The daughter of celebrities reflects on fame, parenthood, and style.
Costume designer Tynan makes her literary debut in a candid and entertaining memoir featuring her alcoholic, combative parents, theater critic Kenneth Tynan and novelist Elaine Dundy, and their assorted glamorous friends. Growing up in England and New York in the 1950s and ’60s, the author observed her parents engaged in constant “frenzied feverish activity” of parties, openings, and dinners. “I now realize,” she writes, “that my parents were the original celebrity hounds. They relentlessly and unabashedly pursued famous people.” They had little time for their only child, leaving her in the care of a changing cast of nannies. Besides their flaming fights, which resulted in broken pottery and drunken rages, the two openly had affairs. “When I was ten years old,” Tynan recalls laconically, “they decided theirs would be an open marriage. They deemed this the solution to their compulsive infidelity.” Her parents eventually divorced, and her mother spiraled into depression; her father, remarried, still pursued other women. Tynan looked at their behavior, including her father’s predilection for sadomasochism, “with a kind of voyeuristic fascination.” But her upbringing shaped her own relationship to alcohol, drugs, and men. For a while, she suffered from vaginismus, caused, she believes, by “a fear of sex” incited by her parents’ fights. Besides chronicling her erratic family, Tynan reveals her development as a fashionista and costume designer. At the age of 14, with her own clothing allowance, she followed her taste and instincts to hone a distinctive style. Each chapter focuses on some article of clothing (her first bra, sumptuous apple-green shoes) that evokes an episode of her life. “What was I going to wear?” becomes a familiar refrain as Tynan recounts social events and job interviews where she wanted to make a notable impression. Her vivid descriptions reflect her love of clothes, designers, fabrics, and, not least, shopping.
Star-studded, gossipy, and engaging.