The Time In Between

Although Maris Duenas’s the Time In Between begins with slow-flowing mellifluous descriptions of life in Madrid in the 193os, the story morphs into the adventures of a young girl during the Spanish Civil War.   The changes in the heroine’s life evolve quickly and often over the 600 page saga.

Ready to marry a staid civil servant, Sira is seduced by a typewriter salesman/scam artist, and runs away from the impending war and her mother to live with him in Morocco. Before she leaves, her wealthy father gives her jewels and money as compensation for having deserted her unwed mother. Her new-found fortune dissipates under the control of her lover, who disappears with her inheritance, just as she finds she is pregnant and the war closes the Strait.  Abandoned and with no possibility of returning home, Sira is rescued by a police officer, and settles into a makeshift arrangement in a boarding house.

After a mad chase through the streets with guns strapped to her legs and hidden under a haik, Sira has the money to start her own business as a seamstress.  The more successful she is, the better her contacts. Her dressmaking inadvertently connects her to Generalissimo Franco, and eventually Britain’s M-16 espionage team.  The British recruit her and send her back to Madrid to sew for the wives of high-ranking Nazis.  As her life as a beautiful undercover spy develops, the politics get scarier, and her escapades more thrilling.

Translated from Spanish, The Time in Between, has an easy flow with extravagant descriptions of food and fashion punctuating the action.  Although the historical context is informative, Duenas uses the intrigue to promote romance as the main focus in her story –  with the suave villains and the handsome Marcos, who keeps reentering her life – climaxing in a daring train episode.

Sira’s experiences will remind you of the Perils of Pauline – the beautiful heroine survives turmoil again and again, only to emerge victorious.  At times, you may wonder why you are plowing through all those pages, but, the action is constant, and the descriptive interludes will lull you into imagining that you are somewhere else.

Clothes Make the Queen

When reading Alice in Wonderland, it’s easy to imagine the characters in costume, especially the Queen of Hearts.  So many visual recreations exist – from Disney to Helena Bonham Carter in Tim Burton’s movie.  Now, Lewis Carroll’s  story will be on Broadway; in this updated version, Alice gets to Wonderland by pushing a button on her elevator. And, Susan Hilferty who describes herself as “a storyteller whose medium just happens to be clothes” is the costume designer.

In Sylvanie Gold’s interview for the New York Times, Hilferty provides sketches and the thought-process behind her imagination for the costume designs in the article What Befits a Legendary Queen.  Intricate black and white costumes dress the Red Queen in Hilferty’s collection in Act One before she uses color in Act Two, but it’s how she gets to the final version that is so fascinating.  The  Red Queen lives again…

Related Post:  Alice in Wonderland

Even Oprah Knows April is Poetry Month

What does it take to appreciate poetry? An English professor who inspires? Experiences in angst, joy, love, sorrow? According to Oprah, a sense of fashion helps.

In his New York Times essay, O! Poetry David Orr takes on the diva with an irreverent reaction to the feature article, “Spring Fashion Modeled by Rising Young Poets” in the April issue of O: the Oprah Magazine.

Orr, who writes poetry and has a new poetry appreciation book just out, sounds a little snobby when he criticizes O’s picks for critiques on rhyme – Ashton Kutcher, Bono, Maria Shriver. Everyone knows that you don’t have to know what you’re talking about to be an expert.

Orr reminds us that…

“any critic knows there are dozens of poetry collections…less culturally valuable than Winfrey’s many enterprises and that could only be improved by pencil skirts, preferably by being wrapped in several of them and chucked in the East River.”

Although you may not always agree with her literary tastes, Oprah used her influence to create readers with her book picks. Now, more will read poetry – and have a reason to shop.

What does one wear while reading Shakespeare or Yeats? Not to worry; they did not make Oprah’s list of poets to read.

It’s Fashion Week – What Are You Wearing?

Not a fashionista, but somehow I got hooked on Project Runway – maybe because two locals from my neighborhood are on the show, and still surviving put-downs from Michael Kors.

The NY Times has a running video – a fashion show online – fun to watch even if you will not wear the clothes…

In my search for a good read about fashion, I found a picture book by photographer Valeria Manferto De Fabianis,  scheduled to be published soon…

A Matter of Style: How 10 Famous Women Changed Fashion

…the stories of icons Coco Chanel, Katharine Hepburn, Grace Kelly, Audrey Hepburn, Brigitte Bardot, Marilyn Monroe, Jacqueline Kennedy, Mary Quant, Twiggy, and Lady Diana.

But Project Runway whet my appetite for what really happens behind the scenes, and Terry Agins’ The End of Fashion: How Marketing Changed the Clothing Business Forever is promising.

And there’s always The Devil Wears Prada.