November 30, 2009

The Allure of Chanel

When I asked a friend if she had heard of the book, The Allure of Chanel, she said, "these books are all the same...there is a limited amount of material and I think that they are paid for by the Chanel Inc. Essentially, Coco Chanel was chic, she invented style, her perfumes are great, and she was a Nazi collaborator. End of story." This somewhat reductionist summary of her life is in many ways contradicted by this book, a little gem written by diplomat, writer and friend of Proust, Paul Morand . As Morand states, he was only the collaborator on the book: "nothing was written by me; it was all a ghost, but a ghost who, from beyond the grave, kept up a frantic gallop, her normal pace." Chanel invited Morand to St. Moritz after the Second World War with the intention that he write her memoirs, notes were taken of their conversations but never published until after her death in 1971. I have never read about a more volatile, contradictory, opinionated and brilliantly insufferable woman. This book is not for the coffee table, but a lovely little holiday gift for the "Chanelophile" in your life.

My favorite Mademoiselle quotes:

Extravagance (in dress) kills the personality.

Beauty treatments should begin with the heart and soul, otherwise cosmetics are pointless.

Money adds to the decorative pleasures of life, but it’s not life.

Very beautiful jewelry makes me think of wrinkles, of flaccid skin, of rich old ladies, of knobbly fingers, of death, of wills, of lawyers, of undertakers.

The men I have been brutal with have immediately become very sweet.

I am a good person, provided that I am not told that I am one, for that bores me stiff and irritates me.

Available for $19.95 and on amazon for even less.


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