While perusing a few book blogs that I follow I came across a review of Gunn's Golden Rules: Life's Little Lessons for Making It Work by Tim Gunn. The blog author had been pleasantly surprised by how much she enjoyed the book so I thought I would give it a go.
For the most part I enjoyed reading about Mr. Gunn's rules for life, but I was disappointed a bit by the writing especially considering the book was co-written with Ada Calhoun. Ms. Calhoun, according to her own official website, has written for the New York Times, the L.A Times and even Time Magazine. I fully understand that Gunn's expertise is in the fashion industry, but I would expect a co-writer to offer guidance in flow and topic consistency. While Gunn's Golden Rules does a reasonable job of sticking to the main idea of each chapter, there is something very stream-of-consciousness about it.
For example, chapter 16 entitled Take Risks! Playing It Safe is Never Really Safe, Gunn begins talking about setting up a branch of Parson's, the design school at which he taught for years prior to Project Runway, in Kuala Lumpur. As he was talking to a group of potential faculty about the importance of a competitive environment in the classroom he realized that was literally and figuratively speaking a foreign language. He quickly learned that in Malaysia it is not good to be better than another person. He then mentions that he believes this is also a "Midwestern sensibility, and that in certain states bragging is forbidden." He expresses his bewilderment that "no one can be better than the lowest common denominator." This leads him in to a musing about the removal of class ranks from students' transcripts and how they were removed because the "ranks made the students feel bad." He does eventually take the subject back to how important it is to take risks, but that was just one example. Through out the book I felt I was following various rabbits before coming back to the main idea. One would think his co-writer could have helped rein him in a bit. (On a totally unrelated side note that I just must add, Calhoun's website also mentions that she graduated with honors from the University of Texas in 2000 with a concentration in Sanskrit. Sanskrit? Really??)
The above is my only complaint about an otherwise extremely entertaining book about etiquette, advice for life and plenty of celebrity gossip. Gunn points out the importance of Thank You notes, the inappropriateness of parents dressing like their children (His announcement at mall fashion shows: "If you are over the age of sixteen, look away! These clothes are not for you."), and so much more.
As for life lessons, Gunn offers such tidbits as these:
- "Treat people well. Why bitch-slap someone unless you're leaving the planet for good?",
- "It's best to wield whatever power you have over your employees, children, or parents wisely. If you can't be gracious, don't spend time together." "Never talk cruelly to them- and certainly not in front of other people."
- "It's always best to err on the side of beauty over comfort." "When we look good, we feel better able to tackle the world."
- "I believe very strongly that we should all try our best to treat one another well, but I also know that some people who are difficult are doing their best, only their best isn't all that great."
- "You can be too rich and too thin, but you can never be too well read or too curious about the world." - That one might be my personal favorite.
And oh my, the tales he tells on the rich and famous, especially Martha Stewart. One story he shares about Martha is that one day he was watching her cooking show and she made a comment about life having "few disappointments greater than a room-temperature nut." After Martha's time in federal prison, he asked her if she still felt that way. After questioning if she had really said that, she said, "Well, I wouldn't say that now!" He also tells about a Christmas card he had received from Diane von Furstenberg that featured herself as the mermaid figurehead of a ship- and it was a real ship, her husband's yacht! No photoshop necessary.
In all, this was a fun book, I learned loads about Tim Gunn -he's a very interesting man- and I was even reminded of the importance of manners. Like the author of the blog that recommended this book, I was also pleasantly surprised.