The Devil Wears Prada
by Lauren Weisberger
A review by Caitlin Flanagan
Krantz for the new millennium! Lauren Weisberger has produced a work of trash
fiction of such unimpeachable quality I enjoyed every page that the golden
girls of the form can hang up their spurs. The Devil Wears Prada, which
is apparently based on its author's tenure as the Vogue editor in chief
Anna Wintour's assistant, takes for its plot the old story handed down through
the ages: young lovely from good family moves to Manhattan, takes job in glamorous
industry, encounters dissipation and human venality of every stripe, and emerges
either tarnished or triumphant (in this case being chick lit the latter).
Weisberger a prodigy: Cornell University, class of 1999 understands that
this kind of story must be composed of a certain kind of prose. To say that The
Devil Wears Prada is cliché-ridden wouldn't be quite right; it's cliché-constructed.
By novel's end the head of the heroine, Andrea Sachs, has swum, it has spun, it
has felt like it would explode; her heart has flip-flopped, lurched, and stopped
beating altogether (she bounced right back); her stomach has churned, her brain
has been wracked, her body has been rooted to the floor, and who can blame
her? she has breathed a sigh of relief.
The burden of Andrea's complaint (one senses very strongly that the opinions
and attitudes of author and heroine are as one) is that when she graduated from
college and got a job as personal assistant to the editor in chief of a fashion
magazine, she ended up with the worst boss in the history of the whole wide
world. Miranda Priestly is human evil incarnate: she forgets Andrea's name,
forces her to make two trips to Starbucks in a single morning, never once compliments
her on her clothes. On one level this is a straightforward revenge novel, but
on a (slightly) deeper one it's really about the ice-water shock of leaving
college and getting a real job. Like many young people in this new and unpleasant
situation, Andrea both aggrandizes her importance to her boss (she believes
that Miranda's every slight is carefully orchestrated to demoralize her) and
insists that she alone understands the shallowness, the emptiness, the hollow
misery that is her employer's life. The whole thing explodes in a big confrontation
at a Paris fashion show that is the embodiment of every first-jobber's favorite
fantasy ("Fuck you, Miranda, Fuck you"). There are countless entertaining
descriptions of clothes and office procedures and fits of pique; Weisberger
writes with the passionate intensity of a ninth-grader whose pride has been
wounded, and I forgave her much. For some reason the novel, which has no literary
pretensions whatsoever and which I read because a friend recently impulse-purchased
it for me at Costco, is being taken seriously. It was reviewed in the New
York Times by a former editor in chief of Harper's Bazaar who was
herself "mentored by Anna Wintour" during eight years at Vogue
(was Wintour herself unavailable to write the review?), and who unloads the
big guns on Weisberger, which she probably deserves. But nothing can hurt a
book like this (my dental hygienist all but pried it from my hands when she
saw the title); a career has begun.
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