia, a devoted wife, who left her work in London for the sake of her husband's career in Dubai and an Indian girl from the UK, who had come to work in Dubai to forget her past.

It is the same old story of women's search for happiness, with one exception - the play takes place in the United Arab Emirates. Brands of clothing, cosmetics, and cars are constantly mentioned. It is overwhelming, but it is also an integral part of life in Dubai. In my opinion the book presents well the atmosphere of Dubai.

If you are curious to know what kind of a mystery "shadows of a man" hide, read the book.

Wednesday, 10 April 2013

"Snow Flower and the Secret fan" Lisa See

This story concerns the events that took place in 19th century in China, during that time when daughters were considered "worthless branches on the family tree. They drained the family resources, they were raised by one family for another". Perhaps in some places of the world  it is still the case.

Lily is one of the worthless branches from a poor family. When she turns six her family invites a diviner to fix the date for Lily's foot binding. The diviner studies Lily's horoscope and discovers that she is not an ordinary girl. The diviner confers with a matchmaker, they both examine the girl and announce that Lily has a great potential of making a woman "carrier", i.e. marrying a man from the wealthiest family in their county, provided Lily's feet are bound properly, of course.

The matchmaker proposes that Lily has also a laotong.

"I believe your daughter might also be eligible for a laotong relationship" 

I knew the words and what they meant. A laotong relationship was completely different from a sworn sisterhood. It involved two girls from different villages and lasted their entire lives, while a sworn sisterhood was made up of several girls and dissolved at marriage."

When Lily turns seven she goes through the foot binding process and when the agonizing part of it is finished, the matchmaker comes and announces she found a loatong for Lily whose name  is Snow Flower.

"Lily and Snow Flower are of identical height, of equal beauty, and most important, their feet were bound on the same day. Snow Flower's great-grandfather was a jinshi scholar, so social and economic standings are not matched"

The matchmaker says that regardless of the difference between two families, Snow Flower's parents did not oppose to laotong relationship between the girls. The relationship will be beneficial for Lily, who was ideal in many ways but needed a refinement to enter a higher household. The matchmaker gives a fan to Lily where it is written in Nu Shu (secret women's writing):

"I understand there is a girl of good character and women's learning in your home. You and I are of the same year and the same day. Could we not be sames together?" 

From that day Lily and Snow Flower's laotong relationship started and lasted all their lives. What happen to the girls afterwards? Find it for yourselves.

Sunday, 31 March 2013

Romain Gary "Promise at Dawn"

I have long been thinking to have a section dedicated to mothers. Here is the chance to open it. 

This winter, I saw a play based on the book by Romain Gary "Promise at Dawn", in which one French talented actor played Romain Gary and his mother at the same time. It is a poignant story. We laughed and cried. Romain Gary's mother is something. She is eccentric and her boundless love for her son is even despotic.

She, in spite of poverty and exile status (Romen Gary and his mother were immigrants from Lithuania), filled him with knowledge that he would become the ambassador of France, a famous writer, a hero and will dress in London! From his childhood she would proclaim her "predictions " with aplomb and no hesitation tete a tete and often in front of people . What struck me most is how parents' messages direct lives of children. As his mother predicted Romain Gary did become a world-famous writer, the Consul General of France, member of the Resistance, a Knight of the Legion of Honor. He even dressed in London, though he hated English cut. He just had no choice. 

The dose of his mother's love surpassed the norm, it was always present in his life, even after her death, it hid him from death in the war and rose him to the incredible heights in life.

Parents' messages is an incredible phenomena. How strongly we always react to the words of our parents, even as adults, even if separated by thousands of miles, even if not seeing each other for decades.  Who are we? What is our achievement in life and what is the result of what our parents have told us?

Saturday, 16 March 2013

"French Lieutenant's Woman" John Fowles

It is genius!!!

Now let’s talk.

There are stories that have to be read slowly with breaks, sometimes with a glass of wine. "French Lieutenant's Woman" by Fowles is one of them. I relished the story, enjoyed the erudition and generosity of the author. The novel was a revelation. It is not a fast food, so it deserves expensive surroundings and time.

The rhythm of the narrative coincides with the pace of the middle of 19th century' life. You feel like walking slowly in the woods, examining in detail all around, sometimes you sit down on a stump and your eyes catch details of which, if not Fowles, you would not have thought. In short, it is not an action story.

The author is very visible, he constantly interferes, comments, sometimes goes into a totally different direction. And I like what he does, because if he stays behind, subtle and invisible like Chekhov in his plays, a superficial reader (like me) will not think it through.

I liked that Victorian England was spoon-fed to me. This is not a novel; it is above all a great guide on Victorian England. Fowles touches all aspects of history: religion, science, sanctimonious morality, customs and traditions of all sections. The text is smart and it can be divided into many citations. As a stylist I found Fowles’s comments on clothes and fashion marvelous. The characters are described very well, and it was through them Fowles was able to convey the mood of the époque and the changes occurring during that time. Despite the slow pace and thoroughness, Fowles surprises by twists in the plot.

Now, about Sarah, the main character. At first I thought it would be another version of Anna Karenina, Lady Macbeth, or the main character of the Awakening by Kate Chopin. Sarah immediately fit into the famous list of ostracized women. I was looking forward to read the "English" version of events, however I got surprised...

Tuesday, 26 February 2013

Bridget Jones of 60s or “The lady in the car in glasses and a gun”

This story by Sebastien Japrisot is considered to be a thriller. But I would call it a "kind" thriller if a thriller can be kind at all. Perhaps, the word “soft” would be more appropriate. It was written in the charming sixties when the aggression in literature and movies, as well as the amount of sugar in food, were not as now.

I would call the main character Bridget Jones of 60s and I wonder what you think of her?

She is the most delicate and vulnerable Blondie whom I met in the literature. Her name is Dany, she is French and an orphan.  She is twenty-six years old on papers; however she feels herself as eleven years old. She is a good looking girl, but her self-esteem is very low. Her movements are unsteady and she wears glasses behind which she hides her vulnerable soul. Dany is not adapted to life. She is not even able to organize her holidays, so she sunbathes at home under a special lamp regardless of the harmfulness of such an invention. Her only advantage is the ability to stay silent. And her only relationship with a man ended badly a few years ago.

One day, her boss, the owner of an advertising agency, asks her to do him a favor - to type a report that he needs the next day for an important meeting in Switzerland. The boss's wife, Anita, is Dany’s friend. Dany agrees to help the boss; she stays at his home typing the report until very late and then goes to sleep. The next morning, the boss tells Dany to take him and his family (Anita + the daughter) to the airport, drive back and leave the car in the garage. Needless to say Dany never drove such a luxurious car (white Thunderbird). After the airport, Dany, instead of driving back to Paris, decides to go to the sea that she has never seen before.

The decision to go to the seacoast was a surprise even to Dany. However, everything that happens afterwards surpasses her expectations... Some people assure her that they saw her the previous day; one woman says that Dany left her coat at her place and on the top it all, Dany is attacked in a toilet at a service station; the attacker breaks her left arm on purpose.  What for? Nobody believes that a woman in white, they saw the previous day, was not Dany and that drives Dany crazy. They say that when you get crazy you think that those around you are crazy...

The book is in the form of a monologue of a gentle creature, and you, together with Dany, walk awkwardly, always stumbling, towards the end. I have to say she got out of trouble with dignity. If you're a fan of puzzles, this book is not for you, the beauty of the story is in the development of the character.

I also liked the story because it is a great insight into the sixties. Dany is in a white suit, a scarf on her head is of the same color as the sea, which she never saw, and she drives a Thunderbird. I find that Bridget Jones of 60s is much more elegant than Bridget Jones of 90s.  Here is my mood board of the story. What do you think of it?