Knopf Publishing Group, Hardcover, 9780307271679, 338pp.
Publication Date: November 10, 2009
From British interior designer Nicholas Haslam, a dazzling and witty account of a frenetic and full life—from the 1940s to the present—in Europe and America, in a crowd of friends and acquaintances that includes virtually all of the cultural icons of our time.
Haslam has found himself at the center of some of the most interesting circles wherever he is—at parties, opening nights, royal weddings. In London in the late 1950s he crossed paths—and more—with Cecil Beaton, Francis Bacon, Diana Cooper, Greta Garbo, Lucian Freud, David Hockney, David Bailey, and Noël Coward. A time living in the still unspoiled south of France was an education in everything from the work of Buñuel to the style of toreros like Dominguín and Ordóñez. In Paris he met Jean Cocteau and Janet Flanner, and, in Saint-Tropez, danced with Brigitte Bardot. In the 1960s, in New York, he encountered Dorothy Parker, Cole Porter, Andy Warhol, Jack Kennedy, Joan Didion, and Marilyn Monroe while working in the art department at Vogue and later as art director, following Henry Wolf, at Huntington Hartford’s Show magazine. After Show, Haslam moved to a ranch in Arizona to raise Arabian horses—Truman Capote and John Richardson, among others, came to stay—and he began designing and commuting to Los Angeles to decorate for the stars.
Back in England in the 1980s, he worked on David Bailey’s Ritz magazine, attended the wedding of his cousin Diana Spencer, and designed for everyone from the financier James Goldsmith to rock star Bryan Ferry.
Redeeming Features is about much more than documenting a life among the celebrated and the eccentric: it is a vivid, at times humorous and moving portrait of a way of life that has all but disappeared. Haslam has an exacting eye for the telling detail and his story is a compelling and wholly fascinating document of our times.
“Nicky Haslam reveals his extraordinary talent as a memoirist and chronicler of international High Society. Touching, funny, and wonderfully indiscreet, he makes us wish we could all join his circle of friends.”
–Amanda Foreman, author of Georgiana: Duchess of Devonshire
“What a life! And one that could only be recounted by the man that lived it. Written with great brio, wit, and worldliness–uniquely wonderful!”
–William Boyd, author of Any Human Heart
“Nicky Haslam has known everyone from Greta Garbo to Cole Porter to the Royal Family, with many unforgettable eccentrics in between. But this is not a catalogue of celebrities. It is a truly felt, beautifully crafted, wise consideration of a full life, which paints an unforgettable picture of a vanished England and America. Masterpiece is an overused word, but this Proustian evocation is indeed a masterpiece.”
–A. N. Wilson, author of After the Victorians: The Decline of Britain in the World
“Witty, moving, and gloriously indiscreet, Redeeming Features is deliriously enjoyable. Nicholas Haslam depicts his Proustian world with brilliant incisiveness, showing himself to be one of those rare writers who can translate a highly developed visual sense into the most dazzlingly original prose.”
–Selina Hastings, author of Nancy Mitford: A Biography
“A bon vivant and blueblood channels his inner Proust, to marvelous effect. British designer Haslam is a master of the well-dropped name: Here comes Jack Nicholson, there goes Diane Vreeland, here Andy Warhol, there Mick Jagger. But he is more than that; he’s also a summoner of memory to rival, it seems, Jorge Luis Borges’s Funes. The evoker of this memory is not a buttery madeleine, but the clinking latches and billowy cloudscapes of southern England, among the opening images in Haslam’s recounting of an offbeat but decidedly interesting childhood in a country house called Hundridge among an artistic family whose elders had little use for convention. His father and mother had been familiars with the likes of Maxim Gorky and H.G. Wells . . . A delight-gossipy, fluent and literate, all set in motion by ‘a sudden view, a muddy scent, the creak of a hinge [that] might manifest childhood’s mirage.’”
“The book is set on a planet akin to earth but peopled only with the famous and the fabulous. And so he paints watercolors for Princess Michael of Kent, gives a party for the Rolling Stones and hosts Truman Capote at his horse ranch.”
—Andrew Bast, Newsweek
“Haslam has been at the centre of every glittering circle . . .”
—Emily Bearn, Tatler (UK)
“Haslam is not only an indefatigable networker; his book offers the most eloquent proof that name-dropping has come of age.”
—Sebastian Shakespeare, Evening Standard (London)
“His story is gripping, because he has led such an extraordinary life.”
—Lynn Barber, The Sunday Times Magazine (London)