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Some Like it Haute

February 23, 2006

Some like it steamy, some like it romantic, and some just like it haute.

This is the review of two different products of media. Actually it's two very different reviews, and please hang with me for both.

Some Like it Haute

To preview, a summary of Some Like It Haute, the novel by Julie Dam.

Alex is the type of girl who manages to make it through everything out of luck, maybe some talent, but little else. She is surrounded by the finest things in life, without appreciation for the little things. And we hate her ... yet we still want to be in her place, in her shoes.

And a summary of Some Like it Haute, the blog by Alex Simons.

We also still hate [Alex], with brand new every day pictures of Prada and other designer shoes. [But] we love [the blogger] for knowing so well the insight to our souls. Finally! Another person who gets it---and she explains it so well. It's very well written...

A novel by Julie Dam, called Some Like It Haute, was released today. The book tells the story of Alex Simons, a former-awkward Texan just trying to make it in the fashion world as a writer for the famous British Weekly. Of course, she's also trying to hide her old self in her expensive-designer-clad new exterior. She has lost any sense of all identity amid the Manolos, Chanel, and the snobbitude that follows her barely-afforded new lifestyle. Alex is living a lie, and suffers for it.

The whole plot is a fantasy that I found hard to stomach while reading. - Example: In grade school, Alex had a sexy French teacher, whom she meets in Paris, as he's now working in a department store. All believable by stretch (I find the class-wide school girl crushes ingenuine and a bit disagreeable to my psyche's sensitive palette) but then there's this obstacle: he is finely dressed himself, it's mentioned that as a teacher, he only wore custom designed shoes. - Yes, Monsieur Jacques is out of wack with the reality I know.

Then there's the love interest. I couldn't get into Nick, for the fact that he's the typical hot guy every woman wants. (Well, in the story they want him, and we're all supposed to want him.) I prefer my characters human and imperfect (can't you tell, already?). The story gets a lot pop culture from there, when we learn Nick is on a reality show. - Do I like that twist? Think it's a clever use of the au courant to reach us better? - Well, it's a little tongue-in-chic hilarious that the story is partly set on a reality show, the type of show we know has little reality, when this book is much the same.

As for the writing, it's light and typical, fine for technical fact-telling, but lacks style and creative device in its flow. Still, it is not an easy read for even a common fashionista. To quote my article on Fashionistas Poor Portrayal in the Media (which picking this book up greatly inspired), "I find myself not even able to grasp the long list of designer garments in these novels (blogs fare better for the pictures)." Blogs and magazines do fare better, for fashion is a visual medium, in its entirety. I so believe that argument strongly. For one to describe such things in a novel, I'd expect only a masterful, highly crafted, literary genius to pull off the nuances of every flourish and cut of a dress---and keep the momentum for an entire novel. Even stating big or IT designer names, like Balenciaga, cannot give the perfect image to everybody, not one person can understand and visualize everything in the book. In fact, such listing can give readers the feeling of being excluded and missing out.

What needs to be done for fashion novels, and I haven't yet seen it -- is all (okay, most) of the apparel and accessories need to be fiction. At least the writer cannot assume anything, since when are authors allowed to?! The writer must describe as one does in any genre of storytelling. - Eager style experts who can construct great sentences think they can write great books in this typical way, but it always fails.

Therefore, I don't put blame on author Julie Dam for her efforts, and I plead that she not be upset that I'm giving an honest, unbiased review. I ideally want to be more journalistic and therefore cannot morally be swayed by complimentary advanced copies or knowing she is in the fashion blogosphere with me. To be a journalist, I cannot be afraid. But now I digress.

In the end, I didn't get what I wanted from the story. There was a happy ending. - Yes, I didn't want that. - I wanted some huge enlightenment, even perhaps with a drastic change of life. Yes, even a sadder (not so, possibly, with light chick lit, but) imperfect closure. I would also want some sense of humble humor about the plot, itself, so readers can be more than entertained, even while truly enjoying the light-heartedness and style talk.

The moral I did get is that Alex is the type of girl who manages to make it through everything out of luck, maybe some talent, but little else. With what should be a budget, she instead has it all, and buys any of the rest of it she wants (two links to pages of the book on Amazon). She is surrounded by the finest things in life, without appreciation for the little things. And we hate her ... yet we still want to be in her place, in her shoes, in her wardrobe and her access to luxuries. Yet with our own personalities to do the gifts justice.

Some will still love this book for that fantasy, and in fantasizing, we do often leave behind the practical world. It is fine to enjoy this book, this is really one opinion.

On a brighter side, the blog! ...

The blog, Some Like it Haute, is a fun, purposefully tongue-in-chic, journal of the confessions of the Shoeaholic, Alex (ghost written by Julie Dam). In this blog, we see the human side of the shopaholic, and witty "admissions" of the faults this infliction causes. We can even see ourselves in this blog, and can relate to the muses on fashion and shoes. We also still hate her, with brand new every day pictures of Prada and other designer shoes, and the ease with which she plops down thousands for a trendy Louis Vuitton. But it's entertainment, remember, and we hate the persona while loving the author. We love her for knowing so well the insight to our souls, we love her for understanding true handbag lust. Finally! Another person who gets it---and she explains it so well. We know she lives this, herself.

Yes, the blog is the opposite of the book. It's very well written; actually one of the best in the fashion community. Don't let the fact that it's based on a character scare you off, it's a great read.

Julie, if blogging is good enough in your eyes, I say make it a job, milk an income out of it, because you belong here!

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posted by David Wadler
2/24/06

Just finished reading your analysis and I think you've rather missed the point. Some Like It Haute, the book, while often mentioned in the same breath as The Devil Wears Prada, is a fundamentally different treatment of the fashion world. It's not catty or revelatory, but rather a spoof. In fact, the more apt analogy would be to say that it reads more like Zoolander from a woman's perspectives. Archetypes aren't so much skewered as they are feted with tongue in cheek. And in a spoof, the implausible is de rigueur and the ridiculous is sublime. Reading Some Like It Haute and expecting the profound ("I wanted some huge enlightenment, even perhaps with a drastic change of life.") is akin to drinking milk while expecting orange juice -- it's just not going to go down right.


posted by Designer Ella
2/25/06

Why can't I want that? I don't want shallow people to get away with it in the end and remain the same way. I want a spoof to jump out as a spoof right along, and I want the spoofed to be put down. How can it be a spoof if there's no lesson?

Thank you for your perspective and comment.


posted by Miss Cinnamon
5/14/06

I finally read the book.. it was terrible.


posted by Anonymous
1/29/12

The author of the first comment forgot to mention that he is Julie Dam's husband. Oy veh... (I thought the book was terrible, too.)



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