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Toby Young
Sunday 3rd June 2007

Slumming It


For the next few weeks, the British media will be dominated by stories about one woman. She first hit the headlines in the Eighties when she married a much older man, quickly mastered the art of spin and, in the Nineties, went on to conquer America, becoming an unofficial ambassador for the UK. Then, catastrophe struck. She was cut down in her prime, taken from us when she clearly had so much more to give.

I'm talking, of course, about Tina Brown. After hitching herself to Sunday Times editor Harold Evans she became the most celebrated magazine editor of her generation, reviving Tatler, rescuing Vanity Fair and re-energising The New Yorker, but her reputation took a near fatal blow in 2002 with the collapse of Talk, the publication she'd launched two years earlier. Since then, she's made various efforts to re-invent herself -- first as a chat show host, then as a newspaper columnist -- but without much success.

Tina's latest attempt to resuscitate her career is a biography of the Princess of Wales -- one of 14 being published to cash-in on the 10th anniversary of her death. There seems little doubt that The Diana Chronicles will be a bestseller -- 200,000 copies are being unleashed in Britain and America over the coming weeks -- but will a Royal biography be sufficient to revive Tina's fortunes? The book is embargoed until next week, so it's impossible to say with complete certainty, but the odds don't look good.

The problem is that the genre itself is so tawdry. No matter how well-written or well-researched The Diana Chronicles is, the mere fact that it is a Royal biography will render it incapable of propelling its author back into the firmament from which she's fallen. It's a question of class more than anything else. Tina Brown was the editor-in-chief of The New Yorker -- the most glittering prize that a career in journalism has to offer -- and anyone hoping to regain entry into the higher echelons of the profession isn't supposed to write such an obvious money-spinner. It's almost as if Tony and Cherie Blair had decided that their best hope of making a comeback would be to launch a range of home furnishings called "The Downing Street Collection" and flog them on the Home Shopping Network.

For Tina's sake, let's hope that her next book is on a more respectable subject.

The Independent on Sunday

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