Wednesday, July 28, 2010
The Gospel According to Coco Chanel
I picked up this fabulous little book at a used bookstore after having kept my eye on it online for...a year, maybe? I'm cheap. I gave in and bought it because I finally found a place where it was less than ten dollars. However, I do not recommend you do the same thing, because it's an awesome book and anyone interested in Chanel or female-oriented self-improvement books would like it. There are a lot of similar books I've read...and it's beyond me how or why I bothered finishing How to be a Hepburn in a Hilton World, or why the author felt the need to inflict it on the planet. The nice thing about The Gospel is that it's detailed. It has depth. There are entertaining examples and it isn't glorified commonsense. It also doesn't attempt to paint Chanel as a goddess who should always be emulated. At least, I certainly hope it hasn't had that effect on other people. While reading it, my reactions to the "Chanellore" went something like this: How smart! How creative! How funny! After I finished, I thought of acting like Chanel in my own life, and a new reaction hit me: How manipulative. How utterly, utterly manipulative. And it's fascinating! Of course, you could act like Chanel, erm, honestly, and not be manipulating anyone, but most of the time I would not include "honest" in the same sentence with her. That is part of her charm. I admire people who have the self confidence to be bad. I do something bad, I think the world would consider me a substandard human being if it only knew, and dear God, it'd better not find out! I'm a wimp and Chanel certainly was not.
Now for the criticism. Maybe it's because I rushed through the book, but I thought the organization was odd. And the author (Karen Karbo) includes a lengthy personal narrative about her quest for a Chanel jacket and her eventual compromise. It isn't interesting. In the end, it's a nice example of incorporating Chanel's spirit into your life, but until then, it seems pointless and self-absorbed. More examples would have been good as well. Relatively, The Gospel has depth, but it's only so-so; it's just that there are so many other books that verge on God-awful in the depth department that it seems unique that the author should show evidence of having thought about the subject of her book. Also, there are some chapters that do nothing more than convince me not to act like Chanel. Not that these chapters do not contain insights, I just feel they belong more to the author than Chanel. In the end, I wouldn't want to be much like Chanel, but there are some things that can be learned from her life.
It's commendable that the author is not afraid of expressing her opinion as well. I hate political correctness, and it is refreshingly absent here. I didn't appreciate her jab about Victoria Beckham, but the nice thing about The Gospel is you don't feel you must agree with it.