A Year in Reading: Mark Bibbins


If you’re ever feeling unsteady, longtime and legendary Vogue editor Diana Vreeland’s memoir, DV, is as bracing as smelling salts. You should keep a copy in your bag or next to your bed or wherever you manage to read. It’s extravagant, impractical, intimate, and an interest in couture is by no means a prerequisite (the closest I get to fashion is walking past Century 21 on my way to the train). Vreeland’s friend Truman Capote famously dismissed Jack Kerouac’s writing as “typing”; Capote died the year DV was published, so who knows whether he’d have dismissed it — or embraced it — as “talking.” Since she was losing her eyesight, the book was dictated to George Plimpton, and is peppered with such admonitions as “You really should be talking to Joseph, my masseur.” Open to any page and you’ll find over-the-top and quotable gems — she’s just there, and her enthusiasms and excesses are totally beguiling, whether she’s reminiscing about sumo wrestlers, the King of England, or her love of rouge. Strangely, or not so strangely, I see lots of similarities between Vreeland and one of my other favorite autobiographers, Gertrude Stein. Here are some: their openness, their contradictions, their love of gossip, their independence, the inimitability of their voices, and of course their absolute certainty that their own extraordinary visions of and for the world were the right ones.

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