Three models in candy-colored dresses, shot by Cecil Beaton (1948)Inspired by the fashion Summer Resort Collections, Style is recommending these fascinating reads to take on vacation or place on your night table for some scrumptious, sometimes dishy material.
The Unexpurgated Beaton: The Cecil Beaton Diaries as He Wrote Them, 1970-1980, Cecil Beaton (Knopf, $35) - photo above. Beaton's coolly flawless portraits might have been the spark for Erin Fetherston's tableaux vivants installed at Van Cleef & Arpels. Ripe with gossip of the bon ton, whom he so ardently courted, are Beaton's own notoriously catty, and evergreen, diaries.
Girls Like Us: Carole King, Joni Mitchell, Carly Simon—and the Journey of a Generation, Sheila Weller (Atria, $27.95). Though he is ever the forward thinker, Karl Lagerfeld plumbed the Me Decade for both Fendi (wide-leg trousers and suede vests) and Chanel (Brian Jones hairdos, light-wash bell-bottoms). Meanwhile, flea market devotee Anna Sui dug into the bohemia of the late sixties for her mad Resort mix of psychedelic prints. The perfect soundtrack for all of the above comes from the three singer-songwriters profiled in Sheila Weller's compulsively readable new book, Girls Like Us. Weller chronicles both the early feminist movement and more salacious subjects, like Simon's involvement with Cat Stevens, Kris Kristofferson, Jack Nicholson, Warren Beatty, and Mick Jagger in the year "You're So Vain" hit big. Carly Simon in New York, 1971.
The Enchantress of Florence, Salman Rushdie (Knopf Canada, $26). Florence was a bit off the beaten path for womenswear, but Diane von Furstenberg still chose the Tuscan capital, where her wrap dress was born, to hold her show. It put us into a Medici state of mind—which got us thinking about the latest offering from Salman Rushdie. On the short list for the Man Booker Prize, The Enchantress wends its way from Renaissance Italy to the court of Mughal emperor Akbar, and with its fantastical-historical blend of romance and globe-trotting exotica, it just might be 2008's perfect beach read.
Photo: Courtesy of Knopf Canada.
The Alexandria Quartet, Lawrence Durrell (Faber and Faber, $14). Gilt-trimmed gowns for latter-day Cleopatras—you know, like J. Lo and Sienna—were on order at Marchesa. Fast-forward a couple millennia and Egypt has lost none of its allure…as proven by Lawrence Durrell's much-loved tetralogy. The four books (Justine, Balthazar, Mountolive, and Clea) detail interlocking accounts of a love affair, and Durrell so vividly conjures the North African metropolis circa the 1940's that your body might be plodding along the L.I.E. on the Hampton Jitney, but your spirit will be soaring to the souk.
Photo: Courtesy of Faber and Faber.
Snuff, Chuck Palahniuk (Doubleday, $24.95). Both Donna Karan and Phi's Andreas Melbostad had bedroom eyes this season. Karan showed a boudoir-ish pink marabou coat that just begged for fluffy mules, while Melbostad played peekaboo with black lace. Fashion may usually take a wink-nudge approach to naughty kinks and proclivities, but Chuck Palahniuk's new book faces the sex subject head-on. The Fight Club author's latest protagonist is a so-called porn priestess whose aim is to cap off her career (and perhaps her life, thus the title) by having sex with 600 men in one day. Shocking and twisted? Maybe, but at least you'll have read the thing by the time Brad Pitt gets cast as Mr. 72 in the film version.
Photo: Courtesy of Doubleday.
Wide Sargasso Sea, Jean Rhys (W. W. Norton, $13.95). When Alber Elbaz showed Lanvin's exquisitely off-kilter take on the fifties, he set it against a postcard backdrop of sun, sand, and flora that said "tropical" with a capital T. While fashion loves a good strong juxtaposition, there's also something to be said about coordination—i.e., reading a book set in the Caribbean while you're vacationing there. Jean Rhys' haunting novel isn't exactly a sunshiny read, however: It takes place in Dominica and Jamaica and imagines the early life of the madwoman in the attic in Jane Eyre. At a mere 125 pages, it's the perfect little addition to your beach tote.
Photo: Courtesy of W. W. Norton.