Tina Brown is a woman with an appetite – for excitement, glamour and, of course, for success. Her new tell-all book, The Vanity Fair Diaries: 1983-1992, is practically bursting at the seams with pearls of wisdom (see what we did there?), and gossip from behind closed doors; allowing us a first-hand insight into her golden-era of editing the title, it divulges the feverish buzz of the ‘80s as well as the stamina it took to stay on top.
Readers are guided on a magical history tour through Tina’s time at the helm of Tatler (at the tender age of 25, no less!) to landing in New York with a view to changing the fortunes of, what was at the time, an editorially confused Vanity Fair. Brown brought that must-read “mix”, as she termed it, to the publication’s pages – meaty features, crime stories, lavish photo spreads and celebrity furore – subsequently boosting sales from 200,000 to 1.2 million.
However, amidst the thrills and spills, throughout the book we often encounter a woman homesick for England, feeling alienated by the Big Apple’s rough-and-tumble rat-race and dogged by anxiety when she imagines, for a split-second, that she could stop running the show. There are times when you get the sense that Tina cast herself as the hapless Nick Carraway in F. Scott Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby: “within and without, simultaneously enchanted and repelled” by society life, as Carraway put it. Often, she laments herself for being drawn to the precise things – glitzy parties, vapid celebrities, that thing we call 'showbiz' – that she also can't help but mock.
For us, the value of The Vanity Fair Diaries is its ability to reveal the reality behind the veneer of glossy, glamorous success; it’s a world that’s often steeped in self-doubt and internal angst, plus a hell of a lot of hard work.
And if there’s one woman with whom we’d want to gab about it all over a martini… it’s Tina Brown.