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BOOK REVIEW:

The price of illusion : a memoir

Call Number: 
051.092 B922

Over many years Joan Juliet Buck contributed excellent reviews and criticism on a variety of subjects (fashion, media, the arts, film and music) to Vogue Magazine. After an ill-fated assignment in 2011 she and her work evaporated from the printed media. It was an interview with the first lady of Syria printed a few weeks before Bashar al-Assad ordered violent attacks against masses of protesters. Buck is not a stupid woman, perhaps guileless in trusting those who had given her the interview assignment. She has detractors who have not spoken in her defense, and supporters: Tina Brown, Manolo Blahnik and Anjelica Huston, who voiced their encouragement and admiration. The media invective was swift and harsh, and it became a turning point in her life eventually resulting in this memoir. 

Movie producer Jules Buck left America in the 1950s to live in France where his daughter's life was immersed in fairy tale luxury. Their home was not a house, but a pink palace outside Paris. Friends, acquaintances and dinner guests were a who's who of the well-known in entertainment, fashion and politics. John Huston, his wife Ricki, daughters Anjelica and Allegra were more akin to family. Not exactly a tell-all remembrance, and not mere name-dropping, because the people noted were the ones she knew and with whom she associated and worked. Buck does not hold back on her personal experiences including love affairs and marriage. 

In 1994, Joan Juliet Buck was the only American woman to become editor for French Vogue. Even though France, French culture and the movie industry were second nature to her, and can be tough and challenging, she assumed the fashion industry would not be that different--it was.  It proved to be far more treacherous, opaque, unwelcoming and difficult to discern what was going on. She created freshness and a new vision for the publication. Seven years later she was summarily dismissed and sent to rehab for a non-existent drug addiction. Even though she tested negative at the private facility, she stayed on, in part because her severance pay was contingent upon it, out of curiosity, and at the time she had no other home. Without a fogged-over brain, her observations and experiences were illuminating and somewhat helpful for self-reflection and analysis. 

Having grown up in the world of make believe that is implicit to the entertainment and fashion industries, Joan Juliet Buck did not have any notion of regular life. Initially she paid for it dearly, but there must have been a tough kernel within that enabled her to survive, without too much damage, and plenty of gumption to boot.  She has rebounded and is moving forward with the same vigor and insight that she always had.

 

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