Lesley M.M. Blume, the New York editor of an online culture and style website, hardly cuts the profile of someone with her Manolo Blahniks stuck in the cement of the past.
Which makes it all the more curious that she stitches her days with a bevy of nearly forgotten niceties, ones certainly quaint, maybe even eccentric: She keeps a handwritten diary and tends to it religiously; she takes a teatime, complete with cup and saucer and a quiet corner, every afternoon, even in her high-speed, high-tech Manhattan office.
Noel Coward or Marlene Dietrich.
And before heading out, day or night, you can bet Blume has brushed out her tresses and powdered her nose while seated at a mirrored vanity table, the sort you'd find in the boudoir of any Edith Wharton heroine.
It's not that Blume, author of a charming slip of a book, "Let's Bring Back: An Encyclopedia of Forgotten-Yet-Delightful, Chic, Useful, Curious, and Otherwise Commendable Things From Times Gone By" (Chronicle Books, $19.95), is refusing to march in the parade of progress.
It's just that she's convinced that too much has been crushed underfoot.
"What's lost?" asks Blume, 34, who studied history at Oxford University and grew up hooked on Merchant Ivory gauzy historical films and those Edith Wharton novels. "A sense of pleasure, first of all. I don't want to sound overly profound, but why are we here if we're living at such an accelerated state? We have created a world with maximum convenience but fewer enjoyments. Adornments, rituals, three-dimensional connections — those were things that gave people pleasure."
Handwriting a letter, she says, "gives me a sense of purpose, of living in the moment. It enhances the sense of the present. I personally am not in a hurry to rush through my life to the end."
And so what started as a quiet little tongue-in-cheek nostalgia column for The Huffington Post, "Let's Bring Back" blossomed into the brown blotter of an encyclopedia — with about 800 entries, from "acquaintance" to "zinc bars" — that quite deliciously and convincingly has the romantics among us pining for the ways of the dearly held past.
10 of her favorite things
If granted 10 wishes of things to bring back from times gone by, these would be on Lesley M.M. Blume's short list:
The word "scoundrel"
Cuckoo clocks ("They infuse the passing of time with humor," she writes.)
Fingerbowl champagne glasses (also known as champagne coupes, "very Fitzgeraldian," legend has it the shape was modeled on Marie Antoinette's breasts, Blume writes. Oh, my.)
Courting candles ("Used in the first half of the 19th century, courting candles were used to denote the amount of time a suitor could spend wooing the object of his affection. … When the candle burned low, it was time for the man to leave.")
Parasols ("Such pretty practicalities in a sun-conscious culture; I don't know why they went out of style.")
Teatime ("If only as an alternative to the dreary Starbucks run.")
Yesterday's simple pleasures
Author champions some niceties of the past. Teatime, anyone?
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