Carolyn decided.

"Carolyn decided, again with her relentless logic, that if we won the football game against Stranahan, she'd do it with Larry. We creamed them. Carolyn's face walking off the field of honor was not the usual bright cherry red from screaming her lungs out but an ashen and drawn white. Connie and I went over to her to bolster her.

From  Take Ivy  by  Teruyoshi Hayashida et al.

From Take Ivy by Teruyoshi Hayashida et al.

Then the three of us went back to the locker room to wait for our dates--all Princeton haircuts, Weejun shoes, and Gold Cup socks." (99)

Brown, Rita Mae. Rubyfruit Jungle. New York: Bantam Books, 1973.

You know exactly who these boys are.


"'Oh, I see all right, James. I see perfectly.' This time her voice was flat. She wore a sort of arty get-up of multi-coloured shirt, skirt with fringed hem and pocket, low-heeled shoes, and wooden beads. The smoke from her cigarette curled up, blue and ashy in a sunbeam, round her bare forearm.

Elaine de Kooning, 1950s. Detail from a portrait of the de Koonings by Rudy Burckhardt. In the  permanent collection  at the Guild Hall.

Elaine de Kooning, 1950s. Detail from a portrait of the de Koonings by Rudy Burckhardt. In the permanent collection at the Guild Hall.


'...What the hell do you take me for? It isn't as if you didn't know what I've had to put up with, all these last weeks. It's intolerable, absolutely intolerable. I won't stand for it. You must have known how I've been feeling.'

She went on like this while Dixon looked her in the eyes. His panic mounted in sincerity and volume. Her body moved jerkily about; her head bobbed from side to side on its rather long neck, shaking the wooden beads about on the multi-coloured shirt. He found himself thinking that the whole arty get-up seemed oddly at variance with the way she was acting. People who wore clothes of that sort oughtn't to mind things of this sort, certainly not as much as Margaret clearly minded this thing. It was surely wrong to dress, and to behave most of the time, in a way that was so un-prim when you were really so proper all of the time." (76-77)


Amis, Kingsley. Lucky Jim. London: Penguin, 1972 [1954].


You are how you dress! Or should be, anyway, right?


"The book-review editors were like kings (or queens), she always fancied, holding levees, surrounded by their courtiers, while petitioners waited eagerly in the anteroom and footmen (that is, office boys) trotted back and forth. And, like kings, they had the power of life and death in their hands.

1930s woman.jpeg

She had got to know the other reviewers or 'clients,' as the Romans would have called them, quite well by sight--middle-aged bohemian women with glasses or too much rouge and dangly earrings and worn briefcases or satchels; pimply young men in suits that looked as if they were made of paper. And their shoes! Half-soled and with broken laces tied in frayed knots; it broke Libby's heart to study their shoes and the red, raw ankles emerging from cheap imitation-lisle socks." (246-247)

McCarthy, Mary. The Company She Keeps. New York: Houghton Mifflin, 2002 [1942].

Can you imagine--imitation lisle! The nerve. Think of the products that were available in the 1930s and their social implications that may not mean anything today.

How would these down-at-the-heels reviewers be dressed today? Interesting in light of the previous post on ACM citing the New Yorker's conversation about officewear.

**PS: speaking of reviewing books, check out my newest review on Worn Through here!

Yellow Laces

"Jag virade halsduken om halsen och knäppte den blå lotsjackan som jag köpte på rea förra våren på Paul Smith i Stockholm, drog på mig mössan från samma ställe, böjde mig ner över högen av skodon i hörnet, hittade mina, ett par svarta Wranglerskor med gula snören som jag hade köpt i Köpenhamn när jag var på bokmässan där, och aldrig hade gillat, inte ens när jag köpte dem, och som nu dessutom hade fått en missfärgning av tanken på hur katastrofalt dåligt det hade gått för mig där, helt oförmögen att svara intelligent på en enda av all frågor som den entusiastiska och insiktsfulla intervjuaren ställde till mig på scenen. Att jag inte för länge sedan hade slängt dem berodde uteslutande på att vi hade så ont om pengar. Och så gula snören!" (92)

I wrapped the scarf around my neck and buttoned the blue peacoat I bought on sale last spring at Paul Smith in Stockholm, pulled on the hat from the same, bent over the pile of shoes in the corner, found mine, a pair of black Wrangler shoes with yellow laces that I had bought in Copenhagen when I was at the book fair there, and had never liked, not even when I bought them, and which furthermore had been colored by the thought of how catastrophically badly it went for me there, totally unprepared to answer intelligently even one of the questions the enthusiastic and insightful interviewers asked on stage. That I hadn't thrown them away ages ago depended completely on how short we were on money. And those yellow laces!°


Knausgaard, Karl Ove. Min kamp 2. Stockholm: Pocketförlag/excess*, 2009.


A shoelace is never just a shoelace. Or is it?


°my translation of the Swedish translation from the Norwegian. See another here.

Gazing Everywhere

"Find a little yellow side street house. Put an older woman in it. Dress her in that tatty favorite robe, pull her slippers up before the sink, have her doing dishes, gazing nowhere--at her own backyard. Gazing everywhere.

From Life Magazine.

From Life Magazine.

Something falls outside, and loud. One damp thwunk into new grass. A meteor? She herself (retired from selling formal clothes at Wanamaker's, she herself a widow and the mother of three scattered sons, she herself alone at home a lot these days), goes onto tiptoe, leans across a sinkful of suds, sees out near her picnic table--something nude, white, overly long. It keeps shivering. Both wings seem damaged." (36)

Gurganus, Allan. "It Had Wings" Harper's Magazine, February 1986. Originally published in the Paris Review, Winter 1985. Also found here.


Her current self: a robe, former self: formal clothes. Contrast! Also, parentheses.