- Hardcover: 240 pages
- Publisher: Truman Talley Books; First Edition edition (May 29, 2007)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0312351739
- ISBN-13: 978-0312351731
- Product Dimensions: 5.5 x 0.9 x 9.7 inches
- Shipping Weight: 13.6 ounces
- Average Customer Review: 2.9 out of 5 stars See all reviews (23 customer reviews)
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #598,243 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Taste: Acquiring What Money Can't Buy First Edition Edition
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From Publishers Weekly
Baldrige, who served from 1961 to 1963 as Jackie Kennedy's social secretary and chief of staff, was labeled America's leading arbiter of manners by Time in 1978. Her 20-plus books include Legendary Brides and the 736-page New Manners for New Times. The premise of this volume was suggested by her editor-publisher, Truman Mac Talley, who listened with aplomb to my shocking tales of what is happening today in social mores. Probing the history and nature of taste, Baldrige examines the role taste plays in the average person's life and explains how to educate your eye. She surveys celebrated tastemakers, from British art dealer Lord Duveen to Coco Chanel, with chapters on interior design and entertaining: The best dinner parties are those without any ulterior motive. They're rare but wonderful. The core of the book covers taste in fashion (where even the fabric is snob-important for some), encompassing such topics as wigs, jewelry, jeans, the application of lipstick in public, influential designers and shoe fetishism in Louis XIV's court. Throughout, she interweaves her own experiences with Diana Vreeland, Babe Paley and others. This patina of personal memories and anecdotes adds to the sheen of her polished prose. The vulgarians may be at the gates, but Baldrige is doing all she can to keep them away.
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
The eternal question of what is taste isn't directly answered by guru Baldrige. Instead, she quotes a designer, doyenne, or well-known wit--such as Coco Chanel, who opined that taste was the opposite of vulgarity. And she weaves enchanting tales of the Camelot White House (Baldrige was chief of staff for Jacqueline Kennedy); of postwar Parisian entertaining; of the elegant couture houses, such as Jean Patou and Vionnet; of Parish-Hadley and other designers extraordinaire. This narrative is more about her life than about taste per se; it is through her stories that the themes are developed. One theme is the absolute necessity of training the eye through museums and show houses and nature's visuals--not through the wallet. The second is paying attention to even the smallest detail, whether that be unchipped nail polish or correct silverware. And the third is the embracing of a sense of humor and kindness, two traits that define a real tastemaker. She says it best this way: "I believe that happiness comes from looking around us and finding the good and the beautiful in our own culture, and choosing to live with that taste." Barbara Jacobs
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved
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Top Customer Reviews
Another book worth giving the college age kid . . . or anyone else on your list. Taste goes hand-in-hand with style and it surely makes life simpler. Having taste can save you a lot of money, too.
My first complaint about this book is the price. I never complain about the price of a book; as a true book lover I consider a good book worth the price. However, when I opened my package from Amazon and saw how skinny this book was, my first thought was, "I paid $20 for this?!" Then I opened the book and was further dismayed to see how large the print was. Not much there, for sure. But hopefully what was there would be good enough to make me feel it was worth the $20......
The first two-thirds of the book are the worst, in my opinion. This is the section where Baldrige talks about personal taste, and good taste in fashion. Unfortunately, she doesn't offer much of anything of substance. It is really just her reminiscences about women of society, wealth, fashion and taste that she has known, interspersed with reminiscences of incidents in her own life where she learned "lessons" in taste and culture, interspersed with a brief history of fashion and designers from the Middle Ages to the present day. She talks the most about Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis, which is to be expected, I suppose, given her former employment with the Kennedys, but it is still a bit much. I mean, how many times did she talk about Jackie's "brioche" hairdo? At least three..... C'mon.... And her hypothetical examples of bad taste are so exaggerated as to be downright ridiculous. But perhaps this was on purpose; if she used a more realistic example of bad taste, perhaps describing the dress of someone she had actually seen on the street, a reader might say, "hey, that's how I dress!" and be offended or hurt. And that would be bad taste indeed, would it not?
The last few chapters of the book are a bit better, as Baldrige offers more concrete examples of how to develop good taste in art, decor, and entertaining, still interspersed with anecdotes from her own past. Unfortunately, this was only about one-third of the book.
One major problem with this book was the rambling style. Baldrige jumped from one thought to another and back again, without any logic or good transitions. It felt to me like something she had dictated into a recorder, stream-of-consciousness style, and that it was simply transcribed, sent off to the publisher and made into the book without any editing whatsoever. Perhaps no one wanted to offend Ms. Baldrige by suggesting that her book would benefit from some good, strong editing.
So, after finishing this book, my original impression still holds true -- it was not worth the $20. In fact, I might have given the book a higher rating, such as 3 stars, had it been priced more sensibly.
If you are thinking about buying this book, let me save you the money by distilling its worthwhile contents into just a few sentences: acquire good taste by training your eye. You do this by visiting museums, perusing books and magazines on architecture and style, and by becoming more observant of the world around you. When something catches your attention and is pleasing to you, scrutinize it to find out why. When you cross paths with someone who you feel has great taste and style, study that person to find out just what it is about them that you like, and then begin to incorporate those qualities into your own self and life.
The very best piece of information in this book? Peanut butter and bacon sandwiches! Now there's something that sounds like good taste. Can't wait to give them a try!
And now, you can take the $20 that you would have spent on this book, and go buy yourself something tasteful.