"'Friends' is something that fluctuates throughout your life," Amiel said in a recent phone interview. It's my flamboyance. The Blacks, the Trumps, Robert Maxwell: the men were called “charismatic” by people who confuse charisma with bullshit; the women (Amiel, Ivana, Marla Maples) were styled by the papers as monstrous, and at times they were. But to me she is more Amber St Clare, the clever peasant in Kathleen Winsor’s 1947 novel Forever Amber, who sleeps her way into Charles II’s bed. Long before the British-born journalist became Lady Black of Crossharbour—the title bestowed … In a moral universe, Amiel, Black and these relics from the 90s would have long since disappeared. "I needed to know who I was," said Amiel. A three-time divorcee, she has bemoaned growing LGBTQ acceptance as an affront to society's "traditional values." "Human rights and freedom of speech in Canada is in great peril. She is hyper-sensitive and numb by turns; both milk and stone. She burst into the headlines as a right-wing rebuttal to Gloria Steinem: a raven-haired bombshell, brash as she was bawdy, with an acerbic wit and aptitude for rattling established orthodoxies. That truth, at least in Amiel's telling, is a study in contradictions. There are heads of state (U.K. Prime Minister Boris Johnson, friend; former Canadian prime minister Stephen Harper, enemy); arts and culture heavyweights (Elton John, Oscar de la Renta and Margaret Atwood, friends; Canadian director Barry Avrich, enemy), business titans (Indigo Books chief executive Heather Reisman, friend; Fred Eaton of the Canadian department store dynasty, enemy), and all manner of media personalities (Republican pundit Rush Limbaugh, friend; Toronto Star columnist Rosie DiManno, enemy). But far from being shunned from the mainstream discourse, the release of Amiel's book this month was met with a media frenzy. A longtime Maclean's writer and the first female editor to helm the Toronto Sun, Amiel railed against the creep of the feminist progress she seemed to stand for. Soon to turn 80, Amiel rehashes her greatest hits of grudge-holding with vicious verve in her recently released memoir tracking her high-wire trajectory from polarizing political journalist, to couture-clad socialite, and finally, self-styled exile of the establishment she and her husband once commanded. Swire is self-pitying, and this book might serve as a homily on how not to marry your way to happiness, but to work for it. And hopefully, you have your lipstick on when the grave faces.". Barbara Amiel and Conrad Black (Photo: Sonia Recchia/WireImage) But Amiel spares no detail, and spares no reputation, including her own. Conrad Black and Barbara Amiel at their Palm Beach mansion, Florida, 2004. A passage about Michael Gove’s “geeky-smart” son chatting to Swire is cut off with the words “which would be unfair to repeat here”. In an interview, Amiel asserted that the current "cancel culture" would prohibit such a "civilized exchange of views" without the threat of professional retribution. The fact that he was photographed in his ludicrous shepherd’s hut at the request of the joiner who built is probably the last word on that. It’s a book review and reviewers have to read between the lines to some extent or there would be no point in the task. The second is by far the odder book but Amiel has been a drug addict for years. I'm not sure her online articles are major contributions to the history of ideas, or display signs of a major intelligence themselves. Amiel has often been compared to Marie Antoinette, who she once dressed as for a party at Kensington Palace. In a sense, her and Black's spectacular ouster from polite society affirmed Amiel's subconscious conviction that she'd always be on the outside looking in at the glittering elite, even as her social calendar and designer wardrobe seemed to suggest she was staring directly into a mirror. When she told Vogue magazine in 2002 that her "extravagance knows no bounds," surrounded by closets full of high-priced fashions, Amiel said she was making a self-deprecating joke.

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