I went to Paris for the first time with a man who was already ex. The tickets had been purchased, the plans made -- he'd suggested the trip when I said I could not contemplate having children yet, I hadn't even seen Paris. Between that lovely thought which sounds like he meant something by it, and the act of getting there, fell the shadow of doubt and we split.
Still, we had a grand time being separated in the city of light and love.
We were there for Bloomsday and we happened upon Shakespeare and Co., how perfect. In front of the famous bookstore and Bloomsbury group outpost was a semi-circle of sort of dun-and-brindle coloured elderly people on rickety chairs, reading aloud in the sunshine.
That, said the ex, is why print is dead. We live in a visual age.
He fancied himself quite a visionary and was deeply impressed by his previous girlfriend who was a style maven, someone we might call a fashionista. Or maybe not. She was deeply stylish apparently and so he valued style above all things. His six year old son would wander downstairs for breakfast and this man would say "looking cool man, you look cool" rather than good morning, or is your homework done. Maybe six year old don't have homework. But they don't need "cool" so much either, or so I thought at the time.
I thought of this Bloomsday episode again last night at a literary event, an awards ceremony. The ceremony itself was elegant and lovely and all the winners as earnest as their books.
Alas the crowd. Whether it comes from this ex or not, I am a dedicated follower of fashion and style and assess every crowd I'm in for same. This was definitely a bookish one. And this tribe has its uniforms.
I've met four blockbuster multimillion selling authors in the past few weeks, and three of them dressed nearly identically in large hoodies, jeans and if not sneakers then something like a Blundstone. It's actually a good look -- kind of louche, and the hoodies are spanking new and more expensive than you'd expect so look pretty good rather than what you'd find on the average subway ride. In fact, one of these authors, Dennis Lehane, had on a t-shirt and hoodie under a kind of blazer like jacket that was so fantastic I wanted to ask where he got it. I held back. "Stick to the book, stick to the book," I said to myself but may tweet him about it later.
But as of last night I'm seeing some dubious trends in the women's department. The ladies of publishing have embraced the current trend toward colour and more forgiving shapes, though they do tend to let this last thing move into shape-less. And colour tends to show up in rather alarming novelty hose -- a look best left to tweens or starving models who have reedy limbs and youth on their side. The thing about writing, reading or even editing is it often involves a lot of snacking. And this results in more red, or lavender, or yellow than these legs can elegantly handle. Top this off with an equally "novelty" oriented shoe and you've got yourself something too startling for good style.
The "it" bag? A backpack. Yes. I saw many. Too many. These are ok if you're going to the gym and I can assure you no one in this gang was heading there. And there were too many overstuffed mommy-bags. We don't need to carry our lives with us everywhere ladies, and certainly not to awards ceremonies. You don't see Cate Blanchett humping one of this filled with the ziplock baggie of Cheerios, bottle of water and umbrella in it as she makes her way down the red carpet now, do you?
The formal attire for the struggling male author? It's a version of the successful author's. A sweatshirt with a random logo on it. Usually in a colour more commonly found in a forest -- lichen grey, muddy brown, dull green.
Now, I'm loving being back close to the book business and find the stories and the ideas that make up books wonderfully inspiring. But the inspiration ends with a thud -- we do live in a visual age and wouldn't it be great if the same care and attention went into the appearance as well as the substance. That would be powerful. That would be blockbuster.