The Vanity Fair Diaries is a brave, self-revealing, real-time history of the mania and despair of that particularly bipolar decade. It’s about journalism and boldfaced names, but it is also mindful about feminism, wealth and the marriage of entertainment and politics. It reflects the early audacity of her singular career at a distance that helps us to take stock of the media coverage of wealth and class that landed Donald Trump in the White House ... She is fundamentally covering herself, setting a bonfire of her own vanities ... 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.
Brown’s reports on editing offer an illuminating thrill. Brown calls herself 'a magazine romantic,' and, reading her diary, you see why: she collects old magazines the way some people collect baseball cards, and her entries flutter with the joy of conquest at a time when glossies were reaching a glamorous peak. 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. Brown is an entertaining writer of what could be called High Magazinese, a prose of front-loaded descriptors and punch-line squibs, and, winsomely, she seems to write this way even when writing for herself. She has a novelist’s sense of pacing and a perverse genius for description ... That look at life from the outside gives the diaries good humor, and it offers Brown a kind of armor from herself.
I’m not sure who greenlighted these opening pages, which blunder so frequently into self-parody. At times, Brown seems capable of writing in only two registers: Brag and humblebrag ... Watching her settle into the confident, industry-conquering editor she’d become is a revelation. So is the glimpse she offers into her own habits and appetites. Brown is a woman of wondrous drive and ambition, arcing through the world as if fired from a cannon. One might think that people of such vectored determination don’t stop much to think about it. But Brown’s diaries reveal surprising ambivalence ... For legacy-media freaks, The Vanity Fair Diaries is a bound volume of crack...Yet after reading these diaries, I still wonder how much of an audience exists for them. Pages upon pages are filled with stories about dinners with doyennes who, even in their day, were only a big deal in one or two ZIP codes. Many of its barons are long forgotten, dead or disgraced. The dish about Condé Nast’s kings and queens regnant will be tasty to those who know them, but will anyone beyond their own (dwindling) clan even care? ... To me, Brown’s truest and most heartfelt confessions are about her maternal guilt and ambivalence.
The Vanity Fair Diaries sounds like more fun than it reads ...more a cautionary tale of gilded ambition, a book best saved for a gray winter weekend when the news is too stressful and binge-watching Netflix feels like work ... The legendary editor set out to write a gossipy tell-all about her tenure at Vanity Fair...shares her stories of the very rich and the very famous, tales from 30 years ago that are oddly familiar to a 2018 reader ...has a lot of insider baseball about the politics of Conde Nast, the grind of turning out issues every month, reshoots and sackings and fussy writers...this is a 'diary' in the loosest sense of the term. Her journal entries are clearly edited, the dialogue too exact, the memories too perfect, the insights coincidentally prescient.
It’s fair to say that editing a glossy monthly, even salvaging one as moribund as Vanity Fair shouldn’t be one of life’s most fraught enterprises. Yet Ms. Brown invests her narrative with so much drama that a layout meeting with Alex Liberman, Newhouse’s Russian-émigré consigliere, tingles with heart-stopping angst ... At Vanity Fair, Ms. Brown perfected the art of the mix, that magic blend of high and low—Hollywood and high culture, dictator chic, clever fashion, Eurotrash, true crime and literary reminiscence—that can make an upmarket magazine irresistible. She brings the same touch to this memoir ... that’s a central problem with the book. It covers the period 1983 to 1992, which, after all, is 25 to 34 years ago. Ms. Brown does an exquisitely pointillist job of capturing this circus of an era. Exciting as these years may have seemed at the time, they have receded into the murk of memory, taking with them most of the transient characters on which Ms. Brown lavishes her formidable skills.
Brown’s fun and often funny latest book is a sort-of (and far superior) follow-up to Life As a Party. It reveals What Tina Did Next ... Brown knows how to give her readers what they want, which is gossip about the celebrities and politicians she covered ... 'Everything in New York,' she writes at one point, 'is about personal marketing.' This certainly seems to be true of Brown, because this book isn’t really about a magazine, it’s about her, and my God, the selling is relentless ... It feels a little unfair to blame Brown for Weinstein, who, like Talk, does not feature in The Vanity Fair Diaries. But it is striking how kind she is to other men in it who have since been accused of harassment or worse.
Here not only is her voice and sensibility, but also her searching and candid self-assessment ... In all those years devoted to coaxing better work out of balky writers, one great writer was persistently sacrificed: Tina Brown herself. 'You can teach people structure,' Brown observes early in her diary-memoir, 'and how to write a lead. But you can’t teach them how to notice the right things.' Brown is a writer who notices and notices and notices ... Tina Brown’s story is that American classic: the striver arriving to make a mark in and upon New York.
...it’s fun to relive her rise to the top at Condé Nast in The Vanity Fair Diaries, with glamorous names dropped like gold nuggets throughout these voluminous pages ... At times Brown’s Diaries reads like a creaky time capsule (Dynasty’s Joan Collins and her sister Jackie having a real catfight), but it’s also fascinating how little has changed. Men have the power. Brown struggles mightily with work-life balance (work always seems to win). Will she ever be paid what she deserves? ... 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.
Her diaries recount this will to power with caustic drollery and dash, at least in their early pages. The writing isn’t knockout, but she has a journalist’s beady eye for detail, an amazing memory (she doesn’t drink) and an almost chilling sensitivity to the volatile market in social popularity ...feverish, conspiratorial mood of the book’s opening section now gives way to something almost as interesting: a struggle between her natural British irreverence and the bumptious spirit of American self-promotion ...at their best when Brown is still nervy and on the back foot. Once the hobnobbing and glad-handing take hold, the book loses its jittery tempo and becomes a roll-call of celebs, places and deals ... Nostalgists and devotees will fall upon the book anyway, and in time it should make a useful pendant to the key chronicle of high-low New York in the crazed, jabbering 1980s, The Bonfire of the Vanities.
Her diaries of that time — festooned with all the best names in literature, art, media, business, politics — open with her burning love of media ... What Brown’s fiery diaries make clear is that in times of chaos and tumult, when celerity threatens to tear us apart, the battlements will be manned by the voices of our best and our worst ... Sans cocaine-decade cash and facing the officially sanctioned scorn of the highest office, the Media in the Age of Trump must be what Brown’s Vanity Fair was: intelligent and approachable, incisive and fun, hearing aid and bullhorn, crusader and sybarite.
...a book so filled with crackling bon mots... Brown was living the life of an executive, but inside she was still the canny writer, hoarding details for the day she would pull a Truman Capote and brutally (but oh so deliciously) bite the hand that had fed her... Reading her accounts of freewheeling assignments and unlimited expense accounts will make anyone in the business nostalgic for the old days ...Brown seemed like the quintessential superwoman, impeccably coiffed, charming to speak with (assuming the conversation didn’t run over 25 minutes) and full of energy but, as the book reveals, she was actually struggling with the many pressures of having it all.
Brown’s new outing, The Vanity Fair Diaries 1983-1992, is the story of its astonishing turnaround under her reign, which the supercharged Brit chronicled daily in stacks of blue notebooks ...memoir pulls back the curtain on a world of glamour and excess ... Throughout, she provides deliciously witty commentary, forever playing the role of skeptical social observer ... a fabulously entertaining writer ...what emerges is not just a glimpse into a bygone era of arts and letters, or the story of smashed glass ceilings, or the jet-set lives of the 'one per cent,' but a portrait of a pivotal time in history ...there’s a missed opportunity with The Vanity Fair Diaries. Brown does little to analyze the extremes of American culture, beyond skewering clueless trophy wives and paranoid Master of the Universe-types.
More often than not, though, Brown’s jibes are too generalized, too hand-me-down, to draw blood ... Brown spares herself the cynicism she accords others ... By and large, the diary form follows the vicissitudes of life too closely for a shape or clear themes to emerge, but one way of reading The Vanity Fair Diaries is as the record of one woman’s gradual realization of her ever-increasing market value.
... Tina Brown pawing at that pedestal with The Vanity Fair Diaries: 1983-1992, which chronicles her glory days as the English editor who came to America to revive the magazine, and later to resuscitate the New Yorker ... Midway through these diaries, you might think that most of Brown’s roadkill has been gathered up and gone to the angels ... Brown does not chop with a cleaver. She wields her scalpel with surgical precision, blood-letting with small, incisive cuts ... These diaries are a celebrity drive-by of the great and the good and, sprinkled with high and low culture, are written with style but little humor...provide a psychological X-ray of the diarist, an unintentional autobiography of sorts, and these entries show a woman of immense talent consumed with her dazzling career. And as tough as she is (and must be) in a man’s world, her feminist self resents being dismissed.
...[a] scintillating memoir ... Swirling around the VF narrative is Brown's reportage on countless power lunches and cocktail parties, full of hilariously acid portraits of movie stars, socialites, literary lions and plutocrats, from Wallace Shawn ('a small, anxious hippo' with 'a creaky voice and twinkly, creased-up eyes') to Donald Trump (a 'sneaky, petulant infant' with a 'pouty Elvis face' who poured a drink down a VF staffer's back after she wrote something unflattering about him). The result is a witty, exuberant portrait of print journalism's last golden age.