Free People Book Club: Jitterbug Perfume by Tom Robbins

I looked into all of your suggestions for the book club and decided to pick Jitterbug Perfume by Tom Robbins! I’ve mentioned my love for this author before on the blog, and have always considered doing one of his books, but I actually just happened to re-read jitterbug perfume and felt like the time was right.

Tom Robbins has a way with twisting and spinning words to create vivid scenes that awaken all of your senses. The way that he tells stories is magical, and even the most impossible scenarios seem very real, and very possible. In Skinny Legs and All he convinces you that a can of beans, a spoon and a sock have feelings and can move on their own. And in Jitterbug Perfume he imagines that you can live forever, if you set your mind to it.

The book is quite a ride – I hope you’ll come along with me.
Stay tuned for inspiring quotes and imagery in the coming weeks :)

p.s. for those of you who are new to the book club, click on the library category and you can go back and see posts from previous books like on the road and the perks of being a wallflower.

Style File: Edition 2

Meet this week’s style inspiration – the design assistant for New Romantics here at Free People. I was immediately attracted by her laid back and beautiful – yet approachable – look. I checked in on her daily to get to know her better and bring you her week in style file.

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In her romantic, somewhat demure, way of dressing she reflects her personality perfectly. She seems quiet and shy at first, but is then sweet beyond words as soon as you approach her. This is a girl who doesn’t wear outfits that shout “look at me,” but rather, “come closer.” Pay attention and you’ll notice a dainty necklace or a gorgeous etched bracelet.

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As assistant designer for the Free People New Romantics, she will be given a fabric chosen by her boss, the head designer for New Romantics, and then has to come up with styles using what she is given. The process usually starts with a sketch. Her sketches themselves are amazingly inspirational to look at. She will then drape the piece – usually doing about one a day. After she’s done draping, she will pass everything along to tech who takes it from there. This week she was already working on things for next summer.

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And now for a peek into her personal life =)

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fp girls meet patti smith

i just got an email with the subject “patti smith and store 808” and i had to blink a couple of times and make sure i was reading correctly- but a couple of our fp girls in boston did in fact get to meet patti smith herself at a book signing and lecture that took place last week at the museum of fine arts. i am so jealous… since reading her book she has become a huge inspiration for me, and i wish i had known her story sooner and gone to one of her appearances because to hear her speak in person would be life changing.

luckily our fp girls took some great notes! here’s a recap of the event from ava, our MIT in boston.

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Last week Christine (our assistant store manager) and I had the opportunity to go meet Patti Smith at the Museum of Fine Arts for a book signing and lecture….. It was an amazing experience! We snapped a few photos, and jotted down quotes from her lecture.

We first went to the book signing – we could barely contain our excitement while waiting in line, along with our Sales Associate Kaly. We had the opportunity to talk to her at the table, and were completely star struck – she was so nice, completely approachable and laid back. I’m sure I mumbled something dumb to Patti about her being wonderful.

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After the book signing we went into the auditorium, and when we saw her guitar on stage – we knew we were in for a special treat! She read excerpts from Just Kids, told stories, took questions and even sang a couple of songs.

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patti’s guitar, from “objects of life”

I jotted down some quotes below that I was scribbling in my note book. When Patti saw Kaly holding her notebook, she asked her “Are you a writer?” and Kaly said, “No, I’m an artist.” and Patti replied “You can always spot writers and artists because they always keep their notebook close!”

A lot of Patti’s talk emphasized the importance of labor within the realm of art.

“The goal of an artist is to magnify one’s vision to make it flesh. … A true artist’s ultimate goal is not celebrity.”

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patti’s jacket with rimbaud pin, from “objects of life”

On Fashion:

At one point Patti was reading from her book, and came to a passage that mentioned a long blue raincoat and she stopped, and said “I had to mention that rain coat. I’m a coat freak. In fact, I was signing books earlier and I was coveting at least two people’s coats!”

“All my outfits had names… Actually, the whole history of new wave film I had in two drawers.”

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handmade tambourine, from “objects of life”

On Song Origins:

As an opening to her song Wing – she said “I always screw up when I do this song. I wrote it, but it sort of expresses my state of mind as a young girl of 20, before I met Robert Mapplethorpe…”

I was free

needed nobody

it was beautiful

it was beautiful

Talking about how she came up with the song Grateful, right before she sang it:

“I was feeling a little low– and I was standing there so sad and I had this vision of Jerry Garcia and he smiled at me and shook his hair, and this song came into my head so I named it ‘Grateful.’ It felt like a gift from Jerry…. Life is tough, but things work out.”

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suitcase from “objects of life”

Talking about NYC:

“I went to NYC the way I usually did things- not having any money, not knowing where I was going to stay, not telling where I was going. Truthfully I still often travel that way… It’s exciting!”

“We lived at the Chelsea Hotel. Everyday was an adventure… some people accuse me of name dropping in my book. I can’t help it everyone. Everyone was there in the late 60s.”

About Boston:

When Robert asked me to write this book he was here in Boston, so I always have a special sense of him when I am here.

Audience questions:

What do you think about audiobooks?

“I’ll never not love books. I love the paper and to hold it. However, there’s a lot of trash that is being written that doesn’t deserve to be a beautiful object….. I was against color tv when it came out. You people think I am so cutting edge, but I never want anything to change.”

She did reveal she’s doing an audiobook of Just Kids, even though she didn’t know what a Kindle was about a year ago.

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paintbrush from “objects of life”

I’m a 20 year old unemployed painter. How do I grow up to be as cool as you? (Patti’s response to this was one of our favorite moments!)

“I never knew a 20 year old employed painter!

The main reason I went to NYC wasn’t to be a rich, famous artist, but to get a job. We do what we can in order to survive. Work really hard to magnify your vision. Don’t worry about selling work. Just evolve. Work hard.

If you mean you don’t have a job – GET ONE! I was always aware that you need to work in order to have food, or materials. If you mean you aren’t selling it, don’t worry about it.

First thing: Do good work. Worry about selling it later.  Make it first.

People think “oh, if you are a punk rocker you don’t work….. Uh… sorry!

I got married, scrubbed floors, raised children, and I was still an artist everyday. Unfortunately, I was not a very good housekeeper.”

(She then sang My Blakean Year)

What historical woman would you consider to be punk rock?

“Joan of Arc!”

How do you feel about being called the Godmother of Punk?

“To me people worrying about who was, who is punk rock, it’s like when my husband and brother in law would make fantasy baseball teams  and argue for hours and hour about who was better… it’s all theoretical.

First it was Princess of Piss. Then Queen of punk, now Godmother. Next I’ll be the Dinosaur.”

Signed Book

In a room full of 400 people, it felt like we were sitting in a living room just hanging out. She ended her lecture by leading the entire crowd in an acapella sing along of ‘Because the Night’ (one of my favorite songs of ALLLLLL TIME) after reading the excerpt about hearing it on the radio while walking down the street- it was absolutely amazing!

“objects of life” images from here.

thank you so much for sharing your experience ladies!

just kids, part three

i just got through the part of just kids in which patti smith recalls her encounters with janis joplin and jimi hendrix, shortly before both of their deaths. to have lived in that time, and experienced first hand how extraordinary they both were, i can only imagine the profound sense of loss she and others back then must have felt.  i wasn’t even alive yet but i am still incredibly saddened just thinking about it…i grew up listening to music from the sixties and seventies, and janis joplin was one of the first female artists i identified with. her and jimi’s performances at monterey pop are probably some of the best concert footage of all time, in my opinion.

i love the poem patti wrote about janis:

i was working real hard
to show the world what i could do
oh i guess i never dreamed
i’d have to
world spins some photographs
how i love to laugh when the crowd laughs
while love slips through
a theatre that is full
but oh baby
when the crowd goes home
and i turn in and i realize i’m alone
i can’t believe
i had to sacrifice you

her encounter with jimi hendrix took place at the opening of his electric lady studios in new york, when he found her sitting outside, nervous to go in.

“he spent a little time with me on the stairs and told me his vision of what he wanted to do with the studio.  he dreamed of amassing musicians from all over the world in woodstock and they would sit in a field in a circle and play and play. it didn’t matter what key or tempo or what melody, they would keep on playing through their discordance until they found a common language. eventually they would record this abstract universal language of music in his new studio. “the language of peace. you dig?” i did.”

this reminded me of one of my favorite quotes of all time, which comes from jimi hendrix:

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following their deaths patti describes a feeling of uncertainty about her artistic direction.

“i was both scattered and stymied, surrounded by unfinished songs and abandoned poems. i would go as far as i could and hit a wall, my own imagined limitations. and then i met a fellow who gave me his secret, and it was pretty simple. when you hit a wall, just kick it in.”

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as i was reading i felt like i identified most strongly with patti at this point…full of ideas and creativity but uncertain how to express it. a few years ago i reached a point in my life where i felt trapped and my way of kicking down the wall was driving across the country, finding myself in san francisco.

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much like patti’s time spent within new york’s rock and roll circle helped her realize her dreams, the creative energy of san francisco helped me realize mine.

new year, new book!

i am very excited to announce our next book club read – just kids by patti smith! a couple of you recommended this book but it was literally yesterday during a conversation with our videographer that we chose it.   here is what she had to say about it…

i’d heard friends talking about patti’s book and how powerful/inspiring/mesmerizing it was…
coincidentally i got tickets to see her play in new york for the new year.
i’m not much of a reader anymore, but…
i started the book on sunday – after seeing her perform which was downright amazing – and stayed up til 1am tuesday to finish it.
i don’t even feel like i can conjure up words to say what she’s already said – though when i read the last page, i texted my good friend,
feeling compelled to say “good lord, there’s good work to be done.”
i haven’t been so moved by a book in maybe…ever.
you’ll want to throw away all of your fears and reservations and excuses and go for it –
it being whatever the heck you want your life to be.

ok sign me up! i can’t wait to start reading it.  i’ll give you all a week or so to get started and then i’ll start posting about it. in the meantime, here are some images of the impossibly cool patti smith.

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the exquisite book

our graphic designers recently purchased a few books to use as inspiration – kevin and lizzy are both very talented artists and i love seeing artwork that they’re inspired by.  one of the books is called the exquisite book and upon opening it, a fascinating visual experience literally unfolds before your eyes.

the concept of the book is based around a modified version of the surrealist game “the exquisite corpse,” invented back in the 1920s. using a single sheet of paper, one artist would start at the top by drawing a head, and would fold the paper over leaving only the neckline. the next artist would draw the midsection, not knowing what the head looked like, and the third would complete the body by adding legs and feet.  then they would unfold the paper to reveal the character.

the book takes this concept and turns it into an entire book.  the first artist fills the first page, and the next artist draws their page having only seen the page prior to theirs. the book is divided into ten chapters that are each made up of ten pages, or ten artists.  the first artist of each chapter was given a phrase to start out with, such as “in the clouds…” or “in the mountains…” the results are fascinating! i love seeing how the artists feed off of each other.

here are some of my favorites:

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i love this one.

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for more info about the book check out the website.

the unbearable lightness of being – final post

“i used to admire believers”, tomas continued. “i thought they had an odd transcendental way of perceiving things which was closed to me. like clairvoyants, you might say.”

“it is completely selfless love: tereza did not want anything of karenin; she did not ever ask him to love her back. nor has she ever asked herself the questions that plague human couples: does he love me? does he love anybody more than me? does he love me more than i love him? perhaps all the questions we ask of love, to measure, test, probe, and save it, have the additional effect of cutting it short. perhaps the reason we are unable to love is that we yearn to be loved, that is, we demand something (love) from our partner instead of delivering ourselves to him demand-free and asking for nothing but his company.”

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“what about the country…we’d be alone there. the people there are different. and we’d be getting back to nature.  nature is the same as it always was.”

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“missions are stupid, tereza. i have no mission, no one has. and it’s a a terrific relief to realize you’re free, free of all missions.”

“we all need someone to look at us. we can be divided into four categories according to the kind of look we wish to live under:”

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“the first category longs for the look of an infinite number of anonymous eyes, in other words, for the look of the public. that is the case with the german singer, the american actress.”

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“the second category is made up of people who have a vital need to be looked at by many known eyes.  they are the tireless hosts of cocktail parties and dinners.”

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“then there is the third category, the category of people who need to be constantly before the eyes of the person they love.”

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and finally there is the fourth category, the rarest, the category of people who live in the imaginary eyes of those who are not present.  they are the dreamers.”

click on images for sources.

i really enjoyed reading this book – i think kundera has a beautiful way with words and some great insight into the human pursuit of happiness and that ever elusive “lightness.” those of you who read it, what did you think?

the unbearable lightness of being – part three

“the brain appears to possess a special area which we might call poetic memory and which records everything that charms or touches us, that makes our lives beautiful. from the time he met tereza, no woman had the right to leave the slightest impression on that part of his brain.”

“only the most naive of questions are truly serious. they are the questions with no answers. a question with no answer is a barrier that cannot be breached. in other words, it is questions with no answers that set the limits of human possibilities, describe the boundaries of human existence.”

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“the thing that gives our every move its meaning is always totally unknown to us. sabina was unaware of the goal that lay behind her longing to betray. the unbearable lightness of being – was that the goal?”

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“cemeteries in bohemia are like gardens. the graves are covered with grass and colorful flowers. modest tombstones are lost in the greenery. when the sun goes down, the cemetery sparkles with tiny candles. it looks as though the dead are dancing at a children’s ball. yes, a children’s ball, because the dead are as innocent as children. no matter how brutal life becomes, peace always reigns in the cemetery.”

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“from that time on she had known that beauty is a world betrayed. the only way we can encounter it is if its persecutors have overlooked it somewhere. beauty hides behind the scenes of the may day parade. if we want to find it, we must demolish the scenery.”

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“he suddenly recalled the famous myth from plato’s symposium: people were hermaphrodites until god split them in two, and now all the halves wander the world over seeking one another. love is the longing for the half of ourselves we have lost.”

click on images for sources.

the unbearable lightness of being – part one

some quotes i’ve uderlined in the book so far, with some imagery that they brought to mind.

“we can never know what to want, because, living only one life, we can neither compare it with our previous lives nor perfect it in our lives to come.”

“she loved to walk down the street with a book under her arm. it had the same significance for her as an elegant cane for the dandy a century ago. it differentiated her from others.”

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“she knew that she had become a burden to him: she took things too seriously, turning everything into a tragedy, and failed to grasp the lightness and amusing insignificance of physical love. how she wished she could learn lightness!”

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“she wanted to see the vltava. she wanted to stand on its banks and look long and hard into its waters, because the sight of the flow was soothing and healing. the river flowed from century to century, and human affairs play themselves out on its banks. play themselves out to be forgotten the next day, while the river flows on.”

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“chance and chance alone has a message for us. everything that occurs out of necessity, everything expected, repeated day in and day out, is mute. only chance can speak to us. we read its message much as gypsies read the images made by coffee grounds at the bottom of a cup.”


love that last quote so much. click on images for sources.