Them: A Memoir of Parents

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 emigre community living in Paris in the 1930s,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 emigre 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 Dali, and the publishing tycoon Conde 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 Conde 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.
Them A Memoir of Parents 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 s

  • Title: Them: A Memoir of Parents
  • Author: Francine du Plessix Gray
  • ISBN: 9780143037194
  • Page: 483
  • Format: Paperback
  • 1 thought on “Them: A Memoir of Parents”

    1. A disappointment in the same line as Bliss Broyard’s One Drop. The same sense of intimate access muddled by so-so writing, of strange people incompletely rendered. The book never quite rose above the level of those “Nostalgia” columns that run in US Vogue wherein the children of forgotten icons share bittersweet memories of their parents' lives off-stage. These brilliantly twisted people deserve a better biographer than their daughter. Worth skimming, though, if you’re obsessed, as I am, [...]

    2. A powerful book for me. Du Plessix Gray writes the book as a memoir of her parents - it is, of course, also a memoir about her own life. Her parents were Russian and French emigres who saw the revolution, and two great wars before coming to the United States. Many members of the family are in the almost famous category and from a time and place of which I know almost nothing. Hence, I was fascinated by the story of her uncle Sasha who drove a Citroen across Africa and her mother's first love May [...]

    3. In this honest yet loving remembrance of her Russian parents, Francine du Plessix Gray, introduces us to her glamorous, hardworking, imperious mother, Tatiana du Plessix; an exiled White Russian hat designer known as "Tatiana of Saks" and the charming, ambitious, Machiavellian, Alexander Liberman; her Jewish Gypsy step-father, longtime Editorial Director for Conde Nast and a well known artist and sculptor.The story of her parents lives is fascinating; their youths in Russia, their ex-pat years i [...]

    4. i really wanted to like this--it seemed like just the kind of book i would love to imagine myself into, what with your mysterious foreigners from the past who hobnob and inspire and trendset. but i just couldn't get past the glut of superlatives without choking on a few too many of them. apparently, everyone in the author's family for generations back is the best at everything and they are all blindingly gorgeous and they all speak six languages and are experts and trendsetters and intriguing an [...]

    5. Remarkable in its scope and historical sweep, this culturally rich memoir from Francine Du Plessix Gray focuses on the lives of her flamboyant mother Tatiana Yakoleva (the one-time mistress of Revolutionary poet Vladimir Mayakovsky) and her artistic step-father Alex Leiberman (Tatiana's second husband), as they make their journey from Paris to a busy life in New York where they will leave their mark on the world of fashion and art during the postwar fifties and sixties.During this time, Alex bec [...]

    6. The first 100-150 pages of this books are fascinating as Du Plessix Gray describes her Russian family and the vagaries of their lives before and then after the Revolution in Russia and in Paris. Totally unpredictable people and lives. The book is still interesting describing how her parents established themselves in New York but it begins to fall away as Du Plessix Gray becomes a more significant character in the story. She hints at the weirdness of the inter-personal dynamic she experienced mor [...]

    7. I gave this four stars because of its beautiful, fluent language with erudite vocabulary and complex sentence structure. However, does this make it an easy or fast read? Not at all. Adjusting to the author's style make take a few pages, but the story communicated is fascinating. Alex and Tatiana move from the Russia of the czars to the Paris of the 20s to beginnings of WWII in Europe before escaping to America. As Tatiana becomes a famous hat designer for Sax and Alex climbs the corporate ladder [...]

    8. Them is unlike any memoir I’ve ever read before. Part memoir, part biography, part research book, Gray transcends far beyond her own story to tell the rich tapestry of her family’s story. This endeavor can go awry in so many ways—you can’t write someone else’s memoir for them, and biography can often be dry. These pitfalls are avoided by subtle, yet important, inclusion of the narrator-character and writer into the story. Gray will comment about the source of the emotion or conversatio [...]

    9. This book was recommended to me to by a woman who saw me reading Loving Frank. It is very long, but very interesting. The whole Russian family history was very interesting and the people were all fascinating characters! As for her parents, fascinating, not such good parents. The story of Tatianna's decline was particularly disturbing. But, Francine does not appear to hold any real grudge or "baggage" from growing up with these eccentrics. I think the book was cathartic for her to and helped her [...]

    10. From the Onion's Books of the Decade:In a decade marked by the memoirs of angry children determined to mine some authorial gold from their unhappy early lives, Du Plessix Gray’s chronicle of growing up as an immigrant in mid-century New York relates history rather than agony, building subtly toward judgment while still acknowledging a debt of gratitude. Francine’s mother and stepfather, Russian émigrés who fell in love in Paris while they were both married to other people, were artistic ge [...]

    11. Her previous writings about the Marquis de Sade and Simone Weil prepared Gray to tackle the enigmatic life stories of her own infamously ruthless and narcissistic parents. Her skills as a journalist, biographer, and novelist lead the 75-year-old author, who began to write about her socialite family in 1967, to produce a story that is part biography, part memoir, and part history. Them is as much about relationships as it is about the individuals, and about the parent/child bond as much as the dy [...]

    12. I was hoping for a fast-paced, tell-all about a weird childhood with narcissistic parents. Instead, this book is a snooze-inducing trip through the author's family tree, with shamelessly conflicting descriptions of people: "She was the coldest woman I knew, but she had the biggest heart I'd ever seen," or "Her flamboyance and arrogance were well-known, and her grace and elegance were lauded city-wide." Um, what?! How can you be flamboyant and arrogant, yet still elegant? I get it, these people a [...]

    13. This book was a fascinating glimpse into a world that I kind-of knew existed, from making fun of Vogue, but didn't really understand--a world where people marry princes, and people who are still "hard-up" financially can't understand life without a cook and a butler.But you get the sense that even as du Plessix is trying to criticize her family, she still blindly adores them. She name-drops CONSTANTLY ("Did I tell you about the time that Marlene Dietrich made me Christmas dinner?") and kind of s [...]

    14. I'm not really one for memoirs that aren't super narrative-based, in the forms of, say, "The Glass Castle," but this was such a delight! I should disclose that I used to work for the author's son, which is why I was attracted to read this to begin with. I didn't know what to expect, but I wound up liking it a lot more than I thought I would. I especially loved the history lessons, like hearing first-hand about what it was like escaping from France during WWII, which was crazy! Du Plessix Gray's [...]

    15. This was put bluntly- a terrible book. I couldn't even get to the end. Gray, who I previously had a lot of respect for as a result of her magnificently well written biography of Madame De Stael- this was nothing but name dropping and boring shit. I suppose I should have expected it with the whole society implication here- but she really could have made something out of it- she didn't. I was bored senseless. Oh, and her mother? She was a douchebag. What sort of parent in any decade or millieau wo [...]

    16. After enjoying World Without End, I discovered that F.d.P.G. had written a memoir of her parents. I started reading it out of curiosity about the author and was unprepared for the mercurial personalities she chronicles. Hers was a life of both privilege and deprivation, from her White Russian mother, an emigre in Paris before the revolution, to her Russian stepfather, who ultimately chaired the Conde Nast publishing empire, both of whom were intensely self-absorbed. An astonishingly vivid portra [...]

    17. I bought this for my mother and then read it myself. A good read about what it's like to have parents who are "going places" and have little time for their children. Also interesting to read about the celebrities they knew (Marlene Dietrich, Irving Penn, etc.) in the 1940s, 50s, and 60s. I found the story of how these Russians fled Russia during the Russian Revolution for France and then the US after the Nazis invaded France and still managed to become big shots in the US very interesting. Very [...]

    18. Very well written, and her parents and extended family had amazing lives. But by the end of the book her parents seemed completely awful - vain, selfish, cruel and completely fake. While the author obviously has affection for them as her parents and always tried to win their approval, I just kind of wanted to be rid of both of them.The final chapters, which deal with her mother's drug addicted death and stepfathers quick reinvention and remarriage were excellent - but came after 400 pages of sel [...]

    19. I've met people like the author's mother, and I've tried to get away from them as fast as possible. Imperious, icy, claiming pre-Enlightenment royal descent. But basically, a milliner, and now who even wears hats? Here's why I might try this one again someday: the author's stepfather seems like a far more interesting person. Crazy in his own way, but somehow warmer. I also enjoyed the stories about Russia, and the digressions about an adventurous uncle who did tour car races in the 1920s/1930s a [...]

    20. It seems odd that I couldn't get through A Sentimental Education, but gave this book four stars. All I can say is that this is more about my enjoyment of the book than the actual literary worth of the book.So, I adored this book. It helps that I am ga-ga over this certain time and place (NYC post-war) and this world (magazine publishing and fashion) but her writing is also fantastic. She writes honestly and gracefully, without a trace of self-pity and a maturity that can only come with time and [...]

    21. 2009- This book is hard for me to classify. It's supposed to be a biography of the author's mother and step-father, but it also seems like her own personal memoir, as well as ""family history"" of sorts. It's an interesting blend that works well, especially at the beginning sections of the book. Although I had never heard of the two people that make up the ""them"" of the title, I found reading about them to be adsorbing at times. If you like memoirs, I'd say give it a try.

    22. This is a beautifully written autobiography of a Russian/French woman who emigrated post ww2 and lived in France during the German occupation. Her stepfather was Alex Leiberman, legendary creative director of Conde Nast for many years. Her mother was a well known milliner in NY in the mid 1900s. The Russian and French history is very interesting, as are the milieu they travelled in. A wonderful portrait of the times.

    23. This memoir has the advantage of a fascinating topic: the author's family, particularly her mother and stepfather, who both escaped Russia during the revolutionary era to resettle in Paris. A chunk of the book is set in France prior and during the Nazi invasion, and the rest in the parlors of New York City's fashion elite. Full to the brim with interesting characters, including Marlene Dietrich and Salvador Dali. The one real flaw is that the author occasionally sounds whiny and vindictive.

    24. This is an interesting history of a couple well joined. They were vain social climbers who moved among the "rich and famous" from pre-WWI through the 1970s, and it's against this backdrop that their story is of interest. Rich people had connections, and du Plessix Gray lists each and every way her parents got through things that others less-fortunate could not. It's simultaneously fascinating and disgusting.

    25. An epic memoir detailing the lives of Russian emigre and Conde Nast big wig Alex Liberman and Tatiana ("of Saxs") du Plessix Liberman written by their daughter Francine du Plessix Gray. The memoir spans 500 pages and while it is a hefty tome, the chapters move at a nice clip and draw you in. A great refresher course on WW II and a fascinating look behind the scenes of the society and cultural jet setters of the mid to late 20th century.

    26. Alexander Liberman was the editorial director of all Conde Nast magazines for almost 30 years. His wife was a literary and artistic muse and famous hatmaker. This was a really great dissection of their life together by her daughter and his stepdaughter and a bittersweet look at a woman's relationship and conflicted feelings about her parents and their treatment of her.

    27. Francine du Plessix Gray's memoir of life with her mother, the virtuosa hat-designer Tatiana, and her step-father, Conde Nast's long-time creative director Alexander Lieberman, is also a psychological study of these talented, though hard-to-like people, who seem as though they would do anything to achieve their goals.

    28. This book could have definitely used a bit more editing, but I really enjoyed it (probably because I'm obsessed with this time period). I found it all fascinatingeven though they were not the best people, and clearly parents, their daughter definitely got across how irresistible they could be to folks.

    29. A very detailed and thorough account of a family history and history itself. Sometimes dry reading, sometimes fascinating. I did not finish it though as it was such a huge book. I will keep it and return to it another time.

    30. Francine's relatives are an interesting bunch. I enjoyed learning about her Uncle Sasha and his exploits, was curious why she didn't give more information about her father's family, and got a glimpse of a family life much different from my own.

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