Entertainment :: Books

Shocked: My Mother, Schiaparelli, and Me

by Daniel Scheffler
Contributor
Thursday May 16, 2013
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The latest novel, or call it memoir, by Patricia Volk, "Shocked: My Mother, Schiaparelli and Me," focuses on the author’s relationship with her mother Audrey and uses the haute couture designer Elsa Schiaparelli as a contrast. Clever and funny the foil between the two women work sharply as a contemporary look at same-sex adult-child relationships.

Schiaparelli, who shocked and thrilled the world, was celebrated heavily last year with the Met Costume Institute honoring her and fusing in Prada as her counter point. But of course the stories, fables and fictions on Elsa Schiaparelli have been explored to death over the last few decades yet remain fantastically interesting. Her presence is always bigger than ever and forever lasting it seems. In particular Schiaparelli’s relationships with Salvador Dali and all of his cronies have been of interest and with her developing art pieces such as phone with make-up compact as the dial, Volk had a visual plethora from which to draw inspiration.

The book, a tribute to glamour and of course everyone’s best friend the mirror, is a girly book.

Every chapter sentimentally starts with a quote, first from Audrey Volk, like "You only get to make a first impression once" and then from the grande dame herself, "I remember, when I was so small I could hardly read, seeing a drawing...of two men bathing on a solitary beach. They started to talk, got along splendidly, and after sunning themselves for a long time went behind different rocks to dress. One came out all smartness with a dangling lorgnette and a silver stick; the other in rags. Stupefied, they looked at each other, and with a cold nod turned and went his separate way. They had nothing more to say to each other." Prolific utterances, each in its own way.

The book runs through sex, choosing a husband, all the way to being a mother and superstition, and its high notes come when Volk allows herself to not mind the properness of her connection to Schiaparelli. Volk flows and beams when she relates incidents such as watching her mother put on make-up - carefully, perfectly and not incidentally. The book, a tribute to glamour and of course everyone’s best friend the mirror, is a girly book. Not the bitchy kind, just the girls want to have fun kind. Volk of course compiled a book with librettos and visuals to promote just that. It’s fun, and some understanding of life, heartache and that difficult disastrous beautiful magical relationship with your mother.


"Shocked: My mother, Schiaparelli and Me"
Patricia Volk
Knopf
$15,93

by Patricia Volk

Daniel Scheffler is a writer who spends his time in New York, Cape Town and India. Follow him on Twitter @danielscheffler

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