Tina Brown: “America needs editing.”

What pure pleasure this book was to read: The Vanity Fair Dairies: 1983 - 1992 by Tina Brown. I love on-the-job memoirs/journals, especially anything rooted in the editorial world. The entries are zippy, yet considered — a decade of moments jotted down after whirlwind days. Brown’s a sharp observer and summarizer, and a deft workplace strategist.

A few passages, all from the mid-1980s:

I went for a drink at the Algonquin with Wallace Shawn, the editor of The New Yorker’s son, who I have been told wants to write. I loved his creaky voice and twinkly, creased-up eyes. He’s like a small, anxious hippo, so full of quotable insights. “America has no memory,” he explained. “Nothing LEADS to anything in New York.”

Had a terrific drink tonight with Tom Wolfe, who is tall and thin like a candle in his white suit, with a dryness suddenly illuminated by shafts of pure malice.

A drink with Martin, who is passing through, made me realize how much I miss Englishness. I had a sudden pang for Oxford days when we lay in the little single bed in my St. Anne’s room in the Woodstock Road, doting on Larkin’s sentences in “The Whitsun Weddings.” I thought of London spread out in the sun / Its postal districts packed like squares of wheat. My ideal place to live would be Transatlantica, an island that combined English irony, country lanes in summer, the National Theatre, and a real pot of tea they never seem to be able to make here, with American openness, lack of class barriers, willingness to give away money to good causes, and the view of Manhattan from the Rainbow Room at the top of Rockefeller Center. I miss the pleasing streak of delinquency in the English character.

The change of the seasons from brutal cold to sudden heat made me think of the sweet decorum of our London patio in the spring, the rhododendron bushes drowsy with raindrops. I long for the English countryside in ways I never did when I lived there. I suddenly see the great country houses that gave us so much irreverent copy at Tatler as a rich national resource, custodians of passing time. Here, time is to be spent, like money; time is to be killed, time is to be forgotten. Everything is a race against time. Trying to beat it is the pressure at your throat. I dream of London’s manageable scale, its compactness, its conversation. America is too big, too rich, too driven. America needs editing.

Stephen Schenkenberg @schenkenberg