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1.09.2013

Brain Food: D.V. (Diana Vreeland's Autobiography)

I know, I've never written a book review on here before, but I decided that I would start because there are millions of books out there, so it might help to know of a few good ones. (Because our society so clearly lacks a forum for people's opinions on writing...I was saying that sarcastically.)

Nonetheless, I just couldn't not write a review about D.V., the autobiography of one of my heroes, Diana (that's pronounced Dee-ana) Vreeland. She was a columnist and editor (and she must have been a creative director) for Harper's Bazaar and Vogue...but before you go scoffing and thinking, "oh, how trite. Oh, another fashion person," you have to remember that she was working there in a different time. She came on the scene when women were all very proper in their house dresses and magazines only talked about what you might want to cook your husband for dinner. (Zzzzzzz.)

Diana Vreeland (Photographed by Richard Avedon)

Thanks to our dear Diana, fashion happened...and it meant so much more than clothes. It was liberation and a creative explosion! It meant the bikini, the mini skirt, the admiration of women, the worship of talent, dancing, performing, living, and working hard! What Diana made happen during her years of service to both magazines and to the Costume Institute at the Metropolitan museum was phenomenal.

She puts it best by saying this...

"GIVE 'EM WHAT THEY NEVER KNEW THEY WANTED."

Anyway, I could go on about her...seriously, I could gush about her all day and night. I've never had such an intense crush on a celebrity in my life. (Though she has since passed away - R.I.P)

So, about the book. There are few books I've enjoyed as much as this one. I'll be upfront, however. This is not a story in the classic sense. This is not an epic tale about Diana's career and her deepest inner thoughts.

This book is a performance. It's the literary equivalent of sitting down with her and asking her about her life experiences. There's a healthy dose of fact/fiction combinations (or what she would call "faction"), but it's all forgivable because the rhythm of the prose is so intoxicatingly fun...and the fact that she's fully aware of her tendency towards "faction" makes it endearing.

And though you may not get a glimpse into any real hardships she dealt with (she barely touches on her husband passing away, but spends more time lamenting having to leave Paris when the war was coming), you get a sense that her prose are very much like she was in life.

There is plenty of sadness and darkness in the world, but like her job in fashion (that is, her job to create fantasy), so her writing flows in the same direction - toward the light. Her deepest, darkest thoughts are hers alone, so she entertains us with what she wants to share...but not in any sort of saccharine, sickening, goodie-two-shoes, my-life-is-awesome-look-look-look-how-awesome-my-life-is way (thank goodness...that stuff is like literary diabetes.) Her prose are excitement and movement. It all buzzes with energy.

She took me on an amazing journey...from Paris to London to New York to Japan to Russia and Budapest and Leningrad and everywhere in between. She bounces from watching Josephine Baker dance to discussing her love of water and how Americans need to appreciate rain more...or why the French language creates better facial muscles and how it's hard to find the right shade of grey.

Her involvement in fashion and her lust for life is summed up in her own words:
"I mean, a new dress doesn't get you anywhere; it's the life you're living in the dress, and the sort of life you had lived before, and what you will do in it later." 

This book was like autobiographical crack for me...and I doled it out in small doses over the course of many baths. Each time, coming out of it with a renewed sense of existence and how to see the world around me. If anything, this book reminds you that living life in the way you see fit...in the most exciting way...that living this way is not a crime. My suggestion? Go read this book immediately.

And for those of you who are already committed to a book, but want to learn more, go watch The Eye Has to Travel, the film based on D.V. Hope you enjoy it all as much as I did. Back to life (and possibly a new dress to go live it in)! xo!

Oh, and here's the trailer for the documentary, if you're interested:

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