Monday, October 10, 2011

The Beautiful and the Damned: Sartorial Musings

Listening to the car radio this afternoon, I heard an interview with Siddhartha Deb, author of The Beautiful and the Damned: Life in the New India

The book, a look at how Indians are striving for virtual or literal affluence, sounded compelling enough for me to search for it on the Internet upon return.

When I did, I was struck by the American market cover, which you see above.  I thought it was strongly influenced by street-style bloggers; indeed, if you compare it to Scott Schuman's recent book, you'll see the similarities:

But whereas the cover of Schuman's book represents off-handed, yet studied "cool," the images within capture people wearing both extremely expensive as well as thrift-shop chic. Indeed, the guiding principle of The Sartorialist is personal style that's pleasing.

Deb's cover, on the other hand, depicts the "wannabe."  The large, gaudy accessories may, to the wearer, code as "expensive," but they read as "cheap."  I like Amit Chaudhuri's analysis of the cover here, in his glowing review of Deb's book for The Guardian.

While both women are clearly confronting the camera, one with a sidelong, almost disdainful gaze, one through her oversized sunnies, they own their images differently.  Schuman's cover girl inspires sartorial emulation; Deb's woman undergoes a sort of critical immolation for the sake of the pages within. 

The woman I want to learn more about?  She's beautiful, and she's damned, I guess, but it's her process of getting dressed that undergirds the premise of Deb's book, one that sounds like a fascinating read.


Susan Tiner said...

It does sound fascinating.

coffeeaddict said...

I think both pictures are very indicative of their environment and like it or not there is a political / cultural statement lurking in the background.
The girl in Schuman's photo does appear to be condescending, the sad irony is that it's merely a pose.