Fear And Clothing: Unbuckling American Style

Fear And Clothing: Unbuckling American Style

As the former New York Times Critical Shopper, and voted one of Fashionista‘s 50 Most Influential People in New York Fashion, Cintra Wilson knows something about clothes. And inFear and Clothing, she imparts her no-holds-barred, totally outrageous, astute, and hilarious wisdom to the reader.

Wilson reports the findings of her “fashion road trip” across the United States, a journey that took three years and ranges across the various economic “belt regions” of America: the Cotton, Rust, Bible, Sun, Frost, Corn, and Gun Belts. Acting as a kind of fashion anthropologist, she documents and decodes the sartorial sensibilities of Americans across the country. Our fashion choices, she argues, contain a riot of visual cues that tell everyone instantly who we are, where we came from, where we feel we belong, what we want, where we are going, and how we expect to be treated when we get there. With this philosophy in hand, she tackles and unpacks the meaning behind the uniforms of Washington DC politicians and their wives, the costumes of Kentucky Derby spectators, the attractive draw of the cowboy hat in Wyoming, and what she terms the “stealth wealth” of distressed clothing in Brooklyn.

In this smart and rollicking book, Wilson illustrates how every closet is a declaration of the owner’s politics, sexuality, class, education, hopes, and dreams. With her signature wit and utterly irreverent humor, Wilson proves that, by donning our daily costume, we create our future selves, for good or ill. Indeed: your fate hangs in your closet. Dress wisely.

Caligula for President: Better American Living Through Tyranny

Caligula for President: Better American Living Through Tyranny

In this inventive and biting satire, acclaimed novelist and cultural critic Cintra Wilson reimagines America’s Manifest Destiny as helmed by Caligula, the only leader in world history capable of turning our floundering democracy into a fully functioning—and totally fun—tyranny, both here and abroad. With Caligula running the show, America will finally be able to achieve what the founding fathers really wanted, but never had the nerve to admit. Wilson also traces the historical arc of Caligula’s life and not-so-hard times, from his privileged childhood in Syria to his ascent to power to his eventual takedown by the hands of an angry populace, to point out the unsettling parallels between his own extravagant reign and a certain administration, which helped usher in a new golden age of unlimited executive power. Part political parable, part cautionary tale, Caligula for President is an ingenious and hilarious send-up of the current state of our Union by one of this generation’s sharpest satirists.

Colors Insulting to Nature

Colors Insulting to Nature

Look deep into your heart, Gentle Reader. Deep, deep, deep; past your desire for true love, for inexhaustible riches or uncontested sexual championship, for the ability to fight crime and restore peace to a weary world. Underneath all this, if you are a true, red-blooded American, you’ll find the throbbing desire to be famous.

Liza Normal wants fame worse than air, food, sleep, or self-preservation. Her talents are slim, but she’s been raised on a crash diet of Hollywood “I-can-do-it!” mythology, game-show anthems, and Love’s Baby Soft#150;scented teen dreams. According to the delusional logic inherent in these value-starved sources, the key to Making It Big as a pop star is to simply want it badly enough and Believe in Yourself (and to follow the B-movie template for becoming one of life’s golden winners — see page 20). And so, innocent Liza’s disco-ball fantasies are bowled down the yellow brick road, on a direct collision course with that whirling hall of hammers: Reality. She endures a wretched series of mishaps on the road to failure: disastrous love affairs, scorching humiliations. But Liza, a far better human than the two-dimensional starlet she thinks she wants to be, is indestructible.

In Colors Insulting to Nature, Cintra Wilson has fused ahilarious yet strangely touching coming-of-age story with a blistering satire of our celebrity-debased culture. In a world where unknowns compete to wear their ethical pants around their ankles on TV, where actors become presidents and plucky American Idols claw their way to stardom over the corpses of the dreams of a million wishful losers, Colors Insulting to Nature shocks us into seeing ourselves as we truly are, not as we think we look when we make that French pout face in the mirror. Not since John Kennedy Toole’s A Confederacy of Dunces, Martin Amis’s Money, or, yes, Rabelais’s Gargantua and Pantagruel has an antihero peeled away the lamination of our society with such savage glee and empathy. Laugh, cry, cringe with self-recognition: Colors Insulting to Nature is a brilliant achievement.

A Massive Swelling: Celebrity Re-Examined As a Grotesque, Crippling Disease and Other Cultural Revelations

A Massive Swelling: Celebrity Re-Examined As a Grotesque, Crippling Disease and Other Cultural Revelations

In her raucous, hilarious debut novel, Cintra Wilson covers the ugly side of fame and America’s unhealthy obsession with celebrity. The dark Gen-X fairy tale follows the adventures of Liza Normal, a would-be starlet with far more ambition than looks or talent. Saddled with a frightening stage mother, Peppy, Liza–”not a girl ruled by the logic of self-preservation”–endures humiliation after humiliation as she acts in an unintentionally campy family musical, turns punk, dates a drug dealer and a washed-up boy band member, goes to rehab and tries unsuccessfully to make it big in Hollywood. The indefatigable Liza finally triumphs in Las Vegas, creating a stage show based on a character from the softcore slash fiction she’s written throughout her travails. Wilson goes out on a limb with her verbal extravagance, and readers may find her post-Eggers postmodern asides to the audience (whom she calls “Young Readerlings”) and fancy fonts a bit too-too. But her spirited sendup of celebrity worship is laugh-out-loud funny.