A Hard Act to Follow


A Memoir of Parents

Francine du Plessix Gray

Penguin, $16, 544 pp.

The hardcover dust jacket of Them: A Memoir of Parents features a glamorous couple dancing, an arresting photograph taken in soft focus but reproduced with a brutal metallic gloss. The tall beauty with the aloof smirk and the slight resemblance to a female impersonator is Tatiana Iacovleff du Plessix Liberman, AKA Tatiana of Saks, America’s most famous milliner. The man holding her in a gesture at once submissive and proprietary, his back to the photographer, is Alexander Liberman, editor of Vogue, protégé of Condé Nast, groomer of Diana Vreeland and Anna Wintour, and first-class trimmer-in more ways than one. For much of the latter half of the twentieth century, Tatiana and Alex stood atop the world of international fashion, two of the strongest and most exotic personalities in a milieu defined by such personalities.

Their whirlwind life of ambition and celebrity is taken up by Tatiana’s daughter, Francine du Plessix Gray, herself a celebrity of no mean proportions, a longtime New Yorker writer and author of numerous books. Gray made her name as a journalist in the Nixon era, with portraits of the Berrigan brothers, Sun Myung Moon, and Charles Olson, among many others. If her parents brought one Europe to America-a Europe of sumptuousness and panache-Gray graced Commonweal and other publications with reports from another: the dark continent of Klaus Barbie, Simone Weil, Marguerite Duras, and (in her role as...

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About the Author

Tanya Avakian, a librarian, lives in Delaware.