Because you can't have depths without surfaces.
Linda Grant, thinking about clothes, books and other matters.

Thursday, 6 December 2007

More parties, and some observations about black dresses and post-colonial literature

I went to a couple more parties last night, and have observations both fashionable and literary.

As far as the eye could see were women in little black dresses, almost no colour at all. A woman in a red suit, and an utterly delightful 14-year-old in a gold dress, broke up the gloom. One literary agent was wearing a black dress with gold shoes, but how ordinary everyone looked. I say that because in a crowd of people, one LBD looks much like any other and without some very strong interest such as cut, or a stand-out piece of jewellery, you really don't focus on what anyone is wearing, because it has turned into a uniform.

The first party was held at the October Gallery by my literary agents, A.P Watt. There, as ever, one of the nicest men in Britain, Philip Pullman, the film of whose children's novel Northern Lights renamed The Golden Compass opens this week, starring Nicole Kidman. I asked him if he was happy with it, and he said he was, particularly with Kidman. But already in America and Canada Catholic fundamentalists are organising a boycott of the film, claiming that it will lead young, impressionable souls to atheism. Normally, these boycotts backfire, but the worry is that because it is a family film, the campaign may well do a lot of damage. It opens this week so go and see it if you don't like Puritan busybodies and want to put their noses out of joint.

Five minutes walk away in some cavernous space in Bloomsbury, was the Guardian First Book Prize, won this year by Ethiopian-American Dinaw Mengestu. You can read an extract, here. And a Washington Post interview with him here.

On leaving, we were handed goodie bags with a silver-wrapped copy of each shortlisted book, and mine was A Golden Age by Tahmima Anam. I can't help but be struck by the numbers of novels set during civil wars and the births of nations that are being published right now, as history bears down so hard upon us, penetrating our inner lives.


sheila said...

oh LBD. I have just spent a fortune on a Jaeger beaded one which really suits me but if I'm going to be wallpaper.....invested partly because you rave so about the new Jaeger sensibility.

Linda Grant said...

Beaded, very, very good. It's just the generic black shift, or black bias cut with not much going on in the way of accentuation that looks drab.

Becs said...

Speaking as a Catholic who read the Dark Materials trilogy when I was a teenager, I can see where these groups are coming from. I read an interesting interview with Philip Pullman and although his perspective is a bit different from what I pulled from the books, they still come off as anti-Catholic (specifically the third one). He uses some language that, to a Catholic, clearly points to the Church in an extremely negative light. That doesn't entirely detract from the beauty of the books (although I thought the third book got preachy, hah). As for the boycott: well, there are plenty of groups I disagree with, but if we want to retain our right to protest, we need to respect it in others. If fundamentalists were trying to get the government to legislate against it, I would be right there disagreeing with them, but a boycott? If they feel strongly enough about a movie, go for it. I don't know whether I'm going to go see it, but that's more my tendency to not see movies based from books since they tend to ruin the books for me.
Anyway just wanted to say my piece - sorry it's so long. I absolutely love your blog! The combination of fashion and commentary is always fascinating :)

Toby Wollin said...

Linda - I'm with you, it's that "generic black shift" - the sheer laziness of it, the "Oh, well, I've got a party to go to - oh, here, I'll throw on the LBD and become invisible" of it. No confidence whatsoever. No thought of looking "special". Just get it on, get it over with. Ho-hum.
The whole point of going out to events is to get dressed UP - not put on the busman's uniform.
Want a dark color to be slimming? Wear burgundy or midnight blue or forest green (how about a forest green stretch velvet flare dress - now THAT would be festive. Put a sprig of holly in your hair - no reindeer antler headbands, please). If you have a nice LBD that you want to keep "working", then DO something with it - get a great scarf and wear it sarong style or a terrific pin - or goodness me - buy yourself a terrific corsage with camellias - now that will be elegant and you will be guaranteed to be the only woman in the room wearing flowers.

Anonymous said...

I’m finishing up a holiday dress right now that's in a ruby and black silk taffeta brocade. The fabric is reversible I could have used either side. If I was 15 years younger I'd probably use the black side, however the ruby is more flattering and I know it will stand out from the sea of LBD's I’ll see at the party. Phyllis

Charles Lambert said...

The impression I got from an interview with Pullman in last Sunday's Telegraph (I think) was that he was prepared to accept some pretty considerable watering down of the books' anti-God theme in order to make sure that all three volumes were filmed. From what I know of Pullman (and two friends of mine were his students many years ago and still adore him), his motives aren't financial or self-aggrandising so I assume he feels that, even diluted, the films will convey some of the message, not to speak of directing a new public to the books themselves. Which would be wonderful, though upsetting, for them, and simply wonderful for the rest of us.

Linda Grant said...

I know Philip from the time we were both on the management committee of the Society of Authors and while some my disagree with his atheism (not me) he is by no means a secular fundamentalist. He is just a very fine, very humane man.

Anonymous said...

May I ask what you chose to wear to these parties? Not anything black and ordinary, I hope!