Friday, 20 March 2009

Preliminary Thoughts on Dressing

I did finish Linda's The Thoughtful Dresser, yesterday afternoon while waiting for PB at the Cafe Royal. It is rather marvellous.

Apart from the bitching at men parts, that being the matter of an occasional swing of the handbag which, frankly, doesn't do much damage to one's skull, it does - brilliantly - something that is deeply worth doing, first by fiercely defending its corner regarding the seriousness of the project, then, by layer-by-layer, shifting ever closer to the complex, and compulsive, heart of the matter. I would go so far as to say that it is the most valuable book i have yet read about the various angles and conditions of being a woman. Not a woman-thinker, a woman-intellectual, a this-that-or-the-other special kind of woman, but a perfectly ordinary, if highly intelligent, articulate and deeply and generously educated woman, particularly one moving into her middle years. I understand far more about this now that I did before reading the book.

I don't mean by that that any of it particularly surprises me, or that an awareness of (almost) everything in the book had totally escaped me, but that the case had not become articulate as an argument in my own head. The various aspects the book presents of women and clothing had been a series of glimpses and intuitions that had not added up to a whole. That arguing through, illustrating and revealing of a whole, I think, is the achievement of the book, about which I will write more later, because there is much to write and think about and because it is important.

Not that I would expect to be warmly welcomed in the inter-female conversation, because the book is inevitably that too: that primarily. It is not addressed to men. It is an explanation and argument within a circle that, naturally enough, like all circles encloses some things and excludes others. I speak - how could I not? - from the outside, and I don't speak to those within the circle, only, as ever, to myself and anyone else who wishes to drop in and listen in or add their own observations (the essence of non-polemical blogging, as far as I can see).

When PB arrived the book was on my table and I pointed to it and enthused. So I will enthuse as well as think. But now I am in my last half hour in the hotel. In five minutes I will meet a young student at the Grey Monument and he'll take me to have a look at the legendary Morden Tower where decades of the great, famous and infamous poets have read. Then it's off to the station and the comforts of the age of the train.

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