[Read "When Personal Assistants Attack!" by Elizabeth Spiers.]
I'm disappointed with Salon for running the interview with Lauren Weisberger. What made Salon's editors think that their readers would want to spend time reading this vapid dialogue? I'm not faulting Salon for providing coverage for a book that just doesn't sound that good. People are reading it, and it's just as important to cover popular culture in all its shiny, fun frivolity as it is to cover more serious topics. But the commentary itself should be intelligent and worthwhile. I like to read insightful pieces about tripe. Tripe about tripe is another matter altogether.
-- Bethany Rae
Thanks to Salon for interviewing Lauren Weisberger about her new book, "The Devil Wears Prada." However, I felt that the questions Spiers asked were not probing enough of the young author.
I have read this book and thought that many of the points Kate Betts addressed in her critical New York Times review were well founded. Yet Spiers seemed to make excuses for the review, claiming the attacks were personal.
The Andrea character is snobbish and does take her opportunities for granted, just as Betts said in her review. Furthermore, Andrea's motivations are not clearly presented. We know she wants to write for the New Yorker, but little else about what keeps her slaving away at Runway. She complains bitterly the whole time, but she fails to learn anything about the publishing world.
I know assistants who are treated just as horribly as Andrea, and I absolutely do not condone this type of behavior. However, the assistants I know stick with their jobs because they offer them insider access to the industries that they are attempting to enter. They complain about slave labor, but they also jump on every chance to make connections, learn the business and create opportunities. Andrea views her time at Runway as something she must endure, but does not attempt to make friends with or learn from any of the magazine's experienced staff.
Spiers did press Weisberger about the character's snobbery, but did not address the character's lack of gratitude and sense of entitlement.
All criticism of the main character aside, the primary problem with "The Devil Wears Prada" is bad writing. Weisberger does admit in the interview that the novel is not supposed to be great literature. However, I think she could have put a little more effort into developing her characters, building a story arc and creating interesting prose.
In my opinion, the poor quality of the writing is what creates controversy for the author. It is frustrating to read about a writer making hundreds of thousands of dollars and getting practically unlimited press, not because of her writing talent but because she can dish about Anna Wintour.
-- N. Metzler
[Read "A Nation of Fashion Sheep," by Stephanie Zacharek.]
I enjoyed reading Stephanie Zacharek's article about fashion victims. I think that "Condé-nastys" also think they are expressing themselves, but just as many people express themselves in clichés (e.g., "I support the troops," "Give peace a chance"), they are doing so with fashion. With cliché clothing you don't have to think too hard and can fit in with everyone else. It may be that fashion didn't capture their souls; the power of fashion over Americans is a reflection of what the culture has done to people's souls.
I hate to single Stephanie Zacharek out for her attitudes about clothing and fashion, but her review of Lee's book highlights perfectly all of the reasons that I choose to remove myself utterly from the world of fashion. Her attitude seems to be that we're all sheep (except those few who flamboyantly break away from the herd whom she talks about as if they are some tribe of noble savages -- never a complimentary tone when you get right down to it), we all contribute to the destruction of the environment and the exploitation of our fellow humans, but gosh darn it, it's just so much fun, who'd want to stop?
As one of the scorned hippies with a couple of pairs of thrift-store jeans, two pairs of ratty Birkenstocks (well, one now that my dog ate my clogs) and a bunch of Phish T-shirts so old they have holes all over them, I'd just like to let Ms. Zacharek know that I don't dress this way because I have no self-respect or pride. My mom's been handing me that line for years and it hasn't worked yet. No, actually I have so much respect for myself that I figure that my sparkling personality will always shine through no matter how I look. In addition to respect for myself, I also have respect for the environment and other humans to the point where I'd rather sew my own and/or dress like a bag lady than live with the knowledge that I'm contributing to pain and destruction just because I want to blend in and not have people look at me funny.
Aside from the fact that my husband and I are members of the serf class known as teachers and couldn't afford new clothes if our lives depended on it.
P.S. I only own one pair of black pants -- I had to buy them for a part-time watering job. Where's my dollar?
-- Cressida Magaro
I'm glad Stephanie Zacharek and Michelle Lee enjoy clothes so much. Good for them.
But really, fashion is just a hobby, and one I don't have time for. I care about my appearance, don't get me wrong; I want to appear neat, well-groomed. But I shop at the Gap, sure, or Old Navy, or wherever I can get perfectly acceptable clothes inexpensively, because I don't consider clothes to be a reflection of who I am. If people want their clothes to reflect who they are, fine, but didn't we all learn in kindergarten that we shouldn't judge others that way?
I would prefer to spend my time listening to music, for example. There are thousands of people in this country who just don't care about music. I find it inexplicable that they could shrug their shoulders while listening to what I might consider an abomination, someone like Faith Hill. But I'll spare them my book or article about how bad people's music taste is in this country, that we're a nation of music sheep, if you will, and how it really should be a matter of personal pride to have better taste in music. Even if I heap equal amounts of scorn on bandwagon indie rockers who all love, say, Interpol.
People choose to spend their time the way they want. Shameful that they have different priorities, but it happens.
-- Kate Zimmerman