cover image The Grand Surprise: The Journals of Leo Lerman

The Grand Surprise: The Journals of Leo Lerman

Leo Lerman, . . Knopf, $35 (736pp) ISBN 978-1-4000-4439-9

Writing about the Ike and Tina Turner show at Carnegie Hall in 1971, Lerman notes, "Tina and Ike are primitive, outdoor water-closet...[she] turns them on with stupid smut. My father would have found them provocative." And while it is no surprise that Lerman, longtime features editor at Vogue, later editor-in-chief of Vanity Fair and all-round arts devotee, disliked them—his tastes ran more to Lotte Lenya singing Kurt Weill—it demonstrates that he was omnivorous in his desire to experience the full range of culture and entertainment. This broad, selection of Lerman's journals is filled with great gossip (on everything from Ruth Gordon's eating habits to architect Philip Johnson's sex life) and some astute remarks on art. Lerman (1914–1994) is a great diarist: the details are precise, the information careening from idiosyncratic to important, and his tone endlessly amused and amusing. While he can be peevish and even mean, he is also frequently funny and generous. The casual reader may be lost at times, but if you are moderately conversant with high art and high society—or just want to know what Princess Marina, duchess of Kent, wore to the Metropolitan Opera in September 1956, Lerman's journals are perfect. 24 pages of photos, 8 in color. (Apr. 6)