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"How To Be A Man: A Guide to Style and Behavior for the Modern Gentleman" by Glenn O'Brien (Rizzoli, 2011)
March 29, 2023
I'll read anything by the late and great Glenn O'Brien. He wasn't the most accessible writer since he moved around 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 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 trying to improve himself, but something textural in this book goes very deep into one's consciousness. O'Brien wrote a column for GQ, and I suspect this book is a collection of his writings from that publication. Interestingly, it starts with the subject matter of what it is like to be a male in the 21st century but then goes off on different tangents regarding class, politics, and how one carries himself in a seemingly pointless world time. O'Brien makes sense of the chaos and advises on how one can handle themselves in this world of uncertainty.
O'Brien quotes Oscar Wilde (duh), Boris Vian, and various European and American authors and dips into the contemporary arts and music. His interests are 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, reading these later chapters in this book is quite moving (and hysterical). If one likes John Waters's essay writings, one will surely love Glenn O'Brien, 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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