7.30.2004

I am at a bit of a crossroads in my young life this summer about what-to-do and where-to-do-it, and as such I've really been drawn to the lives of fabulous women in the hopes of gleaning some sort of insight. Here are a few of my recent favorites:

I Put A Spell On You, the autobiography of Nina Simone (provenance: Hue-Man books). No kidding! Nina Simone was a true artist and handled some real b.s. with style and aplomb like you wouldn't believe. Classical pianist, jazz virtuoso, civil rights activist - Nina did it all, whether she was living in New York, France, Africa, or on an island in the Caribbean.

Confessions of an Art Addict by Peggy Guggenheim (provenance: birthday gift from my mother). A breezy, self-indulgent memoir by an independent woman who figured out how to live the good life (being really, really rich helps). I like Peggy because she opened Art of This Century, a v. cool gallery at the time, and then later, said the hell with it and moved to Venice.

I bought Frida at a thrift shop in Santa Cruz, and read it for quite a while. A monster of a book, this huge tome attempts to contain the genius of a woman who lived her life on her own terms, way before marrying a man twice your age while wearing borrowed clothes from your maid and smoking a cigarette was commonplace. Frida had a sad life, with some unescapable tragedies, but truth and beauty blossomed wherever she went, and her opinions of Surrealists like Andre Breton make it worth a read alone.

Jackie Oh! (provenance: the Edgartown thrift shop) was the perfect, tacky, tawdry, early summer beach read, and it taught me an important lesson about biographies and the importance of the source. Nonetheless, this trash-talkin' unauthorized bio put "biographer to the stars" Kitty Kelley on the map, and reminded me that even the most elegant, put-together women have to deal with setback and disappointment, too, and that the key is to do it with grace and move on.

DV (provenance: Second Story Books), the autobiography of legendary style maven Diana Vreeland (as told to George Plimpton), is full of bon mots and sardonic witticisms about Diana's eccentric approach to everyday life. From the woman who told her decorator that she wanted her parlor to be the perfect shade of red - "think of a a garden in hell" - comes the examined story of a life that she made truly worth living.

-Lauren

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