Friday, July 25, 2008

My new favorite book

Whenever I cave in and join the social networking site
du jour, there is always one part of the inevitable profile section that strikes fear into my heart. I am fine with Favorite Music (I long ago accepted that I do not have cool taste in music), and Favorite Movies (Strictly Ballroom, Gone with the Wind), but then I get here and don't know what to do:

(FYI, that list is not from my actual Facebook profile. "Future Jihad"? Please.)

It's always so hard to list my favorite books, maybe because I have so many that I love. But recently, I discovered a tome that somehow slipped under the radar when Modern Library issued its 100 Best Books list. This book is also strangely absent from Time Magazine's list of 100 Greatest Books of All Time.

Ladies and Gentlemen, I give you Jane Seymour's Guide to Romantic Living.

Published in 1986, lavishly illustrated and now woefully out of print, this book is AMAZING. It is filled with insights into how we can live more romantically. Jane Seymour, "one of the world's most fascinating and glamorous actresses" (jacket cover) helpfully explains in the Foreword that this book is not about "the lifelong partner" -- and let's hope not, because Jane is on husband #4. Romantic living is about "approaching your life with the drama and mystery that some of us think exists only in books, TV, and movies."

Jane's advice is very inspirational and easy to follow. In Chapter 3, "Bringing Romance to Everyday Life," she writes:

If there's a window near where you're reading this, look out of it. Really look. Observe. Look at the colors, the movement of the wind, the shape of things.
If you look long and hard enough you'll see a new world just outside your window...the miraculous is right outside your window if you only look.
And it's right inside your heart.

When I look out my window, all I see is the BQE and All-Boro Auto Sound and Security. Maybe I just need more time with the book, though. No one said Romantic Living would be easy. After all, "most women have many roles to play: worker, mother, wife, hostess" (117). So true, Jane, so true. And as result, we have become "too lacking in mystery." Fortunately, Jane has some ideas about how to get the mystery back:

Try veils, hats, antique jewelry, lockets. Don't reveal too easily who is in the locket: just stare moodily into the distance and smile a tender, tragic smile. (146)

YES! A few pages later, Jane notes that "large floppy hats are mysterious too," or if you're feeling more adventurous, "tie your hair up into an exotic turban" (155). And it just keeps getting better:

If you're feeling predatory and vampish, why not try wearing some leather? Tina Turner wears short leather skirts; why shouldn't you, whatever your age?
(answer: because I don't have Tina Turner's legs?)

If you're in a dreamy, feminine mood, wear one of the Laura Ashley creations.
(great; now if I could just find that bus schedule for Milford, CT...)

I don't want to spoil all the surprises of this book; you should discover the pearls of Jane's wisdom all on your own. It's like Brenda Dickson, in book form! Jane's official fan site,, has lengthy excerpts from this book and others.

You know who looks like she could really benefit from some romantic living? This woman:

That's the real Jane Seymour, the 3rd wife of Henry VIII, who died at age 29. If only she'd worn more floppy hats, perhaps she'd have lived longer.

No comments: