Eric Jerome Dickey revisits Xmas; style maven Cintra Wilson reads fashion
Naughtier than Nice by Eric Jerome Dickey (Dutton 2015) $25.95; 357 pp.
There’s a secret inside you, one you’ve been keeping far too long and you’re about to burst. You need to talk about it. You need some advice, some perspective. And in Eric Jerome Dickey’s Naughtier than Nice, if you don’t talk about this issue soon, it could be the death of you.
Last Christmas Eve had been a memorable one for Frankie McBroom, for the wrong reasons: that was the day she spent thinking about how to cancel her wedding to Franklin Carruthers. He’d been her soul mate, her one-and-only… until she discovered that he was a married man.
As the eldest McBroom sister, Frankie felt as though she needed to set an example and she fought hard to forget Franklin. She wished her relationship with him had been like what youngest sister Tommie had with her Blue. Or like what middle sister Livvy had with Tony. But no, Frankie had something else altogether.
Tommie McBroom felt bad that she was cheating on her fiancé. Down deep, she loved Blue but he’d betrayed her: he knew how much she wanted a family and yet he’d had surgery to prevent it, which proved that he didn’t care about her. Beale Streets, on the other hand, listened to her. Yes, Beale was a few years younger than Tommie, but that didn’t matter when they were making love.
The delicate chain surrounding Livvy McBroom-Barrera’s ankle spoke to Livvy of different times, of days when she and Tony were estranged and she first slept with a woman. The charm on the chain reminded her of things she learned, and lovers who disappeared from her life so suddenly. She thought of them often — especially when she and Tony brought another woman to their bed.
It was hard to believe that a year had gone by since Frankie caught Franklin in a lie. So much had happened since last Christmas, so much that wasn’t discussed. Tommie’s life was taking a turn. Livvy’s life seemed to be going backwards. And Frankie? She was dealing with a blown-up phone, an acid-ruined car, bricks through her windows, belongings rearranged in her home. Frankie was dealing with a stalker.
So you like a little spice with your Christmas nog? Or maybe some extra pepper in your peppermints? Then Naughtier than Nice will make you very jolly. In this sorta-sequel (to Dickey’s 2004 Naughty and Nice), Dickey made a list of everything you want in a holiday drama — cheating, scandalous pasts, sex, murder and light humor — and it’s obviously checked twice to add even more of the above. Although this book can be read as a stand-alone, readers then get to revisit some of Dickey’s best characters from other novels. His usual themes are mashed-up, and there’s a very nice gotcha or three scattered throughout this book.
That, and the fast-moving action, made me ho-ho-ho for this not-so-holiday holiday book and Dickey fans old and new will love it. Just beware: start Naughtier than Nice and you’ll just have to tell somebody.
Fear and Clothing: Unbuckling American Style by Cintra Wilson (W.W. Norton 2015) $27.95; 336 pp.
Jackie O loved her pearls. Mary Quant made a teeny-weeny mini, perfect for the twiggy body of Twiggy. Kate Moss was waifish, Joan Collins pushed our shoulders out to there, and JLo and Nikki push the envelope every chance they get.
So what’s your style? Dress up, dress down or, as Cintra Wilson says in Fear and Clothing, is fashion dictated by where you live?
Oh, what to wear, what to wear? Deciding, says Wilson, is a little like “portable feng-shui, right on your body.” Clothes cover, costume, decorate, indicate personality, point at politics, and they speak volumes to fashion-watchers and journalists like Wilson, a freelance fashion critic for the New York Times whose work and an “absorbing curiosity” take her from runway to retail stores.
For this book, she traveled to places around the U.S. — both familiar and new to her — to report about style in various “belts.”
In San Francisco, “The Macramé Belt” where Wilson grew up, she notes that the city is “one of the few places… where a person really can create a fantasy avatar… and live in that costume full-time…” People come to San Francisco, she says, to “change the sex of their clothes, or to change their sex altogether.”
In “The Beltway” of Washington, D.C., she noted that conservatism in dress for both men and women is almost mandatory in power-circles. In Utah (“The Chastity Belt”), she attended a major, star-filled film festival, an experience that clashed with observations of the women from the Yearning for Zion ranch.
In “The Frost Belt” (Wyoming), she fell in love with Western wear. In Miami (“The Sand Belt”), she noticed that naked equals fashion-forward. She went high-power shopping in “The Star Belt” of Los Angeles, high-hatted in “The Bourbon Belt” of Kentucky, high-brow in “The Futility Belt” of Brooklyn, and she noted “markedly different” body types in “The Butter Belt” of Iowa.
No matter where you live, Wilson says, your closet should be filled with things that are an “expression of who you really are.” Fashion should be a “joyful and important… way to empower yourself.”
And those comments, made early-on, are interesting, although there are many instances in this book where Wilson seems to ignore them. But more on that in a minute; first, know that Fear and Clothing is funny — LOL funny sometimes, in a way that makes you wish you could hang out and people-watch with her.
Which brings me to what made me wince: while humorous, this book can be unkind, too, particularly when examining the fashion sense of people with arguably unsophisticated tastes. Wilson even acknowledges that she’ll be taken to task for writing those barb-filled words, but that self-chiding doesn’t minimize them.
Still, Wilson generally speaks the language of seasoned fashionistas, and it’s good. If you love that, you love wit, and you can overlook the snark, then you might need this book. For you, Fear and Clothing is worth a peek.
— Terri Schlichenmeyer
This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition December 11, 2015.