Review: Persona

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Persona
by Genevieve Valentine

★★★★☆

2015 • 307 pages • Saga Press

The best part of awards season is sometimes not the awards themselves at all. (I mean, we can’t have Matthew McCaughney take us to church every year.) What I get most excited for are Genevieve Valentine’s Red Carpet Rundowns. It’s not just the snark, the battle between the Stylists’ Guild and the Necklace Makers, or the incredibly elaborate sci-fi plots. It’s Valentine’s eye for the way fashion, makeup, and styling is used as a mechanism (or weapon, if you want to be combative) to construct a star image in the constant war for visibility, glamour, and prestige that is modern Hollywood. (Man, it was easier during the studio era, when studios just told you who was classy.) Much like Our Lady of Celebrity Gossip Anne Helen Petersen, Valentine understands both the mechanics and cultural implications of celebrity—in short, the story it can tell and what that story can do. As she says, “the red carpet goes beyond a fashion event to become coded messages about the careers of the people who walk it.

Persona is all about those coded messages, centering it by having the International Assembly of the near future composed entirely of Faces who represent their countries. International diplomacy (and, of course, espionage) is now conducted in the language of celebrity. Everything, from press coverage (conducted along the lines of the studio era of Hollywood, with the paparazzi considered TMZ at best and politically dangerous at worst) to supposedly wild nights out to relationships, are coordinated by the Faces’ teams of handlers and stylists to send all the right messages about the country.

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Review: The Girls at the Kingfisher Club

The Girls at the Kingfisher Club by Genevieve Valentine

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With last Friday’s release of Maleficent, an adaptation of an adaptation of an adaptation of Giambattista Basile’s “Sole, Luna e Talia”, it might be tempting to think that we’ve hit a saturation point for fairy tale retellings. Tempting, but incorrect. I can’t speak for everybody else, of course, but I adore fairy tale retellings. It’s an extension of my love for the art of adaptation. When you’re retelling a fairy tale, the basic structure is there for you to follow or subvert, forcing you to dig in a little deeper. Adaptation, after all, is its own criticism—you have to decide what to discard, what to use, and what, to you, is the heart of the story.

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