So far, the Colette Book Club has read one tear-jerking novel (The Forgotten Seamstress) and one very serious book about the global garment trade (Overdressed).
Let’s lighten the mood a little and enjoy the less tragic aspects of fashion with one of my favourite authors, Simon Doonan, and his rollicking memoir The Asylum: True Tales of Madness from a Life in Fashion.
Doonan got his start as a window dresser, constructing witty and shocking window displays for Barneys department store in New York. Now he writes books bursting with humour and breezy joie de vivre.
He doesn’t take anything seriously—not the poverty of his English childhood, his family history of mental illness, or the world of high fashion, which he describes as “a place where unemployable crazy people are always welcome.”
I was genuinely torn about which Doonan book to choose. I resolutely believe that every woman should read Eccentric Glamour, Doonan’s gleeful dismissal of good taste, self-consciousness, and conformist beauty ideals. But I picked The Asylum because it’s a celebration of fashion’s oddballs. Sometimes, I need to be reminded that there’s more to fashion than beautiful rich people. There’s also life-affirming weirdness, creativity and almost surreal humour.
This rambling memoir is kooky as anything you’ve seen on the runway. There’s something to entertain—and offend—almost everyone.
How does it work?
The Asylum is available at bookstores and (probably) your local library. It’s also available for Kindle, Nook and Kobo.
We’ll discuss the book on this blog, six weeks from now, on May 12th. We’ll announce the next book on the same day.
Between discussion posts, you can chat about the book using the hashtag #ColetteBookClub.