Archive | March, 2013

A Fashionable Read: Grace, A Memoir

18 Mar

Who is Grace Coddington, the woman behind this fascinating memoir?

Grace a Memoir

Grace is the creative director of Vogue*, arguably the most influential modern fashion publication today. Her primary responsibility is styling and executing many of the fashion photo shoots that appear in the magazine each month.

Anna Wintour, Vogue’s formidable editor-in-chief whose icy, composed persona inspired the Miranda Priestly character in the book and film The Devil Wears Prada, is the most visible figure associated with the brand.

Grace was behind the scenes until The September Issue, a documentary that followed the Vogue staff as they created the eponymous issue in 2007, premiered in August 2008.

In the film, Grace cursed when frustrated and was occasionally ornery with the filmmakers that trailed her as she worked. She was the anti-Anna. This all made her a breakout star.

Although The September Issue has brought much attention to Grace, she has a long history in fashion that she recalls in this memoir.

Grace’s story begins with her childhood in Wales, where she saw her family’s home used as a base for the British military during World War II. But the action starts after she moved to London to start a modeling career in the early 1960s–just as the decade started swingin’.

She was one of the first to sport Vidal Sassoon’s famous five point haircut. She modeled for Mary Quant, the designer who brought miniskirts into fashion. She almost had a dalliance with Mick Jagger before the Rolling Stones hit it big.

Her modeling days ended in the late 1960s after sustaining injuries in a car accident, so she took a job at British Vogue. Over the years she rose through the ranks, and eventually landed at American Vogue in 1988 when Anna Wintour became editor-in-chief.

Throughout her career, Grace has collaborated with an impressive roster of photographers, designers, hairstylists and makeup artists, models and supermodels, and celebrities. She wrote about these relationships, dropping a lot of famous names. But it flows with the narrative.

In the book Grace shared plenty of juicy anecdotes about in-fighting among Vogue editors, as well as supermodels (i.e. Kate Moss) and celebrities (i.e. Mike Tyson) behaving badly on photo shoots. My favorite story is about a model that flirted with Grace’s partner, Didier, during a shoot, and Grace expressed her displeasure by “accidentally” sticking the model with pins when adjusting her outfit.

There is substance behind the style in this book. Grace wrote honestly about her two divorces and her sister’s untimely death, after which she adopted and raised her nephew. A whole chapter is devoted to her decades long friendship with Liz Tilberis, who was editor-in-chief of Harper’s Bazaar magazine (a rival to Vogue) in the 1990s.

Many color photographs from Grace’s modeling career and her fashion spreads in both British and American Vogue appear throughout the book, which bring her stories to life and demonstrate her distinct romantic, British aesthetic.

Grace’s original pen-and-ink illustrations of herself, her Vogue colleagues (many are featured in the book’s end papers), scenes from her life, and her cats are included throughout as well.

I must mention that there is an entire chapter about Grace’s cats, past and present. She had a cat named Puff, after the rapper P Diddy–an instance of the previously mentioned name dropping. I think she loves cats more than fashion. Grace even appeared on Martha Stewart’s talk show in a segment about cats, which she recounted in the book.

I enjoyed visiting Grace’s fashionable world and was sad when the book ended. Grace is witty and an engaging storyteller. Her frank tone shows that she doesn’t take herself, or her new fame, too seriously.

If you’re interested in fashion, Vogue, or Grace–and even cats–this is an excellent book to check out. The September Issue is also a good complement to this book.

Fashionably Yours,

Kerry Weinstein, Reference Librarian

*Stop by the Reference Department on the second floor to borrow current issues of Vogue, and other fashion magazines! 2012 back issues are also available.

March Comics Pick: The Boys by Garth Ennis

15 Mar

Hello library patrons! Welcome to the Hoboken Public Library’s new staff picks blog, where the staff of the Hoboken Public Library hopes to guide you to some interesting books, movies, music, comics, etc, etc., that perhaps you didn’t know about before.

In this week’s exciting installment, we are looking at Comic Books! Yes!  This week’s post is brought to you by librarian Matt Latham, who, among many things, develops and maintains the comic book collection at the library.

I’ve recently undertaken a project to re-catalog the entire comics, Manga and graphic novels collections of the Hoboken Public Library to make them easier to browse and to find what you are looking for. Before, everything was jammed together in the same place (741.5 section) – yikes! Now, comics, Manga, fiction graphic novels and non-fiction graphic novels each have their own section. Manga and comics are arranged alphabetically by series title (Batman), then sub-series (Dark Knight Returns), volume number (V. 1) and then finally by author last name (Miller). Basically, its in alphabetical order. Fiction graphic novels are simply in alphabetical order by author last name and non-fiction graphic novels are in standard Dewey order – which is by subject (philosophy, biography, etc.). Anyway, I hope it is now easier to find what you are looking for 🙂

We’ve also gotten more space available for comics/manga/graphic novels – so we are getting a lot more into that section for your reading pleasure! If there is anything you think the library should have – just let us know! Respond to this post, post on our Facebook, email us (, call us (201-420-2347) or just stop by the 2nd floor where I am!

Anyway, how about some actual recommendations? If you are interested in comics that more depth, deal with adult themes and have some diverse and literary themes then HPL has a lot to offer you. I especially like the titles produced through DC’s Vertigo imprint. These titles are often more like what you would consider graphic novels, filled with full characters, intense storylines and exploring often difficult and dark themes. If you like comics like Alan Moore’s Watchmen or Frank Miller’s Dark Knight Returns, then Vertigo might be for you. Here are some of the must-read titles from Vertigo:

  • Sandman by Neil Gaiman
  • Preacher by Garth Ennis
  • Y the Last Man by Brian K. Vaughan
  • Fables by Bill Willingham
  • Hellblazer by Peter Milligan
  • DMZ by Brian Wood
  • Swamp Thing by Alan Moore
  • Transmetropolitan by Warren Ellis

And lots more. For those types of titles, Vertigo may be the first stop. However, this week I’d like to recommend a title that is printed through Dynamite Entertainment and written by Garth Ennis, of Preacher fame: The Boys.

The Boys: Volume 1

The Boys: Volume 1

Reserve a copy of The Boys: Volume 1

This series is a unique play on the Superhero aspect that traditional comics present. Many of your classic comics (Superman, Justice League, X-Men, etc.), especially the Golden and Silver Ages of these titles, have universes that are very black and white: there is good and there is evil. Good is represented and epitomized by superheroes and bad is characterized through the series of villains the superheroes battle against. Alan Moore especially took aim at this dualistic reality and unveiled its naivete to reveal a more complex, more pluralistic moral universe of the superhero with his Watchmen. Many titles have come since then to continue on this theme, and The Boys provides another unique and dark twist to this perspective.

“The Boys” is a secret ‘black ops’ group that is only partially guided by the government. Their goal: watch, observe and control the superhero population of the world. In the world of The Boys, superheroes are corrupted by their celebrity and power status in society and have become selfish, brutal and even sadistic. The public believes superheroes to be what the Golden Age comics would have us believe – noble, moral and fighting for the common person. However, in this world the superheroes are almost always anything but that, and The Boys have to do what they can to keep things under control protect the rest of us from the heroes!

For lovers of Preacher, you will find some signature Preacher darkness and big doses of themes of violence and sexuality. This is CERTAINLY a title for an adult audience, with many scenes pushing the envelope of what you think a comic should be. However, Ennis is able to take these potent subjects and not get lost in them by creating deep and complex characters, storylines and backgrounds that only reveal themselves slowly. This creative style is enriched with overarching themes of morality, power, selfish individualism, terrorism and security. There’s plenty here to make you think, laugh, cringe and most of all want to keep reading!

Its a good thing the Hoboken Public Library has the WHOLE series to date available for your reading pleasure: go to our comics section (right by the Circulation Desk) and then this call number:

Boys V. 1 Ennis

We also have the full runs of Preacher, Fables (to date), Y the Last Man, Ex Machina, Scalped (to date), 100 Bullets (to date), Sandman, and lots more like The Boys.

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