- Hardcover: 448 pages
- Publisher: Henry Holt and Co.; First Edition edition (November 14, 2017)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 1627791361
- ISBN-13: 978-1627791366
- Product Dimensions: 6.4 x 1.5 x 9.6 inches
- Shipping Weight: 1.6 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
- Average Customer Review: 127 customer reviews
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #35,160 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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The Vanity Fair Diaries: 1983 - 1992 Hardcover – November 14, 2017
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“Right there. That’s what makes Brown such a fabulous diarist. It’s not just that she’s a wonderful writer (although she is: fluent, funny, fierce). It’s more that, even after taking her seat at America’s top table, she never stops noticing. Amid the narcotic stupefaction of great wealth, Brown is invariably alert and on the money.”
―Allison Pearson, Sunday Telegraph (UK)
“There has been fevered speculation about Tina Brown’s diaries for decades . . . Well, here they finally are―and I read them in one six-hour sprint of pure pleasure and joy. These are the most compelling media diaries since Piers Morgan’s The Insider but with a tonier cast of characters, indiscreet, brilliantly observed, frequently hilarious . . . Her turnaround of the relaunched Vanity Fair in the mid-Eighties is the stuff of journalistic legend―an electrifying, glitzy, gritty triumph―and these are the years covered by these diaries. And it's all here: the Demi Moore naked and pregnant front cover, Claus von Bulow photographed in black leather, Donald and Ivana Trump, the whole sweep of Eighties Manhattan reported at first hand in Tina’s fresh, beady, borderline-paranoid style . . . As a primer for how to edit a hot magazine, there is much to learn here . . . Tina encounters it all, and deals with it."
―Nicholas Coleridge, Evening Standard (UK)
“In a memoir about her tenure at the helm of Vanity Fair, the legendary editor deftly crystallizes moments in social history . . . Spectacular . . . Here not only is Brown’s voice and sensibility, but also her searching and candid self-assessment.”
―David Frum, The Atlantic
“Brown’s diary entries from these heady early years of Vanity Fair’s ascent are entertaining reading, not least because the story of a provincial―or, in this case, expat import―making good in the big city is always fun . . . She’s an ace at thumbnail portraiture . . . Best of all, she’s often funny.”
“Delicious . . . spectacular.”
“Brown’s account of her first decade as an editor in the US is a love letter to this idea of America: as a place where one comes to shed the inhibitions of home . . . A mine of juicy encounters . . . delightful.”
―Emma Brockes, The Guardian
“A zingy account of the glittery, shallow 1980s . . . Brown is a waspish, reliably slick writer―her witty skewerings are first-class.”
―The Times (London)
“A revelation . . . Brown is a woman of wondrous drive and ambition, arcing through the world as if fired from a cannon . . . There’s swing in Brown’s voice and vinegar in her pen . . . For legacy-media freaks, The Vanity Fair Diaries is a bound volume of crack.”
―Jennifer Senior, The New York Times Book Review
“The Vanity Fair Diaries is the perfect stocking filler for any social x-ray who yearns to wallow in nostalgia. But even students of our own time will find the prescience of Brown’s observations a source of amusement. The decade’s greatest symbol, she observes, turned out to be not a person but a building: Trump Tower, ‘the very definition of ersatz with its fool’s gold façade, its flashy internal waterfall, its dodgy financing.”
―Fiammetta Rocco, The Economist
“Tina Brown is an even more accomplished writer than any of us imagined . . . nearly every sentence in these off-hours jottings is polished to such a high sheen . . . Brown does an exquisitely pointillist job of capturing this circus of an era.”
―Edward Kosner, The Wall Street Journal
“One of the pleasures of The Vanity Fair Diaries―Tina Brown’s wickedly sharp account of her years as editor of the magazine―is her writing, the way she captures people with a few slashes of the pen.”
―Tina Jordan, Entertainment Weekly
“Her narrative is juicy in the mold less of a chophouse steak than of a summer peach: a little tart, a little sweet, mostly refreshing. It’s pretty irresistible . . . She has a novelist’s sense of pacing and a perverse genius for description . . . Her gift is to feel the big story emerging in the small, human detail.”
―Nathan Heller, The New Yorker
“Brave, self-revealing real time-history . . . the kind of specific reporting that made Tina’s Vanity Fair so juicy . . . Journalists will feast on it, but so too will anyone interested in media―especially magazines and how they came and went. If you liked Tina Brown’s Vanity Fair in the ’80s, her diary pages will sweep you back and even if you could get a little fed up with Tina back then, you will miss her now.”
―Terry McDonell, The New York Times Book Review
“Her eye gets its glinting acuity from her status as an outsider―‘a cultural misfit,’ an expat both repelled and entranced by hyperbolic America.”
―Peter Conrad, The Guardian
“The Vanity Fair Diaries is a bound volume of crack. Brown may have been a complicated feminist figure. But she was also a trailblazer, willing to take risks and get battered and bruised in the arena.”
―Jennifer Senior, The New York Times (The Daily)
“In the now published diaries that she kept while editing Vanity Fair, Brown serves up a banquet of insider dish even as she skewers the social scene with self-appraising grace.”
―The Daily Beast
“Media insiders will gobble up Brown’s real-time descriptions of how she built the controversial but wildly successful ‘high-low’ mix at Vanity Fair . . . Her most intimate observations―about her marriage to fellow Brit editor Harry Evans; her concerns over their premature son, Georgie; the agony of watching talented young men die from AIDS―elevate these Diaries beyond a mere New Gilded Age chronicle. As a well-educated Englishwoman in New York, Brown shows a novelistic flair in her descriptions of people, especially those she encounters at endless dinner parties, among them Manhattan’s richest Trophy Wives.”
―Jocelyn McClurg, USA Today
“Delicious . . . A blazing portrait of a jet-propelled genius.”
“Tina’s singular voice immediately swept me up into the intoxicating, pulse-pounding energy of New York media culture in the ‘80s―the glittering social landscape, the thrill of creative rebirth and the relentless quest for success . . . Her diaries form a riveting, at-times-prophetic portrait of the opulent decade that shaped our modern media, told through the eyes of a woman who entered this world as an outsider but nevertheless smashed through professional barriers left and right.”
―Bruna Papandrea, Shelf Awareness
“A dishy tell-all . . . Give! Us! The! Tea!”
“A mile a minute memoir I read like a parrot with my nails embedded in Pirate Tina’s shoulder- yelling ‘what??!!’ ‘What!?!! WOWZA!’ as she swashbuckles through the eighties, her sword slicing up the staid shibboleths of NY society. I remembered why I was afraid of her in those days. And why that energy & imagination, turned to making the world better, has galvanized so many of us now. A cultural catalyst- she makes things happen. Thank god she wrote it all down. Hang on. A wild ride.”
“Full of creative glee, passion and excitement, The Vanity Fair Diaries features a cast of characters like Mad Men (and women) on speed; an epic of a legendary magazine’s dazzling re-creation; moments of laugh-out-loud comic asides, juicy gossip and sketches of Austen-like sharpness, all put together by an editor of high octane genius who pauses only to reflect that however good she might be, it’s never quite good enough. Oh yes, it is. Read the diaries and feel better about everything. The word lives!”
“High, low, smart, sexy, Tina Brown’s The Vanity Fair Diaries is like the magazine she re-invented, a must read for anyone interested in Hollywood, high-society, and the movers and shakers of pop culture.”
“It’s a brilliant, concretely realized social history as much as a fabulous odyssey and I read it in a mad frenzy.”
About the Author
TINA BROWN is an award-winning writer and editor and founder of the Women in the World Summit. Between 1979 and 2001 she was the editor of Tatler, Vanity Fair, and The New Yorker. Her 2007 biography of the Princess of Wales, The Diana Chronicles, topped the New York Times bestseller list. In 2008 she founded The Daily Beast, which won the Webby Award for Best News Site in 2012 and 2013. Queen Elizabeth honored her in 2000 as a Commander of the Order of the British Empire (CBE) for her services to overseas journalism, and in 2007 she was inducted into the U.S. Magazine Editors’ Hall of Fame. She founded the Women in the World Summit in 2010 and launched Tina Brown Live Media in 2014 to expand Women in the World internationally. She is married to the editor, publisher, and historian Sir Harold Evans and lives in New York City.
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In 1987, Andy Warhol did me the favor of dying on a Sunday morning. By Wednesday, I had written 7,500 freshly reported words for New York Magazine. On Monday, my Warhol piece appeared on the cover of New York. The following week, Tina Brown took me to lunch and showed me a Helmut Newton photograph of Faye Dunaway. “Your first cover,” she said. Would I come to Vanity Fair for $70,000 a year? I was then earning $35,000; my wife, a writer, her two young children and I lived, high above our means, on Central Park West. At that restaurant it was a career effort not to hug Tina.
I was a Vanity Fair contributing editor from 1987 to 1993. As a writer who could deliver a late-breaking cover story against a ridiculous deadline, I was the happy recipient of Tina’s attention. Thrilled to share a masthead with the magazine equivalent of the 1927 Yankees, I returned it. I also saw Tina’s few but surprising weaknesses. Like: limited peripheral vision. Literally: she didn’t have much awareness of someone behind her or to the side. And metaphorically: her relentless focus on the magazine and her hellacious workload sometimes blinded her to her writers’ feelings. Once, on a car phone, she killed months of my work. (That gnawed on her; a decade later, she apologized.) And she had the unfortunate tendency, not unique to her, to be disproportionately influenced by the last person she talked to; at VF, office politics was a blood sport. (Someone posted a sign in the office: “On the side we put out a magazine.”) And she tolerated and maybe enabled an epidemic of Terminal Fabulousness — like, in a morning meeting of a dozen VF heavies in a windowless inner office of a Hollywood soundstage, I was the only one not wearing sunglasses.
I offer these criticisms so I don’t come off as a fanboy. The fact is, Tina Brown was a once-in-a-lifetime creative force in a business that generally rewarded dull competence. She set the bar high (“Always do the impossible thing first”), urged writers to have a big life (“Go out, go out, and bring something back, even if it’s only a cold”), and took her greatest pleasure in marking copy with a red pencil (“It’ll cut like butter.”) These days, when New York media folk tell me how hard they work, I just smile. And think, “Not compared to Tina Brown.”
Her diaries are a record of her creativity, decisiveness and pluck. For those who didn’t discover her crisp prose in "The Diana Chronicles," the diaries also reveal that she is a wickedly good writer.
This book is not for everyone. If you missed the ‘80s in New York or are thrilled they’re gone, you won’t love sustained coverage of big egos and big money. If the inner workings of a media machine and the name Conde Nast mean nothing to you, take a hard pass. On the other hand, she’s intimate to a degree you won’t expect on the subject of motherhood and her concern for her son, whose Asperger’s syndrome was undiagnosed for years. Her inability to be acknowledged for what she was achieving at VF — for her first four years, she was so scandalously underpaid that Hearst very nearly poached her — will remind you that economic inequity for women extends right to the top.
Candid? Interesting? Consider…
- Walter Mondale “would make an excellent prime minister of Norway.”
- Betsy Bloomingdale “has the wind-tunnel look of a recent face-lift.”
- New York Times society reporter Charlotte Curtis: “a coiffed asparagus, exuding second-rate intellectualism.”
- Arianna’s husband Michael Huffington: “a tall glass of water with a weak smile.”
- Amanda Burden: “a charming sparrow-faced blonde who clearly longs to be looked after.”
- Swifty Lazar: “tiny and bald and hairy in the wrong places.”
- Mica Ertegun “seems to have made a career out of the enigma of her marriage.”
- Joan Didion and John Gregory Dunne, “who I find are always a struggle.”
She’s at her aspish best on Conde Nast management. Alex Liberman is “like a spider in the center of a web. Spinning and spinning and reeling you in on silken thread.” His wife Tatiana is “a barking dinosaur.” S.I. Newhouse and his brood are “a family of gerbils.”
At the end of this book, she decamps to The New Yorker, which she transforms into a success that David Remnick will build on. Her beloved mother dies and she launches Talk, unwisely seduced by Harvey Weinstein’s promise of equity. Massive spending and an advertising desert after 9/11 doom that magazine. She launches The Daily Beast, another budget-buster, on the Web. And now she’s found a home in the women’s conference zone.
Back at Vanity Fair, Graydon Carter, standing on her shoulders, staged a holding action for 25 years, freezing the magazine’s DNA while making a 7-figure salary, plus perks, and building his personal brand as a restaurateur and film producer. With his departure, that ends. Conde Nast told his potential replacements that they’ll have a vastly lower salary and that “they’d like them to reimagine the magazine, its digital properties and its conference business — but that the title’s budget would be shrinking.” The brave new editor, Radhika Jones, comes from the books department of the Times, which has been brutally slashing budgets for years. Translation: Conde Nast is preparing this tired title to be a smaller, less successful brand.
Sic transit Gloria? Well, magazines, like all organisms, have a life cycle. Tina Brown? “Unless I’m working, I am agitated,” she writes. Does Act 3 lie ahead (or is it Act 4) for her? Never say never.
The book's strength resides in Brown's smart, witty take on situations and personalities. She mixed with literary lions, celebrities and the social glitterati, and she has entertaining tales to tell. Wide open to experience and sharply observant, with a gift for the telling detail, her writing is a treat to read.
Now, it is repetitive. And if name dropping is offensive to you, DON'T READ!. If continual descriptions of dinners is pretentious, DON'T READ. And I must admit that it is too slow when it leaves the magazine story and moves too much in to dinner parties. But in the end it is a very compelling read of how an underpaid Brit finally gets what is coming and really makes a name for herself in NYC. I enjoyed immensely. But it is a commitment and not without slow, dull parts. But when Warren Beatty calls you for lunch, it's worth reading why. Enjoy.