More Than by Any Other One Thing: A Diana Vreeland Homage to Books

By Steve Kroeter March 8, 2011

We sent out our second monthly newsletter last week—which meant that some people hit reply and thoughtfully sent us return notes. We got one from Linda Golant, whom we are always particularly happy to hear from, since she owns The Fashion Bookstore in Los Angeles—a Designers & Books affiliated bookseller.

Linda wrote: “I'm sending you a photo of the wall behind my desk. Above the painting of Diana, the goddess of fashion, is one of my favorite Vreeland quotes. Thought you'd enjoy it.”

We did enjoy it. So much so that we are reproducing the photo with the Vreeland quotation for you here:

painting of Diana Vreeland with quotation

If you type Vreeland’s words into Google using quotation marks, you get two results. The first one tells you that the sentence comes from Vreeland’s autobiography, D.V., which was edited by George Plimpton and Christopher Hemphill. It was originally published in 1984 by Knopf; then there was a Da Capo Press edition; and—what a nice coincidence—a new edition is due out from Ecco* in 6 weeks: on April 19.

It is worth mentioning this, because it is worth going back and looking at the entirety of the passage in which the above quotation appears:

Let’s suppose you were a total stranger—and a very good friend. That’s a good combination. What would you want to know about me? And how would you go about finding it out?

To me, the books I’ve read are the giveaway. My life has been more influenced by books than by any other one thing. I stopped reading—seriously reading—years ago. But what I read before then has remained forever secure in my mind, because I used to read and reread and reread. The real seriousness of my youth—by which I mean my young married years—was that I devoted myself totally to learning. From the time I got married at eighteen until the time I went to work in 1937, twelve years—I read. . . .

Reed and I had seven thousand books. . . .

She goes on to say how she and Reed (her husband) “would read things together out loud” and how “when you’ve heard the word, it means so much more than if you’ve only seen it.”

The chapter continues with her talking about the several “constants” in her reading: “Tolstoy!” (War and Peace)—“Japan” (The Tale of Genji and The Pillow Book)—and “Bavarian and Hungarian kicks” (The Ludwigs of Bavaria). For the children: Hans Christian Andersen, Chinese fairy tales, and Russian fairy tales.

Although there was much about Vreeland’s 50-year reign over the fashion world while she was at Harper’s Bazaar and Vogue that was almost otherworldly, at least when it comes to appreciating words on paper, we are cut from the same cloth.

* The Ecco catalogue includes this note about the forthcoming edition: “This Ecco reissue will coincide with a documentary about Diana Vreeland, The Eye Has to Travel, a retrospective of her work, presented in a touring museum show that will visit London, Paris, New York, San Francisco and Tokyo, and book, and a reissue of Allure (Chronicle Books), the photography book curated by Diana Vreeland, featuring an introduction by Marc Jacobs.”

Steve Kroeter
Editor in Chief

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