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A Dash of Daring: Carmel Snow and Her Life In Fashion, Art, and Letters Hardcover


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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 576 pages
  • Publisher: Atria; 1st Atria Books Hardcover Ed edition (November 15, 2005)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0743480457
  • ISBN-13: 978-0743480451
  • Product Dimensions: 9.2 x 7.3 x 1.6 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 2.4 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (11 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,108,042 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

From her perch as editor-in-chief of Harper's Bazaar from 1932 to 1957, Carmel Snow (1887–1961) defined fashion for hundreds of thousands of American women for a quarter century. Her apprenticeship in fashion journalism began when Condé Nast hired her at Vogue in 1922. Jumping ship a decade later to work for Nast's rival, Hearst's Bazaar, Snow set out to redefine the fashion magazine to include anything—fiction, diets, theater reviews, politics—of interest to a fashionable woman. To give Bazaar a unique and arresting visual style, she hired layout artist Alexei Brodovitch, plus a succession of innovative photographers: Man Ray, Munkasci, Dahl-Wolfe, Avedon. For verbal flair, Snow hired the always outrageous Diana Vreeland, and commissioned works from creative artists like Truman Capote and Andy Warhol. Rowlands, who freelances for the fashion press, is great at explaining the fashion world—the rise and fall of key designers, or the significance of various styles. But she's clearly uncomfortable exploring Snow's personal side; the editor never emerges as a flesh-and-blood woman until the last chapters, when she's being unwillingly retired from Bazaar. Still, this lavishly illustrated and entertainingly informative fashion bio is "must" reading for the W set. Photos.
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

From The New Yorker

In 1920, the thirty-three-year-old Carmel Snow was whisked from her mother's high-society dressmaking shop to be assistant fashion editor at Vogue. In 1932, she defected to Harper's Bazaar, and presided there until 1957, becoming an industry legend (she received the Légion d'Honneur for her support of French couture). Snow not only spotted trends but created them, using the magazine to boost designers such as Balenciaga, styles like the sack dress, and talents from Richard Avedon to Truman Capote. Rowlands's finely researched biography is a frothy read—like leafing through decades' worth of fashion magazines—but Snow, however charming, had a darker side: she was ruthless in pursuit of her goals, largely ignored her society husband and docile daughters, and drank prodigiously. When in Paris, it was said, she lived on "martinis, French pastries, and vitamin B injections."
Copyright © 2006 The New Yorker

More About the Author

I'm so excited to announce my next project -- "The Beatles Are Here!: 50 Years After the Band Arrived in America, Writers, Musicians, and Other Fans Remember," an anthology due out from Algonquin Books in February, 2014.

"The Beatles!" will look at the repercussions of the band's dramatic 1964 arrival in the United States. In this volume, writers, Beatlemaniacs, musicians, and others -- in both texts and interviews -- chart the course of what was, in effect, a cultural revolution.

The book's wonderfully diverse contributors include: Joe Queenan, Renée Fleming, Roy Blount, Jr., Pico Iyer, "Cousin Brucie" Morrow, and numerous others.

My other books include, most recently, "Paris Was Ours," a collection of essays by writers from all over the world that explore the profound hold that city has on the expatriates who choose to live there. (I was one of them, and wrote one of the essays.)

I was also privileged to write the biography of Carmel Snow, the brilliant Irish-American cultural icon who was editor-in-chief of Harper's Bazaar from 1932 - 1958. Snow, with infectious fun and humor, discovered and / or nurtured the careers of an astonishingly disparate collection of boldface names, including Richard Avedon, Diana Vreeland, Truman Capote, Balenciaga, Andy Warhol, and so many more.

Customer Reviews

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See all 11 customer reviews
It is a fascinating story, beautifully told.
Elizabeth Nicol
A very good biography of one of the legendary fashion editors of the 20th century.
Rev. W. S. Aitken
Reading A Dash of Daring is a lesson in real coolness.
Veronique Vienne

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

18 of 18 people found the following review helpful By Veronique Vienne on March 12, 2006
Format: Hardcover
When you crack open a 500 page book, it better be good. This biography of Harper's Bazaar fashion editor Carmel Snow is everything a heavy tome should be: entertaining, insightful, and thouroughly researched. The writing style is a perfect match for the subject matter: Penelope Rowlands' prose is as sharply defined as a couture garment, and, as a result, reading her book is the next best thing to actually owning a Dior original.

But the most rewarding part of the book is the revelation that elegance is all about gutsiness. In fact, if you look objectively at the clothes women wore back then (the book is rife with photographic documents) all those proper little wool suits and belted silk dresses look quite frumpy in restrospect. But what poise those girls had! Where did their get their attitude? Reading A Dash of Daring is a lesson in real coolness.
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10 of 10 people found the following review helpful By Ms. Parker on February 2, 2006
Format: Hardcover
This is a handsomely produced book, filled with wonderful photos, about a fascinating woman, the daughter of an Irish immigrant, who traveled the major capitals of the world and transformed Harper's Bazaar into one of the liveliest magazines of the 20th century. Clearly and elegantly written, the book is rife with wonderful anecdotes about major designers, writers, artists, movie stars, and grand eccentrics. Snow's was an extraordinary life, and Rowlands does it full justice while giving us a detailed portrait of the fashion world during its golden age.
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8 of 8 people found the following review helpful By William A. Chanler on March 1, 2006
Format: Hardcover
"A Dash of Daring" is a biography that offers a comprehensive look at a fashion icon. The life of Carmel Snow should interest fashion connousseurs and others alike. This reader was especialy fascinated by the detailed description of life in war-torn Paris. It is relevant to the world today.
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21 of 27 people found the following review helpful By Kevin Killian HALL OF FAME on November 25, 2005
Format: Hardcover
A few years back author Penelope Rowlands published a very good book (a smell handbook) on the Irish designer Eileen Gray. Carmel Snow, also Irish, is the subject of Rowlands' new book, which has been just released in a fantastically designed package from Atria. It is an explosion of chic, with Louise Dahl-Wolfe photos seemingly on every page, and photos of Ms. Snow with Chanel, Balenciaga, this one, and that one. Rowlands interviewed dozens of Carmel Snow's intimates, including many members of her extended family, and seems to have traipsed around in Snow's footsteps for years, digging up the dirt as she found it. Finally, however, it boils down to, who was Carmel Snow? She was the editor of Harpers Bazaar, one of the noted fashion magazines of the 20th century, and she was a player in the world of fashion which showed French designers eventually having to make way for Americans in the field.

The late Richard Avedon, interviewed by Rowlands, sums up the difficulty accurately. Everyonw knows of Diana Vreeland, Snow's opposite number at VOGUE, while Carmel Snow is today a forgotten name. Even people who claim to have heard of her are usually, is pressed, found to have been thinking of someone else the whole time. You can't precisely say that Carmel Snow never did anything, but oddly little of her traces have been felt on history. Rowlands attempts to trace her wake in the various reputations of St. Laurent, Cecil Beaton, Truman Capote, Coco Chanel, Carson McCullers and many of the other bright lights Snow featured in HARPERS. But it isn't very convincing. Rowlands' writing is good, there's just not much there there. You know that song, "Here's to the Ladies who Lunch?" Reading A DASH OF DARING is like listening to that track, on repeat, for three or four days in a row.
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7 of 8 people found the following review helpful By Reader on March 1, 2006
Format: Hardcover
This beautifully produced and perceptive biography of Carmel Snow, arguably the greatest fashion editor who ever lived, is a sheer delight to read. The author focuses our gaze on both the biographical subject and the milieu in which Snow lived and worked. Penelope Rowland's impressive research and extensive interviews, combined with her sure touch as a storyteller, have yielded an engaging and compelling story.
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7 of 8 people found the following review helpful By Elizabeth Nicol on March 1, 2006
Format: Hardcover
I have bought many copies of this book to give to friends. I think it is a very special. It is a fascinating story, beautifully told. It is not just for those interested in fashion. It is a masterpiece of biography.
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