Maybe it was the skimpy T-shirt with “DITCH HIM” scrawled across the front. Or the offhand comment that “cats are better than men.” It could even have been the suggestion that we all would be better off if we didn’t spend ourselves into the poorhouse celebrating a super-commercialized, over-the-top fake holiday.
You get the point. British author Emma Forrest is no fan of Valentine’s Day.
So what does Barnes & Noble do? Display her new book, “Cherries in the Snow,” prominently in its Valentine’s Day windows.
“ARRRRRGGGH,” she moans. “It’s the red lipstick theme.”
It’s very hip in some circles to trash the sacred holiday of romantics and easy to mock their elaborate, ritualized displays of public affection: the ring in the champagne glass, the “Will you marry me?” flashing across a jumbo sports screen. It’s all been done before, hardcore sophisticates shrug. Done. Done. Done.
After all, those with true love life confidence have no need for Valentine’s Day since they are adored every day — or so the theory goes. Grubby little offerings like flowers and chocolates and diamonds are only for the desperate.
Forrest is not a Jenny-come-lately to the anti-Valentine poseur crowd. Her attitudes hardened young.
Sends a Valentine to herself
“I never had a Valentine’s Day card, except from my Dad,” she mused during an interview at her apartment in Greenwich Village, where she has lived for seven years. “I send myself an e-mail so I will always have e-mail on that day.”
Twice engaged, never married, the 28-year-old has already published three novels — two with film options — and written a screenplay that was bought by Brad Pitt’s production company. Her celebrity profiles, teen columns and other words of wisdom have graced the pages of mainstream publications such as The Guardian, The Times of London, The New York Times, Spin and Vanity Fair, and edgier outlets like Interview, Paper, Nylon and The Face.
The family talent gene has certainly helped Forrest. Her mother is an American writer who has done a lot of work for British television. Her dad is president of the British Law Society, and was recently given a lifetime achievement award for his pro bono work as a lawyer. Younger sister Lisa is a film editor.
Published author at age 13Forrest was 13 when she published her first piece in the Godolphin and Latymer school magazine in west London. It was an interview with actor Ian McKellen, who starred in such films as “Richard III,” “X-Men” and the “Lord of the Rings” trilogy.
Two years later, food celeb Nigella Lawson, a fellow alumna, suggested to an editor at the London Evening Standard that Forrest would be a good choice for a story about Madonna — from a young woman’s viewpoint. By then, Forrest was so hooked on writing — especially about pop culture — that she dropped out of school when she was 16 to concentrate on her craft.
Unlike most writers who spend years collecting rejection letters from agents and publishers, Forrest was approached quickly by Random House to write a novel. “Namedropper,” about teenage girl who is obsessed with Elizabeth Taylor, came out in 2000. It was followed in 2003 by “Thin Skin,” a dark look at celebrity and beauty.
“Namedropper” grabs readers with its opening line: “He was a super-shiny boy and I liked the shape of him.”
Not that Forrest name drops. She doesn’t have to. Last month, a smiling Forrest, with her high cheekbones, wavy brown hair and curvy, petite figure, was photographed with Hilary Swank at one of those impossible-to-get-into parties following the Golden Globes — two dazzling beauties swathed in fabric just having a good time.
On this night, the young author had a downtown, sassy but sporty look: a fitted winter-white coat, bold T-shirt, snug jeans and green Keds.
“That’s the last time you will be comparing me to Laura Bush,” Forrest says in mock sternness.
The proverbial heart of goldThis diva of chick lit has the proverbial heart of gold. And it pours out in “Cherries in the Snow: A Novel of Lust, Love, Loss, and Lipstick” — an ode to Revlon’s so-named lipstick for the ages, a famously deep red shade.
Forrest’s main character, Sadie, wraps herself in tough-talking hip chick armor: constant, crude references to sex, endless workplace musings on what makeup to wear for fabulous openings, installations and parties. But she’s really just a sweet kid looking for love. Sadie simply has to ditch the geriatric sugar daddies and make peace with her new boyfriend’s preteen daughter-from-hell.
And what about Forrest?
“Love is so delicate, you can’t afford to risk it on fake holiday,” she proclaims, flopping down on her bed in her Village apartment, jammed with packing boxes for an upcoming move to another apartment.
Hmmmm. Is she letting down her guard?
“I have never loved a guy as much as I have loved this cat,” she laughs, marking her poor tabby Perry with a red smooch on his fluffy white fur. “And I totally understand why girls date guys in rock bands — BECAUSE THEY LEAVE.”
Apparently, if you are devoting yourself to your craft and succeeding at such stratospheric levels, the care and feeding of young men who may or may not be remotely mature is just too much to handle. A young woman needs time to think, to work, to imagine a world in which she wants to live.
Love means spending some time alone
In that world, Forrest says Valentine’s Day is best spent with oneself, picking out an eclectic mix of movies or books and eating exactly what you want, no matter the carb count.
“I don’t like organized fun. I don’t like New Year’s, I don’t like Valentine’s Day ... I don’t even like theme parks,” she declares. “You need to spend the day being in love with yourself. Then you can remind him why he is so lucky to be with you!”
Movies she would rent: “Paper Moon,” “BUtterfield 8,” “Talk to Her” and “The Story of the Weeping Camel” — all about different types of love, she notes. The book captivating her right now: “Heart” by Gail Godwin. Favorite writer of all time: Truman Capote, especially for his profiles of stars like Marlon Brando.
Food she loves: avocados with Marmite, a dark brown yeast spread that only native Britons can choke down — an unusual combo that would make most Americans head straight to the romantic dinner.
And her idol? Liz Taylor, the ultimate romantic, the woman whose picture adorns Forrest’s Web site.
“Liz was the first prominent woman to divorce — and divorce a lot,” Forrest swoons. “She represents the triumph of hope over experience. She gives us all hope.”