The Greatest Book of Our Time

Renée Zellweger in Bridget Jones’s Diary (Sharon Maguire, 2001)

 
 

BRIDGET:L-ladies and…
L–
Oi!
Oi!
Sorry. The, uh…
mic’s not… work–working. Ahem.
Ladies andgentlemen…
welcome to the launch of “Kafka’s Motorbike”…
“The Greatest Book of OurTime.”
[Mild applause]
Obviously exceptfor your books, Mr. Rushdie…
which are also very good.
And Lord Archer…
yours aren’tbad, either.
[Clears throat] Anyway…
uh, what I mean is, uh…
welcome, ladies and gentlemen.
Thank you for coming to the launch of…
one of the top thirty books of ourtime.
Anyway, at least.
And here to introduce it is the man we all call…Titspervert.
Titspervert….Fitzherbert, because that…is his name.

 
 

When Helen Fielding wrote the novel Bridget Jones’s Diary, she based the character of Mark Darcy on Colin Firth‘s depiction of Mr. Darcy in Pride and Prejudice (Simon Langton, 1995). In addition to the inside-joke casting of Colin Firth as Mark Darcy, there are several other allusions to Jane Austen‘s story: Mark disparages Bridget to his mother within earshot of Bridget. In Pride and Prejudice, Mr. Darcy disparages Elizabeth to his friend Mr. Bingley within earshot of Elizabeth. Daniel Cleaver lies to Bridget about a dispute between him and Mark, claiming Mark stole his fiancée; in fact, it was the other way around. In Pride and Prejudice, it’s a dispute between Mr. Wickham and Mr. Darcy, and Wickham lies about who’s at fault. The Darcy in both stories fails to disabuse the heroine’s misinformed notion until it’s almost too late. Bridget works at Pemberley Press; Mr. Darcy lives at Pemberley estate. Crispin Bonham-Carter was in both productions (his scenes were cut out of the film, although he can still be seen in the job-quitting scene and can also be seen at the Kafka book launch where Bridget asks Salman Rushdie where the toilets are – he is seen as the man on the left in the conversation). When Bridget stops at a mall to see her mother, she begins the scene by saying (in a voice over) that, “It is a truth universally acknowledged that as soon as one part of your life starts looking up, another part falls to pieces.” This is an update of the famous opening lines of Pride and Prejudice: “It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a single man in possession of a good fortune, must be in want of a wife.”

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Liz and Dick’s Private Lives

Helena Bonham Carter as Elizabeth Taylor and Dominic West as Richard Burton in “Burton and Taylor” (Richard Laxton, 2013), a BBC film about this legendary couple.

 
 

The melancholic Burton and Taylor stars Helena Bonham Carter and Dominic West, and it focuses specifically on a few weeks in 1983 when the two, divorced and in their 50s, reunited professionally to star in Noël Coward’s Private Lives on Broadway.

Eschewing the height of Le Scandale, Burton and Taylor focuses on a quieter, less-sexy, less-triumphant moment in the pair’s love story. They are middle-aged, dancing to disco, not sleeping together, in relationships with other people, ensconced in various addictions, and, as celebrities, well into the trashy phase of their fame, a state of being the staging of Private Lives did nothing to remediate. Private Lives is a comedy about a divorced couple, newly married to other people, who passionately, dysfunctionally fall back into bed together, a tale that, obviously, tracked closely with the real story of Burton and Taylor. (In the play, as in life, the woman Burton left for Taylor was named Sybil.)

In Burton and Taylor, Burton is frustrated by the parallels: He insists that Taylor not play to the crowd, not winkingly acknowledge that the audience is there to see Richard Burton and Elizabeth Taylor, not their characters, in bed. But Taylor takes the opposite view, arguing that if that’s what the audience wants to see, then that’s what the audience should get. Simply by existing, Burton and Taylor takes Taylor’s side of the argument: What, after all, is the appeal of a movie like Burton and Taylor except as front row seat to Liz and Dick’s private lives?

Tales of Unexpected

Photos by Tim Walker for Vogue UK, December 2008

 
 

Tim Walker creates this candy coated acid trip of a universe featuring models Karen Elson, Georgia May Jagger, and Sophie Drake, as well as various actors, designers, and British eccentrics, including Tim Burton and Helena Bonham Carter. The story uses quotes from Roald Dahl stories and the editorial includes an article by Dahl’s granddaughter, model Sophie Dahl.

Naked We Came…

“Naked I came in to the world naked I shall go out and a very good thing too for it reminds me that I’m naked under my shirt whatever its color.”
E.M. Forster

 
 

E. M. Forster with Lady Ottoline Morell’s pug Soie. Photo by Lady Ottoline Morrell, 1922

 
 

“Mistrust all enterprises that require new clothes.”
E.M. Forster
A Room with a View

 
 

Stills from A Room with a View (James Ivory, 1985)

A Room with a View and No Walls

“My father says that there is only one perfect view— the view of the sky straight over our heads, and that all these views on earth are but bungled copies of it.”

A Room With a View

Chapter 15

E.M. Forster

 
 

This is spoken by George when Cecil asks him if he enjoys the view at Windy Corner. It shows Mr. Emerson’s influence on his son, and illuminates their shared philosophy. If a “view” can be seen to have a second meaning as “worldview,” then George’s comment means that there are all kinds of ideas on earth, and people may argue over whose is best, but there is only one perfect view, and that is the view of the Creator, or God, or the Eternal. The quote shows that George is not bound by the superficial prejudices and snobberies that govern Cecil. Like Lucy, he is above all that; he has a sense of something higher.

 
 

Stills from A Room with a View (James Ivory, 1985)

Swan’s Way

Blazon

For the Countess of Peralta

 
 

The snow-white Olympic swan,
with beak of rose-red agate,
preens his Eucharistic wing,
which he opens to the sun like a fan.

 

His shining neck is curved
like the arm of a lyre,
like the handle of a Greek amphora,
like the prow of a ship.

 

He is the swan of divine origin
whose kiss mounted through fields
of silk to the rosy peaks
of Leda’s sweet hills.

 

White king of of Castalia’s fount,
his triumph illumines the Danube;
Da Vinci was his baron in Italy;
Lohengrin is his blond prince.

 

His whiteness is akin to linen,
to the buds of the white roses,
to the diamantine white
of the fleece of an Easter lamb.

 

He is the poet of perfect verses,
and his lyric cloak is of ermine;
he is the magic, the regal bird
who, dying, rhymes the soul in his song.

 

This winged aristocrat displays
white lilies on a blue field;
and Pompadour, gracious and lovely,
has stroked his feathers.

 

He rows and rows on the lake
Where a golden gondola waits
For the sweetheart of Louis of Bavaria.

 

Countess, give the swans your love,
for they are gods of an alluring land
and are made of perfume and ermine,
of white light, of silk, and of dreams.

Ruben Darío

 
 

Photo: Bruce Weber

 
 

Carmen Dell’Orefice by Norman Parkinson, 1980

 
 

Swaroski logo

 
 

Bathyllus in the swan dance, Aubrey Beardsley

 
 

Henri Matisse making a study of a swan in the Bois de Boulogne, c. 1930

 
 

Advertisement illustrated by René Gruau

 
 

Illustration to Garcia Márquez’s short story Bon Voyage Mr. President, by Josie Portillo

 
 

Still from The Black Swan (Darren Aronofsky, 2010)

 
 

Anna Pavlova

 
 

Still from The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn – Part 1 (Bill Condon, 2011)

 
 

Helena Bonham Carter

 
 

Laetita Casta. Photo: Mario Testino

 
 

Uma Thurman and Mikahil Baryshnikov as The Swan Prince. Photo: Arthur Elgort

 
 

Truman Capote styled his beautiful and wealthy female friends “swans”

 
 

Accompained by Lee Radziwill and Jane Haward

 
 

With socialité Babe Paley in Paris

 
 

Escorting CZ Guest

 
 

Capote and Gloria Vanderbilt Lumet arrive at New York’s 54th Street Theatre for the opening performance of Caligula., 16 Feb 1960

 
 

Gloria Vanderbilt ad campaigns

 
 

Ludwig II (Luchino Visconti, 1972). He was sometimes called the Swan King

 
 

Mirror, Mirror (Tarsem Singh, 2012)

 
 

Robert Redford and Mia Farrow in The Great Gatsby (Jack Clayton, 1974)

 
 

Leonardo di Caprio. Photo: Annie Leibovitz

 
 

Madonna. Photo: David LaChapelle

 
 

David Bowie

 
 

Ad campaign featured in Vogue, January 1997

 
 

Tory Burch swan-print wedge sandalias

 
 

Swan Evening dress by Charles James, 1951

 
 

Kate Moss wearing a Givenchy gown by Ricardo Tisci, Spring-Summer collection 2011

 
 

Giles Deacon Spring-Summer 2012 collection

 
 

Erin O’Connor wearing a gown by Alexander McQueen. Photo: Tim Walker

 
 

Eglingham Children and Swan on Beach, Tim Walker, 2002

Fashionable Bunnies

Dorian Leigh in a hat by Paulette. Harper’s Bazaar, October, 1949

 
 

Halston black velvet dress with mink trim, 1966. Collection Museum of The City of New York

 
 

Alber Elbaz

 
 

Stella Tenant and Charles Guislain, photographed by Tim Walker, Tim Walker

 
 

Candice Bergen at Truman Capote’s Black-and-White Ball. The Plaza Hotel, New York. November 28, 1966

 
 

Liza Minnelli, Truman Capote and Studio 54 owner, Steve Rubell

 
 

Andy Warhol and Eddie Sedgwick

 
 

Elsa Peretti in a Halston-designed Bunny costume, photographed by Helmut Newton in New York City, 1975

 
 

Lauren Hutton

 
 

Playboy-inspired logo bathing suit

 
 

 Yasmin Le Bon for Ralph Lauren Fall 1985 “Rabbit Hole” ad campaign

 
 

Betsey Johnson

 
 

Reese Whiterspoon in a still from Legally Blonde (Robert Luketic, 2001)

 
 

Hilary Swank. Photo: Inez van Lamsweerde and Vinoodh Matadin, 2007

 
 

Marc Jacobs. Photo: Craig McDean for the CFDA

 
 

Madonna. Louis Vuitton, 2009 Fall-Winter ad campaign photographed by Steven Meisel.

Lady Gaga in the cover of Neo2 Magazine. September 2009 issue. Photo: Olivier Rauh

 
 

Dita Von Teese

 
 

Beth Ditto

 
 

Emma Watson for Elle UK. November 2011. Photo: Rankin

 
 

Ewan McGregor. Photo: Alexi Lubomirski

 
 

Helena Bonham Carter. The Sunday Times, April 2012

 
 

Carolina Herrera’s Bunny Print dress 2013 Resort Collection