Monday, January 3, 2011

Meeting Lisa Birnbach and a few thoughts on "True Prep"

So this isn't exactly timely since it happened back in September, but speaking of Lisa Birnbach (see my previous post), I actually got to meet her when she was doing her book tour for True Prep back in the fall. I suspect that for me, meeting her was akin to kids in the early 90s getting to meet Michael Jordan.

On the last day of September, I headed down to the Brooks Brothers at Lenox with a friend of mine who was brave enough to tag along, and with my copies of The Official Preppy Handbook and True Prep in hand. After waiting in line for a few minutes (behind a girl who made a poster for Lisa and had about 10 copies of True Prep to sign), I finally got to chitchat a bit with Lisa, and with Chip Kidd who was also there. She was pleasant enough and signed both of my books, and posed with me for a picture. As you can see in the picture, she was obviously quite thrilled to be having her picture taken with me.

While I had initially thought of doing a more in-depth review of True Prep, my laziness got the better of me, so instead, here are a few of my thoughts.

-The book certainly isn't bad. It's not great either, and isn't what many of us were hoping for. I've said it jokingly before, but do you really think that Leonardo da Vinci could have painted the Mona Lisa twice? Seriously though, it is difficult for things in life to live up to our expectations, particularly after 30 years.
-The book sometimes reads like a giant ad for Vineyard Vines and other companies. While the original book certainly name-dropped brands, it never felt as blatant or heavy-handed as it does in here.
-There are two page devoted to the the types of loafers a man should wear. Only two pairs (the Stubbs & Wooten and Brooks Brothers ones, not surprisingly) are wearable; the rest are, in fact, horrible. Gucci? Prada? Tanino Crisci? What is this, a list of loafers or the cast of The Godfather?
-The "True Prep Pantheon" section towards the beginning of the book is almost 20 pages long, and is, indeed, about 16 pages too long.
-Birnbach's Democratic bias shows through far too often.
-This isn't to say that it's all bad. Most of the good parts are only charming little bites, though, rather than entire sections. I like the "hair evolution" from freshman year to senior year on pages 78 and 79, and I enjoy the mental interactions of the couple on the couch (which is supposed to be set in Atlanta, natch) in the "Till There Was You" snippet on pages 188 and 189. In my opinion, the book is best when it is straight-up imitating the original.

So, is this book worth buying? If you're a fan of The Original Preppy Handbook, I'd say yes. Don't expect to be blown away, but it will provide at least several sessions' worth of entertainment while on the "Throne."

This book is kind of like the Zip-Front Bean Boot that is currently sold at LL Bean.

Sure, it is a Bean Boot, and it has the chain-tread bottom, and it's made in Maine. It's obviously a modern take on the classic, but no true fan would ever think that this is as good as the Maine Hunting Shoe or the Bean Rubber Moc. It'll work in a pinch, but it'd be better to stick with the original.


Alan said...

Nice pic! I met her in San Francisco at a book signing. She is very good looking and quite tall. Don't worry, she towered over me also!

CoastingThroughTheSouth said...

I got the book for Christmas from a friend of mind. At points I was laughing out loud, but I do feel slightly let down. Besides the OBVIOUS liberal bias (Obama preppy? I've certainly never seen him in a bow tie or seersucker shorts. I laugh at the mere notion of Obama in any of the private clubs I'm familiar with).

Furthermore, I felt like she had an extreme Northern bias. The prepiest northern prepsters I've ever met aren't a fraction as preppy as so many deep southern preps I know.

I also felt that it recognized WAAAYY too many things that will be gone in 10 years.

I still laughed my ass off reading about buying books by the foot and the thought of buying a piano merely to hold up family photos (that last one hit very close to home).

Out Of A Bandbox said...

I second Ryan's notion. I may be stirring the pot, but Southerners are far more lifestyle and dress.

Anonymous said...

You're far too kind to that book. I posted my review on under the name "Catechumen." It was terrible and I'm amazed by these people who claim it was "hilarious." Either their threshold for humor is very, very low indeed or they're engaging in the art of hyperbole. At best, parts were mildly amusing. It was a huge disappointment when compared to the OPH.

Anonymous said...

"Birnbach's Democratic bias shows through far too often."

Would you say the same thing if her Republican bias showed through too often? I suspect you're not opposed to politics -- you're opposed to politics that don't agree with yours.

trip said...

I would say that the first book was pretty bereft of politics. I see no reason why they should have been included here.

Anonymous said...

Its very good to have you back. I've missed reading your blog...

j.mosby said...

Trip, there is something about Lisa Birnbach that gets me hot and bothered, she must look great in person, you lucky dawg:)

MP said...


Not sure about the book, but I would probably go with wet feet over those zip boots.


Death Bredon said...

I love slip-ons over laces. So, next season I may give the L.L. Bean zip-ups a go. I shall report back on the experiment sometime next fall!