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Category: fashion

Sunday books: Joseph Heller, Freud's cocaine and more


It's been 50 years since the publication of Joseph Heller's "Catch-22," an occasion marked by two new books: the first biography of the author, who died in 1999, and a memoir from his wryly funny daughter. Carolyn Kellogg reviews "Just One Catch: A Biography of Joseph Heller" by Tracy Daugherty and Erica Heller's "Yossarian Slept Here: When Joseph Heller was Dad, the Apthorp was Home and Life was a 'Catch-22.' "

Meanwhile, Richard Rayner explores "An Anatomy of Addiction: Sigmund Freud, William Halsted, and the Miracle Drug Cocaine" by Howard Markel. "In my last severe depression, I took coca again, and a small dose lifted me to the heights in a wonderful fashion. I am just now busy collecting the literature for a song of praise to this magic substance," Freud wrote to his fiancee, Martha, on June 2, 1884. Indeed. The book follows the lives of two men of science (the mind and medicine, respectively) and their intersections with cocaine; Rayner finds it "rich, engrossing."

David L. Ulin reviews the latest by Laura Lippman, one of Baltimore's finest mystery novelists. "Beware the wild child. That's the message of Laura Lippman's 'The Most Dangerous Thing,' a novel that occupies the unlikely middle ground between thriller and coming-of-age saga, shifting from present to past as it tells the story of five childhood friends and the fateful night in 1979 that changed their lives."

In our column Not Just for Kids, Susan Carpenter looks at National Book Award finalist Cristina García's first young-adult novel. "Friendships are often forged in uncomfortable environs, when individuals who wouldn't ordinarily meet are forced to interact. Such is the case in 'Dreams of Significant Girls,' a young-adult novel that unfolds in a Swiss boarding school and makes roommates of three girls from radically different backgrounds."

Fashion writer Adam Tschorn looks back at a 1953 book about certain military men and their obsession with uniforms. "'The Reason Why: The Story of the Fatal Charge of the Light Brigade' by Cecil Woodham-Smith ... focuses on the contentious relationship between the seventh Earl of Cardigan and the third Earl of Lucan, their obsession with the details of their station and the trappings of military regalia rather than with any actual fighting." When the enemy has cherry-colored pants and fur hats adorned with brilliant plumes, must one retaliate with braids and epaulets? En garde!

-- Carolyn Kellogg

Photo: Joseph Heller in 1979. Credit: Iris Schneider / Los Angeles Times

New book claims Coco Chanel was a Nazi spy

Cocochanel_1958 Did Coco Chanel design Nazi uniforms and parachute behind enemy lines? A new biography doesn't go that far, but it does claim that the famed French fashion designer helped Nazi forces during World War II.

It is no secret that Chanel dated a German military intelligence officer, Baron Hans Gunther von Dincklage, during the war -- a fact that put her on the outs with some French dressbuyers.

Now American exaptriate Hal Vaughan, who lives in Paris, writes in "Sleeping with the Enemy: Coco Chanel's Secret War" that Chanel's involvement went further than her romantic association with Von Dincklage. He told the Associated Press:

"I was looking for something else and I come across this document saying 'Chanel is a Nazi agent, her number is blah, blah, blah and her pseudonym is Westminster,' " Vaughan told the Associated Press. "I look at this again and I say, 'What the hell is this?' I couldn't believe my eyes!

"Then I really started hunting through all of the archives, in the United States, in London, in Berlin and in Rome and I come across not one, but 20, 30, 40 absolutely solid archival materials on Chanel and her lover, Baron Hans Gunther von Dincklage, who was a professional Abwehr spy."

Chanel was born poor; with a combination of talent, luck and determination she became one of the most celebrated fashion designers in the world.

Her story has been well-documented in dozens of biographies, a few films and other forms by those interested in her vision and legacy. The House of Chanel pointed this out in a statement, saying, "more than 57 books have been written about Gabrielle Chanel .... We would encourage you to consult some of the more serious ones."

"Sleeping with the Enemy" was released this week by Knopf. The publisher describes the book:

In Vaughan’s absorbing, meticulously researched book, Dincklage is revealed to have been a Nazi master spy and German military intelligence agent who ran a spy ring in the Mediterranean and in Paris and reported directly to Nazi propaganda minister Joseph Goebbels, right hand to Hitler.

The book pieces together how Coco Chanel became a German intelligence operative; how and why she was enlisted in a number of spy missions; how she escaped arrest in France after the war, despite her activities being known to the Gaullist intelligence network; how she fled to Switzerland for a nine-year exile with her lover Dincklage. And how, despite the French court’s opening a case concerning Chanel’s espionage activities during the war, she was able to return to Paris at age seventy and triumphantly resurrect and reinvent herself  — and rebuild what has become the iconic House of Chanel.


Book review: 'The Gospel According to Coco Chanel'

In our pages: John le Carre still looks good

In our pages: The controversial Ghandi biography 'Great Soul'

-- Carolyn Kellogg

Photo: French fashion designer Coco Chanel in 1958. Credit: AFP / Getty Images

Is Vogue planning a 119-year digital archive?

Vogue magazine

Does Vogue magazine have a digital archive in the works -- one would stretch all the way back to its original 1892 issue? Rumors say that's exactly what the long-lived fashion magazine is up to.

The blog Fashionista reads the tea leaves:

Vogue editor Anna Wintour attending the Webbys in June, accepting her magazine's "People's Voice" award by saying, "Sometimes, geeks can be chic." (Webby Award winners must give five-word speeches).

Vogue publisher Susan Plagemann telling AdWeek that the magazine will be rolling out a new Web property in December. She declined to specify what that might be.

A "reliable source" confirming that a digital archive is what Vogue has in the works.

Since the AdWeek article -- which was focused on the print ad sales for Vogue's September issue, which are strong -- fashion watchers have been speculating about "Vogue's secret website."

Although the rumors might just be rumors, another Conde Nast property, the New Yorker, has a long history of making its digital archives available to readers -- believe me, I've got the DVDs to prove it. Maybe the digital archive idea is making the Conde Nast rounds.

Or maybe Wintour has been inspired by the excellent new long-form nonfiction site Grantland, and wants to create a lady version. Owned by ESPN, Grantland's content tends toward the sporty, and its masthead is predominantly male -- a site as smart as Grantland focused on beauty and fashion might be a way for Vogue to look forward online, instead of back. But I just say that because I like reading. There are lots of other ways for Vogue to look forward -- and we may have to wait until December to find out what's really going on.


The New Yorker brings back Haruki Murakami story for Japan issue

Calls for long-form nonfiction

Natalie Portman's "Lolita" clutch

-- Carolyn Kellogg

Photos: Vogue covers from June 2011, left, and April, 1950, right. Credit: Conde Nast / Associated Press

Book-purse recommendations for the Golden Globes

Natalieportman_lolita When "Black Swan" premiered in New York, Natalie Portman showed up wearing a long black Dior gown, immaculate Dior makeup and a purse that looked just like a midcentury edition of "Lolita" by Vladimir Nabokov.

That purse was by French designer Olympia Le-Tan, who creates clutches that look like mid-20th century book covers. They've been spotted in the hands of European starlets, as well as Portman's.

Portman is nominated for a Golden Globe for her starring performance in "Black Swan"; the film has been nominated for best dramatic picture. Will she be carrying her "Lolita" purse again Sunday night? Well, according to the rules of the red carpet, probably not.

Nevertheless, we have some -- entirely hypothetical -- book-purse recommendations for Sunday night's Golden Globe attendees.

Natalie Portman: If she's not interested in being seen carrying "Lolita" down the red carpet twice, the "Black Swan" best actress nominee might try a purse rendering of "Apollo's Angels," Jennifer Homan's history of ballet.

Tina Fey: Nominated for best actress in a television series, comedy or musical, Tina Fey can't exactly carry a "30 Rock" purse onto the set. But this year's winner of the Mark Twain Prize could carry a purse made from the surprise bestselling "Autobiography of Mark Twain, Vol. 1." Admittedly, at 760 pages, it'll make more of a satchel than a red-carpet clutch, but its cover is less disturbing than Fey's upcoming memoir, "Bossypants," which features Fey's face attached to male arms.

Jennifer Lawrence: Of course, Daniel Woodrell's 2007 novel "Winter's Bone," for which she's been nominated for her starring role. The film has given Lawrence her breakthrough role as Ree, a tough girl fighting for her family in contemporary Appalachia. The movie's success also has helped put Woodrell's writing in the spotlight -- as would a boutique book purse.

Romola Garai: Garai is nominated for her performance in the miniseries "Emma." What should she carry but a book-purse version of Jane Austen's "Emma"?

Tilda Swinton: Swinton isn't nominated for a Golden Globe this year, but if she does attend, perhaps she will be carrying the clutch that Oliva Le-Tan made especially for her: a replica of the 1955 first edition of "Auntie Mame," the novel by Patrick Dennis.


Natalie Portman's "Lolita" clutch

Mark Twain Prize will go to Tina Fey

-- Carolyn Kellogg

Photo: Natalie Portman at the "Black Swan" premiere Nov. 30 in New York. Credit: Evan Agostini / Associated Press

Natalie Portman's 'Lolita' clutch

Natalieportman_lolita Natalie Portman showed up at the New York premiere of "Black Swan" with a long black Dior gown, immaculate Dior makeup, and a purse made out of a copy of "Lolita" by Vladimir Nabokov.

The purse is by French designer Olympia Le-Tan. Her book bags feature a hand-stitched version of the books' covers, usually of titles or editions from the mid-20th century.

"Catcher in the Rye" by J.D. Salinger,
"A Streetcar Named Desire" by Tennessee Williams, "Strip-Tease" by Georges Simenon, "Moby Dick" by Herman Melville, "Nineteen Eighty-Four" by George Orwell, "Dracula" by Bram Stoker and "Letters to a Young Poet" by Rainer Maria Rilke are among the purses in her two first lines.

The British newspaper the Telegraph has a slideshow of Olympia Le-Tan's clutches, with a peek inside "Lolita" (it's a snazzy purple-and-green print).

Each comes in a very limited edition of 16 purses. And according to her website, Olympia Le-Tan clutches are available in the U.S. in only two New York stores.

Le-Tan's purses may be one of the hottest things on the red carpet right now -- another one went to the Harry Potter premiere in the hands of French actress Clemence Poesy -- but for most of us, the cost is out of reach. A Le-Tan purse costs about $1,250.

Of course, book-style purses are nothing new. Last year we found books-turned-purses for sale on Etsy. And for the truly crafty, we also linked to a video guide for making your own.

Just one thing: if you're going to rip all the pages out of a classic like "Lolita," don't cheat yourself: read it first.

-- Carolyn Kellogg

Photo: Natalie Portman at the "Black Swan" premiere Nov. 30 in New York. Credit: Evan Agostini / Associated Press

What do hipsters and pornography have in common?


What do hipsters and pornography have in common? As the saying goes, you know 'em when you see 'em. That was the joke moderator Christian Lorentzen used to kick off the eight-person discussion "Look at This F*ing Panel: A Sociological Investigation of the Hipster" Monday night at UCLA.

The panel, inpsired by one held last year at NYU by n+1 magazine, imported many of its panelists from New York. A notable exception was L.A.'s Mark Hunter, the photographer also known as the Cobrasnake. Wearing tattered denim shorts and an American-flag shirt, Hunter spoke up idealistically for hipsters as people who were inspired and creative, getting some of the night's warmest applause.

But that came later. First, the panel struggled to agree on a definition of today's hipster. As Lortentzen joked, a hipster is easier to recognize than to define -- and the eight panelists never came to a consensus.

Gavin McInnes, co-founder of Vice magazine, maintained that hipster was just the latest youth movement in the tradition of greasers, rappers, mods, hippies, punks -- all focused on music, fashion and fornication. He left the rest of the panel a little stunned -- in part because his riff on fornication seemed hard to argue with (who, apart from Christine O'Donnell, is against fornication?) and in part because he had strutted onto the stage shirtless and took his place at the panel wearing nothing more than pants and tattoos.

Is a hipster any different from a yuppie? If so, what separates them? Alexi Wasser of the blog imboycrazy.com  gave a ringing endorsement of what she called the hipster aesthetic -- "I see a dude wearing dark denim and white tennis shoes, that's great! He's a babe!" -- while decrying a negative hipster attitude. Andrea Bartz and Brenna Ehrlich of the tumbler-to-book "Stuff Hipsters Hate" (not to be confused with "Stuff White People Like" or the popular blog-to-book from which the panel name was taken) also criticized negativity and apathy within hipster culture.

Chrisopher Glazek, an assistant editor at n+1, noted that last year's panel made connections between hipsters and gentrification -- an issue perhaps more pressing in Williamsburg and other areas of Brooklyn than in Los Angeles, and one that may have been a bit lost on the young students in Westwood. Glazek tied gentrification to the phrase "white power," which set off McInnes -- who was easy to set off, frequently throwing the panel into high-key chaos -- on a riff that ended with hipster armies wearing American Apparel Brownshirts.

Mary Corey, a lecturer in UCLA's history department, finally got a chance to speak. "Hipsterism has a rich and vital history that has nothing to do with ruining Brooklyn," she said. McInnes reiterated his point that it was just another youth movement and that all youth movements were about music, fashion and fornication, even those we think of as more political. Corey was shocked. "If Angela Davis is reduced to a hairstyle --" she began.

"Who's Angela Davis?" Tao Lin interjected, scoring an easy laugh.

Lin is the author of several books, including "Shoplifting From American Apparel" and the new book "Richard Yates" (not to be confused with the actual author Richard Yates). He speaks in a slow monotone, much like comedian Steven Wright and with the culture-jamming inclinations of Andy Kaufman. Lin, who Lorentzen says has been described as "inauthentic, confusing and alienated," has a devoted hipster fan base -- there was enthusiastic applause when he spoke. (Lin also has detractors; during the Q&A, a questioner equated "Shoplifting From American Apparel" with "a literary bowel movement.")

When pressed on how he defined "hipster," Tao Lin demurred. "Like all categories, I try to stay away from it." He continued, mumbling half-finished sentences into the microphone.

McInnes jumped in. "I can't tell what you're saying!" he blurted, complaining about Lin's mannered speaking style.

"That's my trademark," Lin replied, monotonally.


The panel moved back into intellectual territory when the question of the avant-garde was raised. Corey traced hipsters back to the beats, then back to Norman Mailer, and the ideas in his problematic essay "The White Negro," and back to the 1920s. In those periods, the things we might see as hallmarks of today's hipster -- interest in culture and progressive ideology -- were present, under different names. She was on the point of saying hipsters and the avant-garde were the same thing when the conversation was derailed -- yes, again by McInnes -- exasperated by the application of hipster to other time periods and cultural moments.

If the panel was not able to come to a consensus on the definition of hipster, it did leave the audience with this overview: A hipster is, by definition, someone 18 to 25  years old with an interest in music, fashion and fornication; with progressive ideology (there are no "tea party" hipsters); with a weakness for criticism and apathy; and with the desire to be creative and connected.

-- Carolyn Kellogg

Photo: Waiting for the hipster panel at UCLA. Credit: Carolyn Kellogg / Los Angeles Times

Dr. Seuss meets Converse


Illustrations by beloved children's author Dr. Seuss are now emblazoned on Chuck Taylors, the classic canvas shoes from Converse. There is a pair of "One Fish, Two Fish, Red Fish, Blue Fish" shoes and, of course, "The Cat in the Hat" shoes (above). And there are two sets of Thing One and Thing Two shoes, based on the rambunctious creatures from "The Cat in the Hat."

Sadly, many of the best shoes are reserved for children. Only kids up to age 3 can wear the "One Fish, Two Fish, Red Fish, Blue Fish" sneakers, and older kids get "The Cat in the Hat." Grown-ups have fewer choices, although they include a very meta off-white shoe that's decorated with a full-sized illustration of a Chuck Taylor shoe, and a red-and-white striped shoe that appears to be torn from the Cat in the Hat's hat. 

Maybe they're saving the Lorax and the Grinch for a future line of villainous shoes. And maybe someday we'll see a pair with some Green Eggs on the left shoe and Ham on the right?

The Converse Chuck Taylor Dr. Seuss shoes retail for $35-$65.

-- Carolyn Kellogg

Photo credit: Converse.com

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Marc Jacobs is opening a bookstore

bookstoremarc jacobsnew yorkwest village

Fashion designer Marc Jacobs will open a bookstore in the West Village, reports Racked, the fashion blog of New York Magazine. This week, gold-leaf signage went up in the window of Jacobs' new space at 400 Bleecker St. reading, "A bookstore will be opening here -- Winter 2010." It looks like the designer is really planning to stock books instead of baubles and breeches.

Last year, Jacobs displaced the 20-year-old Biography Bookshop at the 400 Bleecker St. location to add another store -- his sixth in the West Village. Biography reopened down the street as the broader-interested bookbook, leaving a bookstore-like interior behind at 400 Bleecker. Maybe that's inspired Jacobs to open a bookstore of his own, rumored by one fashion maven to be called Book Marc.

-- Carolyn Kellogg

Photo: Marc Jacobs after his showing his fall collection at Fashion Week, Feb. 15. Credit: Seth Wenig / Associated Press

Regretsy's April Winchell in Glendale tonight, with crafts

April WinchellRegretsy

The wildly funny blog Regretsy, which finds regrettable crafts on the popular do-it-yourself market site Etsy and reposts them with reality-check commentary, is now a book. "Regretsy: Where DIY Meets WTF" is out today, and author April Winchell appears tonight at Border's in Glendale at 7 p.m. In addition to being a showcase for Regretsy's greatest hits, the book features several short pieces by Winchell about her very turquoise childhood, misadventures in sewing, and what it's like to appreciate the awful. She answered Jacket Copy's questions via email.

Carolyn Kellogg: At what point did you go from cruising Etsy to starting Regretsy? Was there a specific item that triggered Regretsy?

April Winchell:
Yes, I actually talk about it in the book. It was a horrible kitchen rug with a drawing of Barack Obama and the words "YES WE CAN" stenciled on it in black paint.  My friends Scott and Drew sent it to me as a housewarming gift and a cruel joke.  It came postage due from South Africa, addressed to a nickname they had for me, and for which I had no identification.  It was expensive and time consuming, but what a payoff.

CK: As a consumer, do you own pieces from both Etsy and Regretsy? In other words, do you appreciate both?

Oh yes.  You have to understand, I basically spend my entire day shopping.  As an unintended consequence of looking for crap all day, I often come across amazingly beautiful things, and unfortunately, have to buy them. I have spent a small fortune in the last six  months on the good, the bad and the ugly.

I did once ask my readers if they would like me to post exceptionally creative and well made things from time to time. I got more hate mail from that than anything I ever posted.

CK: Have you ever hit a point where the items on Etsy are too universally tasteful and too well-made to find new material for Regretsy?

AW: Oh, you make me laugh.

CK: So many wonderful items are in the book -- but the cowl! Where's the $159 cowl?

The site and the book present two different challenges. I can really offer my commentary and criticism on anything when it comes to the site; I don't need permission to show what you're selling and have a negative opinion about it. So I can use anything that makes me laugh.

The book, on the other hand, could only feature people who wanted to participate. The site was only a month old before I started writing the book, so a lot of people didn't quite get the benefit of being a part of it. The people who said yes did so very early, and either had tremendous insight and business savvy, or don't have computers.

CK: Among the stories that you tell in the Regretsy book (Your dad was a ventriloquist! You were an '80s fashion victim!) you mention that you make dolls, not particularly well. Do you continue to create crafts?

I don't have a lot of time for it right now, but I really would enjoy getting back to that at some point.  I started making  crappy dolls for charity about four years ago, and people buy them for reasons that escape me.  I made a Tim Gunn doll and a pregnant Heidi Klum a while back, that somehow made their way onto the Project Runway blog.  Tim Gunn said, "some fans are crazy," which I took as both a compliment and a warning to stay 50 feet away.

CK: Did some Regretsy crafters create new works for the book?

The only thing created specifically for the book is the artwork that sets up each chapter [including "Pet Humiliation," above].  Rather than use stock images or professional illustrators, I hired Esty sellers to do the work.  I think it adds a really charming dimension to the book.  But other than that, this is all real stuff that people make and sell. You can't really duplicate the things that are made with absolute sincerity.  It's that total lack of guile that makes it so appealing.

CK: You live in L.A. -- do you go to any real-life, offline craft markets or shops that reflect the Regretsy style?

Oh my God, just go outside in Los Angeles and you'll see it.  Girls wearing everything in their closet at once, horrible oversized sunglasses, cellphones covered with rhinestones and Hello Kitty charms and enormous handbags you could use as boat covers.  You really see it in the fashion out here; people striving to be individuals and wearing their whimsy on their sleeve.  At the end of the day, everyone looks like each other, and no one appears to have a full length mirror.

CK: You'll be at Borders in Glendale tonight -- are you expecting anyone to show up with craft items?

Yes, a few sellers are coming in with pieces that are featured in the book.  The woman who made the famous fish/squirrel taxidermy hybrid is going to be there. And Creepy Dolls is bringing a bloody vampire zombie teddy bear that we're going to raffle off for charity. I've also heard that the woman who makes soap that looks like poop is showing up in a giant penis costume.  So you know, a typical book signing.  I'm sure Tom Brokaw gets the same crowd.

-- Carolyn Kellogg

Photos: Left, the fish in a squirrel suit page; right, the opening page of the Pet Humiliation chapter, both from the new book "Regretsy." Credit: Villard / RandomHouse.

Literary T-shirts: a spring roundup


Snappy "Mad Men"-style suits and dresses aside, the T-shirt remains a wardrobe staple. And literary T-shirts are as interesting as just about any out there. For example, above we see two competing possible designs based on George Orwell's "1984" from fledgling literary T-shirt maker Kafka Cotton. The company is asking for you to vote for your choice, then it will include the winner in its stock. Their other T-shirt designs are inspired by Joseph Heller's "Catch-22," Jack Kerouac's "On the Road" and "Moby Dick" by Herman Melville. But the T-shirts below are from another company.


It seems like there isn't a literary T-shirt company that doesn't try to tackle the great white whale. Above, are two shirts from Out of Print Clothing, which licenses book jacket covers for their T-shirts. The name is something of a misnomer because most of the books remain in print -- many are classics -- although the designs are from vintage editions. Out of Print Clothing donates part of its profits to benefit literacy in Africa, and in another act of generosity, it prints its designs on cute girl-sized T-shirts as well as the big, boxy boy ones.


Novel-T creates old-style baseball jerseys for characters from classic novels and for the authors who wrote them. There are two "Moby Dick" shirts -- one for Ahab and one for the whale. Edgar Allen Poe gets creepy number 13. All shirts are gray, and $1 from each sale is donated to the literacy nonprofit 826NYC. Baseball season starts this weekend. Just saying.


Founded in 2000, Literary Rags is one of the older literary T-shirt vendors you can find on the Internet. Its stock of philosophers, playwrights, poets, novelists and political scribes (such as the Founding Fathers) is at more than 100 and continues to grow. Almost all shirts are black with a white-printed image and name; this month, Jean-Paul Sartre is on sale for $14.99.


The crowd-sourced T-shirt design company Threadless occasionally features bookish tees, like the two above. Like everything else on Threadless, they sell out fast. Because independent artists submit T-shirt designs, there's no way to predict when books will come back. But they'll probably return.

-- Carolyn Kellogg

Photo credits: From top, Kafka Cotton, Out of Print Clothing, Novel-T, Literary Rags and Threadless


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