Remember when book reviewers would praise a title as ‘moth-to-flame reading’? That wonderful expression, employed by Newsday in 1980 (and likely today to be replaced by something along the lines of ‘millennial-to-smartphone’), is recalled by New York Times obituary writer William Grimes in his tribute to the accomplishments of Barbara Goldsmith.
Goldsmith, who died over the weekend at age 85, was a founding editor of New York magazine. She was also an author, who got that part of her life going in spectacular fashion with the book Little Gloria… Happy at Last:
In 1974, Ms. Goldsmith was doing research at a law library for a novel about the art world, The Straw Man, when she chanced upon four fat volumes labeled In the Matter of Vanderbilt. They contained 8,000 pages of court transcripts from the custody case that pitted Gertrude Vanderbilt Whitney, Gloria’s aunt, against the child’s mother, Gloria Morgan Vanderbilt, with a $2.5 million trust fund the glittering prize.
It was one of the great headline-hogging trials of the age, and Ms. Goldsmith threw herself into the subject with abandon. For the next five years, she pored over the court records and conducted more than 300 interviews in seven countries. The result was a 650-page whopper…
Goldsmith worked over the years for Art News, Women’s Home Companion, Town & Country and the New York Herald-Tribune. It was at the Herald-Tribune that she met Clay Felker, to whom she lent a then rather large sum of money to start New York magazine. Goldsmith would on to make waves in 1968 with a profile piece for the magazine titled “La Dolce Viva.”
Jacket cover courtesy: Knopf