I've received a few emails over the past several months about my lack of posting on Vogue's reading list. Yes, I review it every month. And you are correct, I've not posted about it. So, consider this a tentative step back into covering the world of Vogue reading - a world so clearly different from the one I live in.
As it is the season of lists (and I shall refrain from all list-making business this year save one which is forthcoming next week and looks forward, not back), Vogue saw fit to create one of their own. This list combines the listiness (a new word?) of other end-of year-lists as well as the overwhemlingness of holiday gift guides. A list of books and a gift guide - in one!
Let's see if you can determine the theme (though there are many, one seems painfully over-arching) among Vogue's admittedly "High Gloss" holiday gift book list:
- Vogue Living: Houses, Gardens, People by Hamish Bowles, $52
- La Maison De Verre: Pierre Chareau's Modernist Masterwork by Dominique Vellay, $60
- Strawberry Hill: Horace Walpole's Gothic Castle by Anna Chalcraft, $45
- Klimt by Alfred Weidinger, $165
- Balthus: Time Suspsended, $79
- Michelangelo, by Thomas Pöpper, Frank Zöllner & Christof Theones, $200
- Mimmo Rotella by Germano Celant, $154
- Terra Incognita: Photographs of America's Third Coast by Richard Sexton, $50
- Magnum Magnum by Brigitte Lardinois, $225
- New York - limited edition tribute published by Gloria Books, $3,000
- The Tenth Muse: My Life in Food by Judith Jones, $17
- 1080 Recipies by Simone Ortega, $39
- Made in Italy: Food and Stories by Giorgio Locatelli, $60
- Lost Desserts: Delicious Indulgences of the Past by Gail Monaghan, $45
- My Last Supper: 50 Great Chefs & Their Final Meals by Melanie Dunea, $39
- Bulgari by Daniele Mascetti, $75
- The Shell: A World of Decoration and Ornament, $65
- Poolside with Slim Aarons by Slim Aarons, $75
- LUXE World Grand Tour box set, $99
- The Elements of Organic Gardening by Prince of Wales, $39
- Be Dazzled! Norman Hartnell, Sixty Years of Glamour and Fashion by Michael Pick, $120
- Carpe Diem: Put a Little Latin in Your Life by Harry Mount, $49
- Journals 1952 - 2000 by Arthur Schlesinger, $40
- Portraits and Observations: The Essays of Truman Caopte, $28
- The Letters of Noel Coward, $37
- War and Peace, by Leo Tolstoy, translated by Richard Pevear and Larissa Volokhonsky, $37
- Selected Translations: Poems by Ted Hughes, $19
- Sir Gawain and the Green Knight, new translation by Simon Armitage, $17
- The Black Lizard Big Book of Pulps by Otto Penzler, $25
- Born Standing Up: A Comic's Life by Steve Martin, $17
- Beethoven Was One-Sixteenth Black: And Other Stories by Nadine Gordimer, $21
- How to Talk about Books You Haven't Read by Pierre Bayard, $19
- Eyes Over Africa by Michael Poliza, $125
- Creature by Andrew Zuckerman, $60
- 30,000 Years of Art by Phaidon, $49
- The Annotated Secret Garden by Frances Hod Burnett, $35
- A French Alphabet Book of 1814 by Charles Plante, $24
- A Family Christmas by Caroline Kennedy, $26
Okay - there are a few nods to fiction. But with a list this long and this...eclectic? poseur-esque? riche?...it seems some additional fiction could have made the list. But I get it - these are glossy holiday books to sit on glossy coffee tables of rather glossy folk.
Bearing this "gloss" in mind, I will say that a few books (despite their price and not including the obviously interesting letters) have caught my eye. The Klimt book was gorgeous as I checked it out online and I'd love to flip through Poliza's Eyes Over Africa. I also think some good tidbits for stories and the like could come out of My Last Supper. The 1080 Recipes has been recommended to me so many times over that I was surprised to even find it on this list. I nearly purchased Phaidon's 30,000 Years of Art last week. Looking this list over, I see now it is quite the bargain at $39, compared with the books one could buy if they graced the pages of Vogue, or you know, aspired to.
Another reason I find the list intriguing: It seems so...aspirational. A way of saying, this is what we think you should be reading. This is what we read, we of the stylish set. It smacks of hoity-toity, even if they are advocating reading (although there are certainly a lot of picture-heavy/text-light books included).
Is it wrong of me to expect Vogue to be a little more down to earth in their selections? Short of The Black Lizard Big Book of Pulps (clearly an attempt to speak directly to in-the-know hipsters), this list conjures horrible images for me: of people sitting idly by a fire in Vail, flipping through the pages of a $250 book while they have their hair highlighted. Change the venue, change the country, swap the fire for a yacht and the highlights for a massage and it's the same thing. Wealth advocating wealth...glossy advocating glossy. I'm not a huge fan.
And I have some questions:
- There is an entire coffee table book devoted to how the shell is used in home decoration? This seems ludicrous.
- What was wrong with the un-annotated Secret Garden?
- Did the Prince of Wales really write a book about organic gardening? Really? When does he have time to do this?
- Did Caroline Kennedy really have time to whip up a book containing ephemera and recipes and other family goods and place it all in a book? Really?
- Who approaches whom in these matters? Does an agent say, you should do a holiday book? Or does the client, fancying themselves a writer, come up with the idea on their own?
- I'm still troubled by the shell book.
Yet, I must shamefully admit three things:
- I do love the smell of a freshly printed coffee-table book and I love to run my palms across the slick, heavy, archival pages. If I could afford lots of them, I'd probably indulge, so who am I to say?
- As the end-of-year book lists are raining down upon me, it was sort of lovely to escape that world of rehashing the year and spend time flitting about, searching for these "fancy" books, many of which I'd never heard of and would never seek out on my own.
- The Guerlain ad for Hilary Swank's new perfume (that's right) happens to be just opposite this list of books in the magazine. So not only did I get to flit about looking at glossy books, it smelled fantastic the entire time I did it. And, bonus: the name of Hillary Swank's new perfume is...wait for it..."Insolence." I am not kidding. I laughed for a full minute. That alone was worth a peek at Vogue's holiday book list!