A Collection of Beauties at the Height of Their Popularity

A Collection of Beauties at the Height of Their Popularity

A Novel

Book - 2002
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Random House, Inc.
1. A Collection of Beauties at the Height of Their Popularity is structured as a series of episodes shifting between incidents that seem separate, despite the common setting and the characters' social connections. For example, what does Gracie and Theo's befriending Margot have to do with Nash's affair with Georgia? Is it odd that these people never directly interact? Does this book feel like a novel (as opposed to a story collection)? 2. Otto's characters in this novel are constantly roving, moving quickly between jobs, apartments, and lovers. Given their transitory natures, do you think these characters find meaning in their lives? Do the characters enjoy living in a kind of day-to-day manner? What would be pleasurable about such a life? What would be difficult? Do you think the characters are grappling with larger life questions, and, if so, what do you think those questions are? 3. Throughout A Collection of Beauties , Jelly, the most visually stunning of Otto's characters, exudes a sense of separation from the people surrounding her. Do you think that beauty can set someone so far apart as to bring on a sort of loneliness? How do you think the novel defines beauty? 4. Do you think the title is ironic -- that is, are the characters in any way 'popular'? Many of them feel alienated even in their own crowded apartments and parties. Why do you think Otto gave her novel this title, besides the fact that it is the name of one of the woodblock prints in the book? 5. There has been some discussion lately about the 'second adolescence' of American twentysomethings. It is said that this phase of development is a relatively new phenomenon, beginning only with the members of the Baby Boom Generation. Do you think this is true? Do you think that the style of living Otto's characters embrace -- no commitment to anything, anyone, or any place -- has value, in any phase of life? Or does it just seem self-indulgent? 6. Is it significant that the story takes place in the early 1980s? Politically? Socially? Do you think it would change the interaction of the characters if they had cell phones and e-mail? 7. A Collection of Beauties opens and ends with excerpts from Elodie's pillow book. Why do you think Otto frames her novel with this book? Is the pillow book some sort of representation or symbol? How is it relevant to these characters' lives? 8. What is the role of art in the novel? Do the illustrations lend an atmosphere, or some kind of illumination of theme, to A Collection of Beauties ? Would the book be the same without them?
The bestselling author of How to Make an American Quilt transports us to San Francisco in the early 1980s, a magical, fog-shrouded city suffused—as are many of its denizens—with possibility and restless energy. In A Collection of Beauties at the Height of Their Popularity , Whitney Otto’s charac-ters congregate night after night at a North Beach bar called the Youki Singe Tea Room, their lives conjoined by the bonds of friendship and shared experience. At the Youki Singe, the stories of these young people’s lives—their parties, their eccentric living situations, their passions for books and art and one another—are recorded in one patron’s “pillow book,” her version of the intimate journals of the courtesans of Edo Japan. Meanwhile, though, the careless joys of the drifting life are giving way to a desire to find something more substantial, a need to belong to something or someone. The title A Collection of Beauties at the Height of Their Popularity is taken from a series of woodblock prints by the eighteenth-century artist Utamaro, a master at depicting Japan’s legendary Floating World, where, it is said, the patrons of the great pleasure quarters—and their escorts—devoted them-selves to the pursuit of music, sex, food, poetry, theater, and fashion. Now, two hundred years later and an ocean away, the young men and women of Otto’s San Francisco find themselves in their own version of a Floating World. Illustrated with more than two dozen beautifully reproduced woodblock prints, A Collection of Beauties at the Height of Their Popularity conjures an atmosphere both dreamy and contemporary. Whitney Otto engages the senses as well as the mind while exploring the intricacies, the trouble, and the rapture of human connection.

Baker & Taylor
In 1980s San Francisco, a group of rootless young characters drift through life, enjoying their friendship, romances, and shared experiences while congregating at the Youki Singe Tea Room, a North Beach bar, while searching for love, meaning, and a true home. 50,000 first printing.

Baker
& Taylor

In 1980s San Francisco, a group of rootless young characters drifts through life, enjoying their friendship, romances, and shared experiences while congregating at the Youki Singe Tea Room, a North Beach bar, while searching for love, meaning, and a truehome.

Publisher: New York : Random House, 2002
Edition: 1st ed
ISBN: 9780375505454
0375505458
Characteristics: 283 p. : ill. ; 20 cm

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