Strike your best pose! This week, I’m focusing a critical eye on the drag and high fashion-tinged dystopia of Oliver K. Langmead’s Glitterati, out with Titan Books on the 17th May. What will I make of it? Read on to find out!
This fair and unbiased review was conducted based on an electronic advance copy of the book.
From the Waterstones website:
A Clockwork Orange and RuPaul’s Drag Race meet Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind in this fabulous dystopian fable about fashion, family and feckless billionaires. Simone is one of the Glitterati, the elite living lives of luxury and leisure. Slave to the ever-changing tides – and brutal judgements – of fashion, he is immaculate. To be anything else is to be unfashionable, and no one wants to be unfashionable, or even worse, ugly…
When Simone accidentally starts a new fashion with a nosebleed at a party, another Glitterati takes the credit. Soon their rivalry threatens to raze their opulent utopia to the ground, as no one knows how to be vicious like the beautiful ones. Enter a world of the most fantastic costumes, grand palaces in the sky, the grandest parties known to mankind and the unbreakable rules of how to eat ice cream. A fabulous dystopian fable about fashion, family and the feckless billionaire class.
I am not one for fashion, in general. My style has stayed consistent for roughly the last twenty years – band shirts when I’m not at work, floral print shirts when I am. Then there’s my capital crime – jeans with everything. There’s no way there’d be a place for me in Simone and wife Georgie’s world, the denim alone marking me out as one of the swarming “unfashionables” who inhabit the lower levels of the city. Simone’s world is one of constantly changing fashions, not just in clothing but in everything, and keeping up with it all – as well as preparing oneself to be seen by fellow glitterati – takes up much of the characters’ time.
The in-depth descriptions of how Simone prepares and dresses himself are never less than entertaining, with Langmead clearly having a lot of fun coming up with designer names, cosmetics ranges and more, whilst never passing up an opportunity for a humorous touch. It’s practically impossible not to laugh out loud when Simone decides to be stealthy, breaking out his perfectly themed cosmetics range for the occasion. And of course, all this preparation needs an appreciative audience, so it’s no surprise that whenever glitterati enter a building they do so along a catwalk, flaunting their best poses and looking for the ideally lit spot in which to stand afterwards. Cross Chris Tucker’s Ruby Rhod from The Fifth Element with Hugh Laurie’s Prince George from Blackadder the Third and you’ll be some way towards understanding the kinds of people they are.
Despite his utter vacuity, however, it’s impossible not to warm to Simone. He is a man ignorant of much, and it’s no crime to be ignorant. After suffering a nosebleed at a party and inspiring a swiftly stolen new look (itself resulting in several scenes of hilarious and slightly toe-curling nosebleed inducements), events take a sinister turn. As the feud with his fellow, thieving fashionista escalates, Simone starts to realise that perhaps there’s more to the world than he initially thought. Prone to having his memories erased like all the glitterati – trauma being deeply unfashionable – it’s not long before he starts to wonder if his ignorance really is bliss after all. His ability to distract himself from anything which even vaguely challenges his intellect with trivial frippery is just the tip of the social commentary iceberg (or ice sculpture, more likely).
Glitterati makes as bold a statement as its characters’ outfits. Langmead holds up a funhouse mirror to society, warping and distorting our worst traits into something acidically and assuredly hilarious; this is biting satire with a unique setting, which will no doubt live long in the memories of any who read it.
It’s simply fabulous darlings.
Glitterati is out with Titan Books on the 17th of May.