JUNE 28, 2011
Writers should be excused their obsessions, and they should even be pardoned for writing too much about those obsessions. But Tina Brown, the editor of Newsweek, has decided to make her article on “Diana at 50” the cover story of her magazine. The piece ponders what Diana would have been doing with her life had she not died in Paris.
It is almost impossible to do justice to the sheer awfulness of this story. Brown can be forgiven for making a lot of money from the Diana business, but she cannot be forgiven for writing sentences like this (about a party Brown attended) in a magazine meant for adults:
Had she been there, Diana would have lit up the gathering with her radiant blondeness.
This sort of thing is to be expected (“What would she have been like? Still great-looking: that’s a given.”), but the article moves from the fawning to the bizarre when Brown starts solemnly pontificating on more serious subjects. Brown really thinks it is worthwhile and interesting to make guesses like this one:
She would, much earlier, have parted company with Tony Blair, stung by his failure to use her for big peacemaking missions overseas.
If written about most people, this would suggest a hint of criticism—Brown seems to be saying that Diana’s ego was so big that she would make political decisions based on a personal slight—but Brown clearly means it otherwise. Then, it’s time for sheer corniness:
I believe her best male friend in later years would have been, poignantly, her reviled first husband. As the financier Sir James Goldsmith once put it, “When you marry your mistress, you create a job vacancy,” and Charles, having married Camilla, would suddenly have found the company of his ex strangely comforting. Diana, with time, would no longer have found Charles’s causes tiresome. Rather, she would have empathized, and asked his advice about hers. After so many loves and losses, she would finally have let go of her rancor toward Camilla. The duchess’s galleon-size Lady Bracknell hat at William’s wedding would have offered satisfaction enough. Besides, there were other rivals to worry about. Among her global girlfriend set, she might view Queen Rania’s beauty, youth, and social conscience as a triple threat that should be watched. After some initial competitiveness with Carla Bruni-Sarkozy, she’d have probably bonded with her at the G20 dinner over ways to dodge Berlusconi.
I have read this paragraph four times, and I still cannot decipher whether the line about Queen Rania is meant in jest or not, and, if the latter, what it could possibly mean. The guesses about Charles are typically syrupy and absurd. It is duly followed by some even sillier sentiment ("Would our heroine by now have found peace? Yes, I believe she would. Sustained by the two things she cared about most, her children and her humanitarian passion"), but the conclusion of the piece gives this last excerpt a run for its money:
But perhaps more than any gesture of significance, in the days before the wedding ceremony, William took Kate on a sacred trip to Althorp to visit Diana’s grave on the island in the lake. He had waited all these years to do it, showing his wife-to-be that Diana still lives and is vibrant in his memory. And in ours.
And Newsweek is (was?) a news magazine.
Isaac Chotiner is the executive editor of The Book.