It’s Oscar season and I’m a huge movie fan. I love watching the stars strike their poses on the red carpet, twirl for the camera, rattle off which designer they’re wearing. I can generally pick out a Chanel or Vera Wang, a Ralph Lauren or a Givenchy. Many actors have their own stylists, someone who makes sure the final look fits their persona.
In my single days, I spent pretty much my whole paycheck on my wardrobe. I had a style, too. My friend Chuck called it “crisp.” Tailored suits, starched blouses, straight linen dresses with gold or pearl buttons. All the right accessories. Now, when I write, I’m usually wearing comfy cotton two-piece pjs that are far from crisp.
So when W magazine arrives in the mail, I usually put it right in the recycling bin. But this time, maybe in anticipation of Oscar night, I flipped through the pages of elegant movie stars draped in designer duds. Nicole Kidman, Scarlett Johansson, Kate Winslet, Emma Watson, each with their own distinct style. The designers all have different styles as well. Length, cut, fabric, texture all play a part.
I don’t watch too much television anymore, but one of my favorite shows is Ugly Betty. (Yes, I know, it’s been canceled—wah!!) The writing is clever, biting, and always hilarious. On last week’s episode, Betty was accused of not having style. Betty, mind you, of the garish drop-B necklace, paisley and striped combos, purple stockings. It might not be what the powers at Mode Magazine call style, but she has her own.
Writers also have style. Recently I’ve become more aware than ever of how different those styles can be. It’s March 1 and so far this year I’ve read nine books (well, eight novels and one screenplay). Probably not as many as our read-a-holic Elizabeth, but a good number. I looked back at the list and what strikes me about the books is that they all are so different. In genre, length, subject matter, voice, but mostly style.
But what exactly is style? I'll use two of my favorites as examples. Their styles couldn’t be more different. Paula Spencer by Roddy Doyle and The Forgotten Garden by Kate Morton. Paula Spencer was spare (288 pages) and cutting, reminiscent of Frank McCourt’s Angela’s Ashes. Prose drawn with clean lines, dialogue sharp and fiercely direct. Think Valentino.
The Forgotten Garden was dense (560 pages), elegant and flowery, with a deeply-woven and twisted plot, more along the lines of her first novel, the also brilliant House at Riverton, and one of my other favorites, The Shell Seekers by Rosamunde Pilcher. Think designer Aidan Mattox.
Fashion critics as well as literary agents and editors say taste is subjective. So is it possible to love Paula Spencer for its clean lines and adore The Forgotten Garden for its layers? Of course. I loved them both. And I like Christian Louboutin and Mimi’s favorite, Jimmy Choo.
Happy shopping and reading. And oh, don’t forget to tune into the Academy Awards next Sunday night!