Entertaining if sometimes mean-spirited and full of valuable lessons in how—and sometimes how not—to run a magazine.

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THE VANITY FAIR DIARIES

1983-1992

Princess Diana, Donald Trump, Nancy Reagan, and other newsy icons come in for critical assessment by a sharp-tongued London transplant who remade two leading magazines. 

Brown (The Diana Chronicles, 2007) arrived in New York in 1983, in the thick of the Reagan era, and set about revamping a magazine that was off just about anyone’s radar. Recruited by Si Newhouse, a tycoon of a literary bent (“Si doesn’t know what the fuck is going on on the VF floor,” she writes, a tad unappreciatively), she did just that, filling the magazine with serious journalism while chasing after the pop-culture evanescent. This diary is a blend of high and low and in between, especially on the high gossip front, as with her fixation on a certain cluster of royals: “No one is more dismayed about this apparently than Diana, who signed up to marry the royal James Bond.” Amid the fluff and the constant fretting about money—possessed of a healthy sense of self-regard, Brown is also keenly attuned to matters of dollars and pence—readers learn a lot about how a high-toned magazine is put together, work involving schmoozing, partying, and ego-stroking as much as blue-penciling, all of which Brown is clearly very good at. A typical day, she reveals, might involving talking a recalcitrant author into a piece he or she might not really have wanted to do, dealing with one’s handlers (“How does two million dollars sound to you?” says superagent Swifty Lazar, shopping a novel by Brown that exists only in the ether), and slotting the David Nivens and the Ahmet Erteguns in for supper. The narrative ends with an upward move to another Newhouse property, the New Yorker, where, as at VF, Brown upset dozens of boats (“I replaced seventy-one of the 120 New Yorker staff with fifty outstanding new talents”) while casting a cultural institution in her own image.

Entertaining if sometimes mean-spirited and full of valuable lessons in how—and sometimes how not—to run a magazine.

Pub Date: Nov. 14, 2017

ISBN: 978-1-62779-136-6

Page Count: 448

Publisher: Henry Holt

Review Posted Online: Nov. 23, 2017

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Doyle offers another lucid, inspiring chronicle of female empowerment and the rewards of self-awareness and renewal.

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UNTAMED

More life reflections from the bestselling author on themes of societal captivity and the catharsis of personal freedom.

In her third book, Doyle (Love Warrior, 2016, etc.) begins with a life-changing event. “Four years ago,” she writes, “married to the father of my three children, I fell in love with a woman.” That woman, Abby Wambach, would become her wife. Emblematically arranged into three sections—“Caged,” “Keys,” “Freedom”—the narrative offers, among other elements, vignettes about the soulful author’s girlhood, when she was bulimic and felt like a zoo animal, a “caged girl made for wide-open skies.” She followed the path that seemed right and appropriate based on her Catholic upbringing and adolescent conditioning. After a downward spiral into “drinking, drugging, and purging,” Doyle found sobriety and the authentic self she’d been suppressing. Still, there was trouble: Straining an already troubled marriage was her husband’s infidelity, which eventually led to life-altering choices and the discovery of a love she’d never experienced before. Throughout the book, Doyle remains open and candid, whether she’s admitting to rigging a high school homecoming court election or denouncing the doting perfectionism of “cream cheese parenting,” which is about “giving your children the best of everything.” The author’s fears and concerns are often mirrored by real-world issues: gender roles and bias, white privilege, racism, and religion-fueled homophobia and hypocrisy. Some stories merely skim the surface of larger issues, but Doyle revisits them in later sections and digs deeper, using friends and familial references to personify their impact on her life, both past and present. Shorter pieces, some only a page in length, manage to effectively translate an emotional gut punch, as when Doyle’s therapist called her blooming extramarital lesbian love a “dangerous distraction.” Ultimately, the narrative is an in-depth look at a courageous woman eager to share the wealth of her experiences by embracing vulnerability and reclaiming her inner strength and resiliency.

Doyle offers another lucid, inspiring chronicle of female empowerment and the rewards of self-awareness and renewal.

Pub Date: March 10, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-9848-0125-8

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Dial

Review Posted Online: Dec. 22, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2020

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An eye-opening glimpse into the attempted self-unmaking of one of Hollywood’s most recognizable talents.

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The debut memoir from the pop and fashion star.

Early on, Simpson describes the book she didn’t write: “a motivational manual telling you how to live your best life.” Though having committed to the lucrative deal years before, she “walked away,” fearing any sort of self-help advice she might give would be hypocritical. Outwardly, Simpson was at the peak of her success, with her fashion line generating “one billion dollars in annual sales.” However, anxiety was getting the better of her, and she admits she’d become a “feelings addict,” just needing “enough noise to distract me from the pain I’d been avoiding since childhood. The demons of traumatic abuse that refused to let me sleep at night—Tylenol PM at age twelve, red wine and Ambien as a grown, scared woman. Those same demons who perched on my shoulder, and when they saw a man as dark as them, leaned in to my ear to whisper, ‘Just give him your light. See if it saves him…’ ” On Halloween 2017, Simpson hit rock bottom, and, with the intervention of her devoted friends and husband, began to address her addictions and underlying fears. In this readable but overlong narrative, the author traces her childhood as a Baptist preacher’s daughter moving 18 times before she “hit fifth grade,” and follows her remarkable rise to fame as a singer. She reveals the psychological trauma resulting from years of sexual abuse by a family friend, experiences that drew her repeatedly into bad relationships with men, most publicly with ex-husband Nick Lachey. Admitting that she was attracted to the validating power of an audience, Simpson analyzes how her failings and triumphs have enabled her to take control of her life, even as she was hounded by the press and various music and movie executives about her weight. Simpson’s memoir contains plenty of personal and professional moments for fans to savor.

An eye-opening glimpse into the attempted self-unmaking of one of Hollywood’s most recognizable talents.

Pub Date: Feb. 4, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-06-289996-5

Page Count: 416

Publisher: Dey Street/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: Feb. 16, 2020

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