Writing less to say more

51lvoalt-2l-_sx323_bo1204203200_A few months ago, I moved into my first home! It’s a 600 square-feet condo, which isn’t considered small for Toronto these days, but certainly, it cannot be called big. So I whittled down my book collection and swore that I’d only buy ebooks going forward.

Those who read Marie Kondo’s The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up will recall that she says you should buy books and read them immediately. She tells her readers to throw out books they never got around to reading because they will likely never read them.

But that has been the case for me. In my cleaning, I found a copy of Hemingway’s A Moveable Feast. And I thought I’d hang onto it because he’s supposed to be a classic and I so rarely read classics.

But I regret not reading Hemingway sooner because his writing confirmed for me, that the best writing is simple. You don’t have spell things out with big words, fancy jargon and flowery descriptions. And when you’re as good a writer as Hemingway, you don’t need any of those things to convey exactly what you want the reader to feel.

fbf7be6f9c3dabeafe5bd13af1023e70I had always heard that Hemingway had a way of writing simple prose. He’s often said to have written the six-word story: “For sale, baby shoes, never worn.” As I learned from reading The Moveable Feast, six words from Hemingway can hit you like a bag of bricks. And in today’s 140-character world, brevity is important.

But enough crushing and gushing over Hemingway’s word count — The Moveable Feast is just a great read. I don’t love Paris but I love his Paris. Can there be a theme park where you get to play a broke writer who drinks with other tortured writers of the time?

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Who Controls What You Buy?

BUS_brandwashed“Who controls what you buy?” may seem like an easy question. But master marketer Martin Lindstrom provides an answer that spans over 200 pages in his second book, Brandwashed.

At first glance, of course I control what I buy. I see it in the store, put in my basket and pay for it with my own money.

Brandwashed says that’s garbage because marketers have thought long and hard about what makes us want to buy in the first place. He gives examples of how brands use our natural psychological wirings to manipulate us into thinking that we need to buy their products.

It’s all one big conspiracy to get you to buy. And just when you stop believing him, he pulls out the oodles and oodles of market research paid for by brands. Lindstrom knows this because he did the research. I was especially impressed by Axe’s efforts to find out who would be the target audience for their trademark douchebag spray. Of course, it wasn’t always known as a spray for 14-year-old boys but that’s part of the story.

BRAND_axI’d be interested in hear what he has to say about Abercrombie & Fitch’s strategy of revealing their strategy. As consumers, we’re comfortable buying into a lifestyle semi-consciously but does it work when it’s not so subtle? It’s as if Rolex were to put out an ad that read “Rich people wear our watches.” Every ad implies this but it’s never the tagline.

Brandwashed was a little hard to get into. I like my non-fiction to read like fiction where there’s a storyline that ties everything together. Brandwashed jumps around a lot and revisits previous concepts at unlikely times. However, the research tidbits are gold for anyone that buys or sells stuff. Because for those that have watched The Devil Wears Prada, it’s not just stuff.

See the following ads from a recent issue of Vogue. Do you think they manipulate us as consumers?

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Beautiful Book Sighting: Edible Selby

Edible Selby features photographer Todd Selby’s culinary adventures around the world. There are photos of delicious food and the people who have dedicated their lives to feeding us deliciousness. Hand-drawn portraits and scribbling add that whimsical Selby touch.

This was on my Christmas list but was probably too heavy to fit in a stocking. Will probably use one of my gift cards to purchase after my vacation (11 days to go!).

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Chanel Bonfire makes your family look normal

CHANEL_bonfireThank you to Gallery Books for sending me a copy of Chanel Bonfire in exchange for an honest review. Chanel Bonfire is available on January 8th.

You get to choose a lot of things in life — but for better of worse, you don’t get to choose your parents. And for Wendy Lawless, author of Chanel Bonfire, this is a terrible predicament.

Chanel Bonfire is Lawless’s memoir of living with her horrible mother. Now an actress on Broadway, Lawless’s description of her mother sounds a lot like Mad Men’s Betty Draper meets Satan. She goes through numerous husbands, drags her two daughters around the world and attempts suicide several times. All the while, she puts on a good front to strangers and terrorizes her daughters at home.

I couldn’t put this book down. It’s a terribly sad situation but you just keep waiting for the mother to do something more outrageous. It’s like the train wreck you can’t look away from. Lawless never fails to deliver with ample amounts of dry wit which becomes part of her coping mechanism.

CHANEL_bettyThere were two other things I was waiting for: 1)Her birth father to show up and save her and 2) A redeeming aspect of her mother, Georgann Rhea.

It seems that her mother’s only redeeming quality is her beauty. I guess I wanted a redeeming quality because then I could see the inner conflict that Lawless has about leaving her mother. Alas, it never comes.

While life with mom isn’t rosy, Lawless describes a lot of fun times made possible by rich friends and a lack of parental supervision. It’s almost enough fun to give you hope until mommy dearest sets the house on fire.

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