Few women - or men - have led such varied lives as Fleur Cowles. A highly distinguished journalist and editor of Flair, one of America's top magazines during the 1950s, Fleur Cowles is best known today for the magic realism of her paintings - paintings peopled by jungle beasts, huge flowers and overgrown birds - and for her many famous friends.
It is these who fill the pages of her book. She recalls picnicking with Cary Grant in Spain, the weekend Marilyn Monroe spent hiding in her Connecticut home, her many trips as personal emissary for Eisenhower, the time she spent in Argentina and her relationship with Eva Peron. She writes about her experiences on the Korean war front. She includes many glimpses of her close friendship with Queen Elizabeth the Queen Mother. Others who appear in her book include Margot Fonteyn, Isak Dinesen, Grace Kelly, the Dalai Lama, Harold Wilson, Haile Selassie, Gamal Abdel Nasser, Imelda Marcos, Harold Macmillan, Luciano Pavarotti, Charlie Chaplin, Coco Chanel, Ernest Hemingway and many more.
Tough but never malicious, self-respecting but never self-serving, Fleur Cowles's book shares with us the unknown stories of the men and women who have shaped twentieth-century history.
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Carlos Fuentes (1928-2012) was one of the most influential and celebrated voices in Latin American literature. He was the author of 24 novels, including "Aura", "The Death of Artemio Cruz", "The Old Gringo" and "Terra Nostra", and also wrote numerous plays, short stories, and essays. He received the 1987 Cervantes Prize, the Spanish-speaking world's highest literary honor.
Fuentes was born in Panama City, the son of Mexican parents, and moved to Mexico as a teenager. He served as an ambassador to England and France, and taught at universities including Harvard, Princeton, Brown and Columbia. He died in Mexico City in 2012.
Cameos from the lives of almost 200 of the rich and famous are the excuse for another shameless display of self-absorption (after Friends and Memories, 1977) by a woman astonishingly oblivious to how (or even that) the other half lives. Cowles inhabits the kind of world where she can refer without embarrassment to her castle in Spain (one of three residences she shares with husband, Tom Montague Meyer, to whom she is volubly devoted here) and her personal maid (who saved the day when King Paul and Queen Frederika decided impulsively to stay for dinner on the cook's night off). Every gesture she reports with a straight face comes across the cultural divide as showing off, such as the party for the duke of Windsor she gave on the top floor of her New York City townhouse (``in the area normally used as our movie theatre''); even her considerable philanthropy sounds less like promoting good causes and more like promoting herself. She repeatedly refers to her appointment as Eisenhower's ambassador to the coronation of Queen Elizabeth, at which Cowles, then editor of Look Magazine (and then-wife of its publisher) didn't miss a thing: ``I now never lose an opportunity to put fuchsia and orange flowers together.'' In a pageant of retrospectives that range in length from a scant paragraph to several pages, the inconsequential consistently wins out over the useful or even interesting: We learn, for instance, that Gloria Swanson hated salt, that Isak Dinesen loved Marilyn Monroe, and that Pat Nixon's high school ambition was to own a boarding house. Special affection is bestowed on Cary Grant, the queen mother, and President and Mrs. Johnson (whose ranch is memorably described as ``redolent of family life''). Eva Per¢n is the only recipient of serious vitriol. Trivial notes on the powerful and the famous. (16 pages b&w photos, not seen) -- Copyright ©1996, Kirkus Associates, LP. All rights reserved.
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