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How to Be a Man - Glenn O'Brien (Rizzoli),
This review is from: How To Be a Man: A Guide To Style and Behavior For The Modern Gentleman (Hardcover)
You remember Glenn O'Brien. As music columnist for Andy Warhol's Interview magazine, G.O'B. was the periscope on the submarine that was underground, punk rock during its landmark decade in the 80's. He later expanded his sphere of influence into fashion and art through his "Style Guy" column at GQ magazine and a stint with the publisher of magazines like "Antiques" and "Art in America.". In fact, when it comes to fashion, style and the arts, the O'Brien arsenal is tough to beat.
It is then with both great anticipation and curiosity that we watch as he turns his gaze to the subject of manhood in the newly released volume "How to Be a Man: A Guide to Style and Behavior for the Modern Gentleman." (Rizzoli)
So what is a man in the modern day sense and what does it take to become one?
In O'Brien's view, a man is a person who employs the utmost of style and care when it comes to everything from wardrobe to behavior to the way he exudes his sexuality. O'Brien is a taskmaster when it comes to natty dress, manners and even where a man fits along the hetero, homo and metro-sexual continuum. In fashion, O'Brien's purview runs head-to-toe covering every detail from haircuts to underwear, collar-stays to ascots. There is even an ample discussion of the so-called `dandies.' (He likes hetros and dandies, though he chastises some gays for not being "gay enough.")
No one can fault O'Brien for his erudite musings. His range of knowledge is exemplary - covering cultures from the ancient Greeks to the Taliban, philosophers from Socrates to Chuck D. (Only O'Brien would cover the range of beards from ZZ Top to Rutherford B. Hayes.) His writing style is about as punchy as it gets, with each sentence delivering like the cutting remarks of a professorial stand-up comic. One must only question his target.
Has he written the book for people like himself? Is O'Brien merely trying to show off his erudite plumage? (probably) Is he so imbued with the Manhattan lifestyle that he can no longer relate to readers in the flyover states - or they to him? (He basically writes them off towards the end in his chapter on patriotism when he proclaims of the great middle ground, "Wouldn't they be happier without our smug East Coast attitudes?")
In all, O'Brien's book is not a guide for the everyman but rather a dissertation of a certain style designed for the (increasingly) select few for whom such rules still seems to matter. But as a throughly entertaining read on the art, fashion, behaviors and history of the modern gent (dandy or not) it succeeds no matter what code you ascribe to - dress or zip.