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Them: A Memoir of Parents

by

Them: A Memoir of Parents Cover

 

Synopses & Reviews

Publisher Comments:

Tatiana du Plessix, the wife of a French diplomat, was a beautiful, sophisticated "white Russian" who had been the muse of the famous Russian poet Vladimir Mayakovsky. Alexander Liberman, the ambitious son of a prominent Russian Jew, was a gifted magazine editor and aspiring artist. As part of the progressive artistic Russian émigré community living in Paris in the 1930s, the two were destined to meet. They began a passionate affair, and the year after Paris was occupied in World War II they fled to New York with Tatiana's young daughter, Francine.

There they determinedly rose to the top of high society, holding court to a Who's Who list of the midcentury's intellectuals and entertainers. Flamboyant and outrageous, bold and brilliant, they were irresistible to friends like Marlene Dietrich, Salvador Dalí, and the publishing tycoon Condé Nast. But to those who knew them well they were also highly neurotic, narcissistic, and glacially self-promoting, prone to cut out of their lives, with surgical precision, close friends who were no longer of use to them.

Tatiana became an icon of New York fashion, and the hats she designed for Saks Fifth Avenue were de rigueur for stylish women everywhere. Alexander Liberman, who devotedly raised Francine as his own child from the time she was nine, eventually came to preside over the entire Condé Nast empire. The glamorous life they shared was both creative and destructive and was marked by an exceptional bond forged out of their highly charged love and raging self-centeredness. Their obsessive adulation of success and elegance was elevated to a kind of worship, and the high drama that characterized their lives followed them to their deaths. Tatiana, increasingly consumed with nostalgia for a long-lost Russia, spent her last years addicted to painkillers. Shortly after her death, Alexander, then age eighty, shocked all who knew him by marrying her nurse.

Them: A Portrait of Parents is a beautifully written homage to the extraordinary lives of two fascinating, irrepressible people who were larger than life emblems of a bygone age. Written with honesty and grace by the person who knew them best, this generational saga is a survivor's story. Tatiana and Alexander survived the Russian Revolution, the fall of France, and New York's factory of fame. Their daughter, Francine, survived them.

 

Review:

"'My mother enjoyed claiming direct descent from Genghis Khan,' Gray explains as she opens this complex and rewarding family memoir. That claim gave her mother 'both the aristocratic pedigree and the freedom to be a barbarian.' Tatiana Yakovleva du Plessix Liberman was 19 and hungry in 1925 when she left the Soviet Union for France. Tatiana and Russian poet Vladimir Mayakovsky soon fell passionately in love, but the ever-practical woman married aristocratic Frenchman Bertrand du Plessix instead. They had one child, Francine, before du Plessix was killed in early WWII combat. Tatiana then became involved with Alexander Liberman, a British- and French-educated artistic Jewish-Russian migr. Alex, Tatiana and Francine fled to New York in 1941 and started a new life — Tatiana designing hats for Bendel's before a career with Saks, Alex scaling the fashion journalism ladder at Cond Nast. New Yorker contributor Gray tells the story of this talented, self-absorbed couple from their roots to their graves. The final chapters — with the death of Demerol-addicted Tatiana and Alex's remarriage to an adoring nurse — are unbearably tragic, and the inside story of the Liberman mnage is more addictive than any Vanity Fair exclusive. Gray is such a fine writer, her family story reads like a novel of early 20th-century bohemianism gone corporate. Rich with history of early to mid-20th-century design and publishing, this memoir stands as an instructive model of how to write a difficult story honestly. Gray's parents were not nice people, but she loved them, and readers, by the end, understand why. Photos. Agents, Georges and Anne Borchardt. (May 5)" Publishers Weekly (Copyright Reed Business Information, Inc.)

Review:

"[I]n these pages [Gray] uses all her writerly gifts — her skills of observation, emotional recall and, yes, detachment — to give the reader an intense and remarkably powerful portrait of her mother and stepfather, and to do so with love, judgmental candor and at least a measure of forgiveness." Michiko Kakutani, The New York Times

Review:

"Famous names and juicy stories, served up with literary elegance." Kirkus Reviews

Review:

"[An] unforgettable memoir of a peerless family [that] reads like a great epic novel." Booklist

Review:

"In a genre-bending book, part memoir, part biography, part elegy and part lyrical magic, Francine du Plessix Gray has composed memorable accounts of her famous parents, relatives, friends, husband and her 75-year-old self....[T]he book achieves the rare feat of offering something for everyone." Milwaukee Journal Sentinel

Review:

"[L]ike Star magazine for the literary set. Jampacked with juicy gossip, Francine du Plessix Gray's book about her oh-so-fabulous Russian émigré mother and stepfather is guilty pleasure without the guilt." Houston Chronicle

Review:

"A rich pastry of a book, stuffed with information on the immigrant experience, parent-child relations, social climbing, the fashion, retailing, and publishing industries, and the art world." Cleveland Plain Dealer

Synopsis:

At the height of their fame, Alexander Liberman and Tatiana du Plessix Gray were the grandest power couple in the New York City fashion world, gifted Russian émigrés who consorted with Dali and Dietrich and told American women how to look, where to travel, and what to read. As told by their daughter, the distinguished writer Francine du Plessix Gray, their saga combines romance, glamour, and pathos. Their adulation for success was as obsessive as their fierce, neurotic love for each other, and they treated everyone else—including Francine—with ruthless opportunism. Them is a work of Tolstoyan emotional power as well as a brilliant social history of its subject‛ age.

About the Author

Francine du Plessix Gray is a regular contributor to the New Yorker and the author of numerous books of fiction and nonfiction, including Simone Weil, At Home with the Marquis de Sade, and Lovers and Tyrants.

Product Details

ISBN:
9780143037194
Author:
du Plessix Gray, Francine
Publisher:
Penguin Books
Author:
Du Plessix Gray, Francine
Author:
Gray, Francine Du Plessix
Subject:
Women
Subject:
Parental Memoirs
Subject:
Immigrants
Subject:
Publishers and publishing
Subject:
Personal Memoirs
Subject:
New york (n.y.)
Subject:
Immigrants -- New York (State) -- New York.
Subject:
Biography-Parental Memoir
Subject:
Biography - General
Copyright:
Edition Description:
Mass Market
Publication Date:
20060631
Binding:
TRADE PAPER
Grade Level:
from 12
Language:
English
Illustrations:
b/w photos throughout
Pages:
544
Dimensions:
8.4 x 5.52 x 1.2 in 1.07 lb
Age Level:
from 18

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Related Subjects

Biography » General
Biography » Rich and Famous
Biography » Women
Fiction and Poetry » Literature » A to Z
History and Social Science » Literary History » United States » 20th Century
Humanities » Literary Criticism » General

Them: A Memoir of Parents New Trade Paper
0 stars - 0 reviews
$18.00 In Stock
Product details 544 pages Penguin Books - English 9780143037194 Reviews:
"Publishers Weekly Review" by , "'My mother enjoyed claiming direct descent from Genghis Khan,' Gray explains as she opens this complex and rewarding family memoir. That claim gave her mother 'both the aristocratic pedigree and the freedom to be a barbarian.' Tatiana Yakovleva du Plessix Liberman was 19 and hungry in 1925 when she left the Soviet Union for France. Tatiana and Russian poet Vladimir Mayakovsky soon fell passionately in love, but the ever-practical woman married aristocratic Frenchman Bertrand du Plessix instead. They had one child, Francine, before du Plessix was killed in early WWII combat. Tatiana then became involved with Alexander Liberman, a British- and French-educated artistic Jewish-Russian migr. Alex, Tatiana and Francine fled to New York in 1941 and started a new life — Tatiana designing hats for Bendel's before a career with Saks, Alex scaling the fashion journalism ladder at Cond Nast. New Yorker contributor Gray tells the story of this talented, self-absorbed couple from their roots to their graves. The final chapters — with the death of Demerol-addicted Tatiana and Alex's remarriage to an adoring nurse — are unbearably tragic, and the inside story of the Liberman mnage is more addictive than any Vanity Fair exclusive. Gray is such a fine writer, her family story reads like a novel of early 20th-century bohemianism gone corporate. Rich with history of early to mid-20th-century design and publishing, this memoir stands as an instructive model of how to write a difficult story honestly. Gray's parents were not nice people, but she loved them, and readers, by the end, understand why. Photos. Agents, Georges and Anne Borchardt. (May 5)" Publishers Weekly (Copyright Reed Business Information, Inc.)
"Review" by , "[I]n these pages [Gray] uses all her writerly gifts — her skills of observation, emotional recall and, yes, detachment — to give the reader an intense and remarkably powerful portrait of her mother and stepfather, and to do so with love, judgmental candor and at least a measure of forgiveness."
"Review" by , "Famous names and juicy stories, served up with literary elegance."
"Review" by , "[An] unforgettable memoir of a peerless family [that] reads like a great epic novel."
"Review" by , "In a genre-bending book, part memoir, part biography, part elegy and part lyrical magic, Francine du Plessix Gray has composed memorable accounts of her famous parents, relatives, friends, husband and her 75-year-old self....[T]he book achieves the rare feat of offering something for everyone."
"Review" by , "[L]ike Star magazine for the literary set. Jampacked with juicy gossip, Francine du Plessix Gray's book about her oh-so-fabulous Russian émigré mother and stepfather is guilty pleasure without the guilt."
"Review" by , "A rich pastry of a book, stuffed with information on the immigrant experience, parent-child relations, social climbing, the fashion, retailing, and publishing industries, and the art world."
"Synopsis" by , At the height of their fame, Alexander Liberman and Tatiana du Plessix Gray were the grandest power couple in the New York City fashion world, gifted Russian émigrés who consorted with Dali and Dietrich and told American women how to look, where to travel, and what to read. As told by their daughter, the distinguished writer Francine du Plessix Gray, their saga combines romance, glamour, and pathos. Their adulation for success was as obsessive as their fierce, neurotic love for each other, and they treated everyone else—including Francine—with ruthless opportunism. Them is a work of Tolstoyan emotional power as well as a brilliant social history of its subject‛ age.
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