Heck! It’s almost time for April’s Six Degrees and I haven’t done March’s yet. (It doesn’t matter, Jan. Get your completer-finisher anxiety under control.)
March’s starting book is Naomi Wolf’s The Beauty Myth. My friend Jo at university read this book and became almost religious about it. I erroneously got the impression from Jo that the book was about makeup. I didn’t read it because a) it felt like Jo was lecturing me, and b) I like makeup, wear it when I want to, don’t wear when I don’t feel like it, choose cruelty free, don’t use skin care products unless I actually need them, and didn’t need anyone to tell me their truth on the matter (I was 19 and yes, I’ve always been an opinionated woman). I have since learned that it’s a book about body image and how the beauty industry manipulates women’s sense of self into a sense of self loathing and inadequacy to sell more product. I still don’t feel the need to read it.
I have read a book by a different Naomi that was more up my street. No Logo by Naomi Klein takes a hard look at multinational corporations and the development of consumer loyalty through the creation of desirable brands. I’m brand loyal to an extent, but my loyalty comes from the experience of reliability, comfort, quality, fair trade principles, non-exploitation of the workforce during production. I don’t see myself as an advertising hoarding for a company so am pretty logo blind. I prefer clothes without logos on them. Some of that came out of Klein’s book, but most of it is instinct. Klein focused on companies like Shell, Nike, McDonald’s and GAP and their poor record in areas of common decency. I still boycott the first three but was persuaded back to GAP in recent years because I perceived that they had changed their manufacturing process in response to consumer pressure.
This month’s meme reminds me that I have yet to read a book that my friend Dip bought for me, by the former beauty writer at The Guardian, Sali Hughes. From what I understand, Pretty Honest takes the nub of the advice from her columns and turns it into a sort of manifesto for how to wear and buy makeup and skincare products confidently without feeling like a prisoner to the beauty industry. I will get to it. I liked Hughes’s columns. It’s just that there are so many other books.
A bit of a leap from fact to fiction, and a book I have long meant to read but never got round to: Patrick Süskind’s Perfume. A man who has no scent of his own but is highly sensitive to the scents and aromas that surround him becomes an apprentice perfumier in order to learn all he can about the art. He learns how to make scents that cause people to react to him differently. He then attempts to create the perfect perfume, by macabre means.
I connect this book in my head with is Music & Silence by Rose Tremain. I loved this book when I read it, finding the mixing of fact with fiction in a magical realist pot wonderful. The setting is the 17th-century Danish Royal court, where newly arrived lute player Peter Claire observes the political machinations of the court from his position of near invisibility.
Captain Corelli isn’t a lute player, of course. As the title of the book he appears in makes clear, he plays mandolin. I reviewed this book not so long ago, despite having read it 20+ years earlier. It’s not my favourite book by Louis de Bernières.
Those are my six books. Where will yours take you?