Paris. Los Angeles. New York. All in the running for the world’s fashion capital, and the settings of our stylish selections this month.
‘The Age of Light’ by Whitney Scharer
Beautiful Lee, a Vogue model, moves to Paris, not to continue her modeling career but hopefully to begin her photography one. She lucks into a meeting with another American expat, Man, and cajoles her way into a job as his studio assistant, then as his student, and finally his lover and muse in Whitney Scharer’s debut novel, “The Age of Light.” Though presented as fiction (and it’s a steamy page-turner), Lee is actually Lee Miller, and Man is famed surrealist Man Ray, and the art they each create, as well as their haunts and hauntings, are very real and easily found online as a visual accompaniment as you read. Lee is talented, smart and beautiful but also struggles with some very powerful demons. Immersing yourself in this novel will evoke bohemian Paris so strongly you’ll be craving a glass of Lillet yourself before you finish.
‘The Castle on Sunset’ by Shawn Levy
Los Angeles’ Chateau Marmont is familiar to the casual movie buff and to the avid reader of tabloids, but never has so much drama been collected in one place like Shawn Levy’s “The Castle on Sunset.” Built around the same time Lee Miller was heading to Paris, the Chateau Marmont was Fred Horowitz’s attempt to bring European glamour to a then-untamed stretch of Hollywood. But Horowitz wasn’t an experienced hotelier, and budget overruns caused the building to be glamorous on the outside, tacky and mismatched on the inside.
But the privacy was what the stars craved, and from the beginning, silent films stars were living lives of divine decadence, largely unobserved by the outside world. Through the years, the names change from Jean Harlow to James Dean to John Belushi to Lindsay Lohan, but their scandals, their lurid affairs and their art all make a temporary home on the Sunset Strip.
‘The Editor’ by Steven Rowley
Is Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis the most fashionable woman in American history? We could certainly make a case for that, but after her time as the first lady and then as the richest woman in the world, she became a most un-glamorous book editor (no offense to book editors). In Steven Rowley’s “The Editor,” the follow-up to his best-selling debut “Lily and the Octopus,” we meet James, who is writing his first novel when it gets picked up by a publishing house and assigned to Mrs. Onassis. On top of his writing struggles, James is on the outs with his mother, and his boyfriend is growing resentful of the time he’s spending on his work. Jackie oversees his manuscript and gently begins to edit James’ life as well, encouraging him to go to his upstate New York home for Thanksgiving. James is shook (and the reader will be, too) by what comes out around the dinner table. Mix yourself a daiquiri, Jackie’s drink of choice, to accompany you on this one.
Jamie L. Watson is a collection development manager with Baltimore County Public Library.