The Rittenhouse Review

A Philadelphia Journal of Politics, Finance, Ethics, and Culture

Monday, July 07, 2003  

Selling One’s Soul in Times Square

Over the weekend, looking at the New York Times best sellers lists, I noticed first, that Hillary Rodham Clinton’s book, Living History, ranks above Ann Coulter’s Treason on the hardcover non-fiction list, and second, that The Devil Wears Prada, by Lauren Weisberger, ranks sixth on the hardcover fiction list.

A link directed Times readers to the paper’s review of Weisberger’s book, a roman à clef about her tenure as Vogue editor Anna Wintour’s assistant, that I missed back in April.

The Times’s idea of an appropriate reviewer? Kate Betts.


Granted, Betts and the Times had the decency to provide this much-needed disclaimer for the benefit of readers not already aware: “Having worked at Vogue myself for eight years and having been mentored by Anna Wintour, I have to say Weisberger could have learned a few things in the year she sold her soul to the devil of fashion for $32,500.”

But as Caitlin Flanagan put it in the latest issue of The Atlantic, in a review I noticed the same evening, “Was Wintour herself unavailable to write the review?”

[Post-publication addendum (July 9): On this subject see also Jennifer Weiner’s comments at SnarkSpot. It turns out Betts wasn’t the only person to review the book for the Times. Janet Maslin was given a go at it as well. Excerpts from SnarkSpot: “But the Times makes TDWP sound something like magazine publishing's version of The Satanic Verses. Its two reviews didn't quite call for a fatwa, but they did wind up calling Weisberger (and her narrator) a self-absorbed, righteous, stuck-up little snob who had no business writing a book. . . . As a New York City outsider, I’m mystified. If the book was that darn mediocre (and, in the interests of full disclosure, I should say that I haven’t read it yet), why even bother to review it once, let alone pan it twice? It’s especially strange, given that neither reviewer even attempted to mount a defense of Ms. Wintour, or to suggest that she’d been treated unfairly.”]

[Post-publication addendum (July 9): I blogged about Wintour’s pre-launch p.r. campaign back in February: “Anna Wintour Goes in for a Makeover.”]

[Post-publication addendum (July 10): Tapped, the weblog of the American Prospect, at the time noted the strange assignment of Betts to Weinberger’s book. Thanks to Hesiod of CounterSpin Central for sending along the link.]

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