- Hardcover: 688 pages
- Publisher: Knopf; First edition (April 10, 2007)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 1400044391
- ISBN-13: 978-1400044399
- Product Dimensions: 6.7 x 1.7 x 9.4 inches
- Shipping Weight: 2.4 pounds
- Average Customer Review: 20 customer reviews
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #668,768 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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The Grand Surprise: The Journals of Leo Lerman Hardcover – Deckle Edge, April 10, 2007
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From Publishers Weekly
Writing about the Ike and Tina Turner show at Carnegie Hall in 1971, Lerman notes, "Tina and Ike are primitive, outdoor water-closet...[she] turns them on with stupid smut. My father would have found them provocative." And while it is no surprise that Lerman, longtime features editor at Vogue, later editor-in-chief of Vanity Fair and all-round arts devotee, disliked them—his tastes ran more to Lotte Lenya singing Kurt Weill—it demonstrates that he was omnivorous in his desire to experience the full range of culture and entertainment. This broad, selection of Lerman's journals is filled with great gossip (on everything from Ruth Gordon's eating habits to architect Philip Johnson's sex life) and some astute remarks on art. Lerman (1914–1994) is a great diarist: the details are precise, the information careening from idiosyncratic to important, and his tone endlessly amused and amusing. While he can be peevish and even mean, he is also frequently funny and generous. The casual reader may be lost at times, but if you are moderately conversant with high art and high society—or just want to know what Princess Marina, duchess of Kent, wore to the Metropolitan Opera in September 1956, Lerman's journals are perfect. 24 pages of photos, 8 in color. (Apr. 6)
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From The New Yorker
Lerman, who died in 1994, was at the center of fashionable New York society for almost fifty years, thanks to his work at such magazines as Vogue and Mademoiselle. The son of a housepainter in East Harlem, Lerman was drawn to "the surface glitter" of the élite, and he helped launch the careers of countless singers, writers, actresses, and artists. He was known for frugal but grand soiréesMarlene Dietrich emptied the ashtrays at one; William Faulkner stood in line with Maria Callas for Chinese food at anotherbut he never entirely lost his sense of being an outsider, or his feeling that magazine work was a distraction from "a life of letters." Lermans diaries, interspersed with his correspondence and an unfinished memoir, form a rich, occasionally rueful mosaic of a man who collected friendships the way those around him collected wealth or accolades, and who, most of the time, seemed to find his life the better for it.
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Top customer reviews
I read a review of this book in the NYTimes when it first came out and it got good reviews, and mentioned a couple of anecdotes involving Marlene Dietrich, and I told myself: you have to get this! I waited WAY TOO LONG to purchase this! But what I'm getting out of it so much more than the funny, trivial, celebrity-driven gossip usually gets you in so many lesser writings.
Yes, the stories are entertaining and certainly unique, about Maria Callas and Dietrich and Garbo and Monroe and Grace and that awful Elizabeth Taylor (he wasn't impressed with her). But when everything is said and done, they were still just people, and THAT'S what excited him. I thought to myself, what did this guy ever do except have everybody over to his house for drinks every frigging night? Well, they talked.
When you read this book what you will come away with is a man who just loved people, loved art, and wanted everybody to be comfortable and relaxed and themselves. He spent a lifetime doing that. And wrote it all down.
I'm loving it!
The reader is given to understand that his rise to the apex of the publishing industry was a direct result of Lerman's hard work and persistence. As to aspects of his personal life, I felt this book handled them in a dispassionate manner that was rather sterile and uninteresting.