What is IT?

Phoebe’s eye – in tribute to Alexa’s eye on the cover of IT

September is officially the beginning of Christmas in book world. It’s the month when lots of books get unleashed onto the autumn in the hope that they’ll find homes on gift lists in advance of the present-giving season. And this year Alexa Chung’s ‘debut’, IT is one of them.

Alexa’s style is untouchable (in spite of the copyists). She knows what to wear and when and she always looks her very best, but IT – neither memoir nor getting-dressed guide nor glossy coffee table book - might test even her most ardent follower’s loyalty. We love her for her great taste and hip dry wit but how does that translate from the internet/red carpets/TV into a hardback book format?

After a big announcement from Penguin about buying the rights to the book in October 2012, there really seemed to be something to get excited about. (My thoughts that day>>> I LOVE Alexa’s tweets!! And a book-length version of her tweets with some new pictures in between? Wow. >>> ok maybe slightly exaggerated thoughts). Books should always be the confirmation of the author/subject’s frowny worthiness and permanence where there’s otherwise only vague tweets and grainy ‘gramz. However, almost a year on from that urgent-email-to-friends-inducing headline, comes IT itself.

Seemingly coaxed out of her by the editor over email and the blank pages in between filled in with internet snaps, IT challenges the very idea of what a book is supposed to be. Yes IT looks very lovely with its matt pink cover, and is not unreasonably priced (at £16.99 and discounted everywhere). It’s just rather disappointing that there’s not more to it. Looking back at the two volumes that it’s probably closest to in audience if not actual content/reading pleasure – Luella’s Guide to English Style and Kira Jolliffe and Bay Garnett’s Cheap Date – IT becomes an even bigger missed opportunity. Shouldn’t a book tell a story, reveal something you don’t already know, inspire curiosity, laughter, disapproval – anything?

The only things I thought while flicking through are, ‘Oh, the letters are really big’ and ‘Who are all these people in the photographs?’ Perhaps captions are really uncool. Or they didn’t have time? Or Alexa and her editor must have assumed that you, the reader, wouldn’t need captions because you follow her online and therefore will know who everyone is. Presumably the people in all the pictures have names which start with @ and don’t have capital letters too, like my friends.

After my quick flick through I realised that my name might begin with A but it doesn’t begin with @ and I am just maybe slightly/16 years too old for IT. But what of the Vogue, Style and Guardian covers Alexa did to promote this book and the serious writing career that she may or may not want. She seems to be plagued by a self-consciousness that means she can’t take anything seriously – great Russian novelists, eyeliner, feminism – but sadly you can’t see her ironic raised eyebrow while you’re reading a book and it just reads like it’s been written in a hurry. Obviously, like the sucker for a pretty dress I am, I’ll give her many more chances to disappoint me in the future. But I won’t be lending anyone the book – I don’t have it anymore.

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Co-editor and co-founder of Pamflet //
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Co-editor and co-founder of Pamflet //

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