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The Affected Provincial's Companion
Lord Breaulove Swells Whimsy
Bloomsbury USA ($14.95)
by Maria Christoforatos
More often than not I conduct my days dressed in scruffy denim overalls and unshined shoes, however Lord Breaulove Swells Whimsy's The Affected Provincial's Companion refreshed my more subtle sensibilities. This lovely book—designed almost entirely by the author and with a foil-embossed green cover and charming illustrations—is divided into three segments: "Apothegms, Treatises, and Naughty Rimes," "Metaphysical Squibbery," and "Anecdotes and Vignettes." The succinct chapters amble agreeably from topics such as the proper grooming of one's beard ("Now That You Are A Man") to the preservation of authenticity without falling apart at the seams ("On the Diluted and Concentrated States of Being").
Lord Whimsy hilariously addresses sublime deportment and naturalist curiosities as well, searching bogs for the Pine Barrens Treefrog or conducting theatre nights with fiddler crabs. One particularly astonishing sartorial refinement he suggests is to attach a female moth to one's lapel, as "the female moth emits powerful pheromones that attract males, so that when attending an evening garden party, one might astound fellow guests by strolling about in a cloud of fornicating moths." The volume also contains a number of convoluted philosophical maps outlining topics such as nostalgia versus continuity, the blooming of character as demonstrated by the butterfly, and even mighty strategies for masculine "self-congress." (!)
While there is certainly no lack of uproarious themes, a sharp observer lies beneath the light-hearted tenor. Whimsy's inspection of trends such as metrosexuality and the fundamental differences between bohemianism and dandyism reveal a vibrant, keen eye and talent for extracting both the salient and subliminal aspects of the cultural landscape. Those who enjoy the finer points of ornamentation will find solace in many of the articles. For example, "Overdress!" refutes the notion that to overdress is a pompous activity, and astutely calls out "underdressing" as its own form of artifice and corridor to social privilege. And in "Gender and Dandyism," Whimsy sincerely advocates an inclusive state of affairs, although perhaps a survey of the history of aesthetic artifice would have been illuminating here as well. All the same, Whimsy's identification of dandyism as the evocation of "androgynous elements within a masculine vessel" rings true.
The Affected Provincial's Companion can be read not only as a witty appraisal of dandyism but as an anti-apocalyptic enticement to forge one's own life and world into the texture that sings most to one's senses. In a world where it appears cynicism and jaded sneers are valued as survival mechanisms, this is a spirited act indeed. Whimsy's call to harness enchantment in the everyday lends the book broad appeal. It is written with an unequivocally effervescent hand and is a wonderful achievement—a truly charming appeal from the heart of a naturalist, a satirical counsel in refinement, and an ecstatic summons:
We shall abandon the use of nuts and bolts for seeds and water, employing the infinitely complex processes of nature: Imagine a city composed of giant, sentient fungi! Three-bedroom orchids! Pitcher plant elevators! Laptop computers grown from venus flytraps!
Rain Taxi Online Edition, Spring 2007 | © Rain Taxi, Inc. 2007