From Publishers Weekly
Already skewered in the 2003 novel The Devil Wears Prada
, Wintour now gets a marginally more factual treatment in this latest unauthorized bio from celebrity trasher Oppenheimer (who's profiled Martha Stewart, the Clintons, Jerry Seinfeld, Barbara Walters and others). As in his previous works, Oppenheimer combs his subject's past, interviewing old school pals, ex-boyfriends, distant relatives, professional enemies, former colleagues and anyone else in possession of an ounce of dirt. Wintour has a reputation for being one of the nastiest women in both the fashion world and the realm of magazine publishing, a standing Oppenheimer bends over backward to bolster, dotting his pages with catty stories about her "calculated," "offensive" maliciousness (she'd buy clothes that were too small for her high school girlfriend, just so the girl would feel fat; later, at New York
magazine in the early 1980s, she stole story ideas from colleagues). Although Oppenheimer clearly feels Wintour's notoriety is deserved, he does recognize her achievements: putting a model in jeans on the cover of Vogue
, for example, when no one had dreamed of mixing denim with couture. If readers can ignore Oppenheimer's often over-the-top style ("The Wintour of British Vogue
's discontent was about to begin"), they'll find some fun dish here. Photos.
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This book is, expectedly, filled with gossip and scandals and peppered with celebrity names and tales. And, should even three-quarters of this bio seem scurrilous and unfounded, the rest of the details serve to underscore the incredible bitchiness of the world of women's magazines. The scenes painted by popular biographer Oppenheimer (who chronicled the life of Martha Stewart in Just Desserts
, 1998) seem 150 percent in alignment with his subject, Anna Wintour, editor in chief of Vogue
magazine. The "poor" little rich girl, daughter of a well-known British journalist and social worker cum heiress, used wits, guile, charm, and connections to move from high-school dropout to the pages of world-famous publications. No stranger to scheming and dreaming, Anna at an early age set her sights on the top job at the American Vogue
and, with rudeness, heartlessness, and unmasked ambition, shattered a few lives on her way up. This is not a pretty tale; after all, Lauren Weisberger's best-selling The Devil Wears Prada
[BKL Ap 1 03] is a not-so-fictionalized portrait of Wintour, among others. Yet this remains a fascinating read about one of the great queen-bee bosses and her mission to determine and define fashion. Barbara JacobsCopyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved