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“A brilliant, boisterous memoir that breaks new ground in terms of the memoir form and also the archetypal story of the mother-daughter bond. . . . I cannot tell you, apart from its other virtues, how much fun this memoir is to read. . . . Shocked is a physically beautiful book, but like Schiaparelli’s designs, it commands deeper attention because of the wit and originality that inspire its composition.” —Maureen Corrigan, NPR Books
"Inspiring. . . . A moving personal sesay about the female relationship to luxury and beauty." —Joan Juliet Buck, W magazine
“We feel life’s potential swirling around Volk as she lovingly chronicles the unique paths of her two muses. Volk ultimately embraces her mother’s love, but is now also able to break free, to see ‘the ripe kaleidoscopic pure pleasure of looking,’ Schiap-style.” —O, The Oprah Magazine
“A meditation on the plastic possibilities of womankind and a very special treat.” —The New York Times Book Review
“Delightful. . . . Disarming, eccentric. . . . Ms. Volk is thoroughly likable, warm and generous, with a well-tuned ear and a vivid sense of humor.” —The Wall Street Journal
“Warm, funny, sharp-eyed. . . . ‘Schiap planted the idea that imagination trumped beauty, that being different might be a virtue,’ Volk says. And that there is, after all, more than one way to be a woman.” —More Magazine
“Intimate and idiosyncratic. . . . Volk’s remembrances provide a breath of balmy air. . . . Shows us that a third-party mediator can reconcile our differences, reassuring both mother and child that the girl will find her own way in the end.” —Chicago Tribune
“[Volk] expertly juxtaposes the details of her family’s midcentury Manhattan upper-middle-class life with the life Schiaparelli was leading in Rome and Paris.” —The Plain Dealer
“Volk again portrays her family with great humor and love.” —The Jewish Week
“Exquisitely written . . . a compelling snapshot of the groundbreaking designer—and an even more fascinating insight into Audrey, a paragon of mid-20th-century New York style before the late-60s youthquake ripped off the armoured undergarments, released the shellacked hair, and exploded the image of the perfectly presented woman.” —The Observer (London)
“You have to be very grown up to write a memoir as wise as Shocked. . . . It deserves to become a classic.” —Kennedy Fraser
“This daring and irresistible catalog of the secrets of women cements Volk’s reputation as one of our most amusing writers. . . . If God is in the details, then this is one of the godliest books I’ve read in ages, because the details are priceless.” —Phillip Lopate
“[A] tour de force. . . . It’s a pure joy to be in Patricia Volk’s presence on the pages of her new book.” —Louis Begley
“Volk has a talent for unearthing meaning in the seemingly mundane. . . . This memoir is a compelling tribute to two ambitious women who were way ahead of their time.” —Publishers Weekly (starred)
“Nothing short of delicious. . . . Generously illustrated with images from the two worlds Volk depicts, the narrative that emerges from Volk’s deft interweaving of lives is as sharp-eyed as it is wickedly funny.” —Kirkus Reviews
“The contrast between Audrey and Elsa couldn’t be more startling or poignant . . . but parallels also abound, and through Volk’s history and memories, we get the best of both women and their impact on the author.” —Booklist
Verdict Perfect for anyone who loved Volk’s first autobiographical effort, Stuffed: Adventures of a Restaurant Family, or who enjoys the work of memoirists like Jeannette Walls or Grace Coddington.—Melissa Culbertson, Homewood, IL
(c) Copyright 2013. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.
A conversation with Patricia Volk author of SHOCKED: MY MOTHER, SCHIAPARELLI, AND ME
Q: When did you first become interested in Elsa Schiaparelli?
A: When I was little, my father gave my mother the same birthday present every year. He would come home late at night then wake my sister and me up to witness the presentation of this most important gift. The present was always the same—a bottle of Elsa Schiaparelli's "Shocking" perfume. Dad made the wrapping paper himself using as many hundred dollar bills as it took to get the job done. I loved to watch my mother apply the perfume to her "pulse points" with a crystal dauber, the final touch of her elaborate maquillage. She would tell me how it took thirty people in Paris to assemble each intricate bottle and that the bottle was created by a famous sculptor who based it on the figure of the movie star Mae West. I thought "Shocking" was the most precious thing our family owned and when my mother went out, I staged complex games with the bottle. In this way, I was primed to believe that Elsa Schiaparelli was a most important person.
Q: What gave you the idea to write a book that would juxtapose Schiaparelli's life and views on womanhood and beauty with those of your mother, Audrey Volk?
A: I grew up comparing my mother to Schiaparelli or "Schiap" as she preferred to be called. Audrey was "proper" and Schiap loved to shock. One thought imagination was the enemy, one lived largely in her head. In 2003, the Philadelphia Museum of Art held a Schiaparelli retrospective. A beautiful book was made to complement the show. Since I was always talking about Schiap, a friend gave it to me. Then I couldn't stop thinking about her. Around this time, my mother got sick. I asked her if I could have an old bottle of Shocking she'd kept. I opened it, took a whiff and my childhood came flooding back. I went on eBay and found Schiap's autobiography, Shocking Life, which I'd read when I was ten. I read it again and was indeed shocked. I saw the profound effect that book had had on my life. But rereading it now, so many years later, I saw Schiaparelli in an utterly different way. Much went over my head when I was ten.
Q: You pepper this book with words of wisdom from both your mother and Schiap. Are there a few enduring pieces of advice or specific lessons on life, love, and beauty that still stand out for you as good rules to live by?
A: Both believed if you don't have a ton of money, then buy one best thing. Both believed in the importance of good manners. My mother taught me the secrets of buying a fur coat, never to let a man see you with cold cream on your face, and that men don't like women who pursue them. She also told me it was impossible for men and women to be friends. Schiap showed me that men could be good friends. Both women reinforced the value of reading and the necessity of time spent alone. Both believed in paying their bills. My mother was totally risk-averse and fiscally conservative and gave me good money advice. Schiap's best lesson was the value of running with an idea, something my mother did not approve of.
Q: These are two formidable women, one who warns you to "never leave a hat on a bed" and one who makes a hat out of a shoe. Both brilliant, both opinionated, with very different ideas about the norms of womanhood and physical presentation. Had Audrey Volk and Elsa Schiaparelli met, what do you think they'd have thought of one another?
A: I imagine them noticing each other across the room at a cocktail party. Schiap thinks my mother is beautiful though too conservatively dressed. She admires my mother's meticulous grooming and posture. She observes that my mother is slender, something very important to Schiap, who starved herself and insisted the women who wore her clothes be bony. For breakfast Schiap had a cup of warm water with a slice of lemon. When my mother spots Schiap, she rolls her eyes at Schiap's windmill hat, black suede gloves with red snakeskin fingernails and a dress that looks like torn flesh. My mother calls these "notice-me" clothes and is highly critical of women who work overtime to get attention. She thinks Schiap could use a good dermatologist. Schiap was born with a face full of raised dark moles. Then they are introduced, Schiap with a martini and a Gauloise in a gold cigarette holder, my mother with a whiskey sour and a Pall Mall. Whatever Schiap says, my mother takes the opposite position. They fall in love with each other's quick minds and wit. My mother invites Schiap to our family restaurant in the Garment Center, where Schiap has an office around the corner. They make a date to play bridge.
Q: At the end of this book you say that "Schiap planted the idea that imagination trumped beauty," and the last line brings this home by saying her autobiography helped you realize "Anything is possible." How has that idea informed your life and your work?
A: I believe almost all limitations are self-imposed. The most valuable thing we have on earth, perhaps the only thing that really belongs to us, the thing that makes us who we are, is our imagination. It must be honored.
Posted January 10, 2014
This book is a 360 degree experience. The cover and illustrations are almost as richly entertaining and engrossing as the text. You'll never lend this to anyone. I almost want to put it on my coffee table.
It's a moving story, and this writer is able to evoke the period skillfully. It's like reading a movie.
Posted November 18, 2013
No text was provided for this review.
Posted April 7, 2013
No text was provided for this review.