What Makes a Magazine? Tina Brown Has the Answers
Though I will admit that I was a late adopter to the world of podcasts, once I discovered The High Low, I became a loyal convert. I religiously read Dolly & Pandora’s “show notes” for their recommended books (Putney has now earned a place in my all-time favorites), and articles (I am, as a result of their recommendations, – and gentle chiding about supporting journalists by putting up the funds for a paywall – a very loyal subscriber of the Sunday Times). But beyond their one-off suggestions, the episodes of the show I cherish the most are the author specials. They’ve talked with literary legend Meg Wolitzer (The Interestings has been on my top ten for years), journalist Lindsey Hilsum (who wrote In Extremis, a biography of the late war journalist Marie Colvin, who became my idol approximately ten pages into the book), and up-and-coming author Candice Carty-Williams (of the previously reviewed Queenie). But my favorite author special of all? Perhaps fittingly, the woman who coined the term “high low journalism” herself, the inimitable Tina Brown.
Tina now hosts her own podcast, TBD with Tina Brown (the Bill Browder episode is a great place to start; my review of Red Notice, which I devoured in a matter of hours, is forthcoming), but she was on the show to discuss her second book, The Vanity Fair Diaries.
Funnily enough, I’ve had The Diana Chronicles on my bookshelf for years, and never got around to picking it up, for the same reasons I struggled with The Goldfinch – it was too heavy. So, when I discovered that The Vanity Fair Diaries was a slim, paperback volume, I pressured my little brother into purchasing it for me for Christmas (yes, I am aware I’m behind on my reviews. Working on it. Also working on decreasing my parentheses-per-post count. Baby steps). I took it with me on Christmas vacation, and I could not have dreamed up a better beach/plane read if I tried. Plus – it’s all true.
As someone who used to work at a magazine, albeit on the decidedly unglamorous business side, certain technical aspects of the book may have resonated a bit more with me than they might the average person, but I would venture to guess that you’ll like this book, regardless of whether or not a glossy title sits on your resume.
Readers of Tatler – and if you aren’t one, please do yourself a favor and purchase a copy ASAP – might know Tina Brown as the wunderkind who turned the magazine around at the tender age of twenty-five. After she wrapped her Tatler tenure, she hopped across the pond to head things up at Vanity Fair – another directionless-at-the-time magazine, which is where the book’s fun begins. Sharp and ever-so-slightly irreverent, Brown does not hold back from sharing insider intel. From behind-the-scenes deals to scandalous affairs (including her own) and beyond, the book offers valuable insight into what it takes to make a magazine. It’s an autobiography that reads like a novel, and the perfect paperback to pack in your beach bag this season.