"Freakin' Fabulous: How to Dress, Speak, Behave, Eat, Drink, Entertain, Decorate, and Generally Be Better than Everyone Else" by Clinton Kelly

One reason I really like Clinton Kelly is that he doesn't use his personal life to promote his career. Like, until I finally caved and read his Wikipedia page, I lived in blissful denial about his sexual orientation. He succeeds because of his overabundance of confidence. His credibility has nothing to do with his personal life, in stark contrast to the TV series "Queer Eye for the Straight Guy" (this interesting insight is not mine; I stole it from his Wikipedia page).

Reading this book was like watching him on television. Except, I dunno, maybe it's because Stacy London, the "What Not To Wear" cohost, has always seemed much more over the top snarky than he does, I guess I always thought he was the "nice one". You know, good cop, bad cop syndrome? Well, without Stacy as the "bad cop", he seems a lot more snarky, and to be honest, borderline rude. Actually, in some cases it's not that borderline.

The book has great photography and design which is probably one of the top reasons I would have ever picked it up to read. It's like a magazine. The actual information within?

The book is divided into approximately the following sections (I may have missed a few, if so they obviously weren't memorable enough): how to dress, how to speak, how to drink, how to cook, and how to throw a great party. The section on how to dress was by far the most interesting to me (maybe because he has already proven his prowess on this front in my eyes?). The how to speak section was hilarious because of the example sentences he gave. Actually, that's the main reason why I checked the book out of the library.

This is my typical should-I-check-this-book-out test: I read the title, then I take the book off the shelf and look at it. I read the subtitle. If it's fiction, I try to read as little of the back as possible so that I can "get" what the book is about, but not have the whole plot ruined. Sometimes this involves reading the News Weekly reviews on the inside jacket cover instead of the synopsis on the back. There's nothing worse than knowing the main conflict before the characters do. I think the back of books should not contain anything more than you can get out of the first chapter, plus maybe a general statement on the theme of the book.

If the book is NON fiction, instead of reading the cover, I just flip the book open to a random spot and start reading. The books I check out are usually in this ratio: 90% nonfiction, 10% fiction (I think the books I actually read are more of an 80-20% ratio, though). This random reading will determine whether or not I check out the book, unless of course, it has piqued my interest in one of the previous steps. Usually I skip most of the books in the beauty section; they have titles like, "Make Your Skin Look 10 Years Younger!" But I saw Clinton's face on this book, and flipped to a page where he advocates using the subjunctive with this example:

"Instead of 'I wish I was a princess,' say 'I wish I were a princess.' (and for the record, I don't wish I were I princess)."

That cracked me up, I checked out the book, and read it.

Skipped the section on how to drink because I don't drink.

I also skimmed the section on language. The main reason he wrote it was, apparently, because he went to a prestigious (read: expensive) university and majored in communication, or something that required him to know grammar. The examples were funny, but a little too snide and sarcastic to read in one sitting.

I also skimmed the section on how to cook. He advocates memorizing how to cook 4 or 5 things, and nearly all of those special recipes were variations of Julia Child's recipes.

The section on how to throw a great party was 90% recipes for hors-d'oeuvres, which was interesting, but...I don't read recipes for fun, I read them if I'm trying to decide what to make! One really great tip that he gave for how to throw a great party is to not start making certain platters of hors-d'oeuvres until the first guests arrive, and then put them to work instead of sitting around in uncomfortable limbo. I know my mother in law does this, and she is the best hostess I've ever met.

So, would I recommend this book? Yes, if you're looking for some really light and fun reading. But you know, truth be told, at the end of my reading/skimming of the book, I mostly felt pretty trashy. Kind of the same feeling I get after reading People magazine. It's just so...worldly. I mean who actually lives the kind of lifestyle this guy is promoting? There are multiple references to promiscuity as normal, drinking TONS as normal, and obsessions with consumerism as normal. Even if those things technically are "normal", I don't want to be involved with them! And I personally think they aren't as "normal" as he insinuates between the lines.

I grew to view Clinton Kelly as a crotchety man in his forties who likes to pretend he's in his twenties, but whose real love is throwing parties and cooking for others. The only chapters where he wasn't as snarky or snide, and where he seemed to actually take a deeper interest in the subjects were when he described cooking and hosting. I bet he is a great host.

The main message of the book is, "Eat, drink, and be merry." So if you want some truly meaningful advice about how to be a better person, this is not the book. If you're looking for some shallow advice on how to do certain worldly things with more "style", illustrated with many glossy photos, this is a great read.

One last thing: the kinds of style advice he recommends are all general, timeless, and classic. So in that sense, there's another message to this book: "You don't have to be trendy to have style and class, you just have to perfect some basic aspects of fashion/cooking/hosting/drinking etc. and you will have style and class." I like that message because I have never had the patience/resources (both in dinero and ability to sift the "cool" from the "lame") to follow the trends.

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