Another tell-all about money, power and the people who wield both, from Vanity Fair contributor Stadiem (co-author: Daughter of the King: Growing Up in Gangland, 2014, etc.).
In his latest offering, the author once again forgoes traditional biography in favor of a series of linked portraits of an entire wealthy group, this time people who entered social consciousness during the late 1950s and ’60s, when air travel became more attainable for the masses. Their antics span continents, careers and almost all imaginable levels of education, and since Stadiem has chosen the airline industry as an organizing principle, he includes the much-less-visible men who designed and built those jets. Unsurprisingly, they’re given to self-indulgent behavior and scandalous misdeeds just like other rich people. While the author does his best to weave together the tenuous threads connecting each person, family or event, it’s a labored process that results in clunky prose littered with out-of-place name-dropping and heavy-handed reminders. Many of the stories have strong appeal—e.g., brothers Ivan and Oleg Cassini could have filled an entire book by themselves—but Stadiem’s broad focus means that even the longer sections whet the appetite rather than satiate it. Social and business dynasties rise and fall, partnerships still recognizable today are forged and sometimes destroyed, and serious rivalries crop up. Each is treated similarly, as a minibiography emphasizing sex and scandal (when available). For dabblers, this narrative abundance may seem like a treasure trove; for those seeking more substantial insights, it will simply lead to a longer reading list. Stadiem also has trouble winnowing down his facts to the most pertinent and exciting, providing instead excessive detail that invites readers to skim.
A disjointed tale of society and its riches, dull and thrilling in about equal portions.