Balzac and the Little Chinese Seamstress: A Novel
I picked this book off the shelf in the library because it had the word seamstress in the title and because it had shoes on its cover. (Yes, I choose my books by their titles and covers, don't you???) I did not know what to expect but boy! was I in for a treat. The story takes place during the Cultural Revolution in China, when the children of professionals declared "the enemies of state" were sent to remote villages for "re-education." That topic alone would have been enough to enthrall me even if the book contained no characters in it who were seamstresses. In the village, the main characters get hold of the forbidden books, befriend the Little Chinese Seamstress, the most beautiful girl on the mountain, and share their lust for books with her. Written in a beautiful poetic language, this novel is full of symbolism. The most prominent symbol here is Balzac or the book - it stands for education, broadened outlook on the world and the self, it signifies the idea of many possibilities of life. Life beyond what is. Unfortunate to protagonists, their arduous reading habit educates the Seamstress out of the village where they, on the other hand, are doomed to stay to continue their "re-education" for an indefinite period of time. Given their parents' status they might never leave. I found this irony heartbreaking. Dai Sijie perfectly conveys the injustice of the regime through personal relationships and destinies of the characters. The second important symbol is, of course, the clothes. The political uniform which enslaves the boys doomed for "re-education" in the country becomes liberating attire for the Seamstress who makes the Mao jacket fit her perfectly and wears it on her journey to the city.
The Tailor's Daughter: A Novel by Janice Graham
Yet another historic novel came my way and I could not resist the urge to read it due to the reasons stated above: the title and the cover! Written in a very Victorian style, this novel is about Veda, a tailor's daughter, who loses her hearing at age sixteen and, for the lack of any other prospects in life, takes over her fathers tailoring business. Contrary to the Balzac and the Little Chinese Seamstress, this book is rich with descriptions of Victorian clothing and clothes-making. Since that was my main interest in reading the book let me indulge and share some of my favourite quotes:
"Ever since I can remember, I have been in thrall to elegance and style. I observed things that slipped by unnoticed to everyone except my father, like a thread hanging from a buttonhole or clumsy shoulder padding. He had an eye for perfection and we could easily be swept to rapture by the suppleness of a doe-skin glove."
"Of course my primary interest was how clothing might enhance the human form, how it might hide or correct the faults of an imperfect body that is generally quite lumpy and lopsided... It was always the way fabric could be molded to the human form that intrigued me, the way a tailor could gently stretch and shape a superfine worsted under the weight of a hissing steam iron to restore a bit of youthful dignity to a slope-shouldered old man."
"After all, any dodger could cut cloth from a pattern, but a good tailor had to develop a quick eye to seize at a glance the shape of a lapel or a particularly interesting trimming on a cuff. A tailor is a judicious thief, stealing a line here and a cut there in the time it takes a man to alight from his coach.. and then he takes this memory to the cutting bench and interprets what he has seen with his own particular mark."
This is an autobiography by a founder of a fashion public relations, branding and marketing firm People's Revolution. Kelly shares her own experiences of making it in the NYC fashion scene. The book contains raw details of her life: ups, downs, success stories and a lot of advice! It is definitely an inspirational and motivational read for any woman who wishes to learn how to become successful in fashion PR (or in any other field she loves!). Figuring out who and what you are and what you love to do is step number one! Oh, and by the way there is not straight road to where you want to get to!
Kelly also has her own reality show with a witty title Kell on Earth. It gives a glimse of what it is like to run and work in a fashion PR company. Recommended for anyone thinking of a career in this field.
I will end with my personal favourite rule by Kelly Cutrone:
Normal Gets you Nowhere!