The Thoughtful Dresser

Grant begins with a question: what kind of person arrives at Auschwitz with a pair of red high heels? A single such shoe now lives in the museum's famous pile, among thousands of drab others. But this fascinating query gets left behind in favor of occasionally perspicacious, more often rambling musings on why what we put on our bodies counts. "Only babies don't worry about what they look like," she writes, "and only because no one has yet shown them a mirror." In between the usual points about identity (we dress to project who we wish we were) and pleasure (ornamenting ourselves is an ancient, joyful pastime for both sexes), Grant sharply defends her interest.


Anyone claiming fashion to be the purest sort of frippery belies a misogynist agenda. Rather, various trends helped women achieve independence—the frame leather handbag, for example, allowed nineteenth-century ladies to be out of the house for great lengths of time. Because these arguments have appeared elsewhere, Grant frequently resorts to reminiscences about her mother's champion shopping skills, as well as her own forays into vintage, modish minis, and, now, expensive labels. Changing styles not only mark time and help us hide its ravages but also satisfy an innate desire for the new. If asked, she'd probably argue that the identity of the concentration camp prisoner makes no difference, because we already know the fundamentals: she liked shoes, she sometimes felt carefree, she was one of us. As with a catalog, this blog-turned-book is best thumbed through. Whether you buy depends on what you have at home. 

April 17: "In less than three years, both GM and Chrysler would be bankrupt, and a resurgent Ford would wow Wall Street..."

Donna Tartt's The Goldfinch is the winner of the 2014 Pulitzer Prize for Fiction. James Parker calls this Dickensian coming-of-age novel "an enveloping…

Books, CDs, DVDs to know about now
Poems That Make Grown Men Cry

And women too.  Luminaries from Colin Firth to Nick Cave and Jonathan Franzen chose the poems that bring them to tears, and the result is a stunning collection of poignant verse from writers like Auden, Whitman, Bishop, Larkin, Neruda and many others.  Warning: choking-up hazard.

The King of Pain

Trapped beneath his entertainment system, reality TV mastermind Rick Salter reflects on his life and tries to piece together the events of the previous evening. Seth Kaufman’s romp is an outrageous meditation on pain and entertainment in a deranged world in which the two are often interchangeable.

The Good Inn

Frank Black, frontman for the Pixies, has written a transgressive historical fiction with shades of Thomas Pynchon (focused as it is on the history of explosives and cinematic pornography), all set in a hallucinatory Edwardian Europe.