Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Let's Bring Back (2010)

Good morning!

I know you're looking at that parenthetical date up in the subject line of this blog post going "What? 2010? Is that a typo? Did she miss a '9' when she was trying to type 1902?". No, my friends, I actually have something from the twenty-first century to talk about this morning. Let's Bring Back might be my new favorite book! I finally got around to some of the titles in the summer reading list post I did earlier this summer, and this is the star of what I've gotten through thus far. The star, I say!

For starters, Lesley M.M. Blume is one of our tribe, readers. She writes a column for Huffington Post that's essentially "why don't we do this anymore" and "did you ever hear about...?" (two of my favorite interrogative statements, period). Two years ago, she distilled her wistful musings into one, pleasantly turned out volume (complete with book ribbon!), whose subtitle explains its purpose as "an encyclopedia of forgotten-yet-delightful, chic, useful, curious, and otherwise commendable things from times gone by". The gramophone and the Belle Epoque clip-art style scrolls and sparrows on the cover were a turn-off at first, but if you can get past the initial mustache-twirling art style, I promise there's plenty of stuff for us!

Equally versed in classic twenties' and thirties' Hollywood romantic comings-and-goings as in Edith Wharton, drawing room etiquette, the gal knows her oats. The book reminded me a lot of a grown-up version of Life's a Movie Starring You by Jennifer Brandt, one of the most influential texts of my middle school year. I wrote copious notes in a spiral about sixties' models and Brat pack style tips...I feel like I might have to do the same thing for some of the references that elude me in this book!

Some of the things I particularly get behind "bringing back" (all tapped from Ms. Blume's text, which you really should run out and get a copy of):

The Garden of Allah:
Formerly the private residence of silent movie star Alla Nazimova, the actress expanded the estate in the twenties to include a series of bungalows and opened it as a "hotel to the stars". My beloved Errol Flynn was a frequent flyer, as was F. Scott Fitzgerald (he wrote this postcard to himself from there, stamped, mailed and everything-- have I told you lately how much I love that man?), Charles Chaplin, Marlene Dietrich, and Dorothy Parker. It fell into decline and was bulldozed in 1959...and, according to Blume, is now the site of a strip mall. BOOOOOOOO.....

Coffeehouse Culture
And don't think about Starbucks when you hear coffeehouse...or poorly put together prose readings after school in eighth grade. I'm talking beatnik, underground culture of the late fifties' and early sixties'. Places where an impossibly young Bob Dylan might play a bunch of Woody Guthrie covers or Jack Kerouac might be drunkenly trying to pee into an ashtray. Just look at that lady Beat's eyemakeup in the representational picture I found for you guys! What is not to love?

Femme Fatales:
From the movie Morroco; not sure of the source. Look at how attractive these people were!
Batwing-eyelashed, deliciously devilish women. Where are they today? Blume mentions Louise Brooks, Rita Hayworth, Joan Bennett, and Veronica Lake to illustrate that sultry, glamorous narrative staple of Hollywood movies from the teens' to the fifties'...Dietrich in her von Sternberg period is really the archetype. Post-noir, there seems to be a dearth of cigarette smoking, dangerously "bad" seductresses. I want to be draped entirely in black satin and ostrich plumes, cheekbones like cut glass, and proving the untimely moral downfall of some handsome missionary or soldier or married man. Did femme fatales lose popularity as morality and "good vs. bad" became less of an issue in movies? I don't know, but I want 'em back!

Fruit Hats
And just Carmen Miranda in general, now that I think about it. I bought a hat with strawberries on it, not nearly this literal but very cute, last weekend at that sale out in Erin, TN. I'll have to show you if I ever get my act together and photograph it with the rest of that haul!!

There's also a wealth of words and phrases that have gone out of fashion that Blume suggests we bring back. Why don't you try on some of these for size in your everyday conversations? Here's your word bank; if you don't know 'em, look 'em up!

arriviste, bon ton, cooking with gas, dough, dungarees, floozy, frippery, hooligan, kerfuffle, luncheon, madcap, nothing to write home about, persnickety, rouge, scanties, seedy, stinko, swell, wisecracks, whippersnapper

You really should read the book; I can't bring all these things back singlehandedly!

What would you add to the list of things that should be around that aren't anymore? Which one of the four things I mentioned appeals the most to you in terms of resurrection? Read anything you couldn't put down so far this summer? Let's talk!

I'm off to finish the book (I'm only to "g"...there are so many more obscure things I need to learn about!); see you guys tomorrow!


  1. Terrific post, dear Lisa. I don't think a single days go past that I don't find myself wishing that at least one element of the past would come back in a more mainstream way (or even an obscure way).

    From elements of my own youth (yes, I sometimes get nostalgic for cassettes, VHS tapes, and scads more snail mail then we get today) to coffee clutches with friends in the morning, a much wider array of department stores, and neighbourhood that were a whole lot more neighborly, I doubt I will ever run out of things that I wish would make a big time comeback (and which I think society would benefit greatly from the return of).

    ♥ Jessica

  2. I love this book so much. I ran out and bought it as soon as it was available and did not regret it one bit. I even bought a copy of The Picnic Book and had a milk bath on Ms. Blume's recommendation.



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