Wednesday, August 02, 2006

Reading for Pleasure Wednesday: Swell

As promised, I'm writing today about one of my favorite "Girl's Guide To" books. I have a real weakness for these guides, but they usually turn out to produce the same effects as eating an entire tub of gummi bears--they're so tasty that I can't stop, but by the end I wind up feeling both gorged and unsatisfied (and a little nauseated). I've bought several that I wound up getting rid of after a single reading, and there are others that I've just skimmed in the bookstore, but there are two that I absolutely love and still re-read regularly, and one of them is Cynthia Rowley and Ilene Rosenzweig's Swell: A Girl's Guide to the Good Life.*

I bought this book when I was 23 and living in my first post-college apartment, holding down my first full-time job, and trying to live like a grown-up, and it spoke exactly to the kind of life I was trying to construct for myself from books and old movies and song lyrics (except, you know: on a budget). One thing that I hate about the typical girl's-guide is that it tends to be so. . . well. . . girly. What I love about Swell is that the single girls it imagines are sassy and zany and ballsy, never standing on ceremony and as likely to pull goofy pranks and buy a round of drinks for the boys as to fret over their footwear. The Swell girl is about packing light, throwing a party on the spur of the moment, and never worrying about whether she's the prettiest or most fashionable person in the room.

I see from the listing that some readers really don't care for the book, and there are things (like the occasionally strained efforts at Rat Pack phrasings) that irritate me, but what I like about Swell is the mood, the attitude, and the lifestyle it sums up. It's got good advice in it--it's where I learned to make a bunch of $5 flowers from the corner deli look fabulous, and how to get into an SUV in a skirt without flashing the neighborhood--but really, I don't read these books for detailed, practical advice (as some of the books that I've given away or never actually purchased purport to do--I'm looking at you, Three Black Skirts!). I read them to conjure up another, perhaps more ideal self, and try it on for size.


*There are some Swell sequels (focused on home decor, party-throwing, etc.), none of which I've read, and the authors now also have a line of home accessories at Target, none of which I've bought. So I can't speak to their worth or quality.


phd me said...

I'm with you on the ideal self! I would love to be that pulled together, sassy, sophisticated, swell girl - instead of the disconbobulated and clueless wonder I often am. Maybe I do need a guide....

Verbose said...

Sweet! I own "Swell" the first at my library, but I'll have to make sure we buy the rest.

pamela said...

i love guides...girl guides, love guides, sex guides, life guides... but somehow i never feel "normal" at the end of any of those books.