Andy Warhol would have approved of close friend Lee Radziwill's autobiographical picture book, Happy Times
. A sort of postmodern photographic journal crossed with a lovey Hello!
spread, Radziwill's book offers a visually lush, mildly gossipy, somewhat surreal document--solely in photographs and brief reminiscences--of the younger Bouvier sister's unique brand of celebrity. As Radziwill explains in her introduction, friends had urged her to write a biography for years, but she felt doing so would "involve me in too many other lives." So she opted for a biography that focuses only on her "happy times" (hence the book title), and these, she says, happened mostly in the 1960s. The resulting slim volume is essentially a collection of gorgeous photographs, scattered haphazardly like a scrapbook, interspersed with Radziwill's selective memories and little handwritten comments. With a somewhat unconvincing naiveté ("memories should be of happy times"), each chapter is devoted to a particular "happy time" but in no special order. We have summers in Montauk with Mick and Bianca, Christmas with the young Kennedy family, a tour of India with her sister Jackie, whole chapters devoted to each of Radziwill's many exotic homes.
Assuming the reader knows most of the big events of her life, Radziwill offers little in the way of context of these happy times, and it's this element that ultimately gives the project a surreal, celebrity-by-association feel. You wonder why you're reading this random assemblage of country-house photos and memories of Truman Capote; or, considering so much of the book is taken up by photos of the Kennedys, why you should especially care about Lee Radziwill. But it isn't without its charm, and as you flip through the book, Radziwill's breathless gratitude for her own good fortune becomes contagious. The book's final chapter, hand-drawn by Lee and sister Jackie in 1951, documents a summer trip to Europe. An odd inclusion but ultimately fascinating, it's the essence of Happy Times: you're not exactly sure what you're looking at, or why--but isn't it lovely? --Marisa Lencioni, Amazon.co.uk