The Book against God by James Wood
published 2003 chapter 4 - should be read with yesterday's entry
From that first ecstatic year [together] , I see vividly the moment I decided that Jane had to have a new concert dress. We were sitting in the Islington flat, London beneath and beyond us. She mentioned a forthcoming concert and I told her that she looked fabulous in everything except what she wore on stage. Why not get something black and slinky, instead of blue and puffy? Jane responded with laughter. Then she became serious.
‘It’s very important, darling’ she said ‘if you are a woman in classical music, not to get a reputation for frivolity and lack of seriousness. Look how all the record companies are marketing these new attractive female violinists. And sometimes pianists too. These baby dolls have two years in the sunlight, and then they completely disappear.’
‘So you’re saying to me that it is advantageous in the world of classical music to look dowdy.’
‘Oh Tommy that’s a mite brutal of you.’…
But I wasn’t going to listen to Jane’s objections, and I forced her to look for another dress…. We found a long Valentino dress in grey silk barely embossed with tiny lozenges of white. Jane, of course, was horrified by the price… I borrowed the money and bought the lovely airy silky distraction. Jane has worn it ever since, and her career, at least, has not suffered.
observations: Follows on from the last entry, and needs to be read in conjunction with it. This is a strange incident in the book, if for no other reason than that the narrator, Tommy, is shown as having disastrously bad judgment in most areas of life. But the descriptions are straightforward enough: Jane’s original dress sounds hideous, while the new one sounds lovely. But would Jane really have been content to wear a horrible dress? – in the previous entry we found she could look very very nice in real life. It’s a mystery.
The photograph is from the Library of Congress.