Now that fewer and fewer people are carrying real books around, how are they going to express their literary taste? Our columnist Daisy Stella Baldwin explores how we can still show off about the books we read...
For a month or so when I was 16 I carried The Great Gatsby around with me wherever I went.
I had high hopes that someone would notice and strike up a conversation about it. “Oh yes,” I would say, “in fact my mother named me after Daisy Buchanan.” The only person who did notice was my English teacher, who was horrified – “Have you actually read it? She’s awful!”
Luckily it wasn’t the character I was obsessed with so much as the book itself. The beautiful cover illustration; with its two celestial eyes floating wanly above the city, was created by artist Francis Cugat before the book was even finished. Fitzgerald was so taken by the image that he incorporated it into the novel itself, describing Daisy as the “girl whose disembodied face floated along the dark cornices and blinding signs”. To my 16-year-old self the book was part of my own personal style statement. But with the advent of e-readers this aspect of literary self-expression threatens to disappear.
Ironic, that in a society where we’re ever more defined by our “likes”, we’re losing opportunities to display them. In the past you could tell a lot from someone’s bookshelf or lunchtime reading, and make some fairly exact judgments on that basis. Now we are left to warily eye strangers on the tube as they sit hunched over their e-readers, no way to tell if they’re engrossed in One Hundred Years of Solitude or Fifty Shades of Grey. Equally, how do we express our own excellent taste through the shiny faux-leather cover of a Kindle or Kobo?
Fortunately fashion has stepped into the breach, providing us with a creative outlet to display our favourite books to the world. Olympia Le Tan’s quirky literary clutches have seen Natalie Portman stepping out with Lolita under her arm, while Michelle Williams selected Arthur Miller’s The Misfits, a reference to her role as his ex-wife Marilyn Monroe in My Week with Marilyn. A cheaper and more casual solution is to buy a lit-inspired t-shirt or, if you’re prepared to suffer for your artistic statement, try a tattoo. I’ve long been addicted to Contrariwise, the site which details peoples cherished ink inspired by books, poetry and music.
Collaborative blog Fashion from Literature takes things a step further and imagines what your favourite characters would make of today’s fashion choices. The team create wearable outfits that make use of little telling details, such as an enamel sheep necklace for the Little Prince or a scarlet scarf amid an all-black outfit for Hester Prynne.
This passion for bookish fashion seems set only to increase: as human beings we’re most of us desperate to showcase our individuality, and our literary choices are an integral part of that.
In truth, I was always more Daisy from Spaced than Daisy Buchanan, but thanks to Baz Luhrmann’s new The Great Gatsby film, staring Carey Mulligan and Leonardo DiCaprio, the novel is still inspiring. The high street is currently aflutter with flapper dressers and bedazzled headpieces and I recently came across G4tsby Tees, clever clothing emblazoned with slogans like “Jordan Baker thinks you’re a bad driver” and “Party at Gatsby’s”. I may no longer carry the book with me, but I can still wear my love for it on my sleeve.
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