Quite Continental Charm School: Day 17 – Re-read Your Classics

17/05/2013 § 1 Comment

The Quite Continental Charm School
A modern guide to creating a charmed life

Yes, Charm School marches on!
Because, really, why limit ourselves to one month a year?

Quite Continental Charm School: Day 17 -- Re-read Your ClassicsMarilyn Monroe by Edward Clark for Life Magazine, 1950

Day 17: Re-read Your Classics
While I can understand the allure of e-readers, and experience a slight tinge of device-envy when I see people pull them out on planes or the subway, I will probably always prefer the concreteness of books. Owing to my move cross-country a few years ago, my library today is definitely not as large as it would have been, had I not chosen to travel light. And on the whole, I don’t regret making that decision, but I do have moments where I remember a favorite book and simultaneously realize that I have no idea where it might be. I’m going to prefer to assume that they’re all buried at my parents’ home somewhere, but it is quite possible that they’re gone forever.

Today, I want you to meander over to your bookshelf and revisit some of your old friends. Reread those important, era-defining books that you held in your hand when you were 7 or 17 or 27. I guarantee two things: first, you’ll be instantly transported back to that point in your life. You’ll remember who gave you the book, or why you picked it up in the first place. You’ll remember how it affected you. But second, and perhaps more importantly, you’ll have the luxury of hindsight to reflect on how you’ve changed since your initial reading. You’ll notice new things you might have missed the first time around. Other things will resonate differently.

It is in repeat readings that I discover the living quality of books. I recently revisited To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee, after viewing a documentary on the author’s life. As I read, I realized that I really half-assed my way through the book in middle school. Had I left it on the shelf, checked off as “read,” I would have missed the opportunity to more fully appreciate Lee’s work as an adult. Similarly, I frequently re-read The Lover by Marguerite Duras – perhaps partially because of the slimness of the tome, but also because it is such a sparse, beautiful and exotic work. I love the way my mind fills in all that is left unsaid, and the way it makes me feel. It’s different every single time.

What books do you return to?

The Quite Continental Charm School
A modern guide to creating a charmed life

Mini March Reading List

13/03/2013 § 5 Comments

March Reading ListWPA poster dated March 25, 1941, via The Library of Congress

Inspired by the blustery lady in this charming WPA poster, I’ve picked up a few books for March that I have been meaning to read.  No promises on whether I will finish them before the month is out, but I am definitely looking forward to getting acquainted with:

In the Heart of the Sea: The Tragedy of the Whaleship Essex
by Nathaniel Philbrick

Auntie Mame by Patrick Dennis

Orlando by Virginia Woolf

Have you read any of them?  What’s currently on your nightstand for March?

“You can’t ask why, about love…”

02/07/2012 § 3 Comments

Admission: two summers ago I read Tolstoy’s Anna Karenina, and I really had to fight my way to the end.  But yet, I am captivated by this trailer of the new adaptation written by Tom Stoppard and starring Keira Knightley and Jude Law — especially the glimpses of the steeplechase!

Anna Karenina opens November 9, 2012.

About Last Night || Celebrating Tomboy Style at Rugby Ralph Lauren

08/06/2012 § Leave a comment

Last night, I was very pleased to celebrate the release of Tomboy Style by the exceptionally lovely Lizzie Garrett Mettler at the Rugby Ralph Lauren store on University Place.  It was a such a lovely party, I couldn’t help but snap a few pictures to share with you…

So great to see Lizzie on the east coast!
Was hoping to kidnap her and make her stay, but I was unsuccessful.

Loved how Rugby styled four of Lizzie’s Tomboy archetypes:
(from left) the prep, the naturalist, the sophisticate, the rebel.

With my gorgeous friend Marisa Zupan, Managing Editor at Rugby Ralph Lauren, blogger at The Significant Other, and all around awesome lady.  I’m especially loving her new bangs.

Haven’t yet picked up your copy of Tomboy Style?  What are you waiting for?

And if you are in Boston this Saturday, be sure to stop by the Rugby Ralph Lauren store on Newbury Street between 5 and 7pm to meet Lizzie and get your book signed!  Rugby is also sponsoring an awesome Tomboy Style giveaway, which you can find out about on Lizzie’s blog here
I’d wish you good luck, but you know I’m hoping to win, natch…

Travel Kit || The Louis Vuitton “100 Legendary Trunks” App

10/05/2012 § Leave a comment

I’ve long admired Louis Vuitton’s “100 Legendary Trunks” project (you can see my previous posts on the splendid book and the exhibit at Musée Carnavalet in Paris).  The book was curated by authors Pierre Léonforte and Éric Pujalet-Plaà, and is a collection of over 600 images — some from the LV archives, some taken especially for this project — of the 100 most spectacular trunks and cases created on commission by Louis Vuitton, with owners including Douglas Fairbanks, Karl Lagerfeld, Ernest Hemingway, and Damien Hirst.

If the pricetag of the tome (normally $125, but currently $86 on Amazon) has put you off from purchasing it, I have good news, if you own an iPad.  Packaged in what appears to be an exceptionally manipulable — and so very pretty! — format, you can now experience the 100 Legendary Trunks as an app!  And the best part, it’s only $19.  Head here to purchase it from iTunes.

So while the app may not offer the comforting and luxurious heft of a coffee table book, and an iPad doesn’t exactly look quite as outwardly interesting while sitting on your bookcase, granted, it is worth noting that the app means this exceptional media on the subject of travel, is now perfectly positioned to tag along on your globe trotting.  In fact, I think it’d be the perfect companion…

~*~For further Travel Kit posts, head here.~*~

Quite Continental Charm School: Day 3 – Get a Library Card

03/02/2012 § 5 Comments

The Quite Continental Charm School
A modern guide to creating a charmed life

Audrey Hepburn.

Editor’s Note: Today I am very pleased to introduce our first Charm School guest speaker!  Stephanie Madewell, the writer, designer and brilliant mind behind the exceptionally erudite blog even*cleveland, is a lady I have long admired, so you can imagine how excited I was when she accepted my request to contribute.

It is difficult to describe exactly what kind of blog even*cleveland is, which is probably why I love it so much.  Somewhat thematic in nature, Stephanie explores various topics (e.g., swans, works in miniature, Louisa May Alcott, winter) through the lenses of art, literature, photography, museum collections and fashion, connecting dots I didn’t know existed.  I find I am frequently staggered at the breadth of this lady’s knowledge about…well, pretty much everything!  Aside from that, she’s also a great source for information on cultured happenings and usually posts great music over the weekends.  If you are not yet familiar with Stephanie and even*cleveland, it is my pleasure to introduce you.

Without any further ado, Stephanie’s tip for a charmed life.


Her reputation for reading a great deal hung about her
like the cloudy envelope of a goddess in an epic.
Henry James, The Portrait of a Lady

Day 3: Get a Library Card
Since I’ve moved to New York, one of my favorite indulgences is watching people read on the train. New York subway riders are voracious readers – you see everything from tabloid skimmers to book editors correcting proofs. But there are certain readers whose whole presence speaks a story – every detail from the drape of their coat to the knot of their scarf is just right. They sit on the train in attitudes of unstudied elegance, exuding cosmopolitan appeal, and inevitably the grace note is a library book.

I don’t know quite what it is about library books – I love books in general, and the books in my own collection beyond reason – but library books speak straight to desire. They embody both canny frugality and boundless avarice. Library patrons are greedy readers, but smart – they know to try before buying. It’s an admirable quality.

I’ve been lucky to visit a few places in the world – not nearly as many as I would like – but in the absence of unlimited funds and unlimited time, it has been my great good fortune to love to read and to be born into a world with public libraries. I firmly believe no one should go through life without a library card. It is a free passport to places beyond time and imagining – everywhere from the siege-wracked walls of Troy to chill and lonely lunar landscapes. In the past year, I’ve flown with Margarita through the inky Russian sky, bivouacked with Cossacks, hunted blue tigers, watched the ominous shimmer of the desert sun, wandered the moon, and tracked netsuke across two continents.

Stepping into a bookstore is a wonderful thing, and I find owning books a necessity of life, but libraries are living, working monuments to the idea that knowledge should be free and that it belongs to everyone.They let you dip into the seething and magnificent mass of human thought and endeavor – thousands of years of thinking and writing and talking and tale-telling. It’s the easiest way to explore the world, and there’s surefire glamour in that.

by Stephanie Madewell, of even*cleveland


Find out how to get a library card in New York  here.

Taken by Alfred Eisenstaedt for LIFE, 1944.

The Quite Continental Charm School
A modern guide to creating a charmed life

The Travel Kit: The Illustrated Virago Book of Women Travellers

12/01/2012 § 2 Comments

Virago: vi-ra-go, noun
\və-ˈrä-(ˌ)gō, -ˈrā-; ˈvir-ə-ˌgō\
a woman of great stature, strength, and courage

The word comes from the Latin word vir, meaning virile ‘man,’
to which the suffix -ago is added,
a suffix that effectively re-genders the word to be female.

I recently received a copy of The Illustrated Virago Book of Women Travellers, detailing the stories of several remarkable viragoes throughout history, in their own words.  Included in the compendium are excerpts from the writings of aviatrix Beryl Markham, Out of Africa author Isak Dinesen, Middle East explorer Gertrude Bell, and aristocrat Vita Sackville-West who was the lover of Virginia Woolf and served as the inspiration for Woolf’s novel Orlando.

Perhaps a coffee table book is not what you would consider an essential part of your travel kit, but one of the most important elements of choosing my next travel destination is the inspiration that draws me to a specific part of the world: be it through art, music, literature or fashion.  My initial perusal of this lovely book has definitely lead me to consider a few unconventional destinations — a bit more off the beaten path — for my next excursion.  If you like historical accounts of adventuresome ladies in foreign lands, definitely pick this book up.

The Illustrated Virago Book of Women Travellers
Edited by Mary Morris with Larry O’Connor.
Available in paperback on Amazon here, and a few can be had on eBay here.

~*~Further QC Travel Kit posts here.~*~

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