Friday, August 15, 2008

front row Anna Wintour: The Cool Life and Hot Times of Vogue's Editor in Chief

by Jerry Oppenheimer

I say this book was written to cash in on the popularity of The Devil Wears Prada, and Jerry Oppenheimer himself couldn't convince me otherwise. Here are some things I have learned about Anna Wintour:

1) High school dropout. Really. This actually makes me respect her even more.
2) She has sure made her share of enemies. She also has friends, and even fans.
3) Despite her tough image, plenty of people have seen her cry in public.
4) She has enormous self-discipline.
5) She is inordinately fond of high heels.

This book is clearly written with an eye to the image of Miranda Priestly in TDWP. A sample sentence:

Just when Mirabella thought she was finally safe from that skinny shark draped in Chanel, she started hearing the Jaws theme song ringing in her ears again.

Did I mention the writing is generally clunky and annoying? I doubt there's a page in the book that doesn't have some phrase like "that skinny shark draped in Chanel" or Miyake or whoever. There are also excessive mentions of her clacking (sound like clackers to anyone else?) around in stilettos. Plus why must Oppenheimer continually refer to her as an editrix? Aren't gender-distinguishing profession names passe? When's the last time anyone used the word actress? Is it possible that this continual use of "editrix" is meant to not-so-subtly evoke the similar-sounding dominatrix? Grow up, Jerry Oppenheimer, please.

When I started this book, I was already feeling a little Wintour-weary, yet somehow I am finding her story compelling. I can't help being impressed by her iron will, by the innumerable pictures of her looking wonderful (although I saw those on the internet, not in this book), by her ability overcome setbacks and keep moving on with her life. She certainly hasn't done a good job of controlling public perception of herself as a bitch on wheels, but she has done an amazing job of controlling the facade that the public sees. It's astonishing how good she looks, and how consistent, regardless of the variety of clothes she wears. She looks great in almost anything. Although being independently wealthy certainly must help in this regard.

This book seems to be the only biography written about her to date, which is too bad, because I think in more skillful hands this material would have been truly fascinating.

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Blogger zelda said...

I kind of love the myth of Anna. I gave up the magazine a few years ago when I realized that I was probably never going to work up the nerve to spend $800 on a blouse but I did love it. One of my first letters to the editor was in an issue of Vogue.

Thanks for the tip on this book. I now know its not a must read.

8:36 AM  

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