Readers need not be fashion mavens to enjoy this entertaining episode of history, enhanced by Givhan’s effortless ability to...

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THE BATTLE OF VERSAILLES

THE NIGHT AMERICAN FASHION STUMBLED INTO THE SPOTLIGHT AND MADE HISTORY

On Nov. 28, 1973, Parisian haute couture faced off against the upstart American designers, and the Americans blew them away. In her debut book, Pulitzer Prize–winning Washington Post fashion critic Givhan delivers a delightful, encyclopedic exploration of the players and leaders in the field.

The differences between the Paris world of fashion, with its strict rules of handmade quality and personal fit, and that of the ready-to-wear American, were hard and fast. In France, the term “haute couture” is a legally protected designation, and the established houses dictate every aspect of fashion. In America, it was the department stores determining the latest looks. Enter Eleanor Lambert (1903-2003), whose work establishing American fashion changed an entire industry. She was public relations representative for all the best designers, and she established New York’s first fashion week, in 1943, as well as the Council of Fashion Designers of America. It was at a lunch with the curator of Versailles that the idea of a fashion fundraiser was born. Though it was never meant to be a competition, five American and five French designers came together that November evening, and the American style of design and show was established. The French—showing Hubert de Givenchy, Pierre Cardin, Emanuel Ungaro and Dior’s Marc Bohan—followed their established style of exhibition. The wealthy onlookers took notice when the American sportswear designer Anne Klein (whom nobody wanted there) showed off her models with snappy movements and attitudes. Excitement built with the black models, who really made the show. African-themed outfits by Stephen Burrows were free, whirling and vital. Halston, Bill Blass and Oscar de la Renta also showed well, and the world of fashion never looked back. These days, writes the author, fashion “feeds a constant cultural conversation with intermittent spikes of media saturation and personal punditry.”

Readers need not be fashion mavens to enjoy this entertaining episode of history, enhanced by Givhan’s effortless ability to illustrate the models and designers (particularly Lambert) who changed how we dress.

Pub Date: March 17, 2015

ISBN: 978-1250052902

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Flatiron Books

Review Posted Online: Dec. 6, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 2014

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Striking research showing the immense complexity of ordinary thought and revealing the identities of the gatekeepers in our...

THINKING, FAST AND SLOW

A psychologist and Nobel Prize winner summarizes and synthesizes the recent decades of research on intuition and systematic thinking.

The author of several scholarly texts, Kahneman (Emeritus Psychology and Public Affairs/Princeton Univ.) now offers general readers not just the findings of psychological research but also a better understanding of how research questions arise and how scholars systematically frame and answer them. He begins with the distinction between System 1 and System 2 mental operations, the former referring to quick, automatic thought, the latter to more effortful, overt thinking. We rely heavily, writes, on System 1, resorting to the higher-energy System 2 only when we need or want to. Kahneman continually refers to System 2 as “lazy”: We don’t want to think rigorously about something. The author then explores the nuances of our two-system minds, showing how they perform in various situations. Psychological experiments have repeatedly revealed that our intuitions are generally wrong, that our assessments are based on biases and that our System 1 hates doubt and despises ambiguity. Kahneman largely avoids jargon; when he does use some (“heuristics,” for example), he argues that such terms really ought to join our everyday vocabulary. He reviews many fundamental concepts in psychology and statistics (regression to the mean, the narrative fallacy, the optimistic bias), showing how they relate to his overall concerns about how we think and why we make the decisions that we do. Some of the later chapters (dealing with risk-taking and statistics and probabilities) are denser than others (some readers may resent such demands on System 2!), but the passages that deal with the economic and political implications of the research are gripping.

Striking research showing the immense complexity of ordinary thought and revealing the identities of the gatekeepers in our minds.

Pub Date: Nov. 1, 2011

ISBN: 978-0-374-27563-1

Page Count: 512

Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux

Review Posted Online: Sept. 4, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2011

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A deftly argued case for a new kind of socialism that, while sure to inspire controversy, bears widespread discussion.

CAPITAL AND IDEOLOGY

A massive investigation of economic history in the service of proposing a political order to overcome inequality.

Readers who like their political manifestoes in manageable sizes, à la Common Sense or The Communist Manifesto, may be overwhelmed by the latest from famed French economist Piketty (Top Incomes in France in the Twentieth Century: Inequality and Redistribution, 1901-1998, 2014, etc.), but it’s a significant work. The author interrogates the principal forms of economic organization over time, from slavery to “non-European trifunctional societies,” Chinese-style communism, and “hypercapitalist” orders, in order to examine relative levels of inequality and its evolution. Each system is founded on an ideology, and “every ideology, no matter how extreme it may seem in its defense of inequality, expresses a certain idea of social justice.” In the present era, at least in the U.S., that idea of social justice would seem to be only that the big ones eat the little ones, the principal justification being that the wealthiest people became rich because they are “the most enterprising, deserving, and useful.” In fact, as Piketty demonstrates, there’s more to inequality than the mere “size of the income gap.” Contrary to hypercapitalist ideology and its defenders, the playing field is not level, the market is not self-regulating, and access is not evenly distributed. Against this, Piketty arrives at a proposed system that, among other things, would redistribute wealth across societies by heavy taxation, especially of inheritances, to create a “participatory socialism” in which power is widely shared and trade across nations is truly free. The word “socialism,” he allows, is a kind of Pandora’s box that can scare people off—and, he further acknowledges, “the Russian and Czech oligarchs who buy athletic teams and newspapers may not be the most savory characters, but the Soviet system was a nightmare and had to go.” Yet so, too, writes the author, is a capitalism that rewards so few at the expense of so many.

A deftly argued case for a new kind of socialism that, while sure to inspire controversy, bears widespread discussion.

Pub Date: March 10, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-674-98082-2

Page Count: 976

Publisher: Belknap/Harvard Univ.

Review Posted Online: Dec. 22, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2020

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