Well hello there!
It is with enormous pleasure that I give this post over to the wonderful Isabella from fashion and style blog LOVE & WARdrobe. Given that, if you look to spot me in the street, I will usually be sporting a plaid shirt and/or bandana of some description, it may come as a surprise that I read Isabella’s blog somewhat religiously. There can be no higher recommendation!
This is an utterly fantastic post and I hope that you all enjoy it. As always, if you would like to be involved in a What I’m Reading post, please get in touch with me via firstname.lastname@example.org
I’m Isabella, and I’m one of those nosey people otherwise known as a journalist. Specialising in Fashion (to make my addiction to clothes and shoes seem somewhat justifiable, and not really something rehab-worthy), I have undertaken a degree in Fashion Journalism, and now write on a freelance basis and run my own blog, LOVE & WARdrobe, where I pronouce my love for all things well-designed and lust-worthy. In a non Fifty Shades of Grey kind-of-way. (I haven’t read those books, by the way, I am too much of a prude.)
Although I love books, I can find it hard to commit to finishing one. It really takes something quite gripping to get me to the end pages before I’ve had time to lose my page number, the plot (because I haven’t read it in so long), or even at times, the book itself. This, which I’m sure some of you may identify with, is because book marks have a sneaky way of worming their way out. They think they are Free Willy. The Tamworth Two. Houdini at his finest. Well, Harry, I have news for you, if you carry on with your ways, there is a certain man that sorts out characters like you. He goes by the name of Kindle.
Although my hobbies lie in reading about fashion, design and art, my real love is my appreciation for the written form. A book that can teach me a new writing style, can make me laugh out loud in a crowded room or that can make me feel like I am on an exotic beach while I am sitting on a bus stop in the rain, is the type of book I like to read. Ones where literary skill can really pull you into the world of the author. My book collection comes in all shapes and sizes. I have whole shelves dedicated to fashion form, illustration, film theory and sociological investigations into consumerism. But today I am ignoring all of those, and have chosen three books which I feel stand completely free from each others genres, and therefore make me look a bit of a book schizophrenic.
It is with great pleasure that The Book Habit has asked me to share with you my top three literary recommendations, and so with no further ado, here we go:
A Book I Have Read: The Third Policeman
It seems only right to start with a golden oldie. The Third Policeman is a classic when it comes to black humour; a comical satire which covers the genre of a murder thriller, and somehow manages to pop-in completely made-up and insane philosophical theories at the same time.
Written by Brian O’Nolan, under the pseudonym of Flann O’Brien (yes, he’s Irish) in the 1930’s, it is still a literary must-have today, even if it isn’t the most famous of his novels. Inspired by James Joyce, you know it’s going to be a little absurd. And it doesn’t disappoint.
I won’t lie to you though, it isn’t a ‘lying on the beach with a martini’ book. It involves a comfy armchair, with a pensive frown and a pair of quilted slippers. It is, after all, a mystery, with many twists and turns, and it really does take a bit of concentration. This isn’t your Katie Price autobiography, but it is as entertaining.*
The Third Policeman begins with a murder. (The word ‘murder’ was indeed written with the intention that it was read in a Taggart way, so please put on your inner-Scottish accent.) The narrator, whose name has escaped his memory, is a philosopher who, after committing a money-motivated murder, philanders between a surreal world in which his soul, his victim and three rather unusual policemen collide, creating a series of unusual philosophical ponderings and even more incongruous notions. The policemen, for instance, believe that men can be turned into bicycles if they ride them too long. Why they do? Well, you will just have to read the book. And even then – you are unlikely to come away with a completely wholesome explanation; you won’t finish the book and start up a petition to stop men from turning into bicycles, that’s for sure. By the way, if you do, I will happily support your cause. If men start turning into bicycles, it could make pedal class quite an uncomfortable experience. It’s already uncomfortable on the female anatomy as it is, without the uncertainty of whether you are sat on a bike, or in fact, a man.
Having committed the crime, the hero-cum-villian tries to retrieve the money, but finds himself on a journey of peculiarity. It’s hard to know what’s real, and what’s superficial, in The Third Policeman. That’s if any of it is real at all. (No, I know if’s a fiction book, so it isn’t real. But you know what I man.)
Littered with exhilarating twists, for such a slim book, it really is jam-packed with humour, intrigue and even a sense of uneasiness, which can only com about from the finest of novelists.
Although I am one of those annoying people who half-read a book, lose the page, and don’t look at it again for another five years, this is a book I have read cover-to-cover three or four times over. And it doesn’t even have photos of pretty shows in it. So you know it must be good!
*Disclaimer: I haven’t read Katie’s autobiography, I am merely assuming that it is entertaining, as she makes so many of them. If they aren’t at least in a way entertaining, then I really do have to praise her marketing team. Bravo, bravo!
A Book I’m Reading: Jeeves & Wooster Omnibus
Sometimes, you read a book, imagine all of the characters mannerisms; how they look, what they wear, their accent, and you will watch the film version, and shudder in disbelief. I remember being devastated as a child when the makers of Harry Potter ‘mispronounced’ Hagrid’s name. I had always imagined it as more of a ‘Har-grid’, like the secret ‘R’ in bath. I cannot tell you why I though this – there is no logical explanation, but all I can tell you is that for years, he had been Har-grid. And now he was Ha-grid. It really is like when somebody points out that there is no ‘R’ in bath, and you can’t bring yourself to accept it. You know it’s true, but it’s wrong. Plain wrong. (Sorry Northern readers.)
In this instance, however, I saw Jeeves & Wooster, by the comical genius that is P.G. Wodehouse, before I read the book. And in this instance, having the concoction of talent that is Hugh Laurie and Stepehn Fry, only amplifies the book. I am not left rocking back and forth, whispering ‘the book is better’, or ‘his shirt is from the wrong era!’ Both are as equally ’10/10 totes amazeballs’ as each other.
No, I don’t know why I wrote that either.
For those who are not aware of Jeeves & Wooster, it is the pinnacle of the stereotype in which Americans are said to see English people. Top hats, overuse of the word jolly and a stiff British upper lip. Bravos!, cups of tea, and a very idealistic view of what really is nowadays, nothing nearly as exciting or eccentric.
Bertram Wooster, the main character, is a wealthy layabout, who, although well-intentioned, has a tendency to involve himself in misadventures. Luckily for Wooster, his wise valet Jeeves is always on hand with wise quips and ideas, usually in exchange for Mr Wooster to throw away his latest peculiar fashion find. Surrounded by even more dim-witted and love-sick friends and a stubborn-minded Aunt, trouble is always only seconds away, and the awkward scenarios Wooster manages to land himself in never fail but to amuse.
P.G. Wodehouse once said, “I believe there are two ways of writing novels. One is mine, making a sort of musical comedy without music and ignoring real life altogether; the other is going right deep down into life and not caring a damn.”
This explanation describes Jeeves & Wooster novels perfectly. The use of language really do create a song; a song full of “What how!” and “No, Sir’s”, but a song none-the-less.
Having written over 100 novels, there is certainly a wide array to choose from. If you want to be whisked off into a world of pre-first World War frivolities and tales, then I cannot recommend these books highly enough. Be prepared for accidental outbursts of Old English gent-style phrases though. It is awfully catching. But what ho! It could be worse.
On My ‘To-Read’ List: Anna Wintour
As I mentioned at the beginning, my main interests lie with fashion and journalism. If we bring those two concepts together, then we will almost certainly end up with Anna Wintour, editor of American Vogue, and all-round sunglasses wearing fashion powerhouse. With one twitch, she can bring down a fashion brand within seconds. Hundreds of jobs, years worth of work; all gone, with one disdainful look from under her infamous shades.
It’s no surprise, therefore, that much of her private life is lesser known. A woman of such stoney illusiveness, she has always intrigued me. How did she land the top role in fashion? How does she know so much? Why does she always have that bob? Is it an animal in disguise? Does she keep squirrels under there? Is she does, do they wear stilettos?
So it seems only antural that I find myself levitating towards Anna Wintour: What lies beneath the chic exterior of Vogue’s Editor-in-Chief by best-selling celebrity scandal author Jerry Oppenheimer, which, looks set to satisfy my secret thirst for trash. The title satisfies me less so, however, It’s just a real mouthful. If you chose to name the title of the book while eating you dinner, half of your spaghetti would be down your top by now, and that really just can’t do.
We may have had an inclination of Anna’s ways through The Devil Wears Prada, which is said to be based on the Editor, but this book contains interviews and real insights, starting from her childhood, right through to her current journalistic reigning, which may just give some more factually-based notes into the mysterious world of the Bob. (I’m not saying that everything stated in the book is true – in fact, I would be surprised if it was. But does anybody actually watch Made in Chelsea thinking it is real? probably, but that’s a whole different kettle of fish.)
However, having interviewed ex-boyfriends, former colleagues, distant relatives, and ex-school friends, Oppenheimer has dug into the nitty gritty of what has given Wintour her rather, how should we say, cold-hearted and ruthless reputation. He also covers the moments that have led to her importance; she was, after all, the first lady to put jeans on the cover of Vogue during a time when nobody mixed denim and couture, which means I can read this book, and feel like it is somewhat adding to my academic research. After all, if I am to become Editor-in-Chief of American Vogue, I should probably suss out my competition.
Whilst these three books may seem an odd selection to group together, The Third Policeman is perfect for those who love the written word, Jeeves & Wooster is the ideal choice for those who want light-hearted, old-fashioned escapism, and lastly but not least Anna Wintour: What lies beneath the chic exterior of Vogue’s Editor-in-Chief – and breathe – preys on a deep-rooted, good old fashioned feminine need for information. Basically, the need for a bit of juicy gossip. And with a combination of all the three, my Springtime afternoons in the park with a tray of strawberries and a Solero, always seem a little bit more idealistic, and a little less, “I’ve got wasps chasing me for my ice cream, the sun is shining so bright I can’t read my book and I’ve managed to sit myself down on the only bit of damp grass in the entire park.”