Wednesday, October 22, 2014

book briefs

Here's some recent books I read and enjoyed.

Thinking that this would be a light, gossipy memoir on fashion, I was taken aback how great this memoir was. Halbreich grew up wealthy as an only child in Chicago, living a relatively lonesome life. From an early age, she was deeply fascinated by clothing. After enduring a difficult marriage and an attempt at suicide, Halbreich found her calling as a personal shopper (of the Solutions Department) at Bergdorf Goodman, helping dress celebrities like Joan Rivers and Candice Bergen (Halbreich is partly responsible for the iconic "Murphy Brown" look). Rich and lively and studded with incredible details, I'll Drink to That took me into bygone eras of fashion (she bemoans that it's all about the labels now, not the clothing) and into the life of a no-nonsense, direct, creative and dry-witted artist.

Does addiction ever leave us? The present tense immediacy of Bydlowska's memoir suggests sometimes it does not. Bydlowska's book hurtles into her personal experiences as an alcoholic young mother. Despite its subject matter and its wide open revelations, I wouldn't call the book devastating nor shocking, in fact Bydlowska's experiences are sometimes ordinary, eerily banal. 

I believe this is the first collection I've read of Hillman and now I'm excited to go back to her other books. This one really sparked for me. The poems are packed with politics and detail. I liked the risk-taking and the messiness--the collision of varied moods and voices (furious and at times, weary) protest photos, data, and asides.

-Jeffery Berg

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