Friday, June 30, 2017

"How To Be A Man: A Guide to Style and Behavior for the Modern Gentleman" by Glenn O'Brien (Rizzoli)


I'll read anything by the late and great Glenn O'Brien.  He wasn't the easiest writer to follow, since he moved around a lot from one publication to another, and had various positions in the commercial world for the fashion and magazine industry.  I discovered him when he wrote his music column in Interview Magazine sometime in the 1970s.  His wit and style came out when he wrote brief pieces on the bands that were performing in NYC during the height of the punk era.  "How To Be a Man: A Guide To Style and Behavior for The Modern Gentleman" is his masterpiece.

On the surface, this is a guidebook for the guy who is trying to improve himself, but there is something textural in this book that goes very deep into one's consciousness.  O'Brien wrote a column for GQ, and I suspect that this book is a collection of his writings from that publication.  The interesting thing is that it starts off with the subject matter of what it is like to a male in the 21st century, but then goes off on different tangents regarding class, politics, and how one carries himself in a world that seems pointless at times.  O'Brien makes sense of the chaos and gives advice in how one can handle themselves in this world of uncertainty.

O'Brien quotes Oscar Wilde (duh), Boris Vian, and various European and American authors, as well as dipping into the contemporary arts and music.  His range of interest is endless, and his love for culture is like a bottomless well. It never ends.  The book's format is tight chapters on specific subject matters.  "Socks," "Underwear," Shirts, and so forth.   It eventually springs to the topic of aging and death.   Since O'Brien passed away recently, it is quite moving (and hysterical) to read these later chapters in this book.  If one likes the essay writings of John Waters, then for sure, you will love Glenn O'Brien, and especially this book.   Lots of good advice, but it is also a great way of spending time with a unique character.  
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