william's Reviews > Bergdorf Blondes

Bergdorf Blondes by Plum Sykes
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Jan 07, 08

Read in April, 2004

Rather than a female narrator called, say, Plum, we have a narrator called “Moi,” which is that much more intimate. Moi is quick to point out that she is not blonde, that she has a career, as a fashion magazine writer no less, and that she happens to be a conduit for the lives of the rich and blonde around her.
The tone is curious, more Teen Vogue than proper Vogue. Still, it follows American magazine protocol in being chatty, toothlessly catty and less than fully informed. This suits the narrative which follows a traditional arc of girl meets boy, loses boy, meets boy, meets boy, meets really rich boy and swoons. There is a similarity to the television show Sex in the City, in that all men who wander across the pages are either appalling or unutterably wonderful. As Moi sums up her love life: “I had somehow contrived to date one brute, one congenital liar and a professional lothario.”
Early on Moi offers a short list of reasons why it is better to live in New York than in London. After Mummy, Toffs (“ew!”) and Daddy comes the Brazilian, as in the bikini wax favored by thong-wearing women whose nether regions tend to be their most interesting asset. Could the narrator and author be unaware of the fact that such a treatment is available in London? Should Vogue be alerted to the existence of a little place called Bliss?
This display of ignorance becomes less startling as Bergdorf Blondes stumbles on, and it allows for a cloying motif. Because of this amazing new waxing thing that has never been heard of outside of New York, sex is referred to throughout as variations on the word Brazil. This is not unlike Jay McInerney referring to cocaine in “Bright Lights Big City” as Bolivian Marching Powder. Moi, then, goes to Brazil, she goes to the Amazon, she goes to Rio (the clitoris), and, most dismayingly to Impanema. For the sake of context, Moi informs “ . . . . you know me, when faced with a choice between another glass of Pimms or a trip to Brazil, I’ll always take the Brazil.” Of course sex is relative in a world where “Michael Kors understands the inside of a womans’ thigh like no other man I know.”
Oh yes, fashion. There is barely a designer’s name that doesn’t happen to be one of the major advertisers in the first zillion pages of Vogue. The careful politics of acceptable product placement are adhered to but when something as safely acceptable as Alexander McQueen isn’t being exalted the author loses her footing. The lovely designs of Marni for instance, which could be described as shabby chic, are here rendered as having the look of a “street urchin” which is spectacularly incorrect. Personal taste is questionable in the extreme, most especially when we come to a $325 pair of Chloe Jeans which apparently “do something amazing for my ass.”
For a deep inside look at New York fashionista wit, which is slightly too stupid to be offensive: “The hottest sample sales in New York are so fraught with danger they make the Gaza Strip look peaceful.”
Throughout advance copies of the book I was honored to see the author’s mind at work in mid-composition -- pen held aloft as she searched for the mot juste, as moi wouldn’t say. At one point it is written “J’ sais pas [sic:] (ck. French),” which is very sweet given that the narrator expresses excitement with liberal use of the word “trés.” Elsewhere comes the need to describe small items inspiring “chahtchkis [sic:] (ck sp/ Jewish word).” Indeed.
Despite Moi’s objection to England, the whole inside-New York fairy tale grinds to a halt in the English countryside and everyone lives happily ever after, but not before our heroine gets mud on her Jimmy Choos. The ending brings the proceedings firmly into the realm of Barbara Cartland -- the moral of the story is to marry well, which I suppose is the ultimate beauty tip.

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