Archive for the ‘REVIEWS’ Category

The return of the Pamflet icons: peaches the musical et la nouvelle LP de miss kittin

I hung out with my favourite two bad-taste broads from the early 2000s last week: PEACHES at the Sundance Film Festival and MISS KITTIN launching her new album at XOYO. This was not a nostalgia-fest: what I love about them both is that while the electro-pop music they helped to invent over a decade ago is now the mainstream, they’ve kept it so so fresh, interesting, seedy, euro-cool and independent. They don’t make popstars like this anymore unfortunately…

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Impressionism, Fashion & Modernity at The Met

“The latest fashion… is absolutely necessary for a painting. It’s what matters most.” Édouard Manet, 1881

IFM_landingWhile we were in New York recently we checked out the Met’s current big exhibition – Impressionism, Fashion and Modernity.

Manet, Monet and chums put clothes, no, fashion, centre stage to capture the style of their time, proving how vital a force fashion is in  representing a society’s ideas about how it wants to be perceived. Passing trends, far from being irrelevant, were absolutely crucial in making a statement about the Parisian obsession with speed and newness.

In room after room we encountered splendid dresses, shoes and accessories from the Met’s impressive fashion archive, placed in front of Impressionist paintings that matched them closely, or indeed exactly, as they were the gowns actually worn by the women while being painted.

Isn't she pretty in pink?

Isn’t she pretty in pink?

It was a feast for the eyes, with intriguing style notes thrown from every angle – Persian/Indian shawls were in… then they were out…, think pink! (says James Tissot, with his portrait of the Marquis de Miramon in 1866) and so on…

Specific fabrics, colours and styles of wearing pieces (your shawl in the crook of your arm, like the modern way of carrying your handbag or draping jacket over shoulders) became a new symbolic language in fashion.

Also as the emphasis was on the clothes, rather than the faces in these portraits it was clear that women – then and now – understood that it doesn’t matter if you’re plain, as long as you’re CHIC!

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Review: Fifty Shades of Feminism

50shadesLast year, when Virago announced their Fifty Shades of Feminism project to mark the fiftieth anniversary of Betty Friedan’s The Feminine Mystique, I was intrigued to see how the book would turn out. Pitched as ‘the antidote to the idea that being a woman is all about submitting to desire. There are many more shades than that and here are fifty women to explore them’, the editors also launched a competition inviting young (aged 25 and under) feminists to contribute their ‘shade’ to the story and the winner Alice Stride’s piece ‘Saving the Bush’ (yup, that) rounds off the collection.

With Lisa Appignanesi, Susie Orbach and Rachel Holmes at the helm of this ambitious project we really are in safe hands though – it’s like spending the afternoon listening to lots of clever women talk about all the amazing things they’ve done and the incredible places they’ve been. Well-known writers make up most of the fifty voices, but activists such as Lydia Cacho and Camilla Batmanghelidjh are also included. As a whole it’s not explicitly campaigning and is much more memoir-as-politics/ideas which makes sense because apparently friends Lisa, Susie and Rachel came up with the idea during a setting-the-world-to-rights catch-up.

I only wish I could have been at the Southbank Centre WOW event they did to launch it earlier this month, partly so I could have heard Laurie Penny‘s contribution ‘Saudade‘ performed on stage. It’s the one of the fifty that really will stay with me. Taking Ginsberg’s beat-hymn ‘Howl‘ as its template, Laurie rips it up and rewrites it with a riotious, 20-something-grrrl anger that sent shivers down my spine and made me cry a bit when I read it on the bus (yes, seriously). I think a few of my lucky friends will be getting copies of this very different, still grey Fifty Shades for birthdays to come.

Fifty Shades of Feminism (Virago, £12.99 hardback/ebook) is out now.

A sentimental education

(My) Pamflet Campaign: rehabilitate the sentimentalists

pursuit-of-loveWhen pitched against the ‘premier league’ of Woolf, Joyce, T.S. Eliot and the rest of the modernist posse, novelists like Somerset Maugham, Nancy Mitford and E.M. Forster can seem a little lightweight and sentimental. Perhaps it’s because they deal with the love stories and comedies of the middle and upper classes?

Evelyn Waugh straddles the two – his greatest work, Brideshead Revisited, falls into the literary heavyweight category, but his other novels, ‘bits of fluff’ like Scoop!, Vile Bodies and A Handful of Dust were the popular page-turners of their time and have a superficial style that belies the considerable skill that went into them.

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Review: The Library of Unrequited Love by Sophie Divry

Hackney-20130218-00068‘Being a librarian isn’t an especially high-level job, I can tell you. Pretty close to being in a factory. I’m a cultural assembly line worker.’ The voice of the librarian in The Library of Unrequited Love 

We’ve all dreamed of being a librarian right? Right. (See our new weekly feature Pamf-LIT). So this beautifully brief soliloquy by bibliophile French writer Sophie Divry on an imaginary book-stamper’s heartbreaks, lost loves and all the treasures our local libraries have to offer makes an awful lot of sense.

The premise of her story is simple – one morning two hours before the library opens our narrator discovers a man who appears to have stayed the night in the basement. For the next ninety pages they talk – or at least she talks at him – through her life and how she ended up looking after the geography and town-planning section in a provincial French municipal library when she really wanted to be a teacher.

In small sad gestures we get to know our dear librarian – she keeps some earrings in her desk drawer in case Martin, the student she has a crush on comes in on a day she’s not expecting him and she dreams of a promotion to the prestigious history section. Where love is unknowable chaos, she finds order and meaning in the neatness of all of human history, literature and religion categorised according to the Dewey Decimal Classification system and the disappointments and failings of her life until now become a bit more manageable. Alongside these personal and witty revelations is a passonate manifesto for and history of France’s library system and we get to see libraries as a place of solace – not just for those who need to spend the night but for anyone else whose soul needs a bit of wordy-comforting. We are in France, after all.

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"Vogue loves...Indie mags: Hogarthian graphics and modern feminism from Pamflet"

"It makes me feel less despair to know that somewhere deep inside the Jordanization of modern Britain there are still a few angry feminists out there." Zadie Smith

"Pamflet is the photocopy-quality soapbox for two young, sarky post-feminists from London who want women’s rights and the right to wear pretty things, and want it, like, yesterday." Sunday Times Style

"They’re funny and honest and write about fashion with feminism so I’m obviously all over it." Tavi