The Devil Wears Prada by Lauren Weisberger
A Review by Bruce McKinney
Prada did you say? Is AE a history site whose threads are entwined with Prada? Yes it is true but please don't tell anyone. Ever the reader I too need to change gears. After recent bouts with Henry Ford and Alexander Hamilton I chose something that is described on its paperback cover as "the phenomenal New York Times bestseller." Is that an endorsement from the New York Times? Not exactly. Nevertheless it's very interesting. It is the thinly veiled account of the author's year as an assistant to Anna Wintour, editor of Vogue. One hopes it isn't true.
I always have a book with me. Ten minutes are not for wasting and I had this book with me recently when I went to get a haircut. The stylist [at the price she could not have been just a barber] wailed at the site of this book. "My God I haven't read it yet and I have to. Everyone else has." I regularly carry Pulitzer Prize-winning and National Book Award material to the barber and I've never encountered a reaction before except for once when someone asked how I could carry such a heavy book around. This day I quickly learned that The Devil Wears Prada is a hot topic under the hairdryers.
For those whose orientation is history I'll explain it this way. Ms. Weisberger, the author, is now uncharitably compared to Benedict Arnold by the cognoscenti who write about this field, for committing the heinous crime of writing a novel based on her experience in the world of clothes, couturier, and massive unrelenting dieting. In other words this is the polar opposite of books. This is truly only skin deep. Books to me have always been most interesting for their investigation of what is not visible to the naked eye. Welcome to the new millennium.
To prepare to write about this book I scanned the back issues of the New York Times that report upon fashion and the goings in the "rag" trade with the same vigor they bring to Presidential campaigns. I found reviews by Kate Betts and Janet Maslin published on April 13 and 14, 2004. I also ran a Google search and found 14,900 matches of varying intensity. I coincidentally learned there is now a category of books called "chick lit." Is this now a college major? I thought it was gum.
Miss Betts and Maslin in their reviews set out, compelled by rage, to do for this book what every publisher dreams about. They make accusations that only readers can judge and thus fanned the flames for a group of readers who do not come easily or often to book stores. If ever a book was a natural to be sold next to the sunglasses and mousse racks this is it.