True Prep: It's a Whole New Old World
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204 of 226 people found the following review helpful
on September 24, 2010
The Official Preppy Handbook ("OPH") was, by its own terms, inclusive, "[l]ooking, acting, and ultimately being Prep is not restricted to an elite minority lucky enough to attend prestigious private schools......[y]ou don't even have to be a registered Republican. In a true democracy everyone can be upper class....[i]t's only fair." Of course, by its own terms, this is farce; not everyone can be upper class, but what the OPH did was satirically "break the code" of the "preppy" tribe. In the name of humor, certain characteristics were exaggerated (pink and green being the most obvious), but as with all good satire, it was built on kernels of truth. Further, in some cases, the OPH gave good advice - especially with respect to matters sartorial. Published in an age when Disco was still going and polyester still held sway with large swathes of the American population, the OPH gave reliable advice on classic clothing, natural fibers, appropriate shoes, ties, belts, outerwear, etc. It's easy to forget how the OPH and the preppy trend of the early 80s helped save middle-America from the fashion monstrosities of the 70s.

So thirty years later, along comes "True Prep." What a disaster. My first thoughts consist of 1) the excellence of the OPH must owe a huge debt to Jonathan Roberts, Carol McD. Wallace, Mason Wiley et al. because Lisa Birnbach could not have written a majority of the OPH and then turn out True Prep, and/or 2) Chip Kidd must have held huge sway with Lisa Birnbach and caused her to override her better judgment, and/or 3) Lisa Birnbach has grown incredibly cynical and has simply chosen to jump on the preppy resurgence and cash in while the getting's good.

Hey, it's America so, she should have a right to cash in - the problem is the book doesn't hold the charm, nor the integrity of the OPH. It's galling in its PC propaganda, vulgar in its blatant product placement, and depressing in its embrace of modern/trendy sensibilities. In short, it's crummy sequel to the OPH and reads more like a sequel to the Yuppie Handbook The Yuppie Handbook: The State-of-the Art Manual for Young Urban Professionals or Bobos in Paradise Bobos In Paradise: The New Upper Class and How They Got There where the sole criteria for "membership" are large amounts of discretionary income and a kind of vapid, trendy, PC mentality. True Prep is about Yuppies or Bobos or, as Paul Fussell called them, "Class X" (See Class: A Guide Through the American Status System)

One need only look at "The True Prep Pantheon" and look at the characters listed therein to see how far afield this book has gone. There are no explicable rules of admission other than to be an "in your face" break with the list in the OPH. Who, until reading the assertions in True Prep, would have ever thought of Yo-Yo Ma, Barack Obama, or Uma Thurman as preppy? I've read the justification - I remain unconvinced, with them as well as others.

When one looked at the men's clothing section of the OPH, one saw references to Weejuns, Brooks Brothers, and Gucci loafers. I dislike Guccis and Weejuns aren't what they were in the 80s, but still respectable choices to this day. In True Prep, one sees, in what can only be a joke or a form of cruel misdirection, fugly Hilfiger loafers which no sane man, let alone a prep, would wear along with almost equally loathsome Bass, Prada, and other atrocious forms of loafers. There's a picture of a ludicrous, multi-colored pair of Sperry Top Siders which are in such bad taste that I can only assume that Sperry paid for the photo to be placed in the book. And, speaking of product placements......J. Crew? Does any man over the age of 21 really wear J. Crew? Yet, True Prep asserts that a prep is dressed head to toe in this trendy, arriviste of a company - Uh, preps no longer wear Brooks Brothers, J. Press, Andover Shop, H. Stockton, Cable Car Clothiers, Bean, etc? Apparently, they couldn't afford the product placements so, J. Crew it is - head to ankles.......and Cole Haan loafers? Please.

As for the PC stuff - it's suffused throughout. Apparently, everyone in the world can be preppy except for Republicans (odd, since in OPH Republicanism was one of may potential indicators of preppiness - see quote at beginning of review). Aside from the cheap shots at Bush, we also have the asinine inclusion of Barack Obama's "Dreams of my Father" on the Preppy "Master Reading List" to make the author's leanings all too clear. How was it that Birnbach was able to put the OPH together without political attacks? So, open and all inclusive is True Prep (except for the aforementioned Republicans), that the authors include a one page interview with a Muslim chaplain at Brown University - I'm sure there are preppy Muslims and Buddhists and Hindus, etc., but the placement of this page, again, seems preachy, so PC, and so very out of place - just out of left field. It's as if nine years after 9-11, the authors are concerned that Muslims in Nantucket Reds might become victims of hate crimes and that the authors must "teach us" that, hey - they can be preppy too. And, they've even included a nice little condescending essay to let all the preppies out there know that adopting babies is OK, too. Thank goodness they gave us their imprimatur. Again, preachiness, smug moralizing (as if we didn't know adoption was a good thing) - not humor.

Others have commented on the disorganization of the book. It really is all over the place. A hodge podge of essays, oddly placed, with narrow margins. I was alive in the 80s - I seem to remember divorces, remarriages, rehab, face lifts, etc. existing back then too. Why the authors felt compelled to mention these issues when they weren't addressed in the OPH is beyond me especially, when they are not, per se, preppy issues and especially when their inclusion takes away from the "escapism" and humor that the OPH provided.

So, in short, this book is a profound disappointment. I'd return it, but it's not worth the shipping cost to send it back to Amazon for the refund. Do yourself a favor and get the OPH. There's more to dislike than to like in this book. It could have been so much better. They say you can't judge a book by its cover, but, in this case, you can. Compare the cheesey, girlish cover of True Prep to the classic looking OPH - the same difference resides on the inside.
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179 of 199 people found the following review helpful
on September 14, 2010
This book does for the Official Preppy Handbook what Jar-Jar Binks did for Star Wars.
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211 of 238 people found the following review helpful
VINE VOICEon September 4, 2010
Format: HardcoverVine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
I wanted to give it more stars but...I was just so disappointed. I guess I shouldn't be comparing this book to The Official Preppy Handbook but i couldn't help it. The old book was so much fun and tongue-in-cheek but this book read more like a magazine cataloging products for prep-wannabees to buy in order to pretend to be preppy rather than a comical look at present-day preppies. With the old book i remember reading about the people and being like 'yeah i know someone exactly like that!' i was expecting this book to be just like the old one but updated to reflect life in 2010.

When i read about the people in this book i was like....... 'what's so *uniquely preppy* about this? everyone i know and even people i don't know but see on tv are like this whether they are 'preppy' or not.' Just one example: The chapter on food was weird, the idea that preppies are now all about being foodies is dead on but then you have the 'what's in the pantry' list and it looks it belongs in the book from the 80's not this book. All the preppies i know shop at Wholefoods and buy organic expensive health food... Maybe I'm wrong. I suppose Southern California preppies aren't the same as East Coast ones? I just didn't have as much fun reading this book as i did the old one, this new book seemed confused both in it's content, message and point.

And... Tory Burch...? Really?

9/20/10 - I am reducing my rating of 3 stars down to 1 just because I am so annoyed at the sheer ignorance of some of her articles. She has one article about a preppy man who has decided to convert to Islam (oh yes Muslims can be WASPs too... Wait, doesn't WASP stand for White, Anglo-Saxon PROTESTANT? Oh, never-mind.) She goes on to muse about the basic nonexistence of white Muslims. Really? Tell the Serbs, Bosnians, Turks, Albanians, Bulgarians and others that they are either a) no longer considered white or b) must not be real Muslims since they are white. I am so disgusted by the incredible stupidity of this! She goes on to quote her interviewee saying things like how a Pakistani man COULD wear Lacoste (um... thank you for your permission??) but could not get away with wearing an argyle sweater??? OH MY GOD?? You guys pretend to go to Ivy League schools! Are you telling me that you have never seen a Pakistani kid in argyle at Harvard or Yale??? It's like they pop out of their mothers wombs with the collared shirts, argyle sweaters, khaki pants and dork-glasses permanently glued on! Should I forgive her? It's obvious she hasn't been to a college campus since the 70's! Don't even get me started on her claims that she's visited every school in the country to find out what the preppies one is.

No matter how "yes even you non-white people can be preppies too!" attitude she pretends to have the feeling that non-whites will never truly belong to the culture (she herself pretends to belong to) is disgustingly clear.

One last nit-pick and I'm done.

She used the non-word 'natch' (as shorthand for the word 'naturally') AM I READING THE DEVIL WEARS PRADA?? I wish I was! Even the crap puked out by Lauren Weisberger is better than this FAKE FAKE FAKE embarrassment of a book.

Wait wait, one more!
Page 69 - Apparently KIM KARDASHIAN is a prep (because she went to the Buckley School) because you know putting out a sex tape where your boyfriend pees on you is so very preppy.
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28 of 28 people found the following review helpful
on September 18, 2010
I cannot express how disappointing this book was. It was so bad, I tossed it before I finished the second chapter. I was looking to see what changes to the original handbook had been made - I wasn't looking for a trip "down memory lane". I almost wish I had spent the 225$US for the original that is now a classic and priced like one! What a waste of time and money!!!
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53 of 57 people found the following review helpful
on September 8, 2010
The book is ruined by political correctness....an earlier reviewer had it right: the blue blood has run out.
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110 of 128 people found the following review helpful
on September 9, 2010
The first one was fun. This one loses the thread. Prepdom is a quirky and unusual culture, not merely a sartorial style. And it's a culture that frankly can't be found much outside of New England and New York. The last book got that, had its fun with it. It recognized who was part of the culture and who wasn't and what was fun about the culture. Who is part of it and who isn't, is as clear, within prepdom, as in, say, the Hassidic community. You absolutely cannot just dress the part. But whereas the last book was designed for a small readership so it could be specific (and was a surprise hit), this book was intended to be huge and to that end has been fashioned to be all inclusive. Sadly, though, if you try to invent a version of "true preppiness" that includes everyone, it becomes meaningless and kind of silly. The book winds up just telling people where to shop.

It's like a book about being Hawaiian that tries to include everyone who has ever worn a lei. Watered down and pointless.

Oh, well.
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22 of 23 people found the following review helpful
on February 22, 2011
Here's what's great about the first book: it was spot on even with all the little exceptions to the rules. I grew up on the coast of Massachusetts and went to private schools. I remember reading the original and coming across the description of the progressive prep school -- the one where the students are on the roof repairing the school buildings -- and I almost died. It was MY SCHOOL EXACTLY. Right down to the overall fuzziness of hippie prepdom. And the blucher mocs (which I most certainly wore) and the Norwegian sweaters (which everyone wore). This book has none of that. It's the view of an outsider making broad generalization about how "rich people" live. The original was great because it was an insider's view. There's an overall socially self-conscious panic in the voice of this one, which is the opposite of prep. Prep doesn't worry because prep just is and always has been, ever since about 1620 when our ancestors first arrived. It's defined by its very lack of faddishness. This book, however, seems straight out of a Sex in the City episode.
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21 of 22 people found the following review helpful
VINE VOICEon September 22, 2010
Format: HardcoverVine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
I am so disappointed by this book, or rather by the promise of this book.

I have the original "The Official Preppy Handbook" on my shelves and it is a gem. I can remember reading it over and over when I was in high school....totally entertaining.

I think that an up to date version was a great idea but this just seems...lacking. Maybe some of the observations are true...the addition of fleece was brilliant. And the author could have dedicated a whole chapter on monograms instead of one flimsy page.

And I guess some of the social observations, like the one of rehab as the new boarding school were just sad, true or not.

Skip this and go for the original.
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33 of 37 people found the following review helpful
on December 13, 2010
I can only assume that Lisa Birnbach intended her first Preppy Handbook to be a scathing, sarcastic shot at the upper crust. Of course, a large number of Americans would rather become upper crust the insult them and a phenomenon was born. Thirty years later, it seems, Lisa decided that instead of ripping Preps again that she would seek to redfine them...as if she had that power. Thud.

True Prep does virtualy nothing to update the original (although some would argue that updating Prep is a contradiction in terms). In it, Birnbach spends 250 pages saying three things. First, gay people can be preppy too (duh). Second, non-white people can be preps too (duh). Third, 99% of the truly significant preps are lefties (right down to the obligatory shot at George W. Bush). While there is no ideological litmus test to be prep, digging deep to find that 90+% of the "new pantheon" as hard core leftists is just an attempt to define something to be what it is not. Jane Fonda, Ted Turner, Michelle Obama fine. Al Franken...not even close. People who sold secrets to the Russians????? Etc, etc.

There is one chapter of interest, that on Prep and technology. Beyond that this book is 12 pages with photos of clothing, 18 pages of less clever attempts to duplicate the humor of her first book. About 150 pages of Birnbach trying to win back her soul because she gave real Preps something to revel in rather than make them the butt of the joke.

Disappointing, one-sided and not funny. I will be returning it.
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21 of 22 people found the following review helpful
on February 7, 2012
When I was growing up, when bad things happened in my family, we changed the subject.
Has anyone read the new John Grisham novel?
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