Paul Johnson

Spectator books of the year: Paul Johnson on Henry Kissinger, Arthur Miller and Dior

Monsieur Dior: Once Upon a Time by Natasha Fraser-Cavassoni (Pointed Leaf Press, £47.50) is the most exotic book I have seen this year. It came in a box, with a slinky silk ribbon. The text, by Antonia Fraser’s fashion-expert daughter, is excellent, but it is the superb photos which make the book. They show Dior dressing some of his most famous clients — film stars, royalty — and many have never been published before. The perfect present for a lady friend. Poor old Dior was a nice man, adored by his staff, but he had a short career at the top. He couldn’t resist rich food and died of a heart attack following overeating.

Colliding Worlds: How Cutting-Edge Science is Redefining Contemporary Art by Arthur I. Miller (W.W. Norton, £22). Miller is a science writer who has been exploring the relationship between art and physics. His book is not easygoing but is most rewarding if you make the effort. Some of the examples he gives are fascinating, and the illustrations startling. This is a book specially for people who go to Tate Modern and can’t get the hang of it.

World Order by Henry Kissinger (Penguin, £25). Kissinger is unique. I recall reading his first book, A World Restored, on my honeymoon because my wife had compiled the index. Though the fruits of his Harvard PhD. thesis, it is still the best account of the post-Napoleonic settlement. Now, 60 years later, he surveys the world we live in today with the same mixture of wisdom, profound knowledge, terse analysis, and contempt for fashionable humbug. Of all the statesmen I have met, with the possible exception of Lee Kuan Yew, he is the most impressive, and this book is his summa diplomatica.

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