Sunday, July 31, 2016

Books about Books and Hot Homemade Looks: Confections from the Tote Trove Kitsch Kitchen

Top: J. C. Penney's
Skirt: Modcloth
Apron: Gifted
Shoes: Payless
Teapot: Target
Sunglasses: Candie's, Kohl's

Top: Material Girl, Macy's
Skirt (dress): Modcloth
Shoes: Christian Siriano for Payless
Belt: B Fabulous
Blender: Gifted
Sunglasses: Brigantine Beach shop

Top (dress): Modcloth
Skirt: Xhilaration, Target
Shoes: Chinese Laundry, DSW
Belt: Wet Seal
Books: Gifted
(Yes, my own, never-before-seen-on-this-blog) Eyeglasses: Candies, Visonworks

I recently read two books about books, or rather, the kinds of lives that books bring.  One was a novel, Meg Wolitzer's The Wife, and the other was Gina Sheridan's memoir I Work in a Public Library

I'll start with Wolitzer.  Most of her books (The Interestings, The Ten Year Nap) are fat, but The Wife is thin -- just like a good wifey should be.  It's a kind of post-fairy tale commentary, an account of what happens when the romance dies.  You know, if Cinderella was a promising literary light and Prince Charming was a talentless, bed-hopping cad intent on usurping her sparkle.  The wife in question is ingenue Joan, a quiet, upper-middle class coed of the 1950s who dreams of writing the great American novel.  Although she briefly works at a publishing house, her husband, "king of the world" Joe Castleman, aspiring writer and one-time college professor -- Joan's professor, to be exact -- persuades her to quit, ostensibly to help him with his writing, but really to dance attendance upon his insatiable ego.  Joan soon transitions from Joe's partner in crime to his mother/savior/plaything, a subservient role that she seems to both despise and relish.  In this way, Wolitzer makes her a symbol, a kind of submissive everywoman, to show what happens when women are forced to abandon their identities and instead become things.  After years of bearing this burden, Joan's resolve begins to crumble, leading to a series of irrevocably explosive events.  The Wife is smart, gritty, and funny, studded with the jewels of self-awareness and keen characterization that have become synonymous with Wolitzer's work.  It's about being a woman but also about being human, and I'd be lying if I said I didn't devour it, mesmerized, in a day.  Nevertheless, it left me feeling a little empty, not because of any lack of storytelling prowess on Wolitzer's part (whose skill, by the way, is flawless), but because of the bleak light it shines on marriage and human nature.

On the other hand, I Work in a Public Library was, if less textured, easier to digest.  To be fair, it's an entirely different kind of book, a collection of real-life librarian Gina Sheridan's bizarre and bittersweet conversations with library patrons.  I marveled at Sheridan's grace and patience in dealing with rude people who persisted in making requests that had nothing to do with the library, forcing her to serve as a makeshift visitor's center-slash-human Google (which may not seem like an apt analogy considering the library's relationship with the actual Google, but you get my drift).  I doubt that I could have been half as accommodating, but then that's why I'm not in library science.  Overall, I found Sheridan's compilation clever, especially the way she organized her chapters to mimic the Dewey Decimal System.  I also liked her stories about children, which provided lighthearted comic relief, despite all the cliches about children's cruel candor.  Also, there's a lovely last entry about a man who, with Sheridan's help, tastes his first Krispy Kreme doughnut at the ripe old age of eightysomething.  Happy endings don't come much sweeter than that.

To that end, this week I thought it would be fun to play with the classically feminine housewife and librarian themes when putting together my outfits.  I like things that are old-fashioned (as do many people, given the popularity of antique stores and thrift shops), and The Wife and I Work in a Public Library inspired me to whip up some looks that speak to those aesthetics (female oppression and smelly old books -- hey, bookworms come from somewhere -- aside).  Unsurprisingly, each of this post's outfits includes a piece from Modcloth, that vintage Valhalla of reborn retail riches, as well as one of my brand-spanking-new Rainbow Rampage necklaces.  Gumball beads, pendants, charms, neon plastic chains, candy-colored cabochons, and Swarovski crystals come together in everything-but-the-kitchen-sink style in these funky fairy tale statement necklaces.  This series is hands down my favorite in a long time, and I'm positively giddy at the prospect of making even more of these wild and whimsical wearables.  

More gumball beads are on their way to Tote Trove central, so you know I mean business. 

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