In New York in the 1980s Tina Brown, the then-editor of Vanity Fair, was at the centre of a media world packed with dazzling glamour, big money and big names.
By the time she was 35, there were few names more recognisable in the publishing world than Brown, few people who wielded the same kind of cultural and social power, and fewer who had a contact list as influential.
The AFR dubbed her the “Queen of the ’80s”, The New York Times marks her period of editing the magazine as one where she was “the biggest in town” and a New Zealand paper recently recalled her career the “stuff of media legend”.
So you can imagine, of course, when Tina Brown wrote a book about the beginning of her career for Condé Nast - aptly named The Vanity Fair Diaries - every woman, her dog and his brother picked up the book and gave it a read.
Brown, now 64, first made her mark on the media landscape by taking the editorship of British magazine Tatler; influential in its rise from small-town magazine with a tiny budget to one of the biggest players in the London media scene.
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From there, she moved to New York, where she was eventually given Vanity Fair to run for nine years before leaving its post for The New Yorker for a further six.
Her newly-released book, which documents the moment British-based Brown sets foot in New York to the moment she left Vanity Fair for The New Yorker, is a long line of diary entries where the journalist itches her way into the relentless New York social scene.
Her writing is wry, occasionally dense and, in some parts, full of candour. Her feelings are never censored, nor are her opinions on some of the biggest names in the New York art scene at the time. (Ping: Anna Wintour, Andy Warhol, Si Waterhouse, Diane von Fürstenberg and even Warren Beatty.)
The book is punctuated with shine. In truth, the picture Brown paints of her life at the time, is supremely shiny. Every week, often with husband Harry - legendary UK newspaper editor Harold Evans - by her side, she attends 'dinner parties' with the likes of Donald Trump or black-tie events beside the brightest of Hollywood movie stars.
But that's not to say the book's without depth. The tragic undercurrent of stories about AIDS, and those close to Brown who fell victim to the disease, is sobering among the balls and the benefits. The no-mans-land she appeared to live in - yearning for London, but with no desire to leave a city as big as New York - is an endearing insight into her struggle with where and what home really entails. Her entries about motherhood, maternal guilt and the difficulties of raising a child with Aspergers give her another, more human dimension. And of course, the inherent sexism she dealt with in a media industry so beset by female power is frustrating, her no-bullshit responses to it heartening.
As the book progresses, Brown's penchant for name-dropping and humble-bragging only seems to increase, though you get the sense she knows exactly what (read: this) will sell books. Glamour, like the glamorous Vanity Fair of which she was once at the helm, speaks to the curious. Those who want to understand the glittering whirlwind of high-powered New York without the commitment.
The Vanity Fair Diaries is glamorous and juicy and fast-paced and exciting. If nothing else, Tina Brown tells a great story about what it's like having the ear of some of the most powerful figures in the world while simultaneously editing one of the most influential publications in the world.
It's a book everyone is reading this summer and for a very, very good reason. While those working in the media will certainly find it fascinating, it’s a must-read for any woman interested in career, business, the juggle for work life balance, magazines or celebrity.
Perhaps this testimonial from Mamamia's fashion writer Brittany Stewart will give you an insight into why:
“It’s such great social commentary on not just the media but life in the ’80s in general which was full of excess – both to its benefit and detriment. It’s a big one packed full of detail but I devoured it. It’s a snapshot of an industry at its heights and so interesting to compare to the modern media landscape. Read it for the name dropping, but keep going for the behind the scenes into how those big magazines once operated and grab some pretty great career advice, too."
You can pick up The Vanity Fair Diaries from any good book store.
*Feature image via Instagram/AndyBishop44.