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CURRENT READING: THE OBSCENE BIRD OF NIGHT: JOSE DONOSO

Jose Donoso's " The Obscene Bird Of Night"Jose Donoso's " The Obscene Bird Of Night"

I was recently chastised by an acquaintance who told me that my idea of "beauty" was very banal. He suggested I read this Jose Donoso novel as a corrective. Considered a masterpiece of Chilean literature "The Obscene Bird Of Night" tells the story of a certain Humberto Penaloza who ends up being secretary to a very wealthy politician. The politician's wife, thought to be sterile, mysteriously bears a child. This long awaited heir to an empire turns out to be hideously deformed. To shelter this privileged but grotesque child from the truth, the family decides to create a world of fellow "freaks" around this child. This is a world where deformities are the norm not the exception and in an ironic twist, the very "normal" Humberto Penaloza ends up being the oddity and freak in this strange shadow society.
"Gee," I said to my very judgmental acquaintance, "sounds like the theme of an Alexander McQueen show."

BLESS: CELEBRATING 10 Years of Themelessness: Sternberg Press

Bless Celebrates 10 years of Themelessness and that's inspiring!Bless Celebrates 10 years of Themelessness and that's inspiring!

I can't call it "Current Reading" because I just finished ordering it 30 seconds ago, but I can't wait for this retrospective of this Paris and Berlin based design team. Bless first surfaced on the fashion radar in the winter of 97/98 when Margiela used some of their wigs for the show. Since then the trajectory of the Bless team has been a blur. Though what they do seems to be defiantly anti-commercial, it has also proven to be very influential and incredibly rewarding (even in the financial area). Bless slides from fashion to beauty, interior decoration to art exhibition, to collaborations with other brands to stylized advertising. I love that and find the ideas from Desiree Heiss and Ines Kaag to be a big influence on the multi-disciplinary way I've been forced to think these days.

Edited by Desiree Heiss, Ines Kaag, Manuel Raeder.

With contributions by Thimo te Duits, Elein Fleiss, Nakako Hayashi, Stéphanie Moisdon, Ulf Poschardt, Pro qm, Adriano Sack, Barbara Steiner, Olivier Zahm

Interviews by Manuel Raeder with Nobuyoshi Tamura Shihan and by Jan Winkelmann with Bless.

CURRENT READING:MEMOIRS DUC DE SAINT-SIMON:PRION

The Memoirs of Duc de Saint Simon takes places in the hot-bed of intrigue which was the French 17th century court.The Memoirs of Duc de Saint Simon takes places in the hot-bed of intrigue which was the French 17th century court.

They say it is a seminal influence on Proust's "Remembrance Of Things Past". They say you'll have to wade through pages upon pages of tedious reportage about 17th century French military campaigns to get to the yummy gossip about life in Louis the XIV's court. The duke is accused of being frequently long-winded and terribly ungrammatical in his sentence structures (sigh). But the soap opera of the machinations and power struggles and the aura of a certain era dwindling into the twilight of myth.... It' s a hot read!

CURRENT READING: Grafiske Historier: Lilly Dillon

Rie Rasmussen's beautiful new book is too chic and way gorgeousRie Rasmussen's beautiful new book is too chic and way gorgeous

Ladies and gentlemen, a world premiere. Lily Dillon a/k/a Rie Rasmussen has issued a beautiful book of her drawings and photographs where she works out a fascinating duality between being the object and the object maker. Last time I saw Rie she had been laying the book out in her Soho loft , with a grid of images arrayed all over its walls. How thrilled I was to see the physical book sitting on a desk at 1 Mgmt when I popped in to say hello to Scotty Lipps. In addition to the book Rie is also wrapping up post-production on her first feature film. Dear God, the life force in that woman. Its epic !

CURRENT READING: RAYMOND LOEWY: NEVER LEAVE WELL ENOUGH ALONE

Raymond Loewy's legendary design for  the Shell Oil Company:1967Raymond Loewy's legendary design for the Shell Oil Company:1967

Did you know the father of industrial design was French? The things you can discover on an Air France flight! But Raymond Loewy has an excellent case for the audacious claim, given his design for everything from Lucky Strike cigarettes to the Shell Oil Company logo to the Air France signage.

TI is influenced by his MAYA principile (Most Advanced Yet Acceptable) principle referenced in the lead quote which proves this visual genius also had an arsenal of literary dexterity to boost his skill set. Loewy's book (sadly out of print but begging to be reissued) is a great example of that dry Gallic wit which I'm learning to love this week.

raymondloewy.com does a champion job of chronicling the oevure, but the book with that "lipstick to locomotives" blurb! I would have given a left pinky to have come up with that zinger! All hail!

CURRENT READING: The Man Without Qualities Vol. 1: A Sort of Introduction and Pseudo Reality Prevails: Robert Musil

The Man Without Qualities: Volume 1): Robert MusilThe Man Without Qualities: Volume 1): Robert Musil

"In the realm of the aesthetic . . . even imperfection and lack of completion have their value."
—Robert Musil, “Address at the Memorial Service for Rilke in Berlin” (1927)

Prepping for a burst of travel which means digging into a good book. The reason why Robert Musil's "The Man Without Qualities" feels like perfect reading right now is because this Austrian novelist proves it's possible to craft prose that is very erudite and very funny at the same time. The wry way it looks at the declining aristrocratic culture of Vienna in 1913 has brought many a comparison to Proust's "A la recherche du temps perdu". The contemporary application of this masterpiece is in the wise things Musil has to say about living in a society on a moral, cultural and political precipice. From one fin de siecle era to another, this book has an eerie sense of prescience. Known to be a literary perfectionist, due to his obsessive rewriting, Musil never really finished the two volumes that make up "The Man Without Qualities" but the fact that the work still proved to be so potent is what is very inspiring to me right now.

CURRENT READING: THE FOURTH SEX: Adolescent Extremes: CHARTA

The Fourth Sex: Charta is legendary.The Fourth Sex: Charta is legendary.

Simply put, this is THE most perfect book ever on the influence of teenaged culture on the world of fashion and style. No fashion reference library is complete without it and TI is convinced that once it's out of print, this book will be a serious collector's item. I can't top the perfection of the publisher's description, which I'm going to excerpt here:

CURRENT READING: Adolf Loos: Works and Projects: Skira

Adolf Loos: Works And Projects: SkiraAdolf Loos: Works And Projects: Skira

Apart from his immortal declaration that "ornament is a crime", Viennese architect, Adolf Loos' work is not on the forefront of most people's mind these days . But this new monograph from Skira, which documents his revolutionary houses as well as their surprisingly seductive interiors is very inspirational for TI right this minute . Yes Loos scraped away all those Art Nouveau and Belle Epoque curves and swirls and swoops to replace them with a hard and sharp rectalinear ideal. But the way he used the lushness of marble and the organic tones derived from wood makes his work a case study in how to build something that feels modern and disciplined, as well as opulent and lush. The way in which the houses are photographed by Phillipe Ruault with a rigorous clarity shows a level of consideration and respect that is not always present in architectual monographs. "Works and Projects" is easy for a layman to browse, but technical enough for a architect or interior designer to find great inspiration in its pages. This book is a genius must-buy. You could design a whole fleet of luxury stores based on that Loos aesthetic, no?

CURRENT READING: JOHN FOWLER: PRINCE OF DECORATORS:MARTIN WOOD

John Fowler: Prince Of Decorators: Martin WoodJohn Fowler: Prince Of Decorators: Martin Wood

It is said that legendary English decorator John Fowler was so fastidious in his standards that he had a wall painted 17 times in different layers of paint, and then sanded and repainted to achieve a certain "alabaster-gloss" effect. It's a fantasy of mine to one day have such a wall (if not such a decorator). In the meantime TI will make do with Martin Wood's long awaited book on the life and the decorating style of one of the founders of the Colefax and Fowler design firm. It is no surprise to find out that Fowler climbed his way up from working as a painter for Thorton Smith to being the veritable inventor of the "English Country House Style", a style often imitated but never duplicated by generations of followers.

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