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it’s just a book… “Happy Times” by Lee Radziwill

March 11th, 2009 · 3 Comments · Coffee Table Books, It's just a Book, Jacqueline Kennedy

Lee Radziwill “Happy Times”

What is the purpose of coffee table books? The term itself already implies that this type of publication is of lesser value than its prose-filled cousins. Many ideas have developed around this genre. Seinfeld’s Kramer wanted to write a coffee table book about coffee table books with built in legs and coasters.

When I was learning to read, I remember the horror of realising that from now on I would have to read books that would have no pictures!! So are coffee table books just a grown-up version of fairy-tale books?

I could pretend; there is the illustrated “Bronzino” coffee table book written by Maurice Brook and listing all the paintings of the great Renaissance man. Or I could talk about the “Thomas Mann – Ein Leben in Bildern” hardcover tome I inherited from my uncle.

Perhaps invent prose around the supersize “Michelangelo – Complete Works” that seems to be on special offer everywhere now and is just waiting for a coffee table owner to reclaim it.

Instead this is my choice: Lee Radziwill’s “Happy Times”. It is a tantalising mix between “Hello”-type magazine reports that date back to the fifties and sixties showing the Kennedys and Onassis’ at play, and the pop art elements of Peter Beard and Andy Warhol.

Despite the chic of the Bouvier sisters, who naturally feature in the book (Jacqueline Kennedy/Jackie O.), and their equally chic and interesting connections, the people pictured most in this volume are Radziwill’s children and her niece and nephew.

Even though she has lead a highly glamorous and privileged life, Lee Radziwill’s happy times are strongly and exclusively linked to spending time with her family. The tragedies in her life don’t feature. And given this is meant to be an autobiography, its subject remains elusive.

All of which are in elegant contrast to the approach of today’s rather less sophisticated all out soul- and flesh baring socialites.

See also “Jackie: A Life in Pictures”and also “Jacqueline” by Ron Galella, photographer

 

PS More photographs from Radziwill’s Paris apartment in Elle Decor April 2009

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