Members of the media love to read about themselves, which has given rise to Jim Romenesko's popular media web site and Brill's Content, as well as the celebrity of magazine chieftains like Graydon Carter, Tina Brown, and Anna Wintour, who are nearly as famous as the people their publications profile. Lauren Weisberger's debut novel, The Devil Wears Prada, has already received a good deal of attention for its thinly fictionalized depiction of Vogue editor Wintour, Weisberger's former boss and the transparent inspiration for ultra-skinny, hyper-mean Runway editor Miranda Priestly. As the book opens, its naïve protagonist/narrator Andrea Sachs has just graduated from an Ivy League college and struck a sub-Faustian deal with Priestly: In return for a year of glamorous slavery and near-constant verbal abuse, she'll receive a plum editorial position and invaluable professional experience. Priestly quickly makes Sachs' life miserable, calling on her at all hours and making demands ranging from demeaning to impossible to impossibly vague, then subjecting her to torrents of abuse every time she makes the slightest mistake. For its first 100 pages or so, Prada provides a trashily enjoyable look at the upside-down world of fashion royalty, where the most fanciful whim is treated like a military directive and Priestly lords over her staff like an angry, vindictive god. It doesn't take long for the book to go from trashy fun to punishingly repetitive, however, in no small part because Sachs grows less likable with every passing page. She remains encased in a cocoon of self-absorption throughout, but not until the very end does she begin to realize that she's turning into a petty version of her hated employer, whose bad behavior is so uniform and dependable that it's practically a mathematical formula. In many ways, The Devil Wears Prada resembles the film Swimming With Sharks, minus the elaborate revenge. Then again, in real life, Weisberger got her revenge by leveraging her proximity to celebrity into a buzzed-about but fairly worthless first novel, a move worthy of Miranda Priestly herself.
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