At LADY, we seem to mostly work. Occasionally one of us escapes to wonderland, but usually the trip overlaps with a printer's deadline, a massive project, or some kind of crazy production crisis. For the ladies, summer is often devoid of what we see others in our world wallowing in, which is apparently fantastic, foreign, wet and far-flung. As we discussed the idea of August, we realized that our collective escapes are teeny, non-ticketed affairs. A long bath dosed with Epsom salts in a quiet house, an early evening walk up a mountain after a long day seated in a computer cockpit, or bed bound time splurge poking through the Criterion Collection. The unanimous easy access escape for all of us is the pleasure of a great book. The great read is a path out of one's own fraught and f'ed day-to-day. Deep in the last leg of summer, we begin LADY Reads with recommendations from two of our ladies on how to eat a weekend.
Emily Freyer, Writer
Sense memory of sharp grass and summer reading: the steamiest, most languid late summer days. Heat-softened lethargy, the suggestion of bad weather. At LADY we’ve been thinking about that ritual, summer reading—not the kind for school. So now, in the weighty, late summer of 2016, there’s much on the mind:
"Women, Race & Class" by Angela Y. Davis (1981)
First, Angela Y. Davis’ Women, Race & Class: that ur-text of intersectionality, more important now than ever because of its refusal to consider its subjects singly. The most successful insurgent candidacy in recent American history is wrapping up, having brought to the fore the economic injustices that underskirt contemporary capitalism. But at the same time a more prolific, and pernicious, force proved itself from the right, positively boastful in its racism, its sexism, its smugness. At the same time we witnessed the seeming-unending destruction of Black bodies by the state, communities split open by the people charged with their protection. What’s more that new, optimistic left had not—to the judgment of some—fully answered the question of what role people of color would play in that world: the picture painted was of a place more or less just, resembling ours but for its economic system. So there is Davis, with the history that gives texture to both the resentments and satisfactions of the past months, as well as to the threat looming ahead. She, razor-sharp, lays bare the deep ideological connections between economic systems and racial and gender-based injustice, and crucially holds feminism and the left accountable for their historically indelible and ongoing racism. Has there ever been a more important time to read, or re-read, this magnificent book? Perhaps not. Do we feel angry? Hell yes.
"Hole’s Live Through This" by Anwen Crawford (2014)
Anger is on full display too in Hole’s Live Through This (2014) by Anwen Crawford, part of Bloomsbury’s excellent 33 1/3 series on pop music. The album, which turned 20 in 2014, was Hole’s second and released one week after the death of Kurt Cobain. The book is in equal measure about the album and riot grrrl, about fandom, feminism, and violence—but maybe those are just the kaleidoscopic effects of writing a book that’s really about Courtney Love. It’s difficult if not impossible to extract Live Through This from the calamity of its release—not only Love’s grief but also the death of bassist Kristen Pfaff two months later—but Crawford makes a convincing case that fixing Live Through This, Hole, and their love-her-or-hate-her frontwoman in the music pantheon was something both probable and deserved.Early in the book, Crawford makes an observation that gave me pause: “It’s acceptable for a man to be angry. Under no circumstances—none—is a woman’s anger ever regarded as reasonable” (35). None? It sounded right, but having a close relationship to anger I wondered if it could really be true. I debated if perhaps this fact, so stern and uncompromising, had changed in the last 18 months, or if it was me: if my interest in reasonableness was at an all-time low. The book, like the album, is heat and density; the book, like the album, is female. It should always be read in the summer.
Sphinx by Anne Garréta (1986, first English translation by Emma Ramadan, 2015)
And something more sanguine: Sphinx by Anne Garréta (1986, first English translation by Emma Ramadan, 2015), which in spite of its sorrows and sometimes baroque writing is a delight in atmosphere, soaring from Paris nightclubs to New York high rises, all smoke and innuendo, leather and steel. Sphinx has the distinction of being the first novel by a female member of the Oulipo to be published in English, Oulipo being the hyper-masculine French literary movement of the latter 20th century focused on “constrained” writing. Garréta’s constraint is to write a novel about love and sex in which neither the narrator’s gender nor their love’s is ever revealed. It is rich with sensual banality, that mood of relationships that seem both to work and to not, quite; reading it is like a fever.
Laura McLaws Helms, Fashion & Cultural Historian
During the dog days of summer—when the sultry heat is stifling and energy is low—sometimes only a trashy read can curb your mood. Fashion, as an industry built around the pursuit and acquisition of beauty, has long made for the perfect backdrop for this type of book. Gorgeous models, the rich men that want them, the rich men who dress them—all provide the basis for many gossipy glamorous tales, both fiction and non-fiction. Luxuriate in a hammock with these three reads for a crash course in over-the-top glamour, lust, and designer gowns:
"Scruples" by Judith Krantz (1979)
Yes, it is trashy, but it is, oh so fun… I actually first read it for research since she mentions a designer I’m writing a book on, but I became captivated with this glamorous rags-to-riches tale—especially since Krantz carefully researched the fashion and department store industries at the time. The original cover by Alex Gotfryd, with a veiled and turbaned Gabrielle von Canal and intricately swirling type, is the apotheosis of this genre’s book covers, while the 1981 mini-series is a divinely enjoyable three hours of great clothes, lavish mansions and lots of sex.
The Collection by Paulo Montano (1970)
A Roman couturier decides to showcase his latest collection at the Guggenheim Museum in New York and travels to America with his retinue: a kinky business manager, an effeminate personal assistant, and six models from all over the world. What could possible go wrong? If you prefer your beach reads with some murder and mayhem woven through then I highly recommend this early 70s pseudonymously written potboiler, where intrigue (in the industry and in the bedroom) is the counterpoint to lush fashion descriptions.
SuperChic by James Brady (1974)
Written by the former publisher of WWD and Harper’s Bazaar, this is the perfect gossipy yet intelligent fashion book. More eloquent and less bitchy than Fairchild’s Chic Savages, this is both hugely enjoyable and informative. These first-hand stories of dinners and interviews with Chanel, Saint Laurent, Courrèges and the other greats are wittily relayed by an outsider to fashion who became engaged and inspired by the creatives he encountered in his role as publisher.
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