I’m currently reading a book which I’m liking very much, called Gossip of the Starlings by Nina de Gramont. It’s this beautifully written book about those rich sort of teenagers who burn too brightly, who gravitate toward excess, who fly too close to the sun. And as I read it, a certain indulgent feeling comes over me. This is a feeling only a few books have evoked in me over the years. A feeling like I’m lounging beside a pool, wearing a soft Calypso tunic, eating chocolate covered strawberries and drinking champagne.
This is certainly not the way I feel whenever I read books about rich people, or entitled people. Often stories about the very rich bore me, and I can’t stand those gossipy socialite novels one sometimes comes across. Then there’s this whole other genre of book; I’m thinking Valley of the Dolls for example, that is admittedly enjoyable but makes me feel dirty. Like sitting in an orange den in Echo Park with some coked up ex-model who shakily smokes a cigarette while I stuff french fries and milkshakes from McDonald’s down my throat. It’s not the worst way in the world to feel, but it ‘aint poolside in Saint Barth.
I was taking this over with a friend yesterday, and she brought up the movie Stealing Beauty, which we both love in an indulgent and guilty kind of way. Yes, it’s kind of like that. Or listening to Billy Holiday late at night. Or sleeping in on a warm spring day when the sheets are white and the windows are open and the curtains are billowing in the breeze (ooh, maybe I should add Gatsby to the list. [which follows])
I should say, these books that make me feel this way aren’t necessarily even among my favorites. They are rad and wonderful, but you won’t find most of my favorite writers’ work falling into this category. It’s a rare thing, this shimmer of luxury.
It occurs to me: the common thread is youth and carelessness. Perhaps this is the reason I write YA, although my characters are more angst and rain.
So I’ve composed a list, and here, for what it’s worth, is the list of books that feel like chocolate and champagne, at least to me, at least right now:
Gossip of the Starlings, hyperlink above
Collages by Anais Nin
Bonjour Tristess by Francoise Sagan
Chocolates for Breakfast by Pamela Moore (although I do remember being disappointed by the end.)
And here are a few bonus tracks.
Never Let Me Go by Kazuo Ishiguro
Sister by Jim Lewis
Net of Jewels by Ellen Gilchrist
(Parts of) The Bell Jar
(Parts of) We Were Liars by e. lockhart
How about you? What books are your Chocolate and Champagne?