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.