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Friday, January 6, 2006

Props to ‘Prada’

Posted by on January 6 at 11:15 AM

Over the holidays I actually managed to find time to finish a couple good books. Still Live With June is a quick read by Darren Greer about a gay fiction writer who mines stories from the lives of “losers” at the Salvation Army treatment center where he works for ideas. It’s nothing earth shaking but is a fun study of writing about the process of writing without getting pretentious about the subject—I’m so tired of authors who make you hyper aware that they’re writing a novel; just give me the story already and skip the intellectual masturbation. I really flew through The Devil Wears Prada, though, a “fictionalized account” of working at Vogue, which here is thinly disguised as Runway magazine. Author Lauren Weisberger writes about slaving as an assistant to a crazy bitch editor at the world’s most prominent fashion magazine. This is a world where designers send clothing worth the down payment on a new home to Runway’s queen bee for free; where getting the wrong latte or eating lunch at your desk can get you fired. Weisberger stirred up a lot of shit when the book first came out, as it became clear very quickly that she was describing Vogue’s Anna Wintour—who the author worked for as an assistant before writing this book. I’m sure tongues will wag all over again when Prada becomes a movie (check out this Radar item about Wintour attempting to control participation in the movie). Having worked at glossy pop culture magazines nowhere near the prestige of Runway/Vogue but with every bit of the insane prima donna boss running things, I loved Weisberger’s depictions of getting lured into a world spiked with superficial rewards that simultaneously saps your soul at an alarming rate. If you love Vogue, the high stakes fashion/print world, or just reading a really juicy, gossipy novel, grab a copy of Prada for yourself.

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I really enjoyed reading the book and trying to figure out what crazy shit was mined from her actual experience, but you should warn slog readers that the book is terrible! It's actually very badly written, which makes the fact that the main character's chief objective is to be a famous writer for the New Yorker incredibly ming fuckey. She's whiney, and by the end you almost feel no sympathy for her. The subplots are ridiculous (Monday: my best friend is awesome! Saturday: my best friend is a drunk in need of intervention! Following Wednesday: Everything is better-- whew!).

But it is indeed a quick, fun read and her descriptions of the clothes are great. It also makes me want to work at Vogue for a few weeks just so I could get ONE pair of alligator skin something to call my own.

I can see how the book could come off that way, but I didn't find her whiny at all...and I liked the sub plots a lot. Maybe it's been I could unfortunately identify with shit like putting your job over your relationship and dealing with friends who have really bad drinking problems. There was a Prince Charming element that pushed things too over the edge but otherwise her writing felt mostly realistic to me...not that I've worked at Vogue, of course, but I have worked for a magazine publisher who made people cry and would scream and yell and tell people how fucking stupid they were if they dared to go against his opinion..and I stuck things out at that job for two years because I loved working at a magazine. Like the narrator I wanted so badly to tell that boss to fuck off--but I just quit, burned a pile of the magazines, and got better jobs with better bosses. Although you're right about the free stuff; I would love to have the clothing the narrator could give a shit about in the book. I'll have to go with knockoffs/vintage stores for the rest of my life I think.

I agree, I thought it was compelling the way she documented the increasing distance between her family and her boyfriend, and I suspect that there was an element of truth in that also.

And I'm glad to hear that you made it out of the glossy abyss! (here's hoping that it paid off)

Thanks..and yeah, I think it did.

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