Book list: Nashville Fashion Week

By , March 30, 2013

In anticipation of Nashville Fashion Week, we are happy to welcome Libby Callaway as guest contributor. Libby is the former fashion editor of the New York Post, ultimate NYC and now Nashville fashion insider. Here are Libby’s favorite fashion titles, available for all at the Nashville Public Library:

The Beautiful Fall: Lagerfeld, Saint Laurent, and Glorious Excess in 1970s Paris  by Alicia Drake

The fashion world is rife with giant ego clashes, but none quite as grand as the rivalry between Karl Lagerfeld, currently of Chanel (not to mention Fendi and his namesake label – some guys never sleep), and the late Yves Saint Laurent. This book details the background of their conflict, amid juicy, florid tales of the kind of luxurious depravity that defined Paris in the 1970s. You can keep your debauched tales of New York’s Studio 54: I’d rather read about the catty fashion scene at Café de Flore or La Coupole, any day.


D.V.  by Diana Vreeland ; edited by George Plimpton

The true genius of this auto-bio by Diana Vreeland, one of the legendary forces of modern fashion (she helped shape the current tone and look of both Bazaar and Vogue), isn’t her incredible personal history or her outrageous (and some say fictitious) tales of beauty and excess in the haute-iest echelons of fashion. It’s the author’s distinctive cadence. No one else has ever sounded like Diana Vreeland. Big props go to editor George Plimpton for capturing her one-of-a-kind voice for posterity in this divine little book.

Deluxe: How Luxury Lost Its Luster by Dana Thomas    

To me, the biggest compliment you can give a cultural journalist is to say that his or her writing comes across as hyper-intelligent yet incredibly approachable. That’s what I told Paris-based fashion reporter Dana Thomas when she came to town last year to participate in the Nashville Fashion Week Industry Panels (FYI: this year’s installment is slated for Wednesday, April 3). Her book is an honest look at why the historic design aesthetic and cultural imprint of the world’s most iconic fashion brands have largely been reduced to marketing commodities. May sound high-falutin’, but it’s a brisk and exciting read.

Diane: A Signature Life  by Diane von Furstenberg

Of all the designers I met while working as a fashion reporter in New York, DVF was the one that left the most indelible impression on me, both as someone who chooses to make fashion the foundation of her career and, more importantly, as a modern woman of the world. From the outside, Diane’s life certainly seems charmed – she’s beautiful, successful, accomplished, and, at one point, even had a title before her name (DVF became a princess when she married her late first husband, Prince Egon) – but she hasn’t been without personal struggles, which she lays open here in a frank, yet graceful way. Remarkable and inspiring.

Overdressed: The Shockingly High Price of Cheap Fashion  by Elizabeth L. Cline      

I’ll be honest with you: I haven’t read this one … yet. I went ahead and put in on the list, though, because it comes highly recommended by folks I respect, and because it’s our duty, as fashion consumers circa 2013, to know where our clothes come from. (We ask that of our food, so why not our dresses?) It’s important to understand that the clothes for sale in many of the big-box chain stores in the mall often have a dubious history, in terms of how their design was appropriated and how they were produced. Fascinating stuff.

A.L.T.: A Memoir by Andre Leon Talley

Out of the thousands of bylined stores I produced during my seven years at the New York Post, one of my very-very favorites was the account of going consignment store shopping with Vogue’s Andre Leon Talley. For sure, documenting A.L.T.’s first foray into the amazing designer resale stores of the Upper East Side made for fun writing. (“Jackie Kennedy really brought her old clothes here?!” Welcome to Encore, Andre!). But the real joy of reporting the piece was getting to know this wonderful, gentle man. His autobiography is a fine substitute when the real 6’7’’ thing isn’t available.


The only real elegance is in the mind; if you’ve got that, the rest really comes from it.”  by Diana Vreeland

Women’s History Month

By , March 28, 2013


Reading Women

By Stefan Bollmann


This lush book is filled with beautiful images of women reading.

The paintings, drawings and photographs are grouped into categories: blessed readers, enchanted readers, self-confident readers, sentimental readers, passionate readers and solitary readers.


Each entry features a summary about the artwork and the artist who created it.

Also included is an intriguing foreword written by author Karen Joy Fowler that so smartly sums up what it means to be a woman who reads.



 Women Who Write

By Stefan Bollman


“If there is anything that the wide range of women collected in this volume have in common besides their literary talent, and secondly their gender – it’s a certain bravery, or an unkillable impulse, or whatever it was that impelled them to put first word down on paper, and then the next and the next.”


March is Women’s History Month and what better way to celebrate than with Stefan Bollmann’s book Women Who Write. The book features photos, paintings, and drawings of famous women writers from Hildegard of Bingen to Isabel Allende accompanied by interesting essays about their lives.


This book is fun to read, well written and will introduce you to a great number of women authors that you will want to learn more about.


- Karen




In Your Easter Bonnet . . . Spring Fashions and The Delineator

By , March 17, 2013

The Delineator is a women’s magazine that was created in 1873 by Ebenezer Butterick, a tailor who invented the tissue-paper pattern for sewing garments.  Nashville Public Library owns the volumes from 1906 through the magazine’s end in 1937.  

Features in The Delineator covered many areas of interest to women at the time: family and parenting, housekeeping, and social issues like women’s rights, divorce, homelessness, child labor, and even careers for women.  There were articles by presidents and first ladies discussing political issues and short fiction written by prominent authors.  For a time, the magazine was even edited by Theodore Dreiser.

After discovering this title in our Periodicals collection, I become fascinated with the health and beauty advice offered in each issue and the ads for common products of the day are entertaining as well.

But the real stars of every issue are the lovely illustrations (some in black and white, some in color) of women’s fashions and accessories, including intricately embellished hats for society ladies.

I’m a sucker for these sweet pictures of genteel ladies and their beautiful clothing, even if I can’t imagine having to wear the dresses myself.  But what better time to indulge in a little nostalgia over frilly pastel gowns and feathered hats than Spring?

If you’re interested in seeing The Delineator in person (be forwarned, they are very fragile), check at the Periodicals desk on the 3rd floor at the Main Library.

For more reading on the genteel fashions and customs of yesteryear, check out these titles in the library’s collection:

Let's Bring Back by M.M. BlumeLet’s Bring Back: An Encyclopedia of Forgotten-Yet-Delightful, Chic, Useful, Curious, and Otherwise Commendable Things from Times Gone By by Lesley M.M. Blume


Encyclopedia of the Exquisite by Jessica Kerwin JenkinsEncyclopedia of the Exquisite: An Anecdotal History of Elegant Delights by Jessica Kerwin Jenkins

Book Review: Dancers Among Us

By , March 16, 2013

Dancers Among Us

Jordan Matter

Raise your hand if you loved picture books when you were little…yeah, me too. As I grew up, I didn’t miss them quite as much because I thought words were just as cool as colors. But every now and again I’ll come across a one that I just want to keep looking at. And looking at…and looking at…

I’ve always had a thing for dancers. Some of my friends in college were ballerinas, and they introduced me to this whole world that I can only fully appreciate with my eyes (sorry, but the running man is my go-to dance move…it’s scary, I know). This book shows performers creating various dance poses but in every day settings. I can’t decide which photo I like best – the photo of the dancer outside the theater in the rain or the one of the girl sitting on a cannon in what seems like the middle of nowhere. Or the one called “Mama’s Boy”…it’s funny. (Also, for you Elmo afficiando’s…keep an eye out for Mr. Noodle.)

What makes some of these photos even more amazing is that no trampolines or wires were used. These poses are just simply dancers doing what dancers do best. And they are beautiful.

Ok, now I’m going to wish you all Happy Reading, and even though I’m not ready to give this book up, I’m going to pass it on to the next person on the list. Hopefully they will love it as much as I did…

Happy Reading…

:) Amanda

PS Be sure to stay tuned to the index of the book for stories about how the author managed to shoot these amazing images.

Book review: Faviken

By , March 12, 2013


by Magnus Nilsson

How about a leaf of kale steamed so briefly that it is dying on the plate? Then maybe a little lump of very fresh cheese, floating in warm whey with one petal of lavender? Are you tasting spring yet? If you are an eater with a curious and daring appetite, or happen to be interested in supporting the growing local food movement, you must read Swedish chef Magnus Nilsson’s first cookbook Faviken.

Faviken is a restaurant located in northern Sweden on the grounds of a hunting property. All the edibles Nilsson and his staff offer on the menu have been raised or grown, gathered or slaughtered, then precisely preserved within miles of the restaurant. Fruits and vegetables served during the long, dark, and cold winter nights consist of berries, mosses, vegetables, even flower petals fermented, dried, or pickled during the bountiful summer and fall growing seasons. As for the meats and fish, Nilsson’s preferred aging methods and various treatments at first seem revolutionary, but he is actually working with tried and true preservation methods of long ago. Waste no part of plant nor animal.

With pictures of the surrounding lands, gardens, and animals, to photos of the uniquely prepared and plated dishes, this book is as beautiful as it is fascinating. Nilsson’s restaurant is currently number 34 on a list of top 50 restaurants in the world. I doubt I’ll ever actually get to eat there; but maybe you will. In Faviken, Nilsson has done a superb job of giving the reader a taste of the actual experience.

Book list: Great Comics for Grown Ups

By , March 11, 2013

Comics for adults can hardly be called underground anymore with creators like Chris Ware, Alison Bechdel, and Adrian Tomine regularly appearing on snobby literary magazines’ year end best lists. Below are some recent comics that are definitely worth your time.

Best American Comics 2012Best American Comics 2012

by Francoise Mouly (Ed.)

Features excerpts from, you guessed it, the best American comics that came out last year, a few of which I highlight below. Ironically, it’s edited by a French woman. This volume covers a lot of ground and naturally everyone will have their individual favorites. Best American Comics comes out every year and is a great place to start if you are trying to find your way into comics.

Harvey Pekar's ClevelandHarvey Pekar’s Cleveland

by Harvey Pekar and Joseph Remnant

A posthumous work by one of the form’s masters, Cleveland is an honorable coda. It transcends Pekar’s confessional self-indulgence by conflating his own life story with the history of his beloved city. The legacy of working class immigrants are now often superseded by other narratives about America. This story is more important than ever. Kevin, my favorite librarian-history teacher, this one is for you, brother.


by Joe Sacco

This compiles Sacco’s commissioned magazine work. Primarily concerned with war and poverty, it covers Yugoslav war trials, the Palestinian conflict, Chechen refugees, and a whole lot more. One of my favorite writers, he is guaranteed equal parts enlightenment and heartbreak. He includes notes for each piece often describing the pitfalls of attempting legit journalism in comics form when confronted with traditional magazine editors.

Kiki de MontparnasseKiki de Montparnasse: The Graphic Biography

by Catel and Jose-Louis Bocquet

Admission time: my high school idol was Man Ray so pictures of Kiki de Montparnasse are forever seared into my brain. No idea what I am talking about? Then you should definitely check out this biography of one of Europe’s first sexually liberated women. It helps correct the misperception that her life was defined by the silly men that she effortlessly charmed. Like Moulin Rouge, but all of this really happened.

My Friend DahmerMy Friend Dahmer

by Derf Backderf

Chronicling Backderf’s real life high school acquaintance with notorious serial killer Jeffrey Dahmer, My Friend is more a self-indictment of the author and his suburban Ohio community than a true crime tale. A story about how a troubled teen can slip through the cracks holds even more weight considering our nation’s plague of school shootings. One of my favorite books of 2012.

No Straight Lines: Four Decades of Queer Comics

by Justin Hall (Ed.)

This volume is so awesome it really deserves its own post. It is a cross cut of LGBTQ comics made in the contemporary era. Most of this is truly hidden history, but altogether it tells story of how we got from total censorship to the popular success and critical acclaim of artists like the aforementioned Alison Bechdel. I was happy to see material by Trina Robbins, the public nemesis of Aline Kominsky-Crumb. I blogged about Aline’s work previously.

Steve Jobs: Genius by DesignSteve Jobs: Genius by Design

by Jason Quinn and Amit Tayal

These pages are as glossy and soulless as Apple products. If you didn’t have time to read Walter Isaacson’s tome of a biography last year, pick up this little volume and learn how an ego maniac billionaire convinced you he was a hippie. Think different! Flame me in the comments.

WizzywigWizzywig: Portrait of a Serial Hacker

by Ed Piskor

Ripped from the headlines, Wizzywig follows the adventures of Kevin Phencile, a computer hacker who is a hero to many but a felon to some; namely, the FBI. Now that it is officially illegal to unlock your phone, the subject matter is more pertinent than ever.

If you prefer the more old school monthly comics format, here are some pop culture sure bets that work for adults as well as teens:

Buffy the Vampire SlayerBuffy the Vampire Slayer

by Joss Whedon, et al.

The show ended but the party never stopped. Benevolent Buffy Dictator Joss Whedon continued the TV show’s storyline in comics form starting with the aptly titled Season 8.


Mind the GapMind the Gap, Volume 1: Intimate Strangers

by Jim McCann and Rodin Esquejo

A hybrid of ER, The X-Files, and Gossip Girl, this comic could so be a show on the CW. It is written by award winning, ex-Nashvillian Jim McCann.


The Walking DeadThe Walking Dead

by Robert Kirkman and Charles Adlard

Zombies! Zombies! TV! Zombies! Zombies! TV! Zombies! TV! TV! The critically acclaimed TV show started as a monthly comic way back in 2003. The series is still going strong today. Can’t get enough family drama with a side of rotting flesh? Dig in!

- Bryan

Movie review: Janie Jones

By , March 7, 2013

Janie Jones

“Arguably the BEST MUSIC FILM since Walk the Linesays one critic. Not sure how many great music films have come out since then – Crazy Heart ? but this one is a really enjoyable, lively, funny and very music laden trip (and it’s inspired by a true story).

Ethan Brand (Alessandro Nivola) is great as a somewhat erratic but talented lead singer in a modern band who suddenly faces the reality that he may have a daughter from a long ago romance he has somehow forgotten about. His former flame (Elizabeth Shue) drops her off while they are out touring as she heads into rehab. Makes for some surprising introductions and interactions as the band soldiers on (hilariously) and eventually falls apart.

The precocious but low key 13 year old daughter in question, Janie Jones (played superbly by Abigail Breslin) turns out to be a talented singer and writer and she eventually gets in on some performances (see the cover!). Her bonding with her dad on the road brought to mind the classic Paper Moon.

Part road movie, part slice of some very turbulent lives and part performance tour this is a quirky and absorbing ride. The onstage breakup is worth the viewing alone but there is so much more (including some crowd banter that really makes you wonder how musicians do it without flipping out more).

A real worthwhile gem of a movie, in my estimation.


Popmatic Podcast March 2013: Life of Pi

By , March 4, 2013

We have a caffeine-fueled discussion of Life of Pi, the book and movie. Skip to the 28:34 mark to avoid spoilers. We name drop of a few other book-to-movie adaptions worth your time, and we tell you what is tickling our fancy this month. Welcome guest podcaster, Mike! We try not to be too mean to him.



Life of Pi citywide read events

Life of Pi by Yann Martel

Life of Pi directed by Ang Lee

Ishmael by Daniel Quinn

The Old Man and the Sea by Ernest Hemingway

Cloud Atlas by David Mitchell

Cloud Atlas directed by the Wachowski siblings and Tom Tykwer

No Country for Old Men by Cormac McCarthy

No Country for Old Men directed by the Coen Brothers


Dancers Among Us: A Celebration of Joy in the Everyday by Jordan Matter

Theatre is Evil by Amanda Palmer and the Grand Theft Orchestra

Sword & Laser – a SF themed book club, video show and podcast

The Film Talk

Book review: A Week in Winter

By , March 3, 2013

A Week in Winter

by Maeve Binchy

Lucky is the reader who knows where to turn when in need of comfort. Some folks turn to poetry, some seek out espionage thrillers, others find escape in worlds of fantasy, fairy tales or gentle self help books. A generation of readers have turned to the novels of Maeve Binchy for escape.

Since 1982 Maeve Binchy has comforted readers with tales of contemporary Ireland. Her characters are smart or not so smart, rich and poor, beautiful as well as not so easy on the eyes. They share the ability to pull themselves up by their boot straps and soldier onward. They run the gamut of circumstances and stations in life, but in Maeve Binchy’s world, all are equal and all are worthy of redemption.

Maeve Binchy died last July. Her last book, A Week in Winter, has just been released. It is her 17th novel and includes all the Binchy trademarks; a cast of characters gathered together in short story fashion leaving the reader just at the precipice of wanting to know more and POOF! off to the next character. All characters are finely drawn into a world of shared circumstance, in this case a vacation on the western coast of Ireland. No turmoil, not much suffering, not a dagger drawn. There are a few broken hearts, regrets, sure, but these details propel the characters to new beginnings and each draw strength from the group collected. Imagine a Hallmark Hall of Fame movie.

What there isn’t is bodice ripping sex. “There’s a huge interest in sex and writing about it very graphically,” Ms. Binchy told The Daily Mail of London in 2007. “But I am not going to do it — not because I’m a Holy Joe, far from it. Not because I’m very moral, far from that. But because I’m afraid I’ll get it wrong.” She added, “You see, I’ve never been at an orgy and I wouldn’t know where legs should be and arms should be.” That kind of honesty is very comforting. -laurie

“Being Irish, he had an abiding sense of tragedy, which sustained him through temporary periods of joy.” – W.B. Yeats

Book review: Beautiful Ruins

By , March 1, 2013

Beautiful Ruins
by Jess Walter

The Beautiful Ruins was a pick on many best of 2012 book lists, and now that I’ve experienced it I completely understand why.

Walter’s story begins on a rocky Italian coast in 1962, as an innkeeper works desperately to create a beach, the waves eroding his progress almost as fast.  Beautiful Ruins ends on that same sun-drenched Italian coastline.  What happens in between includes a look at the cut throat and shallow world of a film executive in modern day Hollywood, the tale of an American soldier in World War II, a brief visit to the 1960′s set of the film Cleopatra, some quality hang time with Richard Burton, a trip to the UK with a spoiled and washed up American rock star, and a performance with a community theater in Iowa.  The Donner party even plays a part of this story!  At times satirical, intermittently laugh out loud funny, bittersweet, and in particular quite lovesick, Walter stitches his characters’ stories together to create a beautiful, crazy quilt of a novel!

If you are able and enjoy audio books, I highly recommend listening rather than reading this one as Edoardo Ballerini‘s narration makes all the characters really come alive (we’re talking Italian, British, and American accents-all expertly performed!)  The audio also includes Jess Walter answering a few questions about the novel.  Beautiful Ruins is also available at NPL in ebook, print, and large print versions.  Walter has a new collection of stories, We Live in Water, that is currently on order so place your hold now.  Walter will be coming to Parnassus Books in May to discuss and sign his latest work.  Y’all know I’ll be there!

Off the Shelf is powered by WordPress. Panorama Theme by Themocracy