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

Thursday, 6 December 2007


In the coming days you will start to see some advertising on this site. I have added Amazon. If you were to be so inclined to wish to purchase any books, by clicking on the link at the side, Jeff Bezos and his shareholders are deprived of five per cent of the income from the sale which comes to me instead. But please don't let that stop you from patronising any excellent independent bookshop near you. At the moment the link is only to my own books, but that will change in a day or so, when I can work out how to do it or get Camelmeister to do it for me.

The books listed in the Amazon Box My favourites are books I have read and loved. They have the Thoughtful Dresser seal of approval. You, of course, may disagree.

I have added several coffee table books about the great designers. I have reviewed all of them in the Telegraph. All highly recommended

Nextbook Book of the Day

Nextbook, the Jewish literary site, has chosen my 2000 novel, When I Live In Modern Times as its Book of the Day.

Retail trends

Courtesy of that Manchester fashionista Norm, comes this business-based analysis of US retail trends for womenswear:

- buying off-mall
- less apparel, more accessories
- more spending on electronics than clothes
- companies like Gap's failed Forth and Towne and Chico's which sell clothes for the 'older woman' are getting it wrong

Looking further into the failure of Forth and Towne, I find this interesting report:

The truth is that age is the last remaining taboo in American marketing. It's okay for manufacturers and retailers to target based on every conceivable demographic and psychographic slice of the market. In this post-feminism age is perfect fine to reach out to women as women. You can target gays. You can put Latinos in the marketing cross-hairs.

But for millions of Americans, any reference to age is dicey. And Forth & Towne wasn't exactly subtle; their website proclaims that they were created for "a new generation of women, determined to find current, wearable fashions in fits that flatter. Women who have grown-up, grown into themselves, and want to look as fabulous as they feel."

That kind of ill-disguised, in-your-face-appeal to the older crowd is bound to backfire. Blame AARP for that. Their ham-handed, stereotypical representations of mindless, happy retirees have made most people over 50 await the arrival of their membership package with the joy that awaits an IRS audit notice.

The Times also pointed out that department stores have experienced something of a resurgence, and that their growth "has overtaken that of specialty clothing chains." That's not a surprise. A 42-year old woman who walks into a department store isn't making a public branding statement about her being 42, as she does when she walks into Forth & Towne. Hence the plug-pulling.

Mutton, or do I mean ram?

A couple of conversations with men in the past two days have raised significant variations on the mutton question.

One points out that forty-something men do not think about, let alone obsess about or wish to wear what men in their twenties do, having (with the usual Rod Stewart exceptions) accepted that they are no longer gilded youth.

Another questions whether it is acceptable for a man in his fifties to have long hair.

Perhaps some male readers would like to contribute to this question.

In Spanish

Spanish publisher Ediciones Urano have just bought the rights to The Clothes On Their Backs for their new literary fiction imprint, Plata.

Street Clash

Lisa Goldman draws to my attention a site called Street Clash, where photographers and bloggers are pitted against each other in the contest for most stylish city. Check it out, here

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.

Thought for the day

No elegance is possible without perfume. Coco Chanel

** Wild Fig and Cassis, the shower gel and/or body lotion, please