First of all, to my fellow Americans--get the UK edition from the Book Depository or something. The cover is a great conversation starter. Secondly, cFirst of all, to my fellow Americans--get the UK edition from the Book Depository or something. The cover is a great conversation starter. Secondly, calm down. Nutting has done nothing less than create a very memorable psychopath somewhere on the scale between John Self and Patrick Bateman. But like Bateman and Self, Celeste is an entertaining psychopath. In a novel devoted to rabid deviant fucking, Celeste's most chilling characteristic is how she eats her french fries:
I liked to clamp down my lips on each one, pulling it through a straw to get all the salt off, then rub the grains between my lips to make them raw and redden them. But the time I arrived at Jack's house, my lips stung badly enough to feel poisonous.
So Alissa Nutting has attempted to "do" an inverse Lolita, but her clever stroke was to turn to satire. Devoid of any reflection save for strategizing (thereby nullifying the lazy Humbert comparison), Celeste exists as a sort of anthropomorphisized clitoris, recklessly (and hilariously) pursuing her male adolescent charges. It is, of course, partly the switch in gender that gives this novel its frisson. The naive, slobbering men all want love and commitment and are oblivious to Celeste's designs until it is too late.
Nutting (ha ha) gives such a bravura performance in places, it's easy to forget the banality of the real-life events that inspired Tampa. Having watched the interview (or, as much as I could bear of it) with the real-life Celeste, one cannot imagine her coming up with something like the following: Having drugged her husband, she furiously masturbates to a boy band video.
...with my vibrator on its highest setting roaring like a speedboat...every one of the young singers' mouths was open in a wide O of reception as they harmonized. Due to the oily lubricants of puberty's machinery, their skin looked nearly wet in the stage lighting. It was the boxy flatness of their chests that made my wrist quicken its tempo, the effortless feather of their side-swept bangs that were just slightly too long and in their eyes.
If this sort of thing makes you guffaw (I found myself reading passages out loud to my wife), do go and get this. It's a hoot. ...more
Regardless of whether you're bibliophile you probably have a stack (or stacks) of art monographs lying around. Ask yourself, how frequently do you picRegardless of whether you're bibliophile you probably have a stack (or stacks) of art monographs lying around. Ask yourself, how frequently do you pick them up? These unwieldy and expensive volumes, produced to accessorize exhibitions you never went to often simply suffice as cultural markers: The deplorable Anna Geddes tome in the dentist's waiting room. The cheap Taschen Klimt or Renoir best-of in the dormitory. The seemingly ubiquitous Banksy collection (I have to stop myself from saying You're missing the point.)
I'm not going to bore you all with the Life of Charles James. It's bittersweet and doesn't end very well. You can read about it elsewhere. It shall suffice here to say that he created some of the most exquisite dresses imaginable--elegant, showy, and never vulgar. This monograph, serving to record the ongoing exhibition at the Met's Costume Institute, is the complete package: awash in color and beautifully printed with a fine essay and useful chronology. Gazing at the images, gorgeously rendered in these pages--sometimes it was hard to turn to the next--I was reminded of what Fernand Point did with his cuisine: tone down the excess, focus on elegance and basic form. James's designs embody this philosophy, a sort of nouvelle couture that is endlessly dazzling and inventive. This book can be had--at Amazon prices--for the price of a non-vintage champagne. And you'll find yourself picking it up over and again......more