Rhonda Lieberman

  • Cash Course

    Take it from hedge funder Florian Homm, now a witty fugitive who appears in Lauren Greenfield’s Generation Wealth (Phaidon, $75) hanging out with his bounty hunter pal and his bodyguard: “What you’re sold in this world is a bag of rotten goods. The striving for more and bigger will never, ever lead you to the right place. All of us are following a dream, a toxic dream.”

    This sentiment resounds throughout the book from a global chorus of mavens and native informants. Old money to new, we hear from haves, have-nots, wanna-haves, and used-to-haves from Los Angeles to Newport, Rhode Island; Moscow

  • It Happened

    IT CAN'T HAPPEN HERE (1935) is not up there with Sinclair Lewis's masterpieces of the 1920s, but it's darn good. Like Main Street (1920), Babbitt (1922), and Dodsworth (1929), It Can't Happen Here reveals with rollicking wit the cruelty and cowardice—and sometimes mere cluelessness—that underwrites good old American conformity, showing how ordinary citizens could easily back a tyrant as long as he has enough pep. Predating the McCarthy era by fifteen years, and the post-9/11 surveillance state by many more, Lewis's novel persuasively suggests that a made-in-the-USA Stasi could thrive.

    Imagine

  • A Democracy of Glamour

    Elizabeth Taylor is as fabulous and as undead as ever. Just this month on Page Six the megastar yielded two fresh items of vintage gossip. On Turner Classic Movies, she sizzled away as Maggie the Cat. And in “Becoming Jewish: Warhol’s Liz and Marilyn,” the Jewish Museum in New York kvells: Between wedding Mike Todd in 1957 and Eddie Fisher in 1959, Elizabeth converted and remained a lifelong Jew. It seems that every tribe is making a landgrab to claim Elizabeth (she hated being called “Liz”) as one of their own, and who wouldn’t want to identify with the legendary beauty, sassy dame, and

  • Fraught Couture

    Balenciaga head designer Nicolas Ghesquière just ended his fifteen-year stint to be replaced by Alexander Wang, who could, says The Guardian, take the brand into a more “mass market” and less “elitist” direction. One wonders if Cristóbal Balenciaga (1895–1972)—the master craftsman who didn’t even know from “brands,” and wanted his name to die with him (his family decided otherwise)—would appreciate the irony of his make-under for the “street style” set. Between the house of Balenciaga that thrived from 1937 to 1968 as the cathedral of couture, and today’s branding orgy where “the name,

  • Shopping Maul

    AS CONSUMER CULTURE teeters on the brink of unsustainability in sky-high Jimmy Choos and chain stores ravage communities, an early look at our current woes is on full display in Émile Zola’s The Ladies’ Paradise (1883). This unpretty novel chronicles the advent of modern retail: the grand department stores that “devoured Paris” in the mid-nineteenth century, casually ruining small traders “like a cholera” and wrecking household budgets “with the indifference of a machine going at full speed, unconscious of the deaths it may cause on the road.” Zola celebrates this “poem of modern activity,”

  • The Accidental Feminist: How Elizabeth Taylor Raised Our Consciousness and We Were Too Distracted by Her Beauty to Notice

    "Taylor has had many biographers. Yet their books often reveal more about their authors than her," observes M. G. Lord, author of Forever Barbie and this new meditation, The Accidental Feminist. "Some [biographers] dish," she writes, "some fawn." And some turn their targets into feminist teaching tools. An icon known for beauty, bling, and bridegrooms makes an unlikely women's libber. Yet Lord interweaves readings of Taylor and her roles to serve up a cultural history of femininity—its abuses and uses—that is at once amusing, wrenching, and inspiring.

    Starting with Virginia Woolf, whose Three

  • Lust Horizons

    Helen DeWitt’s second novel explores Oscar Wilde’s advice: “The only way to get rid of a temptation is to yield to it.” Lightning Rods is a modest proposal for dealing with the sexual urges of “high-testosterone performance-oriented individuals” in the workplace. And a hilarious mirror of our culture’s ability to rationalize any kind of behavior, as long as it boosts the bottom line.

    Our hero, Joe, is a failed encyclopedia and vacuum-cleaner salesman. His territory is Middle America and then Florida, generic landscapes of 7-Elevens, interchangeable neighborhoods, and office parks. Noting that

  • The Wandering Shoe

    In days of yore, before the first JAP communed with a pair of Blahniks in the sanctum sanctorum of Bergdorf’s, Jews appreciated the metaphysical subtleties and theological niceties of footwear. In Jews and Shoes (Berg, $35), an odd collection of essays by Jewologists, folklorists, and an interdisciplinary mélange of cultural historians, editor Edna Nahshon cobbles together a surprisingly rich account of the Tribe’s journey via their footwear. Who knew?

    The Jew-and-shoe story kicks off with Moses’s first divine order: “Draw not nigh hither; put off thy shoes from off thy feet, for the place