The Introspective Salon
I came across the book Pretty Fun by Kate Hudson while I was checking in books during work at the Library. My first reaction was ugh another stupid book by a celebrity. Another stupid book about how to make things look pretty so you can feel happy. Yuck. I see so many of these celebrity books come through and they all seem pretty much the same: cheap content manufactured for sales. My reaction to Kate’s book was so negative, though, that I decided to try responding to the book in a different way. Instead of just deciding I hated it, I decided to check it out. I mean, I was honestly a little curious.
Before I dive in, my pre-book thoughts are as follows:
1. The book is going to be about 75% fluff. By fluff, I mean that the pages are going to be filled with mostly pictures of Kate. The text and the margins are going to be big. There’s going to be a lot of graphic design to fill space. The book will operate under a “minimalism” aesthetic, but that will just be an excuse to cut corners and ditch substance.
2. There will be a lot of buzzwords.
3. I won’t learn much from this book, and what I do learn I’ll probably never apply to my own life. To be fair, though, this book is about throwing pretty parties and I really don’t care about throwing pretty parties. So keep that in mind, this critique is coming from a person who doesn’t have a space for this book in her life. I’m going to try to keep myself open to the possibilities though, and even put my party planner hat on.
On the fluff
This book was not 75% fluff as predicted. There were a lot of pictures of Kate, a lot of cute and oddly placed little icons, and a handful of two-page spreads that fluffed up the book, but the book was mostly content. The margins in this book are aesthetically pleasing, but they’re not gratuitously wide. I was surprised to find that Kate gives her readers plenty of ideas and ways to execute those ideas. She gives her readers recipes and she has a section called “Pretty Stocked Pantry,” which is really useful information, even for non-party people like me.
The design of this book was probably just as important during production as the content of this book, but, I didn’t come away thinking that the book had no substance like I thought I would. I also took a few things from it, like family dinner nights. I swooned over those pages (27-29) because Kate includes some ways to get kids involved in the preparation of dinner and conversation topics for the family. I thought that was one of the humblest and simplest ideas in the book. While it didn’t teach me anything new, it was a nice reminder to not only value family dinners, but to make them feel special.
One of the other things I took away from this book was to think about my alone time as a “Party for One.” It sounds really cheesy, but I like this idea because I think it will help me approach my moments alone as more precious and have more gratitude for them. I can get really caught up in thinking I’m alone way too much and that I must be doing something wrong in life because I’m not as social as I perceive everyone else to be, but I’m an introvert. Socializing exhausts me. Why I torture myself over this, I don’t know, but approaching my alone time as little parties for myself, I think that could be a useful strategy.
As far as my critique goes . . .
Something that really bugged me about this book was the mirage of simplicity. There was a two-page spread near the end of the book that featured an idyllic looking picnic and a Lord of the Rings Quote: “It is no bad thing to celebrate a simple life.” Now, to be fair, this quotation came right before the section on simple home parties and family dinners, but I have to say, this book is not about simplicity. This book is about extravagance and curated beauty. Yes, it is about the connection and the gathering, but one of Kate's party ideas was to go to Greece for an afternoon. Another suggestion was to hire a food truck for a “simple” Game Night. Alright, so she's reaching a broad audience. People in her circle can just go to Greece for an afternoon and hire entire food trucks to cater casual events, but life in that circle isn’t simple. I’m getting a little defensive over this, I’ll admit, because I consider myself to be a simple person and I feel a deep-rooted familiarity with Hobbits, but I don’t think it’s really disputable that flying to Greece for an afternoon or hiring a food truck for a few friends constitutes a lavish party.
Another part of the book that really grated on my nerves was the casual mention of "Ayurvedic Medicine." When I saw that, my mind immediately considered it a buzzword. It’s a sneaky marketing ploy. People love terms like this. It feels folksy. It feels trendy, yet it feels unique. After its appearance in the introduction, I expected never to see this term in the book again as this Eastern Indian practice has absolutely nothing to do with party planning, and I didn’t see the term come up until pages 211 and 213, but that was it. Those were the only references to Ayurvedic Medicine. That’s because Ayurvedic Medicine isn’t related to party planning. It doesn’t belong in this book. Including it was all about cashing in. Maybe Kate really does practice Ayurvedic Medicine. Maybe she knows a whole lot about it. I kind of doubt it, but I don't know, maybe it means a lot to her. Whatever. It doesn’t belong in this book.
Did I learn anything?
I mostly only found two big take-aways from Pretty Fun, which is no surprise because like I've already stated, I have little interest in parties. I enjoy spending time with the people who matter most to me. My husband. My parents. My in-laws. My sisters. My niece. Other extended family. My best friends. Ideally, one of those groups at a time. I struggle in groups of people and I find it exhausting. I say that to further clarify that I am not the intended audience for this book, so of course I wouldn’t find it super useful or see much value in the information, but I decided to check it out because I felt so much judgement toward it that it was verging on hate. I think it's good to explore and maybe challenge the things that provoke strong reactions in us, even if that thing doesn't seem particularly significant.
Overall, I do think the book is just another celebrity book. It’s not anything super special. I won't be buying it, but I can tell that Kate and her team did put effort into it and if I had bought this book, I wouldn’t feel super ripped off because it is thoughtfully put together and there are things that I gleaned from it. There are recipes and party ideas that could come in handy if I were a Party Thrower Goddess, but I’m not, so I don’t need those things in hard copy. If I’m going to throw a party, it’s going to be casual as hell. The focus will one hundred percent be on conversation and not on the decorations or the theme or the drinks. Kate made those points, too, that a party is about the people and the fun, she just likes the flair. And you know what? That’s okay. Just because I don’t like the flair doesn’t mean I have to be such an immediate critic.
Kate and I both agree that a party should just be fun, we just disagree on how to make it that way. She wants lots of people. I don’t. She wants lots of decorations and sweet touches. I don’t care. But, we both want connection and gathering. That’s pretty simple.